The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined a Generation

By Steven M. Gillon | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWELVE “We Can Trust Him”

ON JANUARY 20, 1997, a triumphant Bill Clinton took the oath of office for a second time. He placed his hand on the same family Bible as he did four years earlier. To underscore what he hoped would be the theme of his second term, he had the Bible open to Isaiah 58:12, which said: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” “His fondest goal,” recalled political consultant Paul Begala, “was to heal the country, to unite the country, and he chose that passage from the Bible to represent his aspiration.”1

Standing under sunny skies, the president delivered a hopeful address about the possibilities of bipartisan cooperation. “The American people returned to office a president of one party and a Congress of another,” said Clinton. “Surely, they did not do this to advance the politics of petty bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore. No, they call on us instead to be repairers of the breach and to move on with America’s mission. America demands and deserves big things from us, and nothing big ever came from being small.”2 What was not in the speech revealed something about the breach that existed between Clinton and his own party. The original version included the line: “The voters elected a president of one party and a Congress of another party with eyes wide open.” A few hours before he delivered the speech, his congressional liaison removed the phrase “with eyes wide open,” fearing it would antagonize House Democrats.3

During the inaugural ceremonies, Clinton made a number of overtures to Gingrich. During the brief limousine ride to the ceremony, underscoring his

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