Moving books and papers around in my office, is not something I do very often. On the contrary, unlike my wife my usual stance is to let things be, let them lie, yes accumulate dust in cat hairs, no longer even know what’s there, in and at the bottom of the piles. Anyway, this time my moving of books and papers turned up a few pages of my January 1993 journal, the time of Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address, that which I preceded to read and now post below:
Journal, 1/18/1993, An Agenda for the United States.
(From the date you will note that this was just two days prior to Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address on January 20, perhaps while writing my own agenda of to do stuff I was thinking ahead to Clinton’s address.)
- Compel (encourage strongly) the allies to start carrying their own weight. (As I reread that I wondered if the Donald had hacked my journal!)
- Withdraw support from Israel until that country agrees to sit down with the PLO and negotiate a real sharing of power based on the relative sizes of the Israeli and Palestinian populations. (This one, I’m sure Donald skimmed right over.)
- Withdraw support from Kuwait until that country sets about establishing an open and democratic society, and from Egypt until that country starts addressing the plight of their large poor and jobless population.
- Invite the Serbian leaders and their Russian friends to the U.S. for talks.
- Invite the leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic parties and countries to a conference in New York. (Now in 2017 we’re even further from doing this!)
- Negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein and all the other “evil” rulers in the world, seeking to influence them by bringing to light mutual advantages, as well as devising actions from which both we and they could profit. (We didn’t negotiate with Saddam, and instead drove him out of office, and with Bashar al-Assad we tried unsuccessfully to follow our own example and failed.)
- Assume that enemies are most often people like ourselves although with different opinions and different beliefs. (Makes me realize just how far apart we, Donald and I, are.)
- Use the “bully pulpit” to promote those things the world’s peoples have in common, —shouldn’t be hard, our being one species living on the one and the same earth and sharing similar family, community, and religious values. (Donald does like the “bully pulpit,” those gatherings he calls “rallies,” but he doesn’t have a clue as to what we all, not just his personal twitter followers, have in common.)
Now this agenda was from January of 1993 and things of course have changed much from then. But as always many more things are much the same, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things that were happening 21 years ago:
US and Russia sign the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (01-03-1993)
Czechoslovakia dissolved into Czech and Slovakia. (01-01-1993)
European eliminates trade barriers and becomes a single market. (01-01-1993)
And if I were to do a similar agenda for today, January 23, 2017, I would have little to add other than a few changes to proper names, Bashar al-Assad instead of Saddam Hussein, Iran in place of Serbia, and the big guy of course, China, not even mentioned in my 93 agenda.
But as always in a kind of excruciating, painful detail things are never really the same. Up close they are different, as we are from ourselves of an earlier time, and perhaps the biggest change from then to now is that between the Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the one struggling in the nineties to make Russia a more open, Western oriented democracy, and the other apparently succeeding in turning Russia back once again into an authoritarian and closed society, resembling more the USSR than the democracies of Europe and the West. And that change didn’t need to have happened. Without a doubt our world would have been a much happier place without it. Why if Boris Yeltsin hadn’t done himself in by drinking on top of a weak heart things today between our two countries might have been altogether different. Oh Boris, you didn’t know!
In office less than nine years, (I take this from from the NYTimes of April 24, 2007), beginning in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and plagued throughout by severe health problems and an excessive fondness for alcohol, Boris Yeltsin added a final chapter to his historical record when, in 1999, he stunned Russians and the world by announcing his resignation, becoming the first Russian leader to give up power on his own in accordance with constitutional processes. At that moment, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he turned over the reins of office to Mr. Putin and after that fell out of the public eye.
Thankyou, Boris!! There are perhaps those in Russia who miss the Soviet Union and say that. Not me.
But now what I’d like to do is to compare side by side the first inaugural addresses, of Bill Clinton on Jan 20, 1993, and of Donald Trump on Jan 20, 2017 (whose address was, according to George Will, without a doubt “the most dreadful inaugural address in history”).
But not now in this post. Here is the link: