Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bill Clinton Didn't Think Much Of Berlusconi

If you are like me then you are wholly engrossed in Taylor Branch's "Clinton Tapes." This book is astonishing, sort of a peek at Clinton's decision process on so many events as well as his reflections on statesmen. This is a passage that really struck me:

"The President's enthusiasm crested with memories of his D-Day anniversary trip to Europe. He dwelled largely on private encounters, such as a spontaneous forum with several hundred aspiring priests inside the Vatican. This audience with John Paul II was neither as intimate nor wide-ranging as others to follow in later years.

Clinton thought the Pope's recently broken leg was a severe injury, because over his protests, John Paul struggled mightily to stand when Clinton entered and left. Otherwise the pope did not move, and the President guessed he had been carried to his seat. They exchanged courtesies, and discussed many issues including Bosnia, but Clinton's foray on abortion and birth control fell flat. While he supported, and would enforce, a woman's recourse to legal and safe abortion, Clinton tried to clarify that he yearned to reduce drastically the number undergone by voluntary means.

He believed most women did, too, and toward that goal he hoped John Paul could consider relaxing church doctrines against birth control, so they could seek cooperative ways to discouraging unwanted pregnancy.

At this notion, Clinton said the Pope furrowed and frowned silently. John Paul spoke very good English, and yet Clinton could not be sure whether the Pope was pondering the compromise or merely checking his grasp on language, and the eventual response veered off into an attack on a forthcoming UN birth control conference in Cairo, Egypt. The Pope became quite agitated about feminist affronts to church authority.

He finally told Clinton he could bless only one new form of contraception -- the alleviation of world poverty, which would cause people to limit their families naturally. he did not specify how they would do so without birth control.

In Rome the President met the new Italian leader, Silvio berlusconi, who projected a naive quality, asking why politics could not be as simple as business. He owned all three Italian networks, plus a villa in the Bahamas near ross Perot. Clinton even thought Perot was more sophisticated than Berlusconi ..."


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