A few days earlier I had read a list of our accomplishments to a group from Arkansas who were visiting the White House. When I finished, one of my home staters said, Then there must be a conspiracy to keep this a secret; we dont hear about any of this. Part of the fault was mine. As soon as I finished a task, I moved on to the next one, without doing a lot of follow-up communications. In politics, if you dont toot your own horn, it oakley asian fit sunglasses usually stays untooted. Part of the problem was the constant intrusion of crises like Haiti and Somalia. Part of it was the nature of the press coverage. The haircut, the Travel Office, and stories about the White House staff and our decision-making process were, I believed, either wrongly or overly reported. A few months earlier, a national survey had shown that I had received an unusually high amount of negative press coverage. I had brought some of it on myself in mishandling press relations early. And maybe the press, which was so often called liberal, was in fact more conservative than I was, at least when it came to changing how things were supposed to work in Washington. Certainly they had different notions of what was important. Also, most of the people covering me were young, trying to build their careers in a system of twenty-four-hour news coverage where every story was expected to have a political edge and there were no kudos from colleagues for positive stories. This was almost inevitable in an environment where the print and network news media faced more competition from cable channels and where the lines between traditional press, tabloids, partisan publications, and political talk shows on TV and radio were being blurred. The Republicans also deserved a lot of credit for the fact that my poll ratings were worse than my performance: they had been effective in their constant attacks and negative characterizations of the health-care and economic plans, and they had made the most of my mistakes. Since I had been elected, Republicans had won special U.S. Senate elections in Texas and Georgia, governors races in Virginia and New Jersey, and the mayoral races in New York and Los Angeles. In each case, the outcome was determined by decisive local factors, but I sure didnt have much positive influence. People didnt yet feel the economy getting better, and the oakley active sunglasses old anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric still had a lot of juice. Finally, some of the things we were doing that would help millions of Americans were either too complex for easy consumption, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, or too controversial to avoid being politically damaging, even when they were good policy. November offered two examples of sound policy and questionable politics. After Al Gore plainly bested Ross Perot in a heavily watched TV debate on NAFTA, it passed the House, 234200. Three days later the Senate followed suit, 6138. Mark Gearan reported to the press that Al and I had called or seen two hundred members of Congress, and the cabinet had made nine hundred calls. President Carter also helped, calling members of Congress all day long for a week. We also had to make deals on a wide range of issues; the lobbying effort for NAFTA looked even more like sausage making than the budget fight had. Bill Daley and our whole team had won a great economic and political victory for America, but like the budget, it came at a high price, dividing our party in Congress and infuriating many of our strongest supporters in the labor movement. The Brady bill also passed in November, after the Senate Republicans backed off a filibuster inspired by the National Rifle Association. I signed the bill, with Jim and Sarah Brady in attendance. Ever since John Hinckley Jr. shot Jim in Hinckleys attempt to assassinate President Reagan, Jim and Sarah had crusaded for sensible gun-safety laws. They had worked for seven years to pass a bill requiring a waiting period for all handgun purchases so that the buyers backgrounds could be checked for criminal or mental-health problems. President Bush had vetoed an earlier version of the Brady bill because of the intense opposition of the NRA, which said it infringed on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The NRA believed the brief waiting period was an unacceptable burden on lawful gun buyers and declared that we could achieve the same result by increasing the penalties for illegally buying guns. Most Americans were for the Brady bill, but once it passed, it was no longer a voting issue with them. By contrast, the NRA was determined to defeat as many members of Congress who voted against them as possible. By the time I left office, the Brady background checks had kept more than 600,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying handguns. It had saved countless lives. But, like the budget, it exposed many of those brave enough to vote for it to harsh attacks, which were effective cheap oakley sunglasses enough to drive several of them from office. Not everything positive I did was controversial. On the sixteenth, I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was intended to protect a reasonable range of religious expression in public areas like schools and workplaces. The bill was designed to reverse a 1990 Supreme Court decision giving states more authority to regulate religious expression in such areas. America is full of people deeply committed to their very diverse faiths. I thought the bill struck the right balance between protecting their rights and the need for public order. It was sponsored in the Senate by Ted Kennedy and Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, and passed 973. The House adopted it by a voice vote. Though the Supreme Court later struck it down, I remain convinced it was a good and needed piece of legislation. I always felt that protecting religious liberty and making the White House accessible to all religious faiths was an important part of my job. I assigned a member of the White House public liaison staff to be our bridge to the religious communities. I attended every one of the National Prayer Breakfasts that are held each year as Congress begins its work, speaking and staying for the entire event so that I could visit with the people of different faiths and political parties who came to pray for Gods guidance in our work. And every year when Congress resumed after the August recess, I hosted an interfaith breakfast in the State Dining Room that allowed me to hear the concerns of religious leaders and share mine with them. I wanted to keep open the lines of communication to them, even those who disagreed with me, and work with them whenever I could on social problems at home and humanitarian problems around the world. I believe strongly in separation of church and state, but I also believe that both make indisputable contributions to the strength of our nation, and that on occasion they can work together for the common good without violating the Constitution. Government is, by definition, imperfect and experimental, always a work in progress. Faith speaks to the inner life, to the search for truth and the spirits capacity for profound change and growth. Government programs dont work as well in a culture that devalues family, work, and mutual respect. And its hard to live by faith without acting on the scriptural admonitions to care for the poor and downtrodden, and to love thy neighbor as thyself. I was thinking about the role of faith in oakley eyewear outlet our national life in mid-November when I traveled to Memphis to address the convocation of the Church of God in Christ at Mason Temple Church. There had been a number of news reports about the rising tide of violence against children in African-American neighborhoods, and I wanted to discuss with the ministers and laypeople what we could do about it. There were obvious economic and social forces behind the disappearance of work in our inner cities, the breakdown of the family, the problems in schools, and the rise of welfare dependency, out-of-wedlock births, and violence. But the crushing combination of difficulties had created a culture that accepted as normal the presence of violence and the absence of work and two-parent families, and I was convinced that government alone could not change that culture. Many black churches were beginning to address these issues, and I wanted to encourage them to do more. When I got to Memphis, I was among friends. The Church of God in Christ was the fastest-growing African-American denomination. Its founder, Charles Harrison Mason, received the inspiration for his churchs name in Little Rock, on a spot where I had helped lay a plaque two years earlier. His widow was in the church that day. The presiding bishop, Louis Ford of Chicago, had played a leading role in the presidential campaign  
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