Besides the Middle East and the budget, a surprising number of other things had happened in the last thirty days. I marked the seventh anniversary of the Brady bill with the announcement that it had now prevented 611,000 felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying handguns; observed World AIDS Day at Howard University with representatives from twenty-four African countries, saying that we had cut the death rate by more than 70 percent in the United States and now had to do much more in Africa and other places where the disease was raging; unveiled the design of my presidential library, a long, narrow glass-and-steel bridge to the twenty-first century jutting out above the Arkansas River; announced an effort to increase immunizations among inner-city children, whose vaccination rates remained far below the national average; signed my last veto, of a bankruptcy reform bill that was much harsher to lower-income debtors than to wealthy ones; issued strong regulations to protect the privacy of medical records; hailed Indias decision to maintain its cease-fire in Kashmir and Pakistans upcoming withdrawal of troops along the Line of Control; and announced new regulations to reduce unhealthy diesel fuel emissions from trucks and buses. Together with the year-old emissions standards on cars and SUVs, the new rules ensured that by the end of the decade, new vehicles would be up to 95 percent cleaner than those now on the road, preventing many thousands of cases of respiratory illness and premature death.
In August, Leach held a hearing starring L. Jean Lewis, the Resolution Trust Corporation investigator who had named Hillary and me as witnesses in a criminal referral shortly before the 1992 election. At the time, the Bush Justice Department inquired about Lewiss referral and the Republican U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Charles Banks, told them that there was no case against us, that it was an attempt to influence the election, and that to launch an investigation at that time would amount to prosecutorial misconduct.
In March, with spring coming, my spirits lifted along with the weather. During our five-week vacation break, I took my first trip to the Continent, taking a train to Dover to see the white cliffs, then going by ferry to Belgium, where I took a train to Cologne, Germany. At 9:30 p.m., I stepped out of the station into the shadow of the magnificent medieval cathedral just up the hill, and understood why Allied pilots in World War II risked their lives to avoid destroying it by flying too low in their efforts to bomb the nearby rail bridge over the Rhine River. I felt close to God in that cathedral, as I have every time Ive returned to it. The next morning I met up with Rick Stearns, Ann Markusen, and my German friend Rudy Lowe, whom Id met in 1967 at CONTAC in Washington, D.C., to tour Bavaria. In Bamberg, Rudys thousand-year-old hometown, he took me to see the East German border nearby, where there was an East German soldier standing guard in a high outpost behind barbed wire on the edge of the Bavarian Forest.
After a two-year hiatus, our family went back to Marthas Vineyard for our August vacation. We stayed at the home of our friend Dick Friedman near Oyster Pond. I celebrated my birthday by going for a jog with Chelsea, and I persuaded Hillary to play her annual round of golf with me at the Mink Meadows public course. She had never liked golf, but once a year she humored me by strolling around a few holes. I also played a lot of golf with Vernon Jordan at the wonderful old Farm Neck course. He liked the game a lot more than Hillary did.