Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger Wednesday jokingly named Bill Clinton to a professorship.
In opening remarks at the Kraft Program Series, “Challenges of New Democracies,” he said that “the last time he was here I said that ‘one more lecture,’ and he’d be up for tenure. So, this is it. Today we welcome professor Bill Clinton.”
Mr. Clinton and former Czech President Václav Havel were guest lecturers at the Morningside Heights campus. Havel is midway through a seven week writing residency at Columbia.
Both nations former leaders spoke about the challenges they faced during their times in office in order to bring the former Warsaw Pact countries into the West.
Havel mentioned that no one anticipated the rise of criminal mafias in the post-communist period, and that he and other dissidents imagined a swift transition from communism to democracy. He cited Czechoslovakia‘s 1948 destruction of civil society as a significant delay.
Clinton urged the United States to use its international economic power to improve the world.
Citing an even distribution of “intelligence and ability… throughout the world,” with India and China’s enormous population, he said that it’s only a matter of time when “other people get their act together” and “have more people than we do” when, “as a nation, we won’t be dominant.”
Acknowledging increasing American reliance upon Chinese economic growth, Clinton said the Chinese government will shortly have “a trillion dollars in cash reserves” while the United States has “a combined annual budget and trade deficit of a trillion dollars.”
Mentioning the Bush administration’s tax cut given to him and others in his income tax class, he said that the United States “had to borrow money from (the Chinese government) to pay for my tax cut.”
He also suggested that increasing American foreign aid to 0.7% of the U.S.’s $11 trillion Gross Domestic Product aid through cuts in the Department of Defense budget would “create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.”
Mr. Bollinger also mentioned the war in Iraq.
Criticizing a “dubious construction of a very vaguely identified threat of WMDs in Iraq,” Mr. Havel questioned why planners failed to anticipate civil instability after initial combat operations.
Mr. Clinton declined comment citing his recent testimony before the Baker-Hamilton Commission and his wife Hillary’s position as New York senator. He added, however, that “whatever she says, I’m for.”
He acknowledged that it is an international best interest policy if Iraq “held together rather than falling apart, we would be better off if it had some measure of security and couldn’t become a base for terrorist operations.”