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Bill Clinton
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Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Order: 42nd President
Term of Office: January 20, 1993-January 20, 2001
Predecessor: George H. W. Bush
Successor: George W. Bush
Date of Birth: Monday, August 19, 1946
Place of Birth: Hope, Arkansas
First Lady: Hillary Clinton
Profession: lawyer
Political Party: Democratic
Vice President: Al Gore

William Jefferson Clinton (born August 19, 1946), commonly known as Bill Clinton, served two terms as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. A moderate Democrat who was elected Governor of Arkansas five times, Clinton sought legislation to upgrade education, to protect jobs of parents who must care for sick children, to restrict handgun sales, and to strengthen environmental rules. Internationally, he promoted free trade and mediated the Northern Ireland and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

His tenure was also marked by a bitter relationship with the Republican-controlled Congress. He became only the second president to be impeached, after admitting to an affair with Monica Lewinsky on top of other alleged affairs and scandals, but acquitted by the Senate. He was the third youngest president and the first of the baby boomer generation. Upon leaving office, he had one of the highest approval ratings for a retiring President in U.S. history.

Table of contents
1 Early life and education
2 Early political career
3 Presidency
4 Public image and personality
5 Legacy
6 Post-presidential career
7 Related articles
8 Further reading
9 External links

Early life and education

at the White House in 1962]]

Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was named William Jefferson Blythe IV after his father, William Jefferson Blythe III, a travelling salesman who had been killed in a car accident just three months before his son was born. His mother, born Virginia Dell Cassidy, remarried in 1950 to Roger Clinton. Billy, as he was called, was raised by his mother and stepfather, using the last name "Clinton" throughout elementary school, but not formally changing it until he was 15. Clinton grew up in a turbulent family. His stepfather was a gambler and alcoholic who regularly abused his wife, and sometimes Clinton's half brother Roger, Jr. (born 1956).

Clinton excelled as a student and as a saxophone player. At one time, he considered becoming a professional musician. As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President John F. Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. The encounter led him to enter a life of public service.

He rose from poverty to graduate from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with a degree in International Affairs, attending England's prestigious Oxford University (University College) on a Rhodes Scholarship, and receiving a law degree from Yale Law School. At Yale, Bill Clinton met Hillary Rodham, and they married in 1975. They have one daughter Chelsea, born in 1980.

Early political career

After teaching law at the University of Arkansas for a few years, Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas in 1976. Bill Clinton was elected governor of the state of Arkansas first in 1978, when at the time he was the youngest state governor in the United States. His first term was fraught with difficulties, including an unpopular motor vehicle tax, and popular anger over the escape of Cuban prisoners (from the Mariel Boat Lift) detained in Fort Chafee in 1980.

Furthermore, Hillary Rodham's decision to keep her maiden name while Arkansas' First Lady raised many eyebrows in the traditionally conservative state. After only one term, Clinton was defeated by Republican challenger Frank D. White in 1980.

Out of office, Clinton addressed the concerns that led to his political failure. He established new relationships with business interests, and made amends with the political establishment of the state. Hillary took her husband's surname and adopted a more traditional public role as a political wife, while quietly establishing herself as a political force in her own right through her skills as an attorney. Clinton was elected governor again in 1982, and was re-elected again in 1984, 1986 and 1990, serving until 1992.

Clinton's business-friendly approach mollified conservative criticism during his terms as governor. However, several deals the Clintons made during this period led to the Whitewater investigation, which dogged his later presidential administration.


Clinton's first major foray into national politics occurred when he was enlisted to speak at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, introducing candidate Michael Dukakis. Clinton's address, scheduled to last fifteen minutes, became a debacle as Clinton gave a notoriously dull speech that lasted over half an hour.

Despite this setback, Clinton prepared for a run in 1992 against incumbent president George H. W. Bush. In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, President Bush seemed undefeatable, and several potential Democratic candidates--notably New York Governor Mario Cuomo--passed on what seemed to be a lost cause.

Bill Clinton chose U.S. Senator Al Gore to be his running mate on July 9, 1992. Initially this decision sparked criticism from strategists due to the fact that Gore was from Clinton's neighboring state of Tennessee. However, in retrospect, many now view Clinton's choice of Gore as a helpful factor in the successful 1992 campaign.

Clinton won the 1992 presidential election against the Republican Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot, largely on a platform focusing on domestic issues, notably the economic recession of the pre-election period--using the line "It's the economy, stupid!", in his campaign headquarters. For more information about Clinton's campaign, see Bill Clinton presidential campaign, 1992.

Clinton's opponents raised various "character" issues during the campaign, including Clinton's apparent evasion of the draft during the Vietnam War, and his glib response to a question about past marijuana use. Allegations of womanizing and shady business deals also were raised. While none of these alleged flaws led to Clinton's defeat, they did fuel unusually vehement opposition to Clinton's policies among many conservatives from the very beginning of his presidency.

Clinton was the first Democrat to serve two full terms as President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His election ended an era in which the Republican party had controlled the Presidency for 12 consecutive years, and for 20 of the previous 24 years. That election also brought the Democrats full control of the political branches of the federal government, including both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency, for the first time since the administration of Jimmy Carter.

Immediately upon taking office, Clinton fulfilled a campaign promise by signing the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which required large employers to allow their employees to take unpaid leave because of a family or medical emergency. While this action was popular, Clinton's initial reluctance to fulfill another campaign promise relating to the acceptance of openly gay members of the military garnered criticism from both the left (for being too tentative in promoting gay rights) and the right (for being too insensitive to military life). After much debate, Clinton and the Pentagon agreed to a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which officially remains in effect.

, Clinton, and Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993.]]

As president, Clinton was characterized as being a much more "hands on" president than some of his Republican predecessors. While Bush and Reagan had operated under what some critics dubbed an Imperial Presidency of bureaucratic "courtiers," Clinton had much more fickle relationships with his aides, and did not delegate them significant powers. He went through four White House Chiefs of Staff--a record number of men in a position that had once been the epicenter of the Imperial Presidency. This is not to say that Clinton was without political confidants in the White House. The First Lady played an active role in helping the President form policy, and Clinton's two best friends and most loyal supporters, Paul Begala and James Carville, could often be seen defending the President's policies in Washington and the media.

After two years of Democratic party control under the leadership of President Clinton, the mid-term elections in 1994 proved disastrous for the Democrats. They lost control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, in large part due to a failed attempt to create a comprehensive health care system under a plan developed by the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After the 1994 election, the spotlight shifted to the Contract with America spearheaded by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The Republican-controlled Congress and President Clinton sparred over the budget, resulting in a series of government shutdowns at a political penalty to the Republicans.


Before Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheik Mohammed (Al Qaeda members) started developing Operation Bojinka, a mass terrorist attack, Yousef was considering assassinating Bill Clinton during his late 1994 visit to the Philippines. Yousef thought of several ways to kill him, including placing a bomb on Clinton's motorcade route, firing a stinger missile at Air Force One or the presidential limousine, and killing him with a chemical weapon called phosgene. Yousef aborted the idea, believing it would be too difficult to kill Clinton. Instead, Yousef would target Pope John Paul II and incorporate the Pope assassination plot into his project. Operation Bojinka was later exposed before it could be implemented after an apartment fire in Manila led investigators to Yousef's computer. Yousef was arrested a month later in Pakistan, but Mohammed was not arrested until 2003.

In the 1996 presidential election, Clinton was re-elected by a healthy margin over Republican Bob Dole, while the Republicans retained control of the Congress but lost a few seats.

Clinton developed a close working relationship with Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, when he was elected in 1997.

He took a personal interest in The Troubles in Northern Ireland and paid three visits there while he was president in order to encourage peace. This helped both sides in the divided community there to begin to talk, setting in motion the process that lead to the Provisional Irish Republican Army commencing disarmament on October 23, 2001.

In 1999, in conjunction with a Congress controlled by the Republican Party he balanced the federal budget for the first time since 1969.

Clinton Administration

President Bill Clinton 1993-2001
Vice President Al Gore 1993-2001
Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher 1993-1997
  Madeleine K. Albright 1997-2001
Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen 1993-1994
  Robert E. Rubin 1995-1999
  Lawrence H. Summers 1999-2001
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin 1993-1994
  William J. Perry 1994-1997
  William S. Cohen 1997-2001
Attorney General Janet Reno 1993-2001
Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt 1993-2001
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy 1993-1994
  Daniel R. Glickman 1994-2001
Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown 1993-1996
  Mickey Kantor 1996-1997
  William Daley 1997-2000
  Norman Y. Mineta 2000-2001
Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich 1993-1997
  Alexis M. Herman 1997-2001
Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala 1993-2001
Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley 1993-2001
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros 1993-1997
  Andrew Cuomo 1997-2001
Secretary of Transportation Federico F. Peņa 1993-1997
  Rodney E. Slater 1997-2001
Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary 1993-1997
  Federico F. Peņa 1997-1998
  Bill Richardson 1998-2001
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown 1993-1997
  Togo D. West, Jr 1997-2000
  Hershel W. Gober 2000-2001

Legislation and programs

Major legislation signed

Major legislation vetoed

Proposals not passed by Congress


Supreme Court appointments

Clinton appointed the following justices to the
Supreme Court:

The economy during the Clinton administration

Following up on a campaign promise, President Clinton pursued a balanced budget and made attempts to keep
inflation in check. Throughout the 1990s, Clinton presided over continuous economic expansion (which, according to the Office of Management and Budget, began in April 1991), reductions in unemployment, and growing wealth through a massive rise in the stock market. Although some question the main reason behind the economic expansion during his term, upon leaving office, President Clinton could point to a number of economic accomplishments, including:

Accusations, impeachment, and legal problems

Much of Clinton's presidency was troubled by accusations of wrongdoing, notably including the Kenneth Starr-led "Whitewater" investigation. The various investigations and scandals led to polarized, partisan debates both in Congress and in the media. Supporters and accusers of the President accused each other of having solely political motivations.

It was Jerry Brown in 1992 (a Democrat running against Clinton for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination) who first brought allegations of potential ethical and legal lapses surrounding Clinton [1]

Originally dealing with the failed land deal years earlier known as Whitewater, Starr's investigation eventually expanded (at the request of the bipartisan special prosecutor three-judge panel) to include the suicide of the Clintons' friend Vince Foster and perjury during the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Arkansas Government employee, Paula Jones. Jones later confirmed taking money from conservative political groups to fund her suit. Some supporters of the Clintons saw this as evidence of a "right-wing conspiracy" against Clinton and his presidency. Other observers complained that mainstream feminist organizations would not support Jones' quest to clear her name and punish Clinton's (alleged) sexual harassment of her while he was governor of Arkansas and she was a civil servant. Eventually, Clinton settled [1] with Paula Jones out-of-court, paying her $850,000.

Describing an alleged occurrence that came to be known as "Troopergate", an article in the conservative American Spectator by David Brock clamed that Arkansas State Troopers had arranged sexual encounters for then Governor Clinton. Brock later repudiated the article, and one of the State Troopers recanted while admitting he had taken money from the publication.

Kenneth Starr's successor, Robert Ray, declined to prosecute the Clintons on all the charges raised during Starr's multi-year investigation.

Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998 by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury to a grand jury (by a 228-206 vote) and obstruction of justice (by a 221-212 vote), becoming only the second U.S. President to be impeached (the previous one being Andrew Johnson in 1868). Two other articles of impeachment (a second count of perjury in the Jones case (by a 229-205 vote) and one accusing Clinton of abuse of power (by a 285-148 vote)) were defeated.

The Senate, however, in a trial that started on January 7, 1999, voted to acquit Clinton of the charges on February 12, allowing Clinton to stay in office for the remainder of his second term. The perjury charge was defeated with 55 "not guilty" votes and 45 "guilty" votes. On the obstruction of justice article, the chamber was evenly split, 50-50. Despite considerable protestations by Senators that they were performing an impartial trial purely on the basis of the evidence, it is notable that both votes were essentially along party lines. A two-thirds vote (in this case, 67 votes) is necessary to convict the President on impeachment charges.

Clinton was charged with perjury (lying under oath) about his affair with Lewinsky to gain advantage in a sexual harassment case brought by Paula Jones, a case he later settled by paying Paula Jones $850,000. A Federal judge found Clinton also to be in contempt of court for lying in a deposition and ordered him to pay a $90,000 fine. This contempt citation led to disbarment proceedings similar to Richard Nixon's. To avoid these proceedings, Clinton surrendered his law license.

In January 1999, on the well respected television news show, "Dateline NBC" Juanita Broadderick (also known as 'Jane Doe 5') went public with the accusation that Bill Clinton had forced sexual intercourse on her against her will in 1978. Beyond this interview (transcript) the national media did not pursue this story to any degree.

Other scandals associated with the Clinton presidency include "Filegate" and "Travelgate".


Clinton gave 140 pardons on his last day of office. Although it is common for Presidents to grant a number of pardons before leaving office, some of the pardons were the subject of severe and lingering criticism. Most of that was directed at the pardons of Carlos Vignali, convicted of cocaine trafficking, Marc Rich, a fugitive from charges of tax evasion, who was the subject of a clemency plea from Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, and his brother Roger Clinton. Also among those pardoned were Susan McDougal, a Whitewater scandal witness who spent 18 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to cooperate with special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, and Patty Hearst.


Public image and personality

As the first Baby Boomer president, Bill Clinton was seen during his presidency and during his candidacy as a break from the presidents of the Greatest Generation and previous generations who had come before him. He was discussed upon his breaking onto the political horizon as a remarkably informal president in a "common man" kind of way, with his frequent patronage of McDonald's becoming a popular symbol of this image. With his sound-bite rhetoric and pioneering use of pop culture in his campaigning, Clinton was declared, often negatively, as the "MTV president". This designation followed Clinton's MTV appearance during his campaign. Although he was able to win Generation X voters in the 1992 election, with the highest Gen-X turnout ever, this appearance was widely criticized for flashiness and lack of substance, and with doubts about how questions directed to him like "Boxers or briefs?" reflected his audience's interest in his platform. Toni Morrison dubbed Clinton "the first Black president", inspired by his image as the 1990s version of the "average guy", his administration's sensitivity towards environmental issues, and his experience with dealing with oppression on the struggling side of the Consciousness Revolution during the 1960s.

Hillary Clinton's very strong role in the administration led to a degree of criticism toward a First Lady not seen since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt. Many people saw the couple as an unprecedented political partnership. Some even charged that Hillary, and not Bill, was the dominant force behind the team.

Social conservatives were put off by the impression of Bill Clinton having been a "hippie" during the late 1960s, his coming-of-age era. Clinton, however, would probably not have been viewed as such by the hippie subculture. Clinton had avoided the draft while studying abroad during the Vietnam War. Clinton's marijuana use — clumsily excused by Clinton's claim that he "didn't inhale" — further damaged his image with some voters. Although he was actually to the right of previous Democratic candidates for the presidency on many issues — he supported the death penalty, curfews, uniforms in public schools, and other measures opposed by youth rights supporters, and he expanded the War on Drugs greatly while in office — Clinton's actions during the 1960s were never forgotten by his opponents. Intense opposition to the Clintons was perhaps the main factor in the phenomenal growth of conservative talk radio in the 1990s.

, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and their wives at the funeral of President Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994.]]

Clinton's working-class white Southern background was a complicating factor. Many white southern conservatives viewed Clinton as a "traitor" to his class, with his Ivy League and Rhodes Scholarship education and liberal world view. Clinton supporters point out that several prominent conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, had very similar charges of draft evasion, womanizing, and corruption in their past as well, and that these allegations are tied less to Clinton's actual "character" as they are to his refusal to conform to the conservatism expected from white Southern politicians.

Starting from 1992 Presidential election campaign, rumors about Clinton's adultery were floating about, and these surfaced and increased with Paula Jones' accusations of sexual harassment. After allegations had linked him to Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Katherine Willey, Clinton's sex life would become the focus of his public image when in January 1998 recorded conversations by Linda Tripp contained statements by White House intern Monica Lewinsky about having oral sex.

Perhaps most ominously, several incidents during Clinton's Arkansas governorship and presidency led to lurid accusations made in talk radio and by conservative authors. Among these were rumors of involvement or collusion with drug traffickers (centering an airport in Mena, Arkansas), cocaine use (his brother Roger was convicted of cocaine possession in the 1980s), and the mysterious suicide of long-time friend and aide Vince Foster in Washington D.C. in 1993. The deadly Branch Davidian standoff near Waco, Texas in 1993 fomented further far right and libertarian hostility to the Clinton administration.

Clinton is often referred to by the nickname "Bubba", which alludes to his Southern "good ol' boy" background. Other nicknames in common use for the forty-second president include "Slick Willy," from his sexual escapades and evasive manner, and "Big Dog," portraying him as a large, lusty drooling hound. Clinton detractors from all parts of the political spectrum often refer to him as "Klinton", respelling his name with a K to evoke German orthography, placing him in the same class as the Nazis (see Godwin's Law), concealing that Clinton was a democrat and a friend of modern Germany with its anti-nazi education. Similar is the nickname "Clin-tung" (or Clintung), a play on his name by conservatives who accused him of being a Communist, with the "tung" syllable intended to suggest the name of Mao Tse-tung, as well as having a secondary meaning suggesting oral sex.

Clinton has mentioned in numerous interviews and in his auto-biography, My Life, that his favorite film is High Noon, a western starring Gary Cooper.


at a private dinner in Russia, January 13, 1994]]
Clinton presided over the period of longest steady growth of the economy in modern American history. However, his active role in this development is debatable. Moreover, when the stockmarket crashed in
2000, much of this growth was destroyed; it had been largely based on rising stockmarket valuations, not genuine productive capacity.

Some of the personal failures and moral lapses of Clinton have tainted his legacy in the eyes of many Americans in spite of the good economic growth of the late 1990's. Additionally, while some Americans feel that his foreign policies had resulted in an environment that permitted terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network to strike on September 11th, others feel that his efforts at fighting terrorism were hampered by excessive partisan bickering and were not continued effectively by the succeeding administration.

Clinton is seen as having led — in conjunction with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) — the Democratic Party from the left, towards a more moderate centrist position. During the 1990s, the Party was accused of abandoning its traditional base of support (unions, the working class, minorities) in pursuit of a center-right position, responding — and funded by — corporate contributors, with the soccer mom representing his new base. The current quandary of the Democratic party is primarily due to its inability to define itself vis-à-vis the Republican Party and offer a clear alternative. Clinton was able to surmount this problem through sheer personal charisma, but his successors have been less successful.

Post-presidential career

Like all living former American presidents, Clinton has engaged in a career as a public speaker on a variety of issues. He is in high demand and receives very large fees for this, and his speeches have often been very well received. In these, he continues to comment on aspects of contemporary politics. One notable theme is his advocacy of multilateral solutions to problems facing the world, which may be viewed in contrast to the successive administration which is much more prepared to act unilaterally. Clinton's close relationship with the African-American community has been highlighted in his post-Presidential career with his opening of his personal office in the Harlem section of New York City. He assisted his wife Hillary Clinton in her campaign for office as a federal Senator representing New York.

President Clinton collected his memoirs into a book entitled My Life, which was released on June 22, 2004. Commenting on memoirs in general, he said "some are dull and self-serving, hopefully mine will be interesting and self-serving". The book has made an unprecedented three-time appearance on the Amazon.com best-seller list, before it was even released. In an interview with David Dimbleby aired on BBC TV on June 23, 2004, Clinton was questioned at length about the effects to his presidency of his affair with Lewinsky, conceding that he had made many mistakes while in office. He also spoke about the prospects of a future Clinton presidency, should his wife Hillary Clinton decide to run for office in 2008.

On July 26, 2004, Clinton spoke for the fifth time in a row to the Democratic National Convention. He used his speech to praise candidate John Kerry. Many critics have argued that Clinton's speech is one of the best in recent Convention history. In it, Clinton used a powerful line to criticize George W. Bush: "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

Related articles

Further reading

External links

Preceded by:
George H. W. Bush
President of the United States
Succeeded by:
George W. Bush
Preceded by:
(first term)
Joe Purcell
Governor of Arkansas
1979-1981, 1983-1992
Succeeded by:
(first term)
Frank D. White
Preceded by:
(second term)
Frank D. White
Succeeded by:
(second term)
Jim Guy Tucker