Noah's ARKives

(Archive - Week of February 25, 2006)

President William Jefferson Clinton

We all know that cream always rises to the top. This is the last of my reports of our past presidents. I believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Bill Clinton tops all presidents of the United States during the 20th century, and that even includes Franklin D. Roosevelt. When he left office, President Clinton's approval rating by the American people was 68 percent, which was higher than that of any other departing president since polling began. Clinton was the most intelligent president of all the others and he was the most savvy politician the world has ever known.

With his political knowledge and with the respect that the majority of Americans have for him, his wife Hillary Rodham will be elected as President Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States in Nov. 2008. She is no doubt the most qualified person to fix all that George W. Bush broken. It will be great to see Bill back in the White House on Jan. 20, 2009.  

During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term. He could point to the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership in the country's history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and achieved a budget surplus. As part of a plan to celebrate the millennium in 2000, Clinton called for a great national initiative to end racial discrimination.

Order: 42nd President
In Office: January 20, 1993 - January 20, 2001
Vice President: Al Gore
Preceded by: George H. W. Bush
Succeeded by: George W. Bush
Born: August 19, 1946 Hope, Arkansas
Political party: Democratic
Spouse: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Child: Chelsea Clinton

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (born August 19, 1946) was the 42nd President of the United States , serving from 1993 to 2001. Clinton served five terms as the Governor of Arkansas . His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton , is currently the junior U.S. Senator from New York .

Generally regarded as a centrist , and a member of the moderate New Democrat wing of the Democratic Party , he headed the centrist outfit Democratic Leadership Council in 1990 and 1991. During his tenure as president, his domestic priorities included a failed effort to create a universal healthcare system (led by his wife), restrict handgun sales, strengthen environmental regulations, and protect the jobs of workers during pregnancy or medical emergency. His domestic agenda also included other themes such as reforming welfare programs, signing NAFTA , expanding the War on Drugs , signing the Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as only between a man and a woman), law enforcement funding. Internationally , his priorities included reducing trade barriers , preventing nuclear proliferation , and mediating the Northern Ireland peace process and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts .

Clinton was the third-youngest president, behind Theodore Roosevelt (the youngest) and John F. Kennedy (the youngest elected ). He was the first baby boomer president. Clinton was one of only two Presidents in American history to be impeached , and was acquitted by a vote of the United States Senate on February 12 , 1999 . In both runs for Presidency, Clinton never received a majority of the popular vote, though he ended his Presidential career with a 61% approval rating, the highest end-of-term approval rating of any President in the post- Eisenhower era.

Official Presidential Portrait of President Bill Clinton

Early years

Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe IV ; in Hope, Arkansas and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas . He was named after his father, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr. , a traveling salesman who had been killed by in an auto accident three months before his son was born. His mother, born Virginia Dell Cassidy (1923–1994), remarried in 1950 to Roger Clinton . Billy, as he was called, was raised by his mother and stepfather, assuming his last name "Clinton" throughout elementary school, but not formally changing it until he was 14. Clinton grew up in a traditional, albeit blended, family; however, according to Clinton, his stepfather was a gambler and an alcoholic who regularly abused Clinton's mother, and sometimes Clinton's half-brother Roger, Jr.

Clinton was a member of the Masonic Youth Order of DeMolay , but never became a Freemason .

Clinton was an excellent student and a talented saxophonist. He considered dedicating his life to music, but a visit to the White House of President John F. Kennedy, following his election as a Boys Nation Senator, led him to pursue a career in politics.

Arkansas political career and education

Clinton received a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (B.S.F.S.) degree from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. , where he became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega , worked for Senator J. William Fulbright , was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and won a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford , ( University College ) in England. After attending Oxford, Clinton obtained a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Yale Law School in 1973. While at Yale, he met a classmate who would eventually be his wife, Hillary Rodham ; the couple married in 1975.

In 1974, his first year as a University of Arkansas law professor, Clinton ran for the House of Representatives . The incumbent, John Paul Hammerschmidt , defeated Clinton with 52% of the vote. In 1976, Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas without opposition in the general election.

In 1978, Bill Clinton was first elected governor of the state of Arkansas , the youngest to be elected governor since 1938. 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 boatlift ) detained in Fort Chafee in 1980.

In the 1980 election, Clinton was defeated in his bid for a second term by Republican challenger Frank D. White , becoming a victim of the Reagan Republican landslide. As he once joked, he was the youngest ex-governor in the nation's history. But in 1982, Clinton won his old job back, and over the next decade helped Arkansas transform its economy. He became a leading figure among the so-called New Democrats, who called for welfare reform, smaller government, and other Reagan-like ideas.

Clinton's approach mollified conservative criticism during his terms as governor. However, personal and business transactions made by the Clintons during this period became the basis of the Whitewater investigation, which dogged his later presidential administration. After very extensive investigation over several years, no indictments of any kind were made against either of the Clintons growing out of their Arkansas years.

Presidency

Presidential campaign

Official Cornell University photograph

Clinton's first 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 15 minutes, became a debacle as Clinton gave a notoriously long and uninspiring speech that lasted over half an hour.

Four years later, Clinton prepared for a run in 1992 against incumbent President George H. W. Bush . In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War , Bush seemed unbeatable, and several potential Democratic candidates — notably New York Governor Mario Cuomo — passed on what seemed to be a lost cause. Clinton won the Democratic Party 's nomination.

Clinton chose U.S. Senator Albert A. Gore Jr. ( D - Tennessee ) 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 which would go against the popular strategy of balancing a Southern candidate with a Northern partner. In retrospect, many now view Gore as a helpful factor in the 1992 campaign.

Many character issues were raised during the campaign, including allegations that Clinton had dodged the draft during the Vietnam War , and had used marijuana , which Clinton claimed he had pretended to smoke, but "didn't inhale". Allegations of extramarital affairs and shady business deals were also raised. While typically these types of allegations would have resulted in a candidate withdrawing from the race, Clinton displayed the resiliency in the face of scandal that would later be pivotal in his presidency. As the candidate with the most money and the best-articulated campaign strategy — creating more jobs — Clinton was able to stay in the race the longest, fending off all rivals long before the Democratic convention.

Clinton won the 1992 presidential election (43.01% of the vote) against Republican George H. W. Bush (37.4% of the vote) and billionaire populist H. Ross Perot who ran as an independent (18.9% of the vote), largely on a platform focusing on domestic issues; a large part of his success was due to George H.W. Bush's steep decline in public approval. Previously described as "unbeatable" due to his approval ratings in the 80 percent range during the Persian Gulf conflict, Bush's public approval rating dropped to just over 40% by election time.

Three factors made this possible. First, the campaign came in the midst of the recession of 1992 . While in historical terms the recession was mild and actually ended before the election, the resulting job loss (especially among middle managers not yet accustomed to white collar downsizing) fueled strong discontent with Bush, who was successfully portrayed as aloof, out of touch, and overly focused on foreign affairs. Highly telegenic, Clinton was perceived as sympathetic, concerned, and more in touch with ordinary families.

Second was the decision by Bush to accept a tax increase. Pressured by rising budget deficits, increased demand for entitlement spending and reduced tax revenues (each a consequence of the recession) Bush agreed to a budget compromise with Congress (where rival Democrats held the majority). Not having been in Congress at the time, Clinton was able to effectively condemn the tax increase on both its own merits and as a reflection of Bush's honesty. Effective Democratic TV ads were aired showing a clip of Bush's infamous 1988 campaign speech in which he promised " Read my lips ... No new taxes. "

Finally, Bush's coalition was in disarray. Ross Perot's independent campaign played to moderates' concerns about the budget deficit, siphoning crucial swing votes from Bush. Meanwhile, conservative voters — especially social conservatives-- lacked confidence in Bush, an avowed moderate. Previously, conservatives had been united by anti-communism; with the end of the Cold War, old rivalries re-emerged. Meanwhile, despite a fractious and ideologically diverse party, Clinton was able to successfully court all wings of the Democratic party, even where they conflicted. To garner the support of moderates and conservative Democrats, he cannily attacked Sister Souljah , a rap musician whose lyrics Clinton condemned. Clinton could also point to his moderate, New Democrat record as Governor of Arkansas. More liberal Democrats were impressed by Clinton's academic credentials, 60's-era protest record, and support for social causes such as a woman's right to abortion. Supporters remained energized and confident, even in times of scandal or missteps.

Significant events

Clinton was the first Democrat to serve two full terms as president since Franklin D. Roosevelt . His election ended an era in which the Republican party had controlled the White House 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 U.S. Congress as well as the presidency, for the first time since the administration of the last Democratic president, Jimmy Carter .

Clinton's first act as president was to sign executive order 12834 (entitled "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees"), which placed substantial restrictions upon the ability of his senior political appointees to lobby their colleagues after they leave office. Clinton rescinded the order shortly before he left office in executive order 13184 of December 28 , 2000.

Clinton and Vice President Gore talk while walking through the Colonnade at the White House

Shortly after 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 pregnancy or serious medical condition. While this action was popular, Clinton's initial reluctance to fulfill another campaign promise relating to the acceptance of openly homosexual 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). During the campaign, Clinton had promised to lift the ban on gays serving their country. Instead, after much debate, Clinton implemented the " Don't Ask, Don't Tell " policy, which still remains in effect, stating that homosexual men and women may serve in the military as long as their sexuality is kept secret; heterosexual soldiers are under no such restrictions. By 1999, Clinton said he didn't "think any serious person could say" that the policy was not "out of whack."  Some gay rights advocates criticized Clinton for not going far enough and accused him of making his campaign promise simply to get votes and contributions. These advocates felt Clinton should have integrated the military by executive order, noting that President Harry S Truman ended segregation of the armed forces in that manner. Clinton's defenders argued that an executive order might have prompted the then-Democrat-controlled Senate to write the exclusion of gays into law, potentially making it even harder to integrate the military in the future.

Clinton pushed another controversial issue during this period: that of free trade. In 1993, Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement for ratification by the US Senate. Despite being negotiated by his Republican predecessor, Clinton (along with most of his Democratic Leadership Committee allies) strongly supported free trade measures. Though the measure was opposed by some anti-trade Republicans, most of the opposition came from protectionist Democrats and supporters of Ross Perot. Ultimately, the treaty was ratified, a major legislative victory.

The most important item on Clinton's legislative agenda, however, was a complex health care reform plan , the result of a taskforce headed by Hillary Clinton , aimed at achieving universal coverage via a national healthcare plan. Though initially well-received in political circles, it was ultimately doomed by well-organized opposition from conservatives, doctors and the health insurance industry. Despite his party holding a majority in the House and Senate, the ambitious effort to create a national healthcare system ultimately died under heavy public pressure. It was the first major legislative defeat of Clinton's administration.

During first two years of Clinton's tenure economic growth rebounded, with 6 million new jobs created. The President signed into law the Brady Bill, which imposes a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases so that background checks can be done to help keep handguns away from criminals. President Clinton expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit to cut the taxes of 15 million working families with incomes of $27,000 or less.

Two months later, after two years of Democratic party control under Clinton's leadership, 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 the failed attempt to create a comprehensive health care system.

Yitzhak Rabin , Clinton, and Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Accords on September 13 , 1993

After the 1994 election, the spotlight shifted to the Contract with America spearheaded by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich . This initiative presented a blanket of traditional Republican proposals, plus a number of anti-corruption measures. Without a friendly legislative body, Clinton shifted from pushing new policy to blocking the Republican (GOP) agenda.

The Republican-controlled Congress and Clinton first sparred over the budget. Despite campaigning on a promise to cut middle-class tax rates, Clinton had instead signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 , which significantly raised taxes. Meanwhile, Republicans pushed for reform in spending on entitlement programs. While always a traditional source of conflict between the parties, Ross Perot's surprisingly good showing demonstrated public impatience with the budget deficit. When the GOP passed a budget with significant spending cuts, they believed that Clinton could either sign the bill (a major political defeat) or veto it (resulting in a shutdown of most government services). GOP leaders believed that their recently energized supporters would stand with them, while the shutdown would be blamed on Clinton's veto of the spending bills. Clinton instead vetoed the bills and staged a media blitz, rallying his constituencies to blame the shutdown on the Republicans. The public largely agreed with Clinton's interpretation of the situation, and the Republicans suffered a major political defeat. The perception that the congressional Republicans were dangerous radicals stayed with them for the remainder of the Clinton presidency, and Clinton repeatedly made skillful use of this perception to pass his initiatives while blocking theirs.

Clinton cleverly managed the other major challenge posed by the Contract with America: that of welfare reform . The welfare system, unpopular with middle class voters, was a major target of the Republicans. However, rather than present the programs as inefficient, bureaucratic and expensive, as they had (unsuccessfully) done in the past, their new tactic was to focus on the success of welfare in its stated goal: fighting poverty. In this they were more successful. Using statistics often compiled by welfare advocates to demand more spending, they pointed to a widening gap between rich and poor and the emergence of a dependent welfare "underclass". Under their proposed welfare reform, individuals could not receive benefits for more than five years. States, meanwhile, would receive "block grants" of federal funds that they would be free to spend on anti-poverty initiatives as they wished, rather than according to federal rules. This amounted to a major shift in welfare policy, and was bitterly contested by Democrats. Clinton, however, supported the plan (to the fury and astonishment of even some members of his Cabinet). In his 1996 State of the Union speech, Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it". He later signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 .

This proved to be a major political victory, and a vindication of his strategy of "triangulation". Republicans were robbed of the issue with which they were getting the best traction, while Clinton was presented as a fair-minded, mainstream moderate. In the 1996 presidential election a few months later, Clinton was re-elected, receiving 49.2% of the popular vote over Republican Bob Dole (40.7% of the popular vote) and Reform candidate Ross Perot (8.4% of the popular vote). The Republicans lost a few seats, but overall retained control of the Congress.

In 1998, as a result of allegations that he had lied during grand jury testimony regarding his personal indiscretions with a young female White House intern ( Monica Lewinsky ), Clinton was the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He was tried in the Senate and acquitted of the charges brought against him. Clinton initially denied having any improper relationship with Lewinsky, but later admitted that in fact an improper relationship with Lewinsky had taken place. He apologized to the nation for his actions, agreed to pay a $25,000 court fine, settled his sexual harassment lawsuit with Paula Jones for $850,000 and was disbarred from practicing law in Arkansas and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was not tried for or found guilty of perjury in a court.

In the closing year of his Administration, Clinton attempted to address the Arab-Israeli conflict . After initial successes such as the Oslo accords of the early 90's, the situation had quietly deteriorated, breaking down completely with the start of the Second Intifada . Clinton brought Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat together at Camp David . However, these negotiations proved unsuccessful. Critics charged Clinton with trying to "shoot the moon" to benefit his historical legacy, but instead making the situation worse with a botched negotiation. Supporters consider Clinton to have attempted to address new tensions from the recent outbreak of violence at its root causes, and that Clinton can hardly be blamed for a centuries-old conflict. They further argue that Arafat's decision to walk away from an offer that contained all his previously stated demands freed the US to pursue a tougher policy in later years.

Despite occasional political troubles, Clinton remained popular with the American people. In addition to his political skills, Clinton also benefited from a very strong US economy. In 1999, the United States had a projected federal budget surplus for the first time since 1969.By 1998 it was a $70 billion budget surplus. While Clinton, Congress and the private sector have all been given credit at different times, this economic success was a source of immense political strength for Clinton. He remained popular, though not admired, through and beyond the end of his terms in office.

Legislation and programs

Major legislation signed

  • February 5 , 1993 - The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
  • August 10 , 1993 - Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 - Raised income tax rates; income tax , top rate: 39.6%; corporate tax : 35%
  • September 21 , 1993 - creation of the AmeriCorps volunteer program
  • November 30 , 1993 - Brady Bill
  • September 13 , 1994 - Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act , part of an omnibus crime bill, the federal death penalty was expanded to some 60 different offenses (see Federal assault weapons ban )
  • 1995 - Executive Order 12958 , created tough new standards for the process of classifying documents.
  • February 1 , 1996 - Communications Decency Act
  • February 8 , 1996 - Telecom Reform Act : eliminated major ownership restrictions for radio and television groups.
  • February 26 , 1996 - Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, a welfare reform bill
  • March 14 , 1996 - authorized $100 million anti-terrorism agreement with Israel to track down and root out terrorists .
  • April 9 , 1996 - Line Item Veto Act
  • April 24 , 1996 - Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
  • August 20 , 1996 - Minimum wage Increase Act
  • September 21 , 1996 - Defense of Marriage Act , allowed states the power to refuse to recognize gay marriages granted in other states, among other things
  • August 5 , 1997 - Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
  • October 28 , 1998 - Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  • October 31 , 1998 - Iraq Liberation Act

Major legislation vetoed

  • national budget
  • H.R. 1833, partial birth abortion ban
  • Twice vetoed welfare reform before signing
  • the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act . Congress overrode the veto, however, to enact the bill into law.

Proposals not passed by Congress

  • Health care reform
  • Campaign finance reform (1993) Initiatives
  • Appointed a committee on Social Security Reform and then dismissed their recommendations without ever proposing legislation.
  • Tried to get Ehud Barak of Israel and Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian National Authority , to agree to a final settlement agreement .
  • Initiated the Don't ask, don't tell policy toward gays in the military, 1993.
  • Reversed a ban on senior Sinn F?in politicians entering the U.S.
  • Proposed a national challenge to end the racial divide in America, the One America Initiative .
  • Extraordinary rendition , or "torture by proxy" got approval for the first time in the USA from the Clinton administration.

Cabinet

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

 

President Clinton's First Cabinet, 1993

Supreme Court appointments

Clinton appointed the following justices to the Supreme Court :

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg - 1993 (making Clinton the first Democratic president to appoint a female Supreme Court justice)
  • Stephen Breyer - 1994

The economy

During Clinton's tenure, the U.S. enjoyed continuous economic expansion, reductions in unemployment, and growing wealth through a massive rise in the stock market . The economic boom ended shortly before his term ended, possibly indicative of a stock market bubble . Although the reasons for the expansion are continually debated, Clinton proudly pointed to a number of economic accomplishments, including:

  • More than 22 million new jobs
  • Homeownership rate increase from 64.0% to 67.5%
  • Lowest unemployment rate in 30 years
  • Higher incomes at all levels
  • Largest budget deficit in American history converted to the largest surplus of over $200 billion
  • Lowest government spending as a percentage of GDP since 1974
  • Higher stock ownership by families than ever before
  • 220% increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 300% increase in the Nasdaq from 1993 to 2001

The reasons for this growth are hotly debated, but Clinton supporters cite his 1993 tax increase as the reason that eventually led to the reduction in the annual budget deficits every year of his tenure. These deficit reductions stimulated consumption and consumer spending and strengthened the dollar, which encouraged foreign investment in the United States economy. Alan Greenspan supported the 1993 tax increase, which was approved by Congress without a single Republican vote. Critics of Clinton point to Alan Greenspan 's strong chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, 1995 spending cuts and the Republican Party's Contract with America initiatives as alternative reasons for America's strong economic growth of the late 90's. Critics also argue that the economic recovery had already begun before Bill Clinton took office and did not pick up momentum until 1995 and 1996, after the GOP took over Congress (despite the fact that GDP growth was higher in 1994 than in either 1995 or 1996).

Trade

Clinton strongly supported the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement . Initiated during the tenure of his predecessor, George H.W. Bush , it was passed by the United States Congress in 1993, after Clinton and Gore lobbied heavily for it.

The Clinton administration used the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights thirteen times and prevailed in the WTO thirteen times.

Foreign policy

Clinton embraces British Prime Minister Tony Blair Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton Clinton plays the saxophone presented to him by Russian President Boris Yeltsin at a private dinner in Russia, January 13, 1994

Clinton deployed the U.S. military several times under hostile circumstances. In 1993, U.S. troops, initially deployed to Somalia by the Bush administration, fought the Battle of Mogadishu which attempted to capture local warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid . The administration withdrew U.S. troops after suffering 18 casualties (19 according to the film Black Hawk Down ) and 73 wounded in the battle. In 1994, Clinton sent U.S. troops into Haiti to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president, ending a period of intense violence. Aristide, who had been elected, had been ousted in a coup just seven months into his term in 1991. Clinton also committed troops twice in the former- Yugoslavia to stop ethnic violence, most notably in Kosovo . In addition, Clinton launched military strikes on Iraq several times to punish violations of UN sanctions and an attempt to have former President George H. W. Bush assassinated. Clinton did not intervene militarily to end the Rwandan genocide , a decision he later regarded as a "personal failure".

In 1994, Clinton negotiated and signed the Nuclear Accords with North Korea . The underlying concern was that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons technology under the guise of a nuclear power plant. In exchange for assistance with energy needs, North Korea agreed to abandon all ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons. However, by the mid 1990s defectors from North Korea, along with reports from the IAEA , indicated that North Korea was violating both the Nuclear Accords and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In December 2002 , North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear facility, and announced (privately in 2003 and publicly in 2005), that they possessed nuclear weapons.

In November, 1995, Clinton committed troops to the Balkans saying the mission would be “precisely defined with clear realistic goals” that could be achieved in a “definite period of time". Clinton assured Americans the mission would take about one year. In October 1996, shortly before Clinton's reelection, the Clinton Administration denied any change in the plans to withdraw troops in December, 1996. However, shortly after reelection, Clinton announced troops would stay longer. Troops ultimately stayed in Bosnia for nine years.

On February 17 , 1998 , Clinton gave a speech signaling the danger of rogue nations providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations with global reach. Clinton specifically pointed to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In August 1998 UN weapons inspectors left Iraq, leading to Operation Desert Fox in December.

During Clinton's tenure, Al-Qaeda began to emerge as a major terrorist threat. In 1998, the group bombed the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya . In retaliation, Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach , which involved cruise missile strikes on terrorist camps in Kandahar , Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons facility in Khartoum , Sudan that was believed to be tied to bin Laden. Clinton also gave orders authorizing the arrest or, if need be, assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden . At the end of his term, in late 2000, the terrorists struck again with the USS Cole bombing . By this time, Clinton has stated he regarded Al-Qaeda as the foremost threat to national security. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks , the independent investigating commission was critical of Clinton for focusing more on diplomatic than military means to eliminate the bin Laden threat.

Some critics argue that the American attacks in Kosovo , Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, and Afghanistan violated international law.

After his presidency, Clinton identified his proudest foreign policy accomplishments as mediating peace talks between Israel and the PLO, resulting in the Oslo Accords (1993). Subsequent events, including the collapse of the 2000 Camp David Summit and the commencement of the al-Aqsa Intifada , resulted in the Oslo Accords being widely discredited within Israel and in various Palestinian factions by 2004.

Clinton identified his major foreign policy failure as lack of response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Along with the United Nations, the Clinton administration initially did not publicly acknowledge that genocide was occurring.

Impeachment and controversies

Monica Lewinsky

In 1999, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on two impeachment charges brought by the U.S. House of Representatives: perjury and obstruction of justice. The perjury charge arose from Clinton's testimony about his relationship to Monica Lewinsky during a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Arkansas-state employee Paula Jones. The obstruction charge was based on his actions during the subsequent investigation of that testimony.

Paula Jones

On February 12, the Senate concluded a 21-day trial with the vote on both counts falling short of the Constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority to convict and remove an office holder. The final vote was party-line, with none of the 45 Democratic Senators voting for conviction on either charge. On the perjury charge 55 senators voted to acquit and 45 voted to convict; on the obstruction charge the Senate voted 50-50. Clinton, like the only other president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson , served the remainder of his term.

Judge Susan Webber Wright

The day before leaving office, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license as part of an agreement with the independent counsel to end the investigation. Based on this suspension, Clinton was also automatically suspended from the United States Supreme Court bar, from which he chose to resign. Clinton's resignation was mostly symbolic, as he had never practiced before the Supreme Court and was not expected to in the future. Clinton also was assessed a $90 000 fine by federal judge Susan Webber Wright for contempt of court. The Paula Jones lawsuit was settled out of court for $850 000.

In addition to impeachment and the Whitewater scandal , the Clinton White House was the subject of many lesser controversies. The White House travel office controversy involved allegations of impropriety in the firing of civil service staffers. The White House personnel file controversy involved improper access by security officials to FBI files on White House personnel, without first asking for the individuals' permission. The Bill Clinton pardons controversy involved a grant of clemency to FALN bombers in 1999 and pardons to his brother, tax-evading billionaire Marc Rich and others in 2001. The Chinagate controversy involved allegations of improper campaign contributions to Democrats; supposedly the ultimate source of this money was the Chinese government.

In March, 1998 Kathleen Willey , a White House aide, alleged that Clinton had sexually assaulted her. Also in 1998, Juanita Broaddrick alleged that Clinton had raped her in 1978. No charges were filed in either case.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy was acquitted on each of 30 charges of illegally accepting gifts such as sports tickets, lodging, and transportation from companies regulated by his department in exchange for favors. HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts of conspiracy, giving false statements and obstruction of Justice. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of lying to the FBI about the amount of money he gave his mistress, political fundraiser Linda Medlar. Medlar plead guilty to 28 counts related to the investigation. Both Medlar and Cisneros were pardoned by Clinton.

On Clinton's last day in office, he pardoned over 200 convicted felons, including his brother Roger, who was imprisoned on drug charges. One of those pardoned was Marc Rich, a financier who had fled the United States decades before for tax evation and other illegal activities. Many questioned the pardon, stating that Rich's wife Denise had pleaded with the president for years to pardon her ex-husband and that she personally donated money to his presidential library in exchange for a pardon for her husband. These actions quickly led to public hearings by congress into the legality of all of Clinton's presidential pardons. Clinton's approval rating, when he left office was 61%, it quickly dropped by nearly twenty points to 43% after the scandals broke out.

The "vast right-wing conspiracy" charge

Clinton's political successes drew reactions from several well funded conservatives. Led by a network of largely conservative talk radio media outlets, & FOX NEWS , radio broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh and television commentators such as Sean Hannity , Geraldo Rivera , and The O'Reilly Factor 's Bill O'Reilly (commentator) almost daily made accusations of corruption and dishonesty against Clinton and his administration. Other efforts such as Scaife's Arkansas Project funded by wealthy conservatives such as Pittsburgh banking heir Richard Mellon Scaife went about trying to find suggestions of wrongdoing in Clinton's past and publicizing allegations. When Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton described this informal network as a "vast, right-wing conspiracy," she was ridiculed by the conservative media; however, former conservative journalist David Brock has described in books his own involvement in exaggerating claims against the Clintons and the network of conservative media operations (including those owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon ) that kept such accusations at the forefront of the public's attention. Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr 's investigation covering an ever widening sphere of topics could well have ground to a halt without the support of public opinion buoyed by the these conservative efforts against Clinton.

Timeline

November 3, 1992 Clinton is elected , defeating Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush and billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot
January 20, 1993 First inauguration
February 26, 1993 World Trade Center terrorist attack. The World Trade Center bombing killed 6 and injured over 1,000 people
April 19, 1993 A government siege of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas , results in the deaths of 80 people when a cult leader allegedly sets fire to his own compound. Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno receive criticism for mishandling the stand-off
July 20, 1993 Clinton friend and confidant Vince Foster is found dead of a gunshot wound; later determined to be suicide
September 13, 1993 Clinton brings together Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn
October 3, 1993 Battle of Mogadishu - Ranger Units receive heavy casualties in Somalia (the Black Hawk Down incident)
January 14, 1994 Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign the Kremlin accords which stop the preprogrammed aiming of nuclear missiles to targets and also provide for the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal in Ukraine
November 8, 1994 Republicans elected to majorities in both houses of Congress
April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing - Terrorist bombing of federal building in Oklahoma City results in the deaths of 168 people, 19 of whom were children
November 14, 1995 Budget negotiations between Congress and Clinton break down, resulting in a temporary shutdown of the federal government until November 19 . A longer shutdown will last from mid-December 1995 until early January 1996
November 1995 Clinton organizes peace talks for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio , eventually resulting in the Dayton Agreement
December, 1995 Clinton visits Ireland , leading to the establishment of an International Commission chaired by former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell
June 25, 1996 Khobar Towers bombing a powerful truck bomb exploded outside the Khobar Towers barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia , tearing the front from the building, blasting a crater 35 feet deep, and killing 19 American soldiers
November 5, 1996 Clinton is reelected , defeating Republican challenger Bob Dole and Reform Party founder H. Ross Perot
January 20, 1997 Second inauguration
October 1997 Visit by President of the People's Republic of China Jiang Zemin to the White House
August, 1998 Clinton orders cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan to hit Osama Bin Laden and a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan . Republicans cried " wag the dog " as Monica Lewinsky testified before a grand jury about her relationship with Clinton
August 17, 1998 Clinton testifies before a grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. In the evening, he delivers a nationally televised address in which he describes the relationship as "not appropriate" but also "nobody's business."
December 19, 1998 Clinton is impeached by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice
January 7, 1999 The trial of Clinton in the Senate begins
February 12, 1999 Clinton is acquitted of all charges by the Senate
March 24 to June 10, 1999 NATO bombs Kosovo and Serbia
May 7, 1999 U.S. planes accidentally bomb China's embassy in Belgrade
June 10, 1999 Serbia hands control of Kosovo to the United Nations
November 1, 1999 Visited Norway to participate in a Memorial sermon in Oslo in respect of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
October 5, 2000 The defeat of Slobodan Miloevic in earlier elections leads to mass demonstrations in Belgrade and the ultimate collapse of the regime's authority. Opposition leader Vojislav Kotunica takes office as the Yugoslavian president the next day
January 20, 2001 Leaves office at the end of second term

Public approval

While Clinton's job approval rating varied over the course of his first term, ranging from a low of 36% in 1993, to a high of 64% in 1993 and 1994, his job approval rating consistently ranged from the high 50s to the high 60s in his second term, with a high of 73% approval in 1998 and 1999. A CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll, conducted as he was leaving office, revealed deeply contradictory attitudes regarding Clinton. Although his approval rating at 68 percent was higher than that of any other departing president since polling began more than seven decades earlier, only 45 percent said they would miss him. While 55 percent thought he "would have something worthwhile to contribute and should remain active in public life", and 47 percent rated him as either outstanding or above average as a president, 68 percent thought he would be remembered for his "involvement in personal scandal" rather than his accomplishments as president, and 58 percent answered "No" to the question "Do you generally think Bill Clinton is honest and trustworthy?" 47% of the respondents identified themselves as being Clinton supporters.

Public image

Clinton sitting with a child

As the first Baby Boomer president, Clinton was seen during his presidency and during his candidacy as a change from the presidents of the World War II Generation . With his sound-bite -ready dialogue and pioneering use of pop culture in his campaigning (he appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show playing the saxophone during the 1992 campaign), Clinton was described, often negatively, as the " MTV president". Despite criticisms that his appeal to young voters lacked substance, Clinton won among Generation X voters in the 1992 election, with the highest Gen-X turnout ever. Clinton clearly came across as popular to young people. Until his inauguration as president, he had earned substantially less money than his wife, and had the smallest net worth of any president in modern history, according to My Life  Clinton's autobiography. Clinton was also very popular overall among African-Americans and made improving race relations a major theme of his presidency.

Many people saw the couple as an unprecedented political partnership. Some even suspected that Hillary, and not Bill, was the dominant force behind the pair, and many jokes implied that Hillary was the real President of the United States .

Social conservatives were put off by the impression of Clinton having been a " hippie " during the late 1960s, his coming-of-age era. In the 1960s, however, Clinton might not have been viewed as such by many of those in the hippie subculture. Clinton avoided the draft with a student deferment while studying abroad during the Vietnam War Clinton's marijuana experimentation, clumsily excused by Clinton's statement that he "didn't inhale" further tarnished 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.

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

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 Jones, Gennifer Flowers , and Kathleen 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 .

Clinton's warmth, curiosity and openness unite to create an intense personal charm, but his character and policies were viewed with intense, personal dislike by some conservative critics. Several unsubstantiated accusations were leveled on conservative talk radio programs. Among these were rumors of involvement with drug traffickers and personal cocaine use. Some talk show personalities fomented conspiracy theories about Clinton's involvement in the death of long-time friend and aide Vince Foster , which was later ruled a suicide in an extensive investigation by Kenneth Starr . The deadly Branch Davidian standoff near Waco, Texas in 1993, which many considered to be a bungled operation, engendered further hostility in some conservative circles towards the Clinton administration.

Clinton is often referred to by nickname among both detractors and fans. One of the earliest was "Bubba", which alludes to his Southern "good ol' boy" background. Other common nicknames include "Slick Willy" and "Clintoon" (by detractors), and the "Big Dog" (by fans). Although the phrase typically refers to Ronald Reagan 's presidency, Clinton's presidency is sometimes referred to as the " Teflon Presidency" for how scandals and setbacks never seem to stick to him, at least in terms of dropped public support. During his first presidential campaign in 1992 he claimed the moniker of the "Comeback Kid" after placing second in the New Hampshire primary to Paul Tsongas ("Tonight New Hampshire's made me the Comeback Kid" ).

Post-presidential career

Hillary Clinton is sworn in as a U.S. Senator by Vice President Gore as Bill and Chelsea Clinton observe

On January 18 , 2001 , he addressed the nation one last time on television from the Oval Office of the White House, two days before handing over the presidency to George W. Bush , whose father he had defeated in 1992 .

Like many former American presidents, Clinton has engaged in a career as a public speaker on a variety of issues. 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. 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 senator representing New York .

In February 2004, Clinton (along with Mikhail Gorbachev and Sophia Loren ) won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for narrating the Russian National Orchestra 's album Peter and the Wolf /Wolf Tracks . Clinton won a second Grammy in February 2005, Best Spoken Word Album for My Life .

Bill Clinton on The Daily Show, promoting My Life

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 made an unprecedented three appearances on the Amazon.com best-seller list before it was even released.

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 have argued that Clinton's speech was one of the best in Convention history. In it, Clinton criticized George W. Bush's depiction of Kerry, saying that "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

On September 2 , 2004 , Clinton had an episode of angina and was evaluated at Northern Westchester Hospital . It was determined that he had not suffered a coronary infarction , and he was sent home, returning the following day for angiography , which disclosed multiple vessel coronary artery disease . He was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, where he successfully underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery on September 6 , 2004 . The medical team responsible for Clinton claimed that, had he not had surgery, he would likely have suffered a massive heart attack within a few months. On March 10 , 2005 , he underwent a follow-up surgery to remove scar tissue and fluid from his left chest cavity, a result of his open-heart surgery.

He dedicated his presidential library, which is the largest in the nation, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, Arkansas on November 18 , 2004 . Under rainy skies, Clinton received words of praise from former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush , as well as from the current president, George W. Bush . He was also treated to a musical rendition from Bono and The Edge from U2 , who expressed their gratitude at Clinton's efforts to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict during his presidency.

On November 22, 2004 , New York Republican Governor George Pataki named Clinton and the other living former presidents ( Gerald Ford , Jimmy Carter , and George H. W. Bush ) as honorary members of the board rebuilding the World Trade Center .

On December 8, 2004 , Clinton announced that he was the new spokesperson for Accoona , an internet search engine company.

Clinton and former President Bush at Super Bowl XXXIX

There had been reported signs of a friendship growing between Clinton and George W. Bush. After the official unveiling of his White House portrait in June 2004, the Asian Tsunami disaster, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2004 election Clinton and Bush met on occasion, although the nature of the friendship did not appear to be a reconciliation of political opinions.

On January 3 , 2005, President George W. Bush named Clinton and George H. W. Bush to lead a nationwide campaign to help the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake . On February 1 , 2005 , he was picked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to head the United Nations earthquake and tsunami relief and reconstruction effort . Five days later, he and Bush both appeared on the Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game show on Fox in support of their bipartisan effort to raise money for relief of the disaster through the USA Freedom Corps , an action which Bush described as "transcending politics." Thirteen days later, they both traveled to the affected areas to see how the relief efforts were going.

Clinton, along with President George W. Bush, his wife, Laura, and Bush's father pay their respects to Pope John Paul II before the pope's funeral

Following the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2 , 2005 Clinton stirred up a mini-controversy saying the late pontiff, "may have had a mixed legacy…there will be debates about him. But on balance, he was a man of God, he was a consistent person, he did what he thought was right." Clinton sat with both President George W. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush as the first current or former American heads of state to attend a papal funeral.

On August 31 2005, following the devastation of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina , Clinton again teamed with George H. W. Bush to coordinate private relief donations, in a campaign similar to their earlier one in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami . Clinton was highly critical of the federal government response to the hurricane, saying that the government "failed" the people affected, and that an investigation into the response was warranted.

On September 16 2005, Clinton appeared on Larry King Live to talk about Senator Clinton's political career.

On December 9 2005, speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal , Clinton publicly criticized the Bush Administration about its handling of emissions control.

On February 07 , 2006 , Clinton appeared at Coretta Scott King 's funeral.

 

Noah@SemperFidelisNoah.com