Clinton, Bill

views updated May 18 2018

Clinton, Bill 1946-








Bill Clinton was the forty-second president of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. He was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr. (1918-1946), was a salesman who died in an auto accident before Clinton was born. When Bill Clinton was fourteen, he legally adopted the surname of his stepfather, Roger C. Clinton Sr. (1908-1967).

While attending Georgetown University, Clinton interned with Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995) of Arkansas, a prominent critic of the Vietnam War (1957-1975). Avoiding military service, Clinton was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in 1968 and earned a law degree from Yale University in 1973. While at Yale, Clinton met and later married fellow law student Hillary Rodham.

In addition to opposing the Vietnam War, Clinton worked in the 1972 Democratic presidential campaign and unsuccessfully ran for a congressional seat in Arkansas in 1974. In 1976 Clinton was elected attorney general of Arkansas. He was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978, but was defeated for reelection in 1980. In 1982 Clinton was again elected governor of Arkansas and served in this position until December 12, 1992. During his second stint as governor, Clinton projected a more moderate, populist image to Arkansas voters. His policies emphasized public school reforms, economic development, and tax relief for the elderly.


Bill Clinton formally announced his candidacy for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination in Little Rock on October 31, 1991. After securing an impressive, second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary and winning southern primaries, Clintons victories in the New York and California primaries assured him of the Democratic presidential nomination. Meanwhile, Republican president George H. W. Bushs reelection campaign was weakened by the lingering effects of the 1990-1991 recession, Bushs violation of his 1988 promise not to raise taxes, dwindling public concern with foreign policy, and the independent presidential candidacy of Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire.

The Democratic national convention of 1992 highlighted the need for generational change in the White House by nominating baby boomers Bill Clinton for president and Senator Al Gore Jr. of Tennessee for vice president. Clinton won the election with 43 percent of the popular votes. Perots receipt of 18.9 percent of the popular votes enabled Clinton to carry most states in the Electoral College.


With a Democratic Congress, Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, the AmeriCorps Act of 1993, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Clintons inexperience in dealing with Congress was evident in his withdrawal of Lani Guiniers nomination as assistant attorney general for civil rights following criticism of her writings on affirmative action. The most controversial and unsuccessful domestic policy initiative of Clintons presidency was his proposed Health Security Act, that is, a universal health-care plan. He appointed Hillary Clinton as the chair of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform and announced this task forces proposal in a speech to Congress on September 22, 1993. Public and congressional opposition to Clintons plan increased as its complex, confusing details were criticized as socialized medicine by Republicans, conservative media commentators, and interest groups. The rejection of Clintons health-care plan contributed to the Republican landslide in the 1994 congressional elections.

After the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, Clinton repositioned himself as a moderate seeking bipartisan cooperation and compromise. His poll ratings steadily improved in 1995 and 1996 as the public perceived Republicans in Congress, especially Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, as excessively conservative and unreasonable in their policy relationship with Clinton. Clinton, however, waited until after the 1996 Democratic national convention to sign the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which most House Democrats opposed. With a prosperous economy and no major foreign policy crises, Clinton was easily reelected president in 1996.


Bill Clinton perceived the postcold war era as an opportunity for the United States to improve and expand multilateral efforts to promote democracy, free trade, environmental protection, humanitarian relief, and the resolution of political and military conflicts in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Somalia, and Palestine. Clinton ordered brief, unsuccessful U.S. military interventions in Somalia and Haiti. The United States also joined NATO allies in aerial bombings to end Serbias ethnic cleansing and force an end to the war in Bosnia. Responding to Iraqi president Saddam Husseins (1937-2006) expulsion of UN weapons inspectors and other violations of international law, Clinton publicly supported regime change in Iraq but limited his military response to launching cruise missiles.

Clinton wanted to avoid a stronger military response toward Iraq that might alienate European and Middle Eastern allies, the United Nations, and the American public. Following the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, however, Clinton signed into law tougher antiterrorism legislation. Nonetheless, George W. Bushs Republican presidential campaign in 2000 criticized Clinton for failing to effectively address Iraqi and other threats to national security.


Before his sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became a public issue in 1998, Clinton had experienced media, congressional, and judicial investigations into his sexual behavior in the lawsuit of Paula Jones, Hillary Clintons involvement in the failed Whitewater investment, and his firing of employees in the White House travel office. Some conservative critics also accused Clinton of ordering the murders of Vincent Foster (1945-1993), the deputy White House counsel, and Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown (1941-1996). Fosters death was officially ruled to be a suicide, and Brown died in a plane crash in Croatia.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr began to investigate Lewinskys affair with Clinton because of contradictions between her testimony and Clintons in the Jones case. At a January 1998 press conference, Clinton firmly denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky. Clinton continued to receive high job approval ratings, and the Democrats gained five House seats in the 1998 elections. Newt Gingrich soon resigned from the speakership and the House. Nonetheless, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice on December 19, 1998. After a trial in the Senate, the Senate acquitted Clinton on February 12, 1999. Throughout these proceedings, polls indicated that most Americans opposed Clintons impeachment, trial, and removal from office.

Bill Clinton devoted the remainder of his term to improving race relations, achieving a budget surplus, and negotiating a new trade agreement with China. In order to benefit Al Gores presidential campaign and Hillary Clintons Senate campaign in New York, he frequently reminded audiences of his administrations domestic policy successes and the countrys prosperous economy. Wanting to avoid association with Clintons scandals, especially in fund-raising for the 1996 election, Gore carefully limited Clintons role in his unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign. Some political analysts have argued that had Clinton been more involved in the campaign, Gore might have carried Clintons home state of Arkansas and his own home state of Tennessee. Winning these two states would have won the election for Gore, regardless of the outcome of the disputed electoral votes in Florida.

As Bill Clinton prepared to leave office in 2001, he attracted controversy when he pardoned Marc Rich. Rich was a billionaire who fled to Switzerland because of charges of tax evasion and violations of oil embargoes against Iran and Libya. Denise Rich, his wife, had previously made large contributions to the Democratic Party and Clintons presidential library and foundation.


Americans generally expressed an ambivalent, complex perception of Bill Clinton. During his second term, most Americans gave Clinton high job approval ratings, especially on the economy, and opposed his impeachment while simultaneously perceiving him to be dishonest, politically expedient, and detrimental to the moral character of the presidency. Among specific demographic groups, Clinton attracted consistent, loyal support from African Americans, Jews, unmarried women, and young adults, along with consistent, staunch opposition from married white men, white Christian fundamentalists, and gun owners. Criticism of Clintons policies and personal character was hardened and intensified by the rise of conservative talk radio programs, the Fox news network, and the Internet.


Besides supervising his presidential library and foundation, Bill Clinton regularly traveled nationally and internationally as a well-paid public speaker. Clinton raised funds for his foundation, the Democratic Party, and philanthropy, especially AIDS research and treatment, environmental protection, and relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami. In some of these charitable efforts, Clinton teamed with former president George H. W. Bush. After Senator Hillary Clinton became a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination of 2008, Bill Clinton became more publicly prominent in his relationship with her when he and she performed a parody of the television show, The Sopranos.

SEE ALSO Baby Boomers; Bush, George H. W.; Democratic Party, U.S.; Elections; Hussein, Saddam; North American Free Trade Agreement; Presidency, The; Terrorism; Welfare; Welfare State


Berman, William C. 2001. From the Center to the Edge: The Politics and Policies of the Clinton Presidency. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Clinton, Bill. 2004. My Life. New York: Knopf.

Hamilton, Nigel. 2003. Bill Clinton: An American Journey. New York: Random House.

Sean J. Savage

Clinton, William Jefferson

views updated May 23 2018


With his election as the forty-second president of the United States on November 3, 1992, William Jefferson Clinton became the first Democrat in the White House since jimmy carter left office in 1981. Clinton began his presidency pledging to reduce the federal government's budget deficit; streamline bureaucracy; increase public investment in education, job training, and the environment; and initiate widespread domestic reforms in health care, welfare, and taxation. Although the United States achieved significant economic growth under Clinton, his presidency was eventually marred by personal and legal problems, including the second impeachment of a president in the history of the country.

Although Clinton made progress toward reducing the budget deficit during his presidency, some of his other reforms, such as his proposal for universal health care coverage, met with opposition in the 103d Congress of 1993–94. Nevertheless, Clinton made an impact on U.S. law. On many issues, from abortion to environmental protection, he steered the nation in a different direction from that of his Republican

predecessors, Presidents ronald reagan and george h. w. bush.

Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe IV on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe III, died in a car accident before the future president was born, and his mother, Virginia Cassidy Blythe, married Roger Clinton four years after Blythe's death. When Clinton was seven years old, the family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he spent the rest of his childhood.

Clinton graduated fourth in his class at Hot Springs High School in 1964. Already intent on entering politics, he enrolled at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C. He completed a bachelor's degree in international studies in 1968 and won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, in England. After two years at Oxford, he entered Yale University Law School on a scholarship in 1970. He married Hillary Rodham on October 11, 1975.

"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you."
Bill Clinton

After a brief stint as a staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee, Clinton was hired in 1973 as a member of the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law, in Fayetteville. The following year, he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Arkansas's Third Congressional District. He lost by only four percentage points in a Republican stronghold. After successfully running Carter's Arkansas presidential campaign in 1976, Clinton won the office of state attorney general that same year.

In 1978, at the age of 32, Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas. He was the youngest governor ever to enter office in Arkansas, and the youngest governor in the nation since 1938, when Harold C. Stassen was elected governor of Minnesota at the same age. Shortly after entering office, Clinton raised the gasoline tax and automobile-licensing fees in order to finance highway improvements. These tax increases proved unpopular, and he lost the governorship in the 1980 election.

Clinton spent the next two years working in private legal practice, then won re-election as governor in 1982 and held the post until his election as president. He implemented educational reforms in Arkansas during the 1980s, increasing educational funding through a higher sales tax and introducing such measures as competency tests for teachers and compulsory school attendance through age 17 for students.

In 1992, Clinton entered a crowded field of candidates jostling for the Democratic nomination for president. His competitors included Jerry Brown, a former governor of California; Paul E. Tsongas, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts; and Thomas R. Harkin, a U.S. senator from Iowa. Despite rumors of an affair with a singer named Gennifer Flowers, Clinton won his party's nomination. He chose albert gore Jr., a U.S. senator from Tennessee, as his running mate. In the general election, he defeated President George H. W. Bush and an independent candidate, H. Ross Perot. Clinton tallied 43 percent of the popular vote, against 38 percent for Bush and 19 percent for Perot.

Clinton was sworn in as president on January 20, 1993. At 46 years of age, he was the youngest president since john f. kennedy. Entering office at a time of economic recession, he immediately set to work on domestic agenda calling for economic stimulus, long-term public investments, and a deficit-reduction plan. Key aspects of this plan involved health care reform, reduction of tariffs, tax increases for the wealthy, tax cuts for the poor, spending increases for job training, and programs to increase the efficiency of the federal government.

Clinton experienced only partial success in implementing his proposals in Congress, even though his party enjoyed majority status in both the House and the Senate during the 103d Congress. He won passage of and earned income tax credit for working poor people; cut federal spending and bureaucracy; and passed the National and Community Service Trust Act (107 Stat. 785 [1993]), which provides students with tuition assistance in exchange for work on special service projects.

The north american free trade agreement (NAFTA) (32 I.L.M. 605), signed by Clinton on December 8, 1993, was hailed as landmark legislation. Although NAFTA negotiations had begun under President George H. W. Bush, Clinton made the controversial trade agreement a test of his presidency and used his influence to secure its passage through Congress in the North American Free Trade Implementation Act (107 Stat. 2057 [1993]). The agreement removes tariffs on products traded between the United States, Mexico, and Canada over a 15-year period. The Clinton administration also secured major changes in the general agreement on tariffs and trade (GATT).

Clinton did not win passage of his entire economic stimulus package, nor was he able to generate significant welfare reform. But the most noted failure of the early Clinton administration proposals was its sweeping plan to reform health care. Organized by hillary rodham clinton and presented to Congress in the fall of 1993, the 240,000-word document was one of the most detailed legislative proposals ever presented to Congress. The Health Care Security Act, as it was later called, would have provided health insurance to all citizens. Although the act was defeated in Congress, it spurred modest reforms that helped to bring down the health care inflation rate in future years.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton had pledged to lift a ban on homosexuals in the military. His efforts to fulfill this promise during his first year in office quickly met with disapproval from military leaders, members of Congress, and the general public. After lengthy debate of the issue in Congress, Clinton moderated his initial position with a new policy that was dubbed "don't ask, don't tell." Under this policy, homosexuals are free to serve in the military as long as they do not display their homosexuality or engage in homosexual conduct. Many homosexual rights advocates voiced their disappointment with Clinton's compromise on the issue.

Other significant legislation signed by Clinton included the Family and Medical Leave Act (29 U.S.C.A. §§ 2601 et seq. [1993]), which allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for family illness, childbirth, or adoption. The National Voter Registration Act (42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1973gg et seq. [1993]), also called the motor-voter law, permits citizens to register to vote by mail or while obtaining a driver's license. Similar bills had been vetoed by President Bush.

Another bill signed by Clinton, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 248 [1994]), strengthens protection of family-planning clinics that perform abortions by making it a federal crime to obstruct clinic entrances and harass clinic patients and personnel.

Clinton signed into law a major piece of anticrime legislation on September 13, 1994 (108 Stat. 1796). The $30.2 billion measure was a complex mixture of government spending and changes in criminal law. It provided for social programs, prisons, and the hiring of 100,000 police officers nationwide; the extension of the death penalty to more crimes; and the banning of 19 different assault-style firearms.

Clinton was the first Democratic president since lyndon b. johnson to make an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Clinton appointed ruth bader ginsburg in 1993 and stephen breyer in 1994. Both justices were approved by the U.S. Senate with little controversy. With their moderate positions, these justices were likely to help prevent threatened reversals of previous Court decisions on abortion and civil rights.

Clinton appeared less confident in the area of foreign policy. Early in his term, critics characterized his handling of U.S. policy toward conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda as indecisive. Clinton appeared to gain confidence with time, however, and claimed a number of foreign policy victories later in his administration. He successfully sent U.S. troops to Haiti in 1994 to restore democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The Clinton administration also secured significant disarmament agreements with Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, former states of the Soviet Union that possessed nuclear weapons; restored normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam; helped to broker peace negotiations in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; and slowed North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

In March 1992, questions arose concerning a failed Arkansas business deal that the Clintons had been involved in during the 1980s. The deal centered on the Whitewater Development Corporation, a proposed real estate development near Little Rock. Among the charges later directed at Clinton was that he had benefited from criminal actions of James McDougal, an Arkansas savings-and-loan owner. In particular, it was alleged that McDougal had illegally diverted money to Clinton's gubernatorial campaign fund—money that McDougal had been able to raise partly through the help of then-Governor Clinton. James and Susan McDougal, along with former Arkansas governor Jim Guy Tucker, were convicted of fraud in 1996 for their roles in several transactions, including the Whitewater affair.

The Whitewater scandal was the most damaging to Clinton in the first term of his presidency, drawing comparisons to the watergate scandal under President richard m. nixon and the iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. The continuing investigation into White-water

by independent counsel kenneth w. starr also led to first impeachment trial in the U.S. House of Representatives since President andrew johnson in 1868.

The roots of Clinton's impeachment began in 1994, when Starr began his investigation and Clinton faced a series of accusations regarding sexual misconduct. In 1994, Paula C. Jones filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, alleging that Clinton had made unwanted sexual advances in a hotel room in 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas and she was a state employee. Clinton was the first sitting president since 1962 to face a civil lawsuit. Meanwhile, as early as 1995, Clinton began having an adulterous relationship with White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky that lasted into 1997. In December 1997, Jones's lawyers named Lewinsky as a potential witness in the sexual harassment lawsuit. Lewinsky filed an affidavit in the Jones case, denying that she had had sexual relations with the president, although in a series of events that were disclosed later, Lewinsky had returned several gifts that Clinton had report-edly given her during the affair. On January 12, 1997, Linda Tripp, a co-worker of Lewinsky's who had recorded telephone conversations in which Lewinsky had described the affair, turned tapes over to Starr. About a year later, on January 17, 1998, Clinton denied in a testimony before the grand jury in the Jones case that he had had an "extramarital sexual affair," "sexual relations," or a "sexual relationship" with Lewinsky. Starr then investigated whether Clinton had lied under oath and/or whether he had encouraged others to lie. After Starr granted her immunity for her testimony, Lewinsky appeared before a grand jury in August 1998, describing at least 11 sexual encounters, although none involved sexual intercourse. Clinton admitted to some encounters with Lewinsky that had involved oral sex, but he claimed that because he had not engaged in intercourse, his denials about sexual relations did not constitute perjury.

Starr submitted a report to the House of Representatives on September 8, 1998, outlining 11 grounds for impeaching Clinton, including charges of perjury and obstructing justice. On October 5, 1998, the House Judiciary Committee voted 21-16, along party lines, to recommend that the House begin formal impeachment proceedings. The House concurred with the committee's recommendation, and in December 1998, Clinton faced four articles of impeachment. On December 19, the House approved two of the articles charging Clinton with perjury in his grand jury testimony and with obstruction of justice. The trial then moved to the Senate, where Chief Justice william h. rehnquist presided as the senators listened in silence to presentations by Clinton's defense team and representatives from the House. After about a month of deliberations, the Senate voted on whether to remove Clinton from office. On both counts, the vote failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority.

Although the impeachment undoubtedly scarred Clinton's legacy, his economic success was virtually unparalleled in recent U.S. history. Although Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years (Clinton admitted that he was partly responsible for his party's losses) the national deficit was reduced by several billion dollars during the last few years of the Clinton presidency. The country also experienced sustained levels of economic growth that were unmatched since the early 1960s.

Notwithstanding his successes, controversies surrounding Clinton continued even as he left office in 2001. On January 20, 2001, on his final morning in office, Clinton granted more than 170 presidential pardons and commutations, including those for two fugitive financiers who allegedly had traded illegally with Iran in the 1980s and defrauded the U.S. government of about $48 million in taxes. In March 2001, Attorney General john ashcroft announced that he had launched an investigation into the pardons, dubbed "Pardongate" by the media. Clinton's actions in office also affected his status as a lawyer, as both the Arkansas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court suspended his law license for the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges stemming from the Lewinsky and Paula Jones affairs.

Clinton has remained in the public consciousness, although his legacy in U.S. history is difficult to assess thus far. In 2001, he received a $12 million advance to publish his memoirs. In March 2003, the CBS television network announced that Clinton had agreed to appear with former senator robert dole, whom Clinton had defeated in the 1996 presidential election, in a regular piece on the news program 60 Minutes, where the former politicians debate current political issues. Clinton maintains an office in New York City, and construction of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, will be completed in the fall of 2004. Conservatives typically dismiss Clinton's economic and domestic achievements, pointing out his indiscretions throughout his two terms in office. Liberal supporters do not dismiss his imprudence, but they point out that he both presided over the country's emergence from economic recession and provided millions of Americans with opportunities that they would not have had without his programs.

further readings

Clinton, Bill. 1996. State of the Union address, January 23. Transcript available at 1996 WL 23253 (White House) and at the Democratic National Committee Web site <>.

——. 1995. Clinton Administration Accomplishments. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Executive Office of the President. Office of Management and Budget. 1993. A Vision of Change for America. February 17.

Johnson, Haynes Bonner. 2001. The Best of Times: America in the Clinton Years. New York: Harcourt.


Armed Services; Gay and Lesbian Rights; Voting; Presidential Powers; Veto.

Clinton, Bill

views updated May 21 2018

Bill Clinton

Born: August 19, 1946
Hope, Arkansas

American president and governor

Bill Clinton won the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination and defeated George Bush to become the forty-second president of the United States. He was elected to a second term in 1996. As a former president, Clinton continues to work for a variety of issues that became important to him during his political career.

Early life

William Jefferson Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, on August 19, 1946. He was a fifth-generation Arkansan. His mother, Virginia Kelly, named him William Jefferson Blythe III after his father, who died in a car accident before his son's birth. When Bill was four years old, his mother left him with her parents while she trained as a nurse.

When Bill was eight, his mother married Roger Clinton. The family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where they lived in small house with no indoor plumbing. Bill's stepfather was an alcoholic, and family life was frequently disrupted by domestic violence. When he was fifteen, Bill warned his stepfather never to hit his mother or half-brother, Roger Jr., again. "That was a dramatic thing," Clinton recalled years later in an interview with Time magazine. Despite his rocky relationship with his stepfather, Bill changed his last name to Clinton as a teenager.

When Clinton was seventeen, he met then President John F. Kennedy (19171963). As a result, Clinton decided that he wanted a career in politics. He entered Georgetown University in 1964. As a college student, he was committed to the movement against the Vietnam War (195575; a war in Vietnam in which South Vietnam, assisted by the United States, fought against a takeover by North Vietnam), as well as to the civil rights struggle. Clinton graduated from Georgetown in 1968 with a degree in international affairs. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship, which allowed him to spend the next two years continuing his studies at Oxford University. In 1970 he entered law school at Yale University. After graduation, Clinton went into private practice as a lawyer in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He also began teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School.

Arkansas politics

In 1974 Clinton decided to begin the political career that he had wanted since he was a teenager. He ran for Congress, but lost the election in a very close vote. On October 11, 1975, Clinton married Hillary Rodham (1947), whom he had met when they were fellow law students at Yale. In 1976 he was elected attorney general of Arkansas, an office he held from 1977 to 1979.

In 1978 Clinton ran for the office of governor of Arkansas. His election made him the youngest-ever governor of that state. In his first term Clinton tried to make numerous changes, many of which were extremely unpopular, including an attempt to raise the cost of vehicle licenses. In 1980 he ran for reelection as governor but lost to Republican Frank White (1933). When Clinton campaigned for election in 1982 against White, he explained that he had learned the importance of adaptability and compromise. He received 55 percent of the vote and once again became governor of Arkansas.

While Clinton was governor of Arkansas, he pushed for the reform of schools, health care, and welfare. He also continued to be active in Democratic national politics. In 1991 he was voted most effective governor by his peers and was chosen to head the Democratic Leadership Conference. That same year Clinton announced that he was entering the 1992 race for president.

Clinton becomes president

Clinton had much competition for the Democratic nomination for president. He came from a small state that many people thought of as unsophisticated and underdeveloped. Critics felt that his lack of experience in national government gave him little understanding of foreign policy. Clinton, however, insisted that he had a fresh point of view to bring to government.

Clinton's campaign was also marked by personal scandal. He faced charges of extramarital relationships and questions about his avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War. Clinton remained in the race, however, and became the Democratic nominee, selecting Senator Albert Gore (1948) as his running mate. Clinton focused his campaign on economic issues, especially unemployment and health care. In November 1992 Clinton was elected president, defeating both the president then in office, Republican George Bush (1924), and independent candidate Ross Perot (1930).

Once in office Clinton continued to work on economic issues, and interest rates and unemployment began to drop. He also appointed his wife to be the head of a task force to explore national health care reform. He supported the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which made a single trading unit of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Reelection, scandal, and impeachment

As the end of Clinton's first term approached, a new scandal arose. The scandal was called Whitewater, after the suspicious deal in which Clinton and his wife had bought land along the Whitewater River in Arkansas. In 1996 Clinton was elected to a second term as president. He won the election by a landslide, defeating his Republican opponent, Senator Robert Dole (1923), with 49 percent of the popular vote and 379 electoral votes. Clinton's second term, however, became overshadowed by the investigation into Whitewater of lawyer Kenneth Starr (1946).

The investigation became more serious when charges of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky (1973), a White House intern, were made public. At first Clinton denied the affair, but he later stated that he had been in an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives ruled to impeach Clinton, or try him in Congress for charges of lying under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky. The Senate then conducted an impeachment trial. Clinton was only the second president in U.S. history to face a Senate impeachment hearing. On February 12, 1999, the Senate found Clinton innocent. He apologized to the American people and to Congress for what he had done.

Clinton's second term

Clinton became the first U.S. president to address Russia's Duma, or lower house of parliament, on June 5, 2000. In his speech, he said that Russians did not need to fear America's missile defense program and that their future would be vital to the twenty-first century. Later that month, he signed into law a long-awaited e-signatures bill, which gave on-line "electronic" signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures.

The Whitewater investigation was concluded on September 20, 2000, with a statement that there was not enough evidence to prove that either Clinton or his wife had taken part in any criminal wrongdoing.

On October 16, 2000, Clinton attended an emergency meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1942) and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat (1929), who wanted to come to an agreement to end ongoing violence in their countries. Barak and Arafat left the meeting with a "statement of intent" to end the violence, but neither side was completely satisfied. In that same month, Clinton sealed a major achievement of his administration by signing a bill which gave China permanent, normal trade status. This was considered the most important U.S. trade legislation since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993.

Later that year, Clinton signed into law a bill that set the blood-alcohol limit for drunkenness at 0.08 percent. This was a stricter level than most states had used previously. Supporters of the bill said that this national standard, which is used to determine whether or not a driver is legally drunk, could save hundreds of lives every year. Clinton signed another important bill into law in 2000, when he permanently established a separate reserve of heating oil for the Northeast. The law made it easier for the White House to withdraw oil from reserves in case of emergency. Finally, on November 13, 2000, Clinton began a historic journey to Asia, becoming the first American president to visit Vietnam since the Vietnam War. The purpose of the visit was to work on relations between Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam) and Washington, D.C.

After the presidency

On January 19, 2001, Clinton's last day as president, he publicly admitted that he gave misleading testimony in the Lewinsky investigation. He faced no criminal charges, but his license to practice law was suspended. Clinton was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and admit that he had broken one of the Arkansas Bar's rules of conduct.

Clinton continues to raise money for and speak on behalf of many issues. The many causes to which he devotes time and money include the economic development of small businesses, City Year (a national service program for young people), and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS; a disease of the immune system) research and education.

Despite the scandals and difficulties that plagued the second half of his presidency, Clinton continues to be an active public figure, supporting many issues and causes that are important to the world. The youngest president since John F. Kennedy, he has come a long way from his small childhood home in Arkansas.

For More Information

Allen, Charles F., and Jonathan Portis. The Comeback Kid: The Life and Career of Bill Clinton. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1992.

Klein, Joe. The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton. New York: Doubleday, 2002.

Cohen, Daniel. The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 2000.

Maraniss, David. First in His Class. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Moore, Jim, and Rick Ihde. Clinton, Young Man in a Hurry. Fort Worth, TX: Summit Group, 1992.

O'Clery, Conor. America: A Place Called Hope? Dublin, Ireland: O'Brien Press, 1993.

Clinton, Bill

views updated Jun 08 2018

Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton's administration was marked by a series of remarkable successes as well as embarrassing scandals. When he took over the presidency in 1993, the national deficit (the amount the federal government needs to borrow to make up the difference between what it spends and how much it collects in taxes) was the largest in U.S. history. During his two terms in office, the U.S. economy grew and prospered, the budget was balanced, and by 1999 there was a national surplus. Among many other successes, Clinton initiated major welfare reform and free trade agreements, helped in the peace process in Northern Ireland, and led an international intervention in Serbia. Though personal scandals and impeachment loomed heavily over his second term, his approval ratings with the American public remained extraordinarily high.


Bill Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, and grew up in Arkansas . His father, William Blythe, was killed in a car accident before his son was born. His mother later married Roger Clinton, who legally adopted him. By the age of sixteen, Clinton had already decided on a career in politics. After graduating with an international affairs degree from Georgetown University in 1968, Clinton won a prestigious Rhodes scholarship and studied at Oxford University in England for two years. While he was in England, the United States's participation in the Vietnam War (1954–75) was at its height. Clinton opposed the war and participated in numerous protests against it. He submitted to the draft upon his return to the United States but only after he had learned that he would not be called to serve in the armed forces. He would later be criticized for trying to avoid going to Vietnam. He earned a law degree from Yale University in 1973.

Clinton rose through the ranks of Democratic Party and Arkansas politics. In 1976, he ran the presidential campaign in Arkansas of former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter (1924–), and he was elected state attorney general. He married Hillary Rodham (1947–) in 1975.

A young governor

In 1978, at age thirty-two, Clinton became one of the youngest governors in the United States. After one term, he failed to win reelection. While practicing law in Little Rock, Arkansas, Clinton went to work planning his political comeback. In 1982, after a heated campaign, he reclaimed the governor's office. He was reelected in 1984 by a wide margin. Successful education reforms, among other accomplishments, built his reputation, and, among his political associates, his name began to arise as a possible presidential candidate.

The election

When Clinton announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination in August 1991, he joined a crowded group of fellow Democrats. He led a strong campaign and promised active measures to improve the drooping economy, believing, unlike his Republican opponent, incumbent president George H. W. Bush (1924–; served 1989–93), that the federal government could play a constructive role in fixing the nation's social problems and stimulating economic growth. Clinton chose U.S. senator Al Gore Jr. (1948–) of Tennessee as his running mate. Clinton and Gore, both southern Democrats, projected the youthful vigor of the baby boom generation (the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964). They considered themselves to be “New Democrats,” moderate Democrats who hoped to move the party back to the center (away from political extremes).

During the first few months of his campaign, an Arkansas woman claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Clinton while he was governor. Clinton did not deny the affair, and the small scandal did not seem to affect public opinion of him much. He won the 1992 presidential election with the help of a highly divided Republican Party . He became one of the youngest U.S. presidents in history.

A rough start

One of the first issues Clinton attempted to tackle was health-care reform. He appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton , to head the task force on health care. Her proposal to make health care affordable to all Americans failed to pass in Congress. Clinton was also unable to fulfill his campaign promise to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Six months after Clinton took office, his friend and deputy counsel at the White House, Vincent W. Foster Jr. (c. 1945–1993), committed suicide. At the time, Foster had been handling charges that the Clintons had been involved in a suspicious land deal, the Whitewater venture, while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Investigations into the Whitewater dealings of the Clintons turned up nothing concrete against them, but led to constant inquiries into every aspect of their public and personal lives.

The biggest blow in Clinton's first term in office was the resounding Republican success in the 1994 midterm elections, in which the Republicans gained control of the House and Senate. The Democratic defeat was widely viewed as a vote on Clinton's performance as president.

Comeback kid

Along with the highly visible defeats, there were some major successes. Clinton convinced Congress to approve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA; an agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico to phase out tariffs, or taxes on imports, and generally encourage free trade between the three countries). The economy was getting stronger; some categories of crime were in decline; welfare reform had been tackled; the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, imposing a waiting period on handgun purchases, was passed; and his national-service program (AmeriCorps) was created.

In the months after the disastrous 1994 elections, it had seemed unlikely that Clinton could secure a second term. Earning his nickname, the “Comeback Kid,” he successfully campaigned around his positive New Democratic agenda and won reelection over former U.S. senator Bob Dole (1923–) of Kansas .

Allegations of wrongdoing

As Clinton's second term began, the U.S. economy soared. In 1997, he reached a balanced budget agreement with Congress that was so successful, by 1999 the major domestic political issue was how to use the ever-increasing budget surplus. But the robust economy was soon overshadowed by allegations of wrongdoing.

In 1998, former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones (1966–) filed a lawsuit charging Clinton with sexual harassment. At the same time, the investigations led by special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr (1946–) branched out from the original Whitewater investigation to look into Vincent Foster's suicide, Paula Jones's allegations, and new charges of improper conduct with a young White House intern, Monica S. Lewinsky (1973–). These matters increasingly consumed the press coverage of the president to the near exclusion of most matters of public policy.

In August, Starr presented a report to Congress alleging that Clinton had perjured (gave false testimony under oath) himself in the Jones and Lewinsky matters. In December 1998, the House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, to impeach (charge him with misconduct in office) the president. The dramatic Senate trial was held in January and February of 1999. In order to remove the president from office, two-thirds of the senators would have had to vote “guilty”; Clinton survived the critical votes and remained in office. Throughout the process, opinion polls repeatedly indicated that the public did not want Clinton removed from office. In fact, his approval ratings reached 70 percent during the impeachment trials.

Last years in office

During Clinton's administration the United States was called upon to serve as a mediator between the warring sides or to lead a military intervention in countries including Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. In March 1999, the Clinton administration spearheaded a series of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a political alliance of European nations and the United States and Canada) bombing raids on targets in Serbia, stopping the Serbian government's program of mass murders of Muslims and the expulsion of ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo. In the Middle East, he helped mediate a historic agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including Jordan and the Palestinians, though these peace negotiations collapsed in 2000. In Northern Ireland, the Clinton administration mediated talks between the various factions, helping to negotiate a cease-fire and peace agreement.

In October 1999, Starr stepped down as Whitewater special prosecutor. His successor did not pursue a perjury indictment to follow Clinton's departure from the White House, but Clinton, in exchange, admitted to having made a false statement in the now-settled Jones suit. He paid a fine of $25,000, and his license to practice law in Arkansas was suspended for five years.

It is common for presidents leaving office to exercise their constitutional right to issue presidential pardons for select people charged with federal crimes. In his last days, Clinton issued 140 such pardons. A few of these pardons were highly questionable, even to his loyal supporters, creating a final controversy in his colorful tenure as president.

Post-presidential years

Clinton, one of the youngest presidents to leave office, remained active in politics and world affairs after exiting the White House. He was a driving force in the Democratic Party, working both publicly and behind the scenes. He established a large foundation to help the poor worldwide, particularly in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He and former president George H. W. Bush established a foundation in 2006 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Clinton wrote his autobiography, My Life, published in 2004, with an advance from his publisher reported to be over $10 million. Clinton underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in September of 2004. It did not slow him down for long. By 2006, he was tirelessly campaigning for his wife in her race for U.S. president. As of March 2008, she was in a battle against U.S. senator Barack Obama (1961–) of Illinois for the Democratic nomination; the winner would face the Republican nominee, U.S. senator John McCain (1936–) of Arizona , in November.

William Jefferson Clinton

views updated May 11 2018

William Jefferson Clinton

William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton (born 1946) won the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1992 and then defeated incumbent George Bush to become the 42nd president of the United States. He was re-elected to a second term in 1996

William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, on August 19, 1946. He was a fifth-generation Arkansan. His mother, Virginia Kelly, named him William Jefferson Blyth, IV, after his father, who had been killed in a freak accident several months before Bill's birth. When Bill was four years old his mother left him with her parents, Hardey and Mattie Hawkins, while she trained as a nurse-anesthesiologist. His grandparents ran a small store in a predominantly African American neighborhood and, despite the racist practices of the South in the early 1950s, Bill's grandparents taught him that segregation was wrong.

After his mother's marriage to Roger Clinton when Bill was eight, the family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. They lived outside of the town in a house that had no indoor plumbing, which was not unusual for rural Arkansas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Though Bill changed his last name to Clinton when he was 15 in an expression of family solidarity, the Clinton household was a troubled one. Roger Clinton was an alcoholic, and the family was frequently disrupted by incidents of domestic violence. At the age of 15 Bill made it clear to his stepfather that he would protect his mother and half brother, Roger, Jr., from any further assaults.

Clinton considered several careers as a child. At one point he wanted to be a musician (a saxophonist), and at another he wanted to be a doctor, but in 1963, as part of a delegation of the American Legion Boys' Nation, he met then-President John F. Kennedy. As a result of that meeting Clinton decided that he wanted a career in politics.

Education of a Future President

He entered college at Georgetown University in 1964. As a college student Clinton was committed to the movement against the Vietnam War, as well as to the civil rights struggle. In 1966 he worked as a summer intern for Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, who was at that time the leader of antiwar sentiment in the U.S. Senate. He was still a college student in Washington, D.C., when Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed, and he and a friend used Clinton's car to deliver food and medical supplies to besieged neighborhoods during the unrest that followed King's assassination.

Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University in 1968 with a B.S. in International Affairs. It was already clear to those who knew him that he was a natural politician. Clinton was awarded a Rhodes scholarship and spent the next two years as a postgraduate student at Oxford University. It was in 1969, while at Oxford, that Clinton wrote a letter to an army colonel in the University of Arkansas ROTC program concerning his draft eligibility and his opposition to the war in Vietnam. In his letter he expressed concern about his position both in terms of the draft and in terms of his later "political viability." At the age of 23 Clinton was already concerned with his electability.

In 1970 Clinton entered law school at Yale University. In his first year at Yale Clinton served as a campaign coordinator for Joe Duffy, an antiwar candidate for the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. While still a law student, Clinton worked with the writer Taylor Branch as campaign coordinator in Texas for presidential candidate George McGovern.

At Yale Clinton met Hillary Rodham, a fellow law student. After graduation Clinton and Rodham were offered jobs on the staff of the House of Representatives committee that was considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Clinton chose to return to Arkansas while Hillary Rodham went to work as a member of the House staff. Clinton went into private practice in Fayetteville, the center of Arkansas politics, and also began teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School.

A Political Career in Arkansas

In 1974 he ran for Congress against John Paul Hammerschmidt, who was a strong Nixon supporter. He lost the election, but it was a very close vote. In a heavily Republican district, running as the incumbent, Hammerschmidt got only 51.5 percent of the vote.

Hillary Rodham moved to Fayetteville in 1974 and also began teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School. On October 11, 1975, Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham were married. In 1976 the Clintons moved to Little Rock when Bill was elected attorney general of the State of Arkansas, an office he held from 1977 to 1979.

In 1978 Bill Clinton ran for the office of governor of Arkansas. He was elected, and was the youngest-ever governor of Arkansas; in fact, he was the youngest person to be elected governor of any state since Harold E. Stassen was elected in 1938 at the age of 31. In his first term in office Clinton attempted to make numerous changes, many of which were extremely unpopular, including an attempt to raise automobile licensing fees.

On February 27, 1980, Bill and Hillary Clinton had a daughter they named Chelsea Victoria. In November of that same year Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory against Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton lost his bid for reelection as governor of Arkansas to Republican candidate Frank White. Clinton was a strong Carter supporter, which accounted for some of his difficulties, but Clinton recognized that many of his own policies had cost him reelection. When Clinton campaigned for election in 1982 against White, he explained he had learned the price for hubris and the importance of adaptability and compromise. He was elected with 55 percent of the vote.

Clinton served as governor of Arkansas until 1992. He was considered to be an activist, pushing for school reform and for health care and welfare reform with mixed results. He continued in these years to be active in Democratic national politics. Increasingly, Clinton attracted interest as a new voice in post-segregation southern politics. In 1988 Clinton came to national prominence at the Democratic convention when he gave a lengthy speech nominating Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis as the party's presidential candidate. Clinton's speech was considered to be excessively long and was not well received. The audience, in fact, began to shout, "Get off, get off."

In spite of this unsuccessful debut, Clinton continued to be active in national politics. In 1991 he was voted most effective governor by his peers. That same year he was chosen as chair of the Democratic Leadership Conference. Along with such other southerners as Albert Gore of Tennessee, he worked to shift control of the party away from the northeastern liberal wing and to reshape a new party constituency. In October of 1991 Clinton announced that he was entering the 1992 race for president.

1992 Campaign and Election

Clinton had a lot of competition for the Democratic nomination, and many of those candidates claimed to be the alternative who offered a change from the party's past and a chance to beat the incumbent president, George Bush. Even before the New Hampshire primary in early 1992 Clinton had suffered many embarrassments and difficulties. He came from a state that was small and was regarded by many as unsophisticated and economically underdeveloped. Critics felt he had no experience on the federal level and no understanding of foreign policy. Clinton in turn insisted that his strengths lay in the fact that he was not connected to a Washington power base and therefore had a fresh perspective to bring to government.

Clinton's campaign was also plagued by charges of personal scandal that included allegations of sexual liaisons with women other than his wife and questions about his draft status during the Vietnam War. Clinton remained in the race, however, slowly gaining momentum until the 1992 Democratic convention, where he became his party's nominee. He selected Senator Albert Gore as his running mate. Clinton focused his campaign on economic issues, especially stressing his understanding of the plight of the unemployed and the underemployed as well as general concern over access to health care. In November 1992 Clinton was elected president, defeating Republican incumbent George Bush and third-party candidate Ross Perot.

Once in office Clinton addressed economic issues as interest rates and unemployment began to drop. He also appointed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the head of a task force mandated to explore possibilities for large-scale health care reform.

Helped by a Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Clinton was able to have enacted most of his proposals for the "change" issue that keyed his campaign. Probably the most enduring of the passed legislation was the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) making a single trading bloc of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. As the end of Clinton's term approached a new scandal threatened the President's credibility. The scandal was termed Whitewater for the suspicious Arkansas land deal in which Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved.

In 1996 Clinton was re-elected to a second term as the United States President. He won the election by a landslide, defeating Bob Dole with 49 percent of the popular vote and 379 electoral votes. Bill Clinton continues campaigning for the issues in which he believes. He remains the nation's youngest President since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Clinton has left a mark on not only the nation, but on the world as well.

Further Reading

There are a number of biographies of Bill Clinton, including The Comeback Kid: The Life and Career of Bill Clinton (1992) by Charles F. Allen and Jonathan Portis, Clinton, Young Man in a Hurry (1992) by Jim Moore with Rich Ihde, America: A Place Called Hope? (1993) by Conor O'Clery, and The Clinton Revolution: An Inside Look at the New Administration (1993) by Koichi Suzuki. Additional information may be obtained from the White House web site at

Clinton, William Jefferson

views updated May 29 2018


(b. August 19, 1946) Forty-second president of the United States (1993–2001).

Born in Arkansas, William Jefferson Clinton was educated at Georgetown University. He then became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford University in England. After he returned to the United States and graduated from Yale Law School, Clinton lost a race for Congress in 1974. In 1978, however, he was elected governor of Arkansas at the age of thirty-two. He went on to become the forty-second president of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001.

A rising star in the party, he won the Democratic nomination for president in 1992. Clinton defeated President George Bush despite accusations that he had dodged the draft to avoid being sent to Vietnam in 1969. When his draft notice was imminent, Clinton had sought a deferment by signing up to join the Arkansas ROTC program. After a few months, when United States policy changed to make it unlikely he would be drafted, he changed his mind and declined the deferment. Even after taking office, the president's relation to the military was tenuous. There was some uneasiness among veterans when Clinton accepted an invitation to participate in a commemoration at the Vietnam Memorial in 1993.

Clinton's personable nature and good communication skills gave him high approval ratings among the American public. Though a foreign policy novice, Clinton was known for debating all angles of a situation and for his willingness to listen at length to comments from advisors and cabinet members. He advocated a global economy. Although Clinton's years in office were mainly a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, he came into office at a time when the world political scene was undergoing rapid change.

new world order

With the end of the Cold War (1946–1991), the United States had entered what Clinton's predecessor, President Bush, had called a "new world order." The fall of Communism across Europe had been a major event during Bush's presidency. Many Americans believed that this new era, in which the United States stood as the world's only superpower, would result in reduced military engagement and increased attention to domestic issues rather than foreign policy.

President Clinton recognized the importance of maintaining a dialogue with Boris Yeltsin, the president of post-Communist Russia. The two held several cordial summits during the course of Clinton's presidency, discussed economic issues, and agreed to some arms cuts. Still, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was a sensitive topic for Yeltsin and caused tension between the two countries.

While enjoying the dividends of the triumph over Communism, the nation began to assume new global responsibilities that required continued, even expanded, military actions to stop ethnic cleansing and to thwart terrorism. Without a declared enemy, United States engagement depended on persuading the American people to support American policy. Human rights and peace-keeping causes were examined on a case-by-case basis. Print and broadcast media played a significant role in influencing Americans' support for interventions and "nation-building" efforts.

somalia, the balkans, and the middle east

Civil war in the African country of Somalia had prompted the United States, with United Nations approval, to send troops there in December 1992. The unstable situation only worsened after Bush left office, and the United States resolved to pull out most of its troops, leaving only a few thousand to support the UN's presence. A June 5 fight between UN forces and a Somalian warlord, Mohammed Aidid, left twenty-four UN soldiers dead. On the approval of Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers were sent in to help the UN. On October 3, 1993, eighteen U.S. Army Rangers died in Mogadishu during an attempt to capture Aidid. In a scene broadcast on television that set off outrage at home, an American soldier's body was dragged through the streets and stoned. The experience left Clinton hesitant to commit American troops to overseas conflicts.

During the Bush administration, unrest had broken out in multiethnic Yugoslavia as republics broke away and constituent ethnic and religious groups fought for power. Civil war in Bosnia erupted when the Bosnian Serbs fought for control against the Croats and Bosnian Muslims. President Clinton favored air strikes against the Serbs, which the United States conducted as part of NATO, whereas Powell was against them. After the tide turned with heavier NATO bombing, a ceasefire was declared in October 1995. President Clinton arranged a peace summit in Dayton, Ohio, which led to the Paris Peace Accord in December 1995. In 1996, at the urging of UN Envoy Madeleine Albright, Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia as part of the UN peacekeeping force.

The shadow of terrorism loomed over the administration for eight years. In June 1993 President Clinton authorized a cruise missile attack against Iraqi intelligence headquarters in retaliation for an Iraqi assassination plot against former president Bush. In August 1998, 250 people were killed when two American embassies in Africa were bombed by terrorists. At the direction of President Clinton, the United States executed an air strike on a terrorist camp in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan where chemical weapons were allegedly being made. The factory turned out to be harmless, and the bombing drew criticism. The timing of the retaliation, in the midst of a sex scandal, also drew fire from Clinton's opponents. In a statement soon after the bombing, Clinton said, "terrorists must have no doubt that in the face of their threats, America will protect its citizens and will continue to lead the world's fight for peace, freedom, and security."

One of Clinton's most concerted foreign policy efforts was to negotiate peace in the Middle East. Throughout his presidency, he worked closely with both the Israeli government and representatives of the Palestinians. In a ceremonial event in September 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat signed an agreement and shook hands on the White House lawn. Rabin was assassinated two years later. A few months before he left office, Clinton held a summit at Camp David, but Arafat rejected the provisions for a Palestinian state as set out in the Clinton plan. At this time violence by Palestinians against Israel spiked.

In 1999, another crisis in the Balkans erupted with the forced removal of hundreds of thousands of people from Kosovo. The plight of these people, dramatized in the media, moved popular opinion to support President Clinton's decision to intervene militarily with the aid of NATO. Both Clinton's responses to interethnic violence in Europe and the inability of the United States and the UN to stop the slaughter of nearly a million people in Rwanda have contributed to the debate among Americans on the role the nation should play as an international peacekeeper, nation builder, mediator, and combatant in the war against terrorism.


Blood, Thomas. Madam Secretary: A Biography of Madeleine Albright. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.

Campbell, Colin, and Rockman, Bert A., eds. The Clinton Legacy. New York: Chatham House, 2000.

Klein, Joe. The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton. New York: Doubleday, 2002.

Maraniss, David. First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Powell, Colin, with Persico, Joseph E. My American Journey. New York: Random House, 1995.

Schier, Steven E., ed. The Postmodern Presidency: Bill Clinton's Legacy in U.S. Politics. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Richard Panchyk

See also:Antiwar Movement; Bush, George H. W.; Bush, George W.; Military Bases; Politics and Elections; Powell, Colin .

Clinton Administration (1993–2001), United States National Security Policy

views updated May 29 2018

Clinton Administration (19932001), United States National Security Policy


President William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton argued that the end of the Cold War did not mean that the United States could abandon its long-standing aim of ensuring national security by promoting democratization around the world. Now the sole surviving superpower, the U.S. in the 1990s would continue to assertively support democracy but not in a manner that might place American troops in great jeopardy. Fearful of becoming stuck in a Vietnam-like quagmire, the Clinton administration would employ force as a tool of coercive diplomacy and punishment but avoid full-scale conflict. The national security system, re-designed by the new president, would also de-emphasize military issues in favor of a greater emphasis upon economics in the formulation of policy.

President Clinton entered the White House in 1993 with little experience or enthusiasm for international affairs. The first president to take office after the end of the Cold War, President Clinton was also the first to come of

age during the Vietnam War and he saw national security through the prism of that conflict. Vietnam shaped the Clinton administration in two ways: it made the president reluctant to commit troops to combat and it damaged his standing with the military because he had not served in the military during the conflict. The relative worldwide calm after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the American triumph in the Persian Gulf War made the marginalization of overseas issues politically possible.

As his first national security measure, Clinton issued a presidential directive to revise and rename the framework governing the work of the National Security Council. The previous Bush administration's National Security Review (NSR) and National Security Directive (NSD) series were abolished in favor of a Presidential Review Directive (PRD). The administration would use PRD to re-evaluate security classifications and the safeguarding of systems to ensure that they were in line with the reality of the current dangers instead of the threat potential that had existed during the Cold War.

The second presidential directive (PRD-2) established a new NSC structure, with a broader emphasis on economic issues than in previous administrations. PRD-2 also established three levels of deliberative committees under the NSC: a principals committee of main NSC meetings, a deputies committee including deputy chiefs of key agencies, and working groups on a variety of issues. Warren Christopher served as Secretary of State, with Anthony Lake heading the NSC until his replacement by his deputy Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger in 1997.

The Clinton administration argued that the end of the Cold War permitted the U.S. to shift to a foreign policy that rested on support for such values as democracy, market economics, humanitarian relief, and genocide suppression. PRD-20 had recommended this overhaul of U.S. policies after concluding that foreign aid programs were often wasteful, incoherent, and inconsistent with U.S. objectives. The most urgent issues that the NSC dealt with in the first years of the Clinton administration were Bosnia (genocide suppression), Haiti (democracy and humanitarian relief), Iraq (strategic arms control), and Somalia (humanitarian relief). Most of the PRDs remain classified, but it is known that the NSC system also dealt with illegal drugs, United Nations peacekeeping, and global environmental affairs.

As Clinton settled into the presidency, he experienced increasing conflict with Congress and a public angered by his policies. A 1993 PRD to permit U.S. forces to operate under the control of a United Nations commander particularly enraged many conservatives and had to be abandoned. The administration responded to its critics by making overseas actions more modest in scope. In Clinton's second term, the administration sought to integrate Eastern and Western Europe without provoking tensions with Russia; to promote more open trade; to improve defenses against such transnational threats as terrorism and narcotics; and to encourage a strong and stable Asian-Pacific community by seeking trade cooperation with China while avoiding confrontation with it on human rights issues.

Critics of administration argue that it appeared to lack a clear consensus on what constituted vital national interests. The obvious reluctance of the president to risk significant numbers of troops to achieve declared political objectives prompted U.S. allies to express concern about reduced American global military involvement and may have encouraged continued troubles with "rogue" nations such as Iraq.



Drew, Elizabeth. On the Edge: The Clinton Presidency. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Herrnson, Paul S., and Dilys M. Hill, eds. The Clinton Presidency: The First Term, 199296 New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.


Digital National Security Archive. "Presidential Directives on National Security from Truman to Clinton." 2003. <>(April 25, 2003).

White House. "History of the National Security Council, 19471997." <>(April 25, 2003).


Cold War (19721989): The Collapse of the Soviet Union Executive Orders and Presidential Directives
Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections)
Iraqi Freedom, Operation (2003 War Against Iraq)
National Security Advisor, United States
National Security Strategy, United States
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
NSC (National Security Council)
NSC (National Security Council), History

Clinton, Bill

views updated Jun 08 2018

Clinton, Bill (1946–), forty‐second president of the United States.William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas, graduated from Georgetown University in 1968, went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar (1968–70), and then Yale Law School. With the exception of 1981–83, he served as Democratic governor of Arkansas from 1979 until 1993 when he became president, defeating the Republican incumbent George Bush and a third‐party candidate, Ross Perot.

From the beginning, President Clinton had a rocky relationship with the military. During the campaign, it was alleged that as a college student he had dodged the draft and publicly protested the Vietnam War. As president, his first policy action was to pledge to end the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military. The attempt to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces faced vigorous opposition in the Pentagon and the Congress. Clinton ultimately accepted a compromise dubbed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Clinton's first secretary of defense, former representative Les Aspin, Jr., initiated a “bottom‐up” review of the post–Cold War military. His successor, William Perry, further reduced the armed forces by closing bases, capping expenditures, and emphasizing reservists. Active duty personnel declined in Clinton's first term from 1.7 million to under 1.5 million. William Cohen became secretary of defense after Clinton's reelection in 1996. The former Republican senator from Maine sought to maintain a 1.4 million active duty force while boosting weapons spending by 50 percent and simultaneously keeping the defense budget at about $255 billion. Skeptics predicted more troop and procurement cuts instead.

In his foreign policy, Clinton often combined brinkmanship with indecision over the use of military force. He escalated the use of force in Somalia, then withdrew in 1994 after the killing of U.S. Army Rangers. Later that year, however, his brinkmanship with North Korea contributed to Pyongyang's agreement to dismantle the reactors that could make nuclear weapons. His vacillating policy on the military junta in Haiti ultimately led in September 1994 to the dispatch of an airborne invasion force, recalled only at the last minute when a negotiating team, led by former President Jimmy Carter, convinced the junta to step down. A combined United Nations/U.S. occupation force landed peacefully and ensured the return of Haiti's democratically elected president. In the Bosnian Crisis, Clinton avoided ground intervention until the peace accord of 1995, then included 20,000 Americans in the UN peacekeeping force, which was still in Bosnia four years later.

After a terrorist bombing of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Khartoum, he ordered sea‐launched missile attacks on a plant in the Sudan and a terrorist camp in Afghanistan in August 1998. Faced with Saddam Hussein's blocking of UN weapons inspectors and challenging of U.S. air surveillance, Clinton ordered sporadic American air attacks against Iraqi military targets beginning in December 1998. Domestically, in January 1999, Clinton was acquitted in a Senate trial on House impeachment charges involving a sex scandal. In March 1999, he brought the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland into NATO. In the Balkans, Clinton announced on 23 March 1999, a decision to use force to halt Serbian aggression against ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo Crisis; the next day, NATO began air strikes against the Serbs. The war lasted 78 days.
[See also Commander in Chief, President as; Haiti, U.S. Military Intervention in; Middle East, U.S. Military Intervention in; Somalia, U.S. Military Intervention in.]


David Maraniss , First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, 1995.
Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman, eds., The Clinton Presidency: First Appraisals, 1995.
Stanley Allen Renshon , High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency and the Politics of Ambition, 1996.
Thomas H. Henrikson , Clinton's Foreign Policy in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and North Korea, 1996.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

Clinton Scandals

views updated May 08 2018


CLINTON SCANDALS. When President Bill Clinton took office in January 1993, he hoped to legislate a reform agenda. Having received only 43 percent of the popular vote in 1992 and facing difficult policy choices regarding such matters as the deficit, he also carried with him a history that was not easily put to rest. Rumors abounded during the 1992 campaign about his past philandering and his apparent draft dodging, but he over-came those liabilities and won his party's presidential nomination and the election that followed.

But one story that surfaced in 1992 had staying power even after Clinton became president. The story concerned a land deal and a failed savings and loan bank in Arkansas and involved Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton. A complicated story known as Whitewater, it seemed to imply shady doings by the two when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and Hillary Clinton was the bank's lawyer. Although no evidence was ever adduced to convict them of illegal behavior, the Whitewater affair placed their probity and character under serious scrutiny by both Congress and an independent counsel, whose appointment by the Justice Department later had serious consequences for the Clinton presidency.

Spreading the cloud of scandal more deeply over Clinton, Paula Corbin Jones in 1994 filed a civil lawsuit charging Clinton with sexual impropriety when he was still governor of Arkansas. But before her case went trial in late 1997, a money scandal directly related to the high costs of funding Clinton's reelection campaign of 1996 enveloped the administration. The concerns revolved around the flow of illegal money into the campaign coffers of the National Democratic Committee from Indonesian and Chinese sources. In addition questions arose over the constant flow of people into the White House for kaffeeklatsches and sleepovers who paid substantially for their close proximity to the president. Among the participants in this money-driven environment at the White House was an individual with shady political connections.

Not rising to the level of scandal but viewed by some as scandalous was Clinton's decision to take from the State Department and give to the Commerce Department the authority to decide whether shipments of sensitive satellite technology to China should be given a green light. Unlike the Defense Department and the State Department, which questioned such sales, the Commerce Department was prepared to give the shipments the green light. The president of the Loral Corporation, who was the most generous financial contributor to the Democratic Party in 1996 and whose company manufactured sensitive satellite equipment and sold it to China, benefited from Clinton's move.

The historic scandal of Clinton's presidency was his affair with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which threatened to capsize his presidency. By denying a sexual relationship with Lewinsky in the Jones civil trial, Clinton not only gave perjured testimony but possibly obstructed justice as well. As a result the Office of the Independent Counsel (OIC), headed by Kenneth Starr, submitted a report to the House of Representatives stating that Clinton may have committed impeachable acts as a result of his testimony and action in the context of the Jones civil trial.

Clinton's behavior as outlined in the Starr report angered and shamed many Americans, but a majority did not favor his impeachment, believing he was doing a good job as president. In the majority opinion, his affair with Lewinsky was purely a private matter and did not impinge on his duties. Thus it did not merit consideration either as a high crime or as a misdemeanor. Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, were eager to see Clinton removed from office. They were convinced that as a result of his behavior he had sullied the office and had embarrassed the country at home and around the world. Such were the views of both sides as the House of Representatives, driven by partisan political considerations and passionately held convictions, voted to impeach President Clinton on several counts. He thus became the first elected president in American history to be so indicted.

Responding to public opinion, which overwhelmingly opposed the action taken by the House, the Senate refused to convict Clinton of the charges. Clearly in this case he also was helped by the strong economy, which protected him during the Senate trial, but he was seriously tarnished by the affair. A majority of Americans no longer respected him as a person, even though they still admired his political skills and generally approved of his public policy initiatives. Clinton's behavior became an issue in the context of the 2000 presidential election, which surely hurt Vice President Al Gore's bid for the White House.

Although Clinton avoided a conviction in the Senate, he had reason to fear that after he left office the OIC would prosecute him for lying to the court in the Jones case. So Clinton made a deal with the OIC and issued a statement admitting his culpability, at which point the prospect of further legal action against him was dropped.

That arrangement notwithstanding, Clinton was unable to shake the stench of scandal even as he departed from office on 20 January 2001. On that day he pardoned Marc Rich, a billionaire fugitive and commodities dealer who owed the American government $48 million in back taxes. Clinton also commuted the sentence of Carlos Vignali, the notorious head of a Los Angeles cocaine ring, who was serving a fifteen-year prison sentence. Clinton's actions produced a storm of protest from Democrats and Republicans alike, who were outraged at what many believed was a clear abuse of the president's pardoning power. Thus if scandal or rumor of scandal accompanied Clinton's move into the White House, those controversial last-minute pardons of Rich and Vignali provided a scandalous backdrop to his departure from the presidency.


Berman, William C. From the Center to the Edge: The Politics and Policies of the Clinton Presidency. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.

Posner, Richard A. An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

William C.Berman

See alsoClinton v. Jones ; Impeachment Trial of Bill Clinton ; Special Prosecutors ; andvol. 9:Clinton's Rose Garden Statement .

Clinton's Rose Garden Statement (11 December 1998)

views updated Jun 27 2018


What began as an illicit sexual affair between President William Jefferson Clinton and a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky would soon erupt into a national firestorm. Amid partisan mudslinging, relentless accusations of malfeasance and mendacity, and an ongoing, tortuous independent investigation, President Clinton was at last forced to retract his protestations of innocence and confess his guilt. Never before had the private life of a sitting American president been the focus of such intense international scrutiny. For many, the scandal represented the regrettable culmination of America's amoral fascination with public confession and all things prurient. Others saw it as part of a Republican smear campaign against a popular president who had unseated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in the election of 1992. Whatever its origin, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal had taken on a life of its own. On 11 December, shortly after the House Judiciary Committee approved the first of three articles of impeachment, President Clinton appeared in the White House Rose Garden to once again express his sense of shame and wrongdoing.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Clinton Scandals ; Impeachment Trial of Bill Clinton .

Good afternoon.

As anyone close to me knows, for months I have been grappling with how best to reconcile myself to the American people, to acknowledge my own wrongdoing and still to maintain my focus on the work of the presidency.

Others are presenting my defense on the facts, the law and the Constitution. Nothing I can say now can add to that.

What I want the American people to know, what I want the Congress to know is that I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds.

I never should have misled the country, the Congress, my friends or my family. Quite simply, I gave in to my shame. I have been condemned by my accusers with harsh words.

And while it's hard to hear yourself called deceitful and manipulative, I remember Ben Franklin's admonition that our critics are our friends, for they do show us our faults.

Mere words cannot fully express the profound remorse I feel for what our country is going through and for what members of both parties in Congress are now forced to deal with. These past months have been a torturous process of coming to terms with what I did. I understand that accountability demands consequences, and I'm prepared to accept them.

Painful as the condemnation of the Congress would be, it would pale in comparison to the consequences of the pain I have caused my family. There is no greater agony.

Like anyone who honestly faces the shame of wrongful conduct, I would give anything to go back and undo what I did.

But one of the painful truths I have to live with is the reality that that is simply not possible. An old and dear friend of mine recently sent me the wisdom of a poet who wrote, "The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on. Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line. Nor all your tears wash out a word of it."

So nothing, not piety, nor tears, nor wit, nor torment can alter what I have done. I must make my peace with that.

I must also be at peace with the fact that the public consequences of my actions are in the hands of the American people and their representatives in the Congress.

Should they determine that my errors of word and deed require their rebuke and censure, I am ready to accept that.

Meanwhile, I will continue to do all I can to reclaim the trust of the American people and to serve them well.

We must all return to the work, the vital work, of strengthening our nation for the new century. Our country has wonderful opportunities and daunting challenges ahead. I intend to seize those opportunities and meet those challenges with all the energy and ability and strength God has given me.

That is simply all I can do—the work of the American people.

Thank you very much.

SOURCE: Clinton, William J. Rose Garden Statement. Associated Press (11 December 1998).

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