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|42nd President of the United States|
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
|Vice President||Al Gore|
|Preceded by||George H. W. Bush|
|Succeeded by||George W. Bush|
|40th and 42nd Governor of Arkansas|
January 11, 1983 – December 12, 1992
|Lieutenant|| Winston Bryant
|Preceded by||Frank White|
|Succeeded by||Jim Tucker|
January 9, 1979 – January 19, 1981
|Preceded by||Joe Purcell ( Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Frank White|
|50th Attorney General of Arkansas|
January 3, 1977 – January 9, 1979
|Governor|| David Pryor
Joe Purcell ( Acting)
|Preceded by||Jim Tucker|
|Succeeded by||Steve Clark|
|Born||William Jefferson Blythe III
August 19, 1946
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Hillary Rodham (1975-present)|
|Alma mater|| Georgetown University (B.S.)
University College, Oxford
Yale University (J.D.)
|Website||Clinton Presidential Library|
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III; August 19, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation. Clinton has been described as a New Democrat. Many of his policies have been attributed to a centrist Third Way philosophy of governance.
Born and raised in Arkansas, Clinton became both a student leader and a skilled musician. He is an alumnus of Georgetown University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Kappa Kappa Psi and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to attend the University of Oxford. He is married to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who served as United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and who was a Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009. Both Clintons received law degrees from Yale Law School, where they met and began dating. As Governor of Arkansas, Clinton overhauled the state's education system, and served as Chair of the National Governors Association.
Clinton was elected president in 1992, defeating incumbent president George H. W. Bush. As president, Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. He signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement. He implemented Don't ask, don't tell, a controversial intermediate step to full gay military integration. After the failed Clinton health care plan attempt, the Republican Party won control of the Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. Two years later, the re-elected Clinton became the first member of the Democratic Party since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second full term as president. He successfully passed welfare reform and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, providing health coverage for millions of children. Later, he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in a scandal involving a White House intern, but was acquitted by the U.S. Senate and served his complete term of office. The Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus between the years 1998 and 2000, the last three years of Clinton's presidency.
Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II. Since then, he has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. Based on his philanthropic worldview, Clinton created the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote and address international causes such as prevention of AIDS and global warming. In 2004, he released his autobiography My Life. He has remained active in politics by campaigning for Democratic candidates, most notably for his wife's campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and then Barack Obama's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. In 2009, he was named United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti, and after the 2010 Haiti earthquake he teamed with George W. Bush to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Since leaving office, Clinton has been rated highly in public opinion polls of U.S. presidents.
Early life and career
Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, Jr., was a traveling salesman who died in an automobile accident three months before Bill was born. His mother, Virginia Dell Cassidy (1923–1994), traveled to New Orleans to study nursing soon after he was born. She left Bill in Hope with grandparents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store. At a time when the Southern United States was segregated racially, Bill's grandparents sold goods on credit to people of all races. In 1950, Bill's mother returned from nursing school and married Roger Clinton, Sr., who owned an automobile dealership in Hot Springs, Arkansas with his brother. The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950.
Although he assumed use of his stepfather's surname, it was not until Billy (as he was known then) turned fifteen that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather. Clinton says he remembers his stepfather as a gambler and an alcoholic who regularly abused his mother and half-brother, Roger Clinton, Jr., to the point where he intervened multiple times with the threat of violence to protect them.
In Hot Springs, Bill attended St. John's Catholic Elementary School, Ramble Elementary School, and Hot Springs High School – where he was an active student leader, avid reader, and musician. He was in the chorus and played the tenor saxophone, winning first chair in the state band's saxophone section. He briefly considered dedicating his life to music, but as he noted in his autobiography My Life:
"Sometime in my sixteenth year, I decided I wanted to be in public life as an elected official. I loved music and thought I could be very good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz. I was interested in medicine and thought I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in public service."
Clinton has named two influential moments in his life that contributed to his decision to become a public figure, both occurring in 1963. One was his visit as a Boys Nation senator to the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy. The other was listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 I Have a Dream speech, which impressed him enough that he later memorized it.
College and law school years
With the aid of scholarships, Clinton attended the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., receiving a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (B.S.) degree in 1968. He spent the summer of 1967, the summer before his senior year, interning for Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. While in college, he became a brother of Alpha Phi Omega and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Clinton was also a member of the Order of DeMolay, a youth group affiliated with Freemasonry, but he never became a Freemason. He is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity.
Upon graduation, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to University College, Oxford where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics, though because he had switched programs and had left early for Yale University, he did not receive a degree there. He developed an interest in rugby union, playing at Oxford and later for the Little Rock Rugby club in Arkansas. While at Oxford he also participated in Vietnam War protests and organized an October 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam event.
Clinton's political opponents charge that to avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War during his college years, he used the political influence of a U.S. Senator, who employed him as an aide. Col. Eugene Holmes, an Army officer who was involved in Clinton's case, issued a notarized statement during the 1992 presidential campaign: "I was informed by the draft board that it was of interest to Senator Fullbright's office that Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, should be admitted to the ROTC program... I believe that he purposely deceived me, using the possibility of joining the ROTC as a ploy to work with the draft board to delay his induction and get a new draft classification." Although legal, Clinton's actions were criticized by conservatives and some Vietnam veterans during his presidential campaign in 1992.
After Oxford, Clinton attended Yale Law School and earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1973. In a Yale library in 1971 he met fellow law student Hillary Rodham, who was a year ahead of him. They began dating and soon were inseparable. After only about a month, Clinton postponed his plans to be a coordinator for the George McGovern campaign for the 1972 United States presidential election in order to move in with her in California. They later married on October 11, 1975, and their only child, Chelsea, was born on February 27, 1980.
Clinton did eventually move to Texas with Rodham to take a job leading George McGovern's effort there in 1972. He spent considerable time in Dallas, at the campaign's local headquarters on Lemmon Avenue, where he had an office. There, Clinton worked with future two-term mayor of Dallas, Ron Kirk, future governor of Texas, Ann Richards, and then unknown television director (and future filmmaker) Steven Spielberg.
Political career 1978–1992
Governor of Arkansas
After graduating from Yale Law School, Clinton returned to Arkansas and became a law professor at the University of Arkansas. A year later, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1974. The incumbent, Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt, defeated Clinton in the general election by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. With only minor opposition in the primary and no opposition at all in the general election, Clinton was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976.
Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas in 1978, having defeated the Republican candidate Lynn Lowe, a farmer from Texarkana. He became the youngest governor in the country at 32. Due to his youthful appearance, Clinton was often called the "Boy Governor", a referent that continues to be used to refer to him during his gubernatorial era on occasion. He worked on educational reform and Arkansas's roads, with wife Hillary leading a successful committee on urban health care reform. However, his term included an unpopular motor vehicle tax and citizens' anger over the escape of Cuban refugees (from the Mariel boatlift) detained in Fort Chaffee in 1980. Monroe Schwarzlose of Kingsland in Cleveland County, polled 31 percent of the vote against Clinton in the Democratic gubernatorial primary of 1980. Some suggested Schwarzlose's unexpected voter turnout foreshadowed Clinton's defeat in the general election that year by Republican challenger Frank D. White. As Clinton once joked, he was the youngest ex-governor in the nation's history.
Clinton joined friend Bruce Lindsey's Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings. In 1982, he was again elected governor and kept this job for ten years. He helped Arkansas transform its economy and significantly improve the state's educational system. He became a leading figure among the New Democrats. The New Democrats, organized as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), were a branch of the Democratic Party that called for welfare reform and smaller government, a policy supported by both Democrats and Republicans. He gave the Democratic response to President Reagan's 1985 State of the Union Address and served as Chair of the National Governors Association from 1986 to 1987, bringing him to an audience beyond Arkansas. Clinton made economic growth, job creation and educational improvement high priorities. For senior citizens, he removed the sales tax from medications and increased the home property-tax exemption.
In the early 1980s, Clinton made reform of the Arkansas education system a top priority. The Arkansas Education Standards Committee, chaired by Clinton's wife, attorney and Legal Services Corporation chair Hillary Rodham Clinton, succeeded in reforming the education system, transforming it from the worst in the nation into one of the best. Many have considered this the greatest achievement of the Clinton governorship. Clinton and the committee were responsible for state educational improvement programs, notably more spending for schools, rising opportunities for gifted children, an increase in vocational education, raising of teachers' salaries, inclusion of a wider variety of courses, and compulsory teacher testing for aspiring educators. He defeated four Republican candidates for governor: Lowe (1978), White (1982 and 1986), and businessmen Woody Freeman of Jonesboro, (1984) and Sheffield Nelson of Little Rock (1990).
The Clintons' personal and business affairs during the 1980s included transactions that became the basis of the Whitewater controversy investigation that later dogged his presidential administration. After extensive investigation over several years, no indictments were made against the Clintons related to the years in Arkansas.
According to some sources, Clinton was in his early years a death penalty opponent who switched positions. During Clinton's term, Arkansas performed its first executions since 1964 (the death penalty had been re-enacted on March 23, 1973). As Governor, he oversaw four executions: one by electric chair and three by lethal injection. Later, as president, Clinton was the first President to pardon a death-row inmate since the federal death penalty was reintroduced in 1988.
Democratic presidential primaries of 1988
In 1987, there was media speculation Clinton would enter the race after then- New York Governor Mario Cuomo declined to run and Democratic front-runner Gary Hart withdrew owing to revelations of marital infidelity. Clinton decided to remain as Arkansas governor (following consideration for the potential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton for governor, initially favored – but ultimately vetoed – by the First Lady). For the nomination, Clinton endorsed Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. He gave the nationally televised opening night address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, but his speech, which was 33 minutes long and twice as long as it was expected to be, was criticized for being too long and poorly delivered. Presenting himself as a moderate and a member of the New Democrat wing of the Democratic Party, he headed the moderate Democratic Leadership Council in 1990 and 1991.
1992 presidential campaign
In the first primary contest, the Iowa caucus, Clinton finished a distant third to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. During the campaign for the New Hampshire primary, reports of an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers surfaced. As Clinton fell far behind former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in the New Hampshire polls, following Super Bowl XXVI, Clinton and his wife Hillary went on 60 Minutes to rebuff the charges. Their television appearance was a calculated risk, but Clinton regained several delegates. He finished second to Tsongas in the New Hampshire primary, but after trailing badly in the polls and coming within single digits of winning, the media viewed it as a victory. News outlets labeled him "The Comeback Kid" for earning a firm second-place finish.
Winning the big prizes of Florida and Texas and many of the Southern primaries on Super Tuesday gave Clinton a sizable delegate lead. However, former California Governor Jerry Brown was scoring victories and Clinton had yet to win a significant contest outside his native South. With no major Southern state remaining, Clinton targeted New York, which had many delegates. He scored a resounding victory in New York City, shedding his image as a regional candidate. Having been transformed into the consensus candidate, he secured the Democratic Party nomination, finishing with a victory in Jerry Brown's home state of California.
During the campaign, questions of conflict of interest regarding state business and the politically powerful Rose Law Firm, at which Hillary Rodham Clinton was a partner, arose. Clinton argued the questions were moot because all transactions with the state had been deducted before determining Hillary's firm pay. Further concern arose when Bill Clinton announced that, with Hillary, voters would be getting two presidents "for the price of one".
While campaigning for U.S. President, the then Governor Clinton returned to Arkansas to see that Ricky Ray Rector would be executed. After killing a police officer and a civilian, Rector shot himself in the head, leading to what his lawyers said was a state where he could still talk but did not understand the idea of death. According to Arkansas state and Federal law, a seriously mentally impaired inmate cannot be executed. The courts disagreed with the allegation of grave mental impairment and allowed the execution. Clinton's return to Arkansas for the execution was framed in a The New York Times article as a possible political move to counter "soft on crime" accusations.
Because Bush's approval ratings were in the 80 percent range during the Gulf War, he was described as unbeatable. However, when Bush compromised with Democrats to try to lower Federal deficits, he reneged on his promise not to raise taxes, hurting his approval rating. Clinton repeatedly condemned Bush for making a promise he failed to keep. By election time, the economy was souring and Bush saw his approval rating plummet to just slightly over 40 percent. Finally, conservatives were previously united by anti-communism, but with the end of the Cold War, the party lacked a uniting issue. When Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson addressed Christian themes at the Republican National Convention – with Bush criticizing Democrats for omitting God from their platform – many moderates were alienated. Clinton then pointed to his moderate, "New Democrat" record as governor of Arkansas, though some on the more liberal side of the party remained suspicious. Many Democrats who had supported Ronald Reagan and Bush in previous elections switched their support to Clinton. Clinton and his running mate, Al Gore, toured the country during the final weeks of the campaign, shoring up support and pledging a "new beginning".
Clinton won the 1992 presidential election (43.0 percent of the vote) against Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush (37.4 percent of the vote) and billionaire populist Ross Perot, who ran as an independent (18.9 percent of the vote) on a platform focusing on domestic issues; a significant part of Clinton's success was Bush's steep decline in public approval. Clinton's election ended twelve years of Republican rule of the White House and twenty of the previous twenty-four years. The election gave Democrats full control of the United States Congress, the first time one party controlled both the executive and legislative branches since Democrats held the 95th United States Congress during the Jimmy Carter presidency in the late 1970s.
During his presidency, Clinton advocated for a wide variety of legislation and programs, much of which was enacted into law or was implemented by the executive branch. Some of his policies, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and welfare reform, have been attributed to a centrist Third Way philosophy of governance, while on other issues his stance was left-of-centre. Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. The Congressional Budget Office reported budget surpluses of $69 billion in 1998, $126 billion in 1999, and $236 billion in 2000, during the last three years of Clinton's presidency. At the end of his presidency, Clinton moved to New York and helped his wife win election to the U.S. Senate there.
First term, 1993–1997
First inauguration of Bill Clinton (January 20, 1993)
Video of the First inauguration of Bill Clinton.
First inauguration of Bill Clinton (January 20, 1993)
audio only version
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Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993. Shortly after taking office, Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 on February 5, which required large employers to allow employees to take unpaid leave for pregnancy or a serious medical condition. This action had bipartisan support, and proved quite popular with the public.
On February 15, 1993, Clinton made his first address to the nation, announcing his plan to raise taxes to cap the budget deficit. Two days later, in a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress, Clinton unveiled his economic plan. The plan focused on reducing the deficit rather than on cutting taxes for the middle class, which had been high on his campaign agenda. Clinton's advisers pressured him to raise taxes on the theory that a smaller federal budget deficit would reduce bond interest rates.
On May 19, 1993, Clinton fired seven employees of the White House Travel Office, causing the White House travel office controversy even though the Travel Office staff served at the pleasure of the President, who could dismiss them without cause. The White House responded to the controversy by claiming the firings were done because of financial improprieties that had been revealed by a brief FBI investigation. Critics contended the firings had been done to allow friends of the Clintons to take over the travel business and that the involvement of the FBI was unwarranted.
Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 in August of that year, which passed Congress without a Republican vote. It cut taxes for fifteen million low-income families, made tax cuts available to 90 percent of small businesses, and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers. Additionally, through the implementation of spending restraints, it mandated the budget be balanced over a number of years.
Clinton made a major speech to Congress regarding a health care reform plan on September 22, 1993, aimed at achieving universal coverage through a national health care plan. This was one of the most prominent items on Clinton's legislative agenda, and resulted from a task force headed by Hillary Clinton. Though at first well received in political circles, it was eventually doomed by well-organized opposition from conservatives, the American Medical Association, and the health insurance industry. However, John F. Harris, a biographer of Clinton's, states the program failed because of a lack of coordination within the White House. Despite the Democratic majority in Congress, the effort to create a national health care system ultimately died when compromise legislation by George J. Mitchell failed to gain a majority of support in August 1994. It was the first major legislative defeat of Clinton's administration.
In November 1993, David Hale, the source of criminal allegations against Bill Clinton in the Whitewater controversy, alleged that Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, pressured him to provide an illegal $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, the partner of the Clintons in the Whitewater land deal. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation did result in convictions against the McDougals for their role in the Whitewater project, but the Clintons themselves were never charged, and Clinton maintains innocence in the affair.
Clinton signed the Brady Bill into law on November 30, 1993, which imposed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases. He also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, a subsidy for low-income workers.
In December of that year, allegations by Arkansas state troopers Larry Patterson and Roger Perry were first reported by David Brock in the American Spectator. Later known as Troopergate, the allegations by these men were that they arranged sexual liaisons for Bill Clinton back when he was governor of Arkansas. The story mentioned a woman named Paula, a reference to Paula Jones. Brock later apologized to Clinton, saying the article was politically motivated "bad journalism" and that "the troopers were greedy and had slimy motives."
Remarks on the Signing of NAFTA (December 8, 1993)
Clinton's December 8, 1993 remarks on the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement
Remarks on the Signing of NAFTA (December 8, 1993)
audio only version
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That month, Clinton implemented a Department of Defense directive known as " Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which allowed gay men and women to serve in the armed services provided they kept their sexuality a secret, and forbade the military from inquiring about an individual's sexual orientation. This move garnered criticism from the left (for being too tentative in promoting gay rights) and from the right (who opposed any effort to allow gays to serve). Some gay-rights advocates criticized Clinton for not going far enough and accused him of making his campaign promise to get votes and contributions. Their position was that Clinton should have integrated the military by executive order, noting that President Harry Truman used executive order to racially desegregate the armed forces. Clinton's defenders argue that an executive order might have prompted the Senate to write the exclusion of gays into law, potentially making it harder to integrate the military in the future. Later in his presidency, in 1999, Clinton criticized the way the policy was implemented, saying he did not think any serious person could say it was not "out of whack." The policy remained controversial, and was finally repealed in 2011, removing open sexual preference as a reason for dismissal from the armed forces.
On January 1, 1994, Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law. Throughout his first year in office, Clinton consistently supported ratification of the treaty by the U.S. Senate. Clinton and most of his allies in the Democratic Leadership Committee strongly supported free trade measures; there remained, however, strong disagreement within the party. Opposition came chiefly from anti-trade Republicans, protectionist Democrats and supporters of Ross Perot. The bill passed the house with 234 votes against 200 opposed (132 Republicans and 102 Democrats voting in favour; 156 Democrats, 43 Republicans, and 1 independent against). The treaty was then ratified by the Senate and signed into law by the President.
Clinton's 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill made many changes to U.S. law, including the expansion of the death penalty to include crimes not resulting in death, such as running a large-scale drug enterprise. During Clinton's re-election campaign he said, "My 1994 crime bill expanded the death penalty for drug kingpins, murderers of federal law enforcement officers, and nearly 60 additional categories of violent felons."
The Clinton administration also launched the first official White House website, whitehouse.gov, on October 21, 1994. It was followed by three more versions, resulting in the final edition launched in 2000. The White House website was part of a wider movement of the Clinton administration toward web-based communication. According to Robert Longley, "Clinton and Gore were responsible for pressing almost all federal agencies, the U.S. court system and the U.S. military onto the Internet, thus opening up America's government to more of America's citizens than ever before. On July 17, 1996, Clinton issued Executive Order 13011 – Federal Information Technology, ordering the heads of all federal agencies to utilize information technology fully to make the information of the agency easily accessible to the public."
After two years of Democratic Party control, the Democrats lost control of Congress in the mid-term elections in 1994, for the first time in forty years.
Law professor Ken Gormley's book The Death of American Virtue reveals that Clinton escaped a 1996 assassination attempt in the Philippines by terrorists working for Osama bin Laden. During his visit to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Manila in 1996, he was saved shortly before his car was due to drive over a bridge where a bomb had been planted. Gormley said he was told the details of the bomb plot by Louis Merletti, a former director of the Secret Service. Clinton was scheduled to visit a local politician in central Manila, when secret service officers intercepted a message suggesting that an attack was imminent. A transmission used the words "bridge" and "wedding", supposedly a terrorist's code words for assassination. The motorcade was re-routed and the US agents later discovered a bomb planted under the bridge. The report said the subsequent US investigation into the plot "revealed that it was masterminded by a Saudi terrorist living in Afghanistan named Osama bin Laden". Gormley said, "It remained top secret except to select members of the US intelligence community. At the time, there were media reports about the discovery of two bombs, one at Manila airport and another at the venue for the leaders' meeting".
The White House FBI files controversy of June 1996 arose concerning improper access by the White House to FBI security-clearance documents. Craig Livingstone, head of the White House Office of Personnel Security, improperly requested, and received from the FBI, background report files without asking permission of the subject individuals; many of these were employees of former Republican administrations. In March 2000, Independent Counsel Robert Ray determined that there was no credible evidence of any crime. Ray's report further stated, "there was no substantial and credible evidence that any senior White House official was involved" in seeking the files.
On September 21, 1996, barely three years after the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" imbroglio, and further straining relations with the LGBT community, Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. Paul Yandura, speaking for the White House gay and lesbian liaison office, said that Clinton's signing of DOMA "was a political decision that they made at the time of a re-election." Administration spokesman Richard Socarides said, "... the alternatives we knew were going to be far worse, and it was time to move on and get the president re-elected." Clinton himself stated that DOMA was something "which the Republicans put on the ballot to try to get the base vote for President Bush up, I think it's obvious that something had to be done to try to keep the Republican Congress from presenting that." Others were more critical. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) called these claims "historic revisionism". In a July 2, 2011 editorial The New York Times opined, "The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 as an election-year wedge issue, signed by President Bill Clinton in one of his worst policy moments."
As part of a 1996 initiative to curb illegal immigration, Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) on September 30, 1996. Appointed by Clinton, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform recommended reducing legal immigration from about 800,000 people a year to about 550,000.
The 1996 United States campaign finance controversy was an alleged effort by the People's Republic of China (PRC) to influence the domestic policies of the United States, before and during the Clinton administration, and involved the fundraising practices of the administration itself. The Chinese government denied all accusations.
Second term, 1997–2001
In the 1996 presidential election, Clinton was re-elected, receiving 49.2 percent of the popular vote over Republican Bob Dole (40.7 percent of the popular vote) and Reform candidate Ross Perot (8.4 percent of the popular vote), becoming the first Democratic incumbent since Lyndon Johnson to be elected to a second term and the first Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to be elected President more than once. The Republicans lost a few seats in the House and gained a few in the Senate, but retained control of both houses of the 105th United States Congress. Clinton received 379, or over 70 percent of the Electoral College votes, with Dole receiving 159 electoral votes.
In the January 1997 State of the Union address, Clinton proposed a new initiative to provide coverage to up to five million children. Senators Ted Kennedy – a Democrat – and Orrin Hatch – a Republican – teamed up with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her staff in 1997, and succeeded in passing legislation forming the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the largest (successful) health care reform in the years of the Clinton Presidency. That year, Hillary Clinton shepherded through Congress the Adoption and Safe Families Act and two years later she succeeded in helping pass the Foster Care Independence Act. He negotiated the passage of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 by the Republican Congress. In October 1997, he announced he was getting hearing aids, due to hearing loss attributed to his age, and his time spent as a musician in his youth.
In a lame-duck session of Congress after the 1998 elections, the House voted to impeach Clinton, based on the results of the Lewinsky scandal. This made Clinton only the second U.S. president to be impeached (the first being Andrew Johnson). Impeachment proceedings were based on allegations that Clinton had lied about his relationship with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky in a sworn deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit. After the Starr Report was submitted to the House providing what it termed "substantial and credible information that President Clinton Committed Acts that May Constitute Grounds for an Impeachment", the House began impeachment hearings against Clinton before the mid-term elections. To hold impeachment proceedings, the Republican leadership called a lame-duck session in December 1998.
While the House Judiciary Committee hearings ended in a straight party-line vote, there was lively debate on the House floor. The two charges passed in the House (largely with Republican support, but with a handful of Democratic votes as well) were for perjury and obstruction of justice. The perjury charge arose from Clinton's testimony about his relationship to 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.
The Senate later voted to acquit Clinton on both charges. The Senate refused to meet to hold an impeachment trial before the end of the old term, so the trial was held over until the next Congress. Clinton was represented by Washington law firm Williams & Connolly. The Senate finished a twenty-one-day trial on February 12, 1999, with the vote of 55 Not Guilty/45 Guilty on the perjury charge and 50 Not Guilty/50 Guilty on the obstruction of justice charge. Both votes fell short of the Constitutional two-thirds majority requirement to convict and remove an officeholder. The final vote was generally along party lines, with no Democrats voting guilty, and only a handful of Republicans voting not guilty.
Clinton controversially issued 141 pardons and 36 commutations on his last day in office on January 20, 2001. Most of the controversy surrounded Marc Rich and allegations that Hillary Clinton's brother, Hugh Rodham, accepted payments in return for influencing the president's decision-making regarding the pardons. Some of Clinton's pardons remain a point of controversy.
Military and foreign events
Many military events occurred during Clinton's presidency. The Battle of Mogadishu occurred in Somalia in 1993. During the operation, two U.S. helicopters were shot down by rocket-propelled grenade attacks to their tail rotors, trapping soldiers behind enemy lines. This resulted in an urban battle that killed 18 American soldiers, wounded 73 others, and one was taken prisoner. There were many more Somali casualties. Some of the American bodies were dragged through the streets – a spectacle broadcast on television news programs. In response, U.S. forces were withdrawn from Somalia and later conflicts were approached with fewer soldiers on the ground. In 1995, U.S. and NATO aircraft attacked Bosnian Serb targets to halt attacks on U.N. safe zones and to pressure them into a peace accord. Clinton deployed U.S. peacekeepers to Bosnia in late 1995, to uphold the subsequent Dayton Agreement.
Capturing Osama bin Laden had been an objective of the United States government from the presidency of Bill Clinton until bin Laden's death in 2011. It was asserted by Mansoor Ijaz that in 1996 while the Clinton Administration had begun pursuit of the policy, the Sudanese government allegedly offered to arrest and extradite Bin Laden as well as to provide the United States detailed intelligence information about growing militant organizations in the region, including Hezbollah and Hamas, and that U.S. authorities allegedly rejected each offer, despite knowing of bin Laden's involvement in bombings on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. However, the 9/11 Commission found that although "former Sudanese officials claim that Sudan offered to expel Bin Laden to the United States", "we have not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim." In 1998, two years after the warning, the Clinton administration ordered several military missions to capture or kill bin Laden that failed.
In response to the 1998 Al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed a dozen Americans and hundreds of Africans, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. First was a Sudanese Pharmaceutical company suspected of assisting Osama Bin Laden in making chemical weapons. The second was Bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Clinton was subsequently criticized when it turned out that a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan (originally alleged to be a chemical warfare plant) had been destroyed.
To stop the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Albanians by nationalist Serbs in the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's province of Kosovo, Clinton authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces in a NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, named Operation Allied Force. General Wesley Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and oversaw the mission. With United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, the bombing campaign ended on June 10, 1999. The resolution placed Kosovo under UN administration and authorized a peacekeeping force. NATO announced that its forces had suffered zero combat deaths, and two deaths from an Apache helicopter crash. Opinions in the popular press criticized pre-war genocide statements by the Clinton administration as greatly exaggerated. A U.N. Court ruled genocide did not take place, but recognized, "a systematic campaign of terror, including murders, rapes, arsons and severe maltreatments". The term "ethnic cleansing" was used as an alternative to "genocide" to denote not just ethnically motivated murder but also displacement, though critics charge there is no difference. Slobodan Milošević, the President of Yugoslavia at the time, was eventually charged with the "murders of about 600 individually identified ethnic Albanians" and "crimes against humanity."
In Clinton's 1998 State of the Union Address, he warned Congress of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's possible pursuit of nuclear weapons:
Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation's wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. The United Nations weapons inspectors have done a truly remarkable job, finding and destroying more of Iraq's arsenal than was destroyed during the entire gulf war. Now, Saddam Hussein wants to stop them from completing their mission. I know I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein, "You cannot defy the will of the world", and when I say to him, "You have used weapons of mass destruction before; we are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again.
To weaken Saddam Hussein's grip of power, Clinton signed H.R. 4655 into law on October 31, 1998, which instituted a policy of "regime change" against Iraq, though it explicitly stated it did not provide for direct intervention on the part of American military forces. The administration then launched a four-day bombing campaign named Operation Desert Fox, lasting from December 16 to 19, 1998. For the last two years of Clinton's presidency, U.S. aircraft routinely attacked hostile Iraqi anti-air installations inside the Iraqi no-fly zones.
Clinton's November 2000 visit to Vietnam was the first by a U.S. President since the end of the Vietnam War. Clinton remained popular with the public throughout his two terms as President, ending his presidential career with a 65 percent approval rating, the highest end-of-term approval rating of any President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Further, the Clinton administration signed over 270 trade liberalization pacts with other countries during its tenure. On October 10, 2000, Clinton signed into law the U.S.–China Relations Act of 2000, which granted permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) trade status to People's Republic of China. The president asserted that free trade would gradually open China to democratic reform. Clinton also oversaw a boom of the U.S. economy. Under Clinton, the United States had a projected federal budget surplus for the first time since 1969.
After initial successes such as the Oslo accords of the early 1990s, Clinton attempted to address the Arab-Israeli conflict. Clinton brought Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat together at Camp David. Following the peace talk failures, Clinton stated Arafat "missed the opportunity" to facilitate a "just and lasting peace." In his autobiography, Clinton blames Arafat for the collapse of the summit. The situation broke down completely with the start of the Second Intifada.
Clinton appointed the following justices to the Supreme Court:
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 1993
- Stephen Breyer – 1994
Along with his two Supreme Court appointments, Clinton appointed 66 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 305 judges to the United States district courts. His 373 judicial appointments are the second most in American history behind those of Ronald Reagan. Clinton also experienced a number of judicial appointment controversies, as 69 nominees to federal judgeships were not processed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. In all, 84 percent of his nominees were confirmed.
Clinton's job approval rating fluctuated in the 40s and 50s throughout his first term. In his second term, his rating consistently ranged from the high-50s to the high-60s. After his impeachment proceedings in 1998 and 1999, Clinton's rating reached its highest point. He finished with an approval rating of 68 percent, which matched those of Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era.
As he was leaving office, a CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll revealed 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", 68 percent thought he would be remembered for his "involvement in personal scandal", and 58 percent answered "No" to the question "Do you generally think Bill Clinton is honest and trustworthy?" Forty-seven percent of the respondents identified themselves as being Clinton supporters. The same percentage said he would be remembered as either "outstanding" or "above average" as a president, while 22 percent said he would be remembered as "below average" or "poor".
The Gallup Organization published a poll in February 2007, a correspondents to name the greatest president in U.S. history; Clinton came in fourth place, capturing 13 percent of the vote. In a 2006 Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll asking respondents to name the best president since World War II, Clinton ranked number two behind Ronald Reagan. However, in the same poll, when respondents were asked to name the worst president since World War II, Clinton was placed number three behind Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. In May 2006, a CNN poll comparing Clinton's job performance with that of his successor, George W. Bush, found that a strong majority of respondents said Clinton outperformed Bush in six different areas questioned.
ABC News characterized public consensus on Clinton as, "You can't trust him, he's got weak morals and ethics – and he's done a heck of a good job." After leaving office, Clinton's Gallup Poll rating of 66 percent was the highest approval rating of any postwar, three points ahead of both Reagan and John F. Kennedy.
In March 2010, a Newsmax/Zogby poll asking Americans which of the current living former presidents they think is best equipped to deal with the problems the country faces today, found that a wide margin of respondents would pick Bill Clinton. Clinton received 41 percent of the vote, while George W. Bush received 15 percent, George H. W. Bush received 7 percent, and Jimmy Carter received 5 percent.
As the first baby boomer president, Clinton was the first president in a half-century not to have been alive during World War II. Authors Martin Walker and Bob Woodward state Clinton's innovative use of sound bite-ready dialogue, personal charisma, and public perception-oriented campaigning was a major factor in his high public approval ratings. When Clinton played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show, he was described by some religious conservatives as "the MTV president." Opponents sometimes referred to him as "Slick Willie", a nickname first applied while he was governor of Arkansas and lasting throughout his presidency. Standing at a height of 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), Clinton is tied with five others as the fourth-tallest president in the nation's history. His folksy manner led him to be nicknamed "Bubba", especially in the Southern U.S. Since 2000, he has frequently been referred to as "The Big Dog" or "Big Dog." His prominent role in campaigning for President Obama during the 2012 presidential election and his widely-publicised speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he officially nominated Obama and criticized Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Republican policies in detail, earned him the nickname "Explainer-in-Chief".
Clinton drew strong support from the African American community and made improving race relations a major theme of his presidency. In 1998, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison called Clinton "the first Black president", saying, "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas". Noting that Clinton's sex life was scrutinized more than his career accomplishments, Morrison compared this to the stereotyping and double standards that blacks typically endure.
Allegations of sexual misconduct
Clinton has been subject to several allegations of sexual misconduct, though he has only admitted extramarital relationships with Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers.
In 1994, Paula Jones brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, claiming he made unwanted advances in 1991, which he denied. The case was initially dismissed, but Jones appealed. During the deposition for the Jones lawsuit, which was held at the White House, Clinton denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky – a denial that became the basis for the impeachment charge of perjury. He later agreed to an out-of-court settlement and paid $850,000. His attorney Bob Bennett stated that he only made the settlement so he could end the lawsuit for good and move on with his life.
In 1992, nude model and actress Gennifer Flowers stated that she had a relationship with Clinton that began in 1980. Flowers at first denied that she had an affair with Clinton, but later changed her story. Clinton admitted that he had a sexual encounter with Flowers.
In 1998, Kathleen Willey alleged Clinton groped her in a hallway in 1993. An independent counsel determined Willey gave "false information" to the FBI, inconsistent with sworn testimony related to the Jones allegation. Also in 1998, Juanita Broaddrick alleged Clinton had raped her though she did not remember the exact date, which may have been 1978. In another 1998 event, Elizabeth Ward Gracen recanted a six-year-old denial and stated she had a one night stand with Clinton in 1982. Gracen later apologized to Hillary Clinton. Throughout the year, however, Gracen eluded a subpoena from Kenneth Starr to testify her claim in court.
Bill Clinton continues to be active in public life, giving speeches, fundraising, and founding charitable organizations. Altogether, Clinton has spoken at the last six Democratic National Conventions, dating to 1988.
Activities up until 2008 campaign
In 2002, Clinton warned that pre-emptive military action against Iraq would have unwelcome consequences. In 2005, Clinton criticized the Bush administration for its handling of emissions control, while speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal.
The William J. Clinton Presidential Centre and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas was dedicated in 2004. Clinton released a best-selling autobiography, My Life in 2004. In 2007, he released Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, which also became a The New York Times Best Seller and garnered positive reviews.
In the aftermath of the 2005 Asian tsunami, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Clinton to head a relief effort. After Hurricane Katrina, Clinton joined with fellow former President George H. W. Bush to establish the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund in January 2005, and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund in October of that year. As part of the tsunami effort, these two ex-presidents appeared in a Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game show, and traveled to the affected areas. They also spoke together at the funeral of Boris Yeltsin in 2007.
Based on his philanthropic worldview, Clinton created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address issues of global importance. This foundation includes the Clinton Foundation HIV and AIDS Initiative (CHAI), which strives to combat that disease, and has worked with the Australian government toward that end. The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), begun by the Clinton Foundation in 2005, attempts to address world problems such as global public health, poverty alleviation and religious and ethnic conflict. In 2005, Clinton announced through his foundation an agreement with manufacturers to stop selling sugared drinks in schools. Clinton's foundation joined with the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group in 2006 to improve cooperation among those cities, and he met with foreign leaders to promote this initiative. The foundation has received donations from a number of governments all over the world, including Asia and the Middle East. In 2008, Foundation director Inder Singh announced that deals to reduce the price of anti-malaria drugs by 30 percent in developing nations. Clinton also spoke in favour of California Proposition 87 on alternative energy, which was voted down.
2008 presidential election
During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, Clinton vigorously advocated on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton. Through speaking engagements and fundraisers, he was able to raise $10 million toward her campaign. Some worried that as an ex-president, he was too active on the trail, too negative to Clinton rival Barack Obama, and alienating his supporters at home and abroad. Many were especially critical of him following his remarks in the South Carolina primary, which Obama won. Later in the 2008 primaries, there was some infighting between Bill and Hillary's staffs, especially in Pennsylvania. Considering Bill's remarks, many thought that he could not rally Hillary supporters behind Obama after Obama won the primary. Such remarks lead to apprehension that the party would be split to the detriment of Obama's election. Fears were allayed August 27, 2008, when Clinton enthusiastically endorsed Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, saying that all his experience as president assures him that Obama is "ready to lead". After Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was over, Bill Clinton continued to raise funds to help pay off her campaign debt.
After the 2008 election
In 2009, Clinton travelled to North Korea on behalf of two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea. Euna Lee and Laura Ling had been imprisoned for illegally entering the country from China. Jimmy Carter had made a similar visit in 1994. After Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim issued a pardon.
Since then, Clinton has been assigned a number of other diplomatic missions. He was named United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti in 2009. In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Clinton and George W. Bush would coordinate efforts to raise funds for Haiti's recovery. Clinton continues to visit Haiti to witness the inauguration of refugee villages, and to raise funds for victims of the earthquake. In 2010, Clinton announced support of, and delivered the keynote address for, the inauguration of NTR, Ireland's first environmental foundation. In July 2012, Clinton gave the keynote address at the Re|Source Conference, a collaboration between Oxford University, the Stordalen Foundation and the Rothschild Foundation. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Clinton gave a widely praised speech nominating Barack Obama.
Post-presidential health concerns
In September 2004, Clinton received a quadruple bypass surgery. In March 2005, he underwent surgery for a partially collapsed lung. On February 11, 2010, he was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after complaining of chest pains, and had two coronary stents implanted in his heart. After this experience, Clinton adopted the plant-based whole foods ( vegan) diet recommended by doctors Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn.
Honours and accolades
Various colleges and universities have awarded Clinton honorary degrees, including Doctorate of Law degrees and Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. Schools have been named for Clinton, and statues do homage him. U.S. states where he has been honored include Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New York. He was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in 2001. The Clinton Presidential Centre was opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in his honour on December 5, 2001.
He has been honored in various other ways, in countries that include the Czech Republic, Papua New Guinea, Germany, and Kosovo. The Republic of Kosovo, in gratitude for his help during the Kosovo War, renamed a major street in the capital city of Pristina as Bill Clinton Boulevard and added a monumental Clinton statue.
In 1993, Clinton was selected as Time's " Man of the Year", and again in 1998, along with Ken Starr. From a poll conducted of the American people in December 1999, Clinton was among eighteen included in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century. He was honored with a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children, a J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, a TED Prize (named for the confluence of technology, entertainment and design), and many other awards and honours.
- Between Hope and History. New York: Times Books. 1996. ISBN 978-0-8129-2913-3.
- My Life (1st ed.). New York: Vintage Books. 2004. ISBN 978-1-4000-3003-3.
- Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (1st ed.). New York: Knopf. 2007. ISBN 0-307-26674-5.
- Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. Knopf. 2011. ISBN 978-0-307-95975-1. http://books.google.com/?id=-S2JCDOpgXYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Bill+Clinton%22.