William Jefferson Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe IV on August 19, 1946), commonly known as Bill Clinton, served two terms as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. A moderate Democrat who was elected Governor of Arkansas five times, Clinton sought legislation to upgrade education, to protect the jobs of parents who must care for sick children, to restrict handgun sales, and to strengthen environmental rules. Internationally, he promoted free trade and mediated the Northern Ireland and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
President Clinton was the first United States President born after the close of the Second World War. His assumption of office marked a "generation shift" between the former Presidents who were mostly World War II veterans and had experienced the start of the Cold War in the 1950s.
His tenure was marked by a bitter relationship with the Republican-controlled Congress. He became only the second president to be impeached, as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but he was acquitted by the Senate. He was the third youngest president and the first of the baby boomer generation. Upon leaving office, he had the highest approval ratings for a retiring President in modern U.S. history.
Early life and education
Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was named William Jefferson Blythe IV after his father, William Jefferson Blythe III, a travelling salesman who had been killed in a car accident just three months before his son was born, hence a posthumous child. His mother, born Virginia Dell Cassidy, remarried in 1950 to Roger Clinton. Billy, as he was called, was raised by his mother and stepfather, using the last name "Clinton" throughout elementary school, but not formally changing it until he was 15. Clinton grew up in a turbulent family. His stepfather was a gambler and alcoholic who regularly abused his wife, and sometimes Clinton's half brother Roger, Jr. (born 1956).
Clinton excelled as a student and as a saxophone player. At one time, he considered becoming a professional musician. As a delegate to Boys Nation while in high school, he met President John F. Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden. This encounter has often been romanticised as a crucial factor in leading Clinton to begin a life of public service.
He rose from poverty to graduate from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with a degree in International Affairs. While attending Georgetown, he was a congressional aide for Senator William Fulbright. After graduation, he attended England's prestigious Oxford University (University College) on a Rhodes Scholarship, and received a law degree from Yale Law School. At Yale, Bill Clinton met Hillary Rodham, and they married in 1975. They have one daughter Chelsea, born in 1980.
Clinton taught law at the University of Arkansas for a few years. During this time, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1974 against Congressman John Paul Hammerschmidt. Clinton lost the election by over 6,000 votes. After his teaching stint, Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas in 1976. Bill Clinton was elected governor of the state of Arkansas first in 1978, when at the time he was the youngest state governor in the United States. His first term was fraught with difficulties, including an unpopular motor vehicle tax, and popular anger over the escape of Cuban prisoners (from the Mariel Boat Lift) detained in Fort Chafee in 1980.
Furthermore, Hillary Rodham's decision to keep her maiden name while Arkansas' First Lady raised many eyebrows in the traditionally conservative state. After only one term, Clinton was defeated by Republican challenger Frank D. White in 1980.
Out of office, Clinton addressed the concerns that led to his political failure. He established new relationships with business interests, and made amends with the political establishment of the state. Hillary took her husband's surname and adopted a more traditional public role as a political wife, while quietly establishing herself as a political force in her own right through her skills as an attorney. Clinton was elected governor again in 1982, and was re-elected again in 1984, 1986 and 1990, serving until 1992.
Clinton's business-friendly approach mollified conservative criticism during his terms as governor. However, several deals the Clintons made during this period led to the Whitewater investigation, which dogged his later presidential administration.
Clinton's first major foray into national politics occurred when he was enlisted to speak at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, introducing candidate Michael Dukakis. Clinton's address, scheduled to last 15 minutes, became a debacle as Clinton gave a notoriously dull speech that lasted over half an hour (he joked about the length of this speech at the 1992 convention).
Despite this setback, Clinton prepared for a run in 1992 against incumbent president George H. W. Bush. In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, President Bush seemed undefeatable, and several potential Democratic candidates — notably New York Governor Mario Cuomo — passed on what seemed to be a lost cause.
Clinton chose U.S. Sen. Albert A. Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) to be his running mate on July 9, 1992. Initially this decision sparked criticism from strategists due to the fact that Gore was from Clinton's neighboring state of Tennessee. However, in retrospect, many now view Clinton's choice of Gore as a helpful factor in the successful 1992 campaign.
Clinton's opponents raised various "character" issues during the campaign, including his avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War, and his glib response to a question about past marijuana use. Allegations of womanizing and shady business deals also were raised. While none of these alleged flaws led to Clinton's defeat, they did fuel unusually vehement opposition to Clinton's policies among many conservatives from the very beginning of his presidency.
Clinton won the 1992 presidential election against the Republican Bush and independent candidate H. Ross Perot, largely on a platform focusing on domestic issues, notably the economic recession of the pre-election period — using the line "It's the economy, stupid!", in his campaign headquarters. For more information about Clinton's campaign, see Bill Clinton presidential campaign, 1992.
Clinton was the first Democrat to serve two full terms as President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His election ended an era in which the Republican party had controlled the Presidency for 12 consecutive years, and for 20 of the previous 24 years. That election also brought the Democrats full control of the political branches of the federal government, including both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency, for the first time since the administration of Jimmy Carter.
Clinton's first act as president was to sign executive order 12834 (entitled "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees"), which placed substantial restrictions upon the ability of his senior political appointees to lobby their colleagues after they leave office. The order was rescinded by Clinton in executive order 13184 of December 28, 2000.
Shortly after taking office, Clinton fulfilled a campaign promise by signing the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which required large employers to allow their employees to take unpaid leave because of a family or medical emergency. While this action was popular, Clinton's initial reluctance to fulfill another campaign promise relating to the acceptance of openly gay members of the military garnered criticism from both the left (for being too tentative in promoting gay rights) and the right (for being too insensitive to military life). After much debate, Clinton and the Pentagon agreed to a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which officially remains in effect.
As president, Clinton was characterized as being a much more "hands on" president than some of his Republican predecessors. While Bush and Reagan had operated under what some critics dubbed an Imperial Presidency of bureaucratic "courtiers," Clinton had much more fickle relationships with his aides, and did not delegate them significant powers. He went through four White House Chiefs of Staff — a record number of men in a position that had once been the epicenter of the Imperial Presidency. This is not to say that Clinton was without political confidants in the White House. The First Lady played an active role in helping the President form policy, and Clinton's two best friends and most loyal supporters, Paul Begala and James Carville, could often be seen defending the President's policies in Washington and the media.
After two years of Democratic party control under the leadership of President Clinton, the mid-term elections in 1994 proved disastrous for the Democrats. They lost control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, in large part due to a failed attempt to create a comprehensive health care system under a plan developed by the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
After the 1994 election, the spotlight shifted to the Contract with America spearheaded by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The Republican-controlled Congress and President Clinton sparred over the budget, resulting in a series of government shutdowns at a political penalty to the Republicans.
In the 1996 presidential election, Clinton was re-elected by a healthy margin over Republican Bob Dole and Reform candidate Ross Perot, while the Republicans retained control of the Congress but lost a few seats.
He took a personal interest in The Troubles in Northern Ireland and paid three visits there while he was president in order to encourage peace. This helped both sides in the divided community there to begin to talk, setting in motion the process that lead to the Provisional Irish Republican Army commencing disarmament on October 23, 2001.
Clinton was targeted for assassination several times. One plot was scheduled to be carried out during his late 1994 visit to the Philippines as part of the broader Operation Bojinka, but was never carried out. In 2002, al-Qaeda was discovered to have plotted to kill Clinton toward the end of the president's term.
Legislation and programs
Major legislation signed
Major legislation vetoed
Proposals not passed by Congress
Supreme Court appointments
Clinton appointed the following justices to the Supreme Court:
The economy during the Clinton administration
Following up on a campaign promise, President Clinton pursued a balanced budget and made attempts to keep inflation in check. Throughout the 1990s, Clinton presided over continuous economic expansion (which, according to the Office of Management and Budget, began in April 1991), reductions in unemployment, and growing wealth through a massive rise in the stock market. Although some question the main reason behind the economic expansion during his term, upon leaving office, President Clinton could point to a number of economic accomplishments, including:
In 1994, Bill Clinton signed the Nuclear Accords with North Korea. The deal under these accords was to allow North Korea a modern nuclear plant and oil, in exchange for the cessation of construction on an old nuclear plant, and a promise to abandon all ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons. However, by the mid 1990s defectors from North Korea, along with reports from the IAEA, indicated that North Korea was violating both the Nuclear Accords and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Also in 1994, Clinton sent U.S. troops into Haiti to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president, ending a period of intense violence. Aristide, who had been elected, had been ousted in a coup just seven months into his term in 1991.
Clinton was unable to gain support to end genocide in Rwanda, the troops that were there under Kofi Annan fled and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
He was able to end ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, by twice having military intervention there. He had some success in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine, as well conflicts in Ireland.
On Iraq, Clinton had several times launched military strikes on the nation, often in response of Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with UN inspectors and another time when Saddam attempted to have President Bush Sr assassinated.
Accusations, impeachment, and legal problems
Clinton sparked a good deal of opposition from the very beginning of his presidency, leading Hillary Clinton to complain that her husband was targeted by a "vast right-wing conspiracy", although others criticized him as well; it was Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. in 1992 (a Democrat running against Clinton for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination) who first brought allegations of potential ethical and legal lapses surrounding Clinton  (http://www.fair.org/extra/9405/whitewater-missed.html).
Clinton's political success triggered a firestorm of reaction from right-wing activists, led by a newly effective network of conservative media outlets and funded by wealthy conservatives such as Pittsburgh banking heir Richard Mellon Scaife. Radio broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh daily made accusations of corruption and dishonesty against Clinton, often without solid evidence or by shading facts. Scaife's Arkansas Project went about trying to find suggestions of wrongdoing in Clinton's past and publicizing allegations without solid evidence. When Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton described this informal network as a "vast, right-wing conspiracy," she was ridiculed by the conservative media; however, former conservative journalist David Brock has described in books such as Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative and The Republican Noise Machine : Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy his own involvement in exaggerating claims against the Clintons and the network of conservative media operations (including those owned by Rupert Murdoch and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon) that kept such accusations at the forefront of the public's attention.
Much of Clinton's presidency was troubled by accusations of wrongdoing, notably including the Kenneth Starr-led "Whitewater" investigation. The various investigations and scandals led to polarized, partisan debates both in Congress and in the media. Supporters and accusers of the President accused each other of having solely political motivations.
Originally dealing with the failed land deal years earlier known as Whitewater, Starr's investigation eventually expanded (at the request of the bipartisan special prosecutor three-judge panel) to include the suicide of the Clintons' friend Vince Foster and perjury during the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Arkansas government employee, Paula Jones. Jones later confirmed taking money from conservative political groups to fund her suit and described herself as a "patsy" for the right wing.
Some supporters of the Clintons saw this as evidence of a "right-wing conspiracy" against Clinton and his presidency. Other observers complained that mainstream feminist organizations would not support Jones's quest to clear her name and punish Clinton's (alleged) sexual harassment of her while he was governor of Arkansas and she was a civil servant. Eventually, Clinton settled  (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/pjones/pjones.htm) with Paula Jones out-of-court, paying her $850,000.
Describing an alleged occurrence that came to be known as "Troopergate", an article in the conservative American Spectator by David Brock claimed that Arkansas state troopers had arranged sexual encounters for then-Governor Clinton. Brock later repudiated the article, and one of the troopers recanted while admitting he had taken money from the publication.
Upon taking over the Whitewater investigation, Starr set about expanding the investigation, abandoning the focus on the Whitewater land deal. This eventually led him to the Paula Jones case and Clinton's testimony in that case, in which he denied any relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Kenneth Starr's successor, Robert Ray, declined to prosecute the Clintons on all the charges raised during Starr's multi-year investigation.
Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998 by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury to a grand jury (by a 228-206 vote) and obstruction of justice (by a 221-212 vote), becoming only the second U.S. President to be impeached (the previous one being Andrew Johnson in 1868). Two other articles of impeachment (a second count of perjury in the Jones case (by a 229-205 vote) and one accusing Clinton of abuse of power (by a 285-148 vote)) were defeated.
On January 7, 1999, the Senate began impeachment proceedings, ultimately acquitting the President on all charges on February 12. No witnesses were called during the trial. A two-thirds majority, 67 votes, is necessary to convict the President on impeachment charges. The perjury charge was defeated with 45 votes for conviction and 55 against. The obstruction of justice charge was defeated with 50 for conviction and 50 against. Both votes were essentially along party lines; only Republicans voted for conviction on either charge. Despite protestations of impartiality, many Senators on both sides were on record with their views before the trial. For example, Senator Harkin called the case a "pile of dung ... that the reckless partisan House has handed us".
Clinton was charged with perjury (lying under oath) about his affair with Lewinsky to gain advantage in a sexual harassment case brought by Paula Jones, a case he later settled by paying Paula Jones $850,000. A Federal judge found Clinton also to be in contempt of court for lying in a deposition and ordered him to pay a $90,000 fine. This contempt citation led to disbarment proceedings similar to Richard Nixon's. To avoid these proceedings, Clinton surrendered his law license.
In November 1998, Juanita Broaddrick (also known as 'Jane Doe 5') gave an interview to the well respected television news show, "Dateline NBC". The interview, broadcast in January 1999, centered around Broaddrick's accusation that Bill Clinton had forced sexual intercourse on her against her will in 1978. Dateline also said that the White House declined to provide any information regarding Clinton's schedule on the day of the alleged incident. Beyond this interview (transcript) (http://www.capitolhillblue.com/Feb1999/022599/datelinetranscript022599.htm) the national media did not pursue this story to any degree. Broaddrick's rape accusation is contradicted by the record in the Jones lawsuit, which includes an affidavit which she gave under penalty of perjury, and Broaddrick's sworn deposition testimony that no such assault had occurred.
There were other political scandals associated with the Clinton Whitehouse. Travelgate involved the allegedly improper firing of staff at the Whitehouse Travel Office in 1996. Filegate refers to Whitehouse handling of hundreds of personnel files from individuals without asking for their permission. Chinagate involved Democrats accepting improper campaign contributions from John Huang; allegedly the ultimate source of this money was the Chinese government. Pardongate refers to a grant of clemency to FALN members in 1999 and pardons to Marc Rich and others in 2001.
As the first Baby Boomer president, Bill Clinton was seen during his presidency and during his candidacy as a change from the presidents of the World War II Generation. He was discussed upon his breaking onto the political horizon as a remarkably informal president in a "common man" kind of way, with his frequent patronage of McDonald's becoming a popular symbol of this image. With his sound-bite rhetoric and pioneering use of pop culture in his campaigning, Clinton was declared, often negatively, as the "MTV president". Despite criticisms that his appeal to young voters lacked substance, Clinton won among Generation X voters in the 1992 election, with the highest Gen-X turnout ever.
Clinton was very popular overall among African-Americans and made improving race relations a major theme of his presidency.  (http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=122950). Toni Morrison dubbed 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."
Hillary Clinton's very strong role in the administration led to a degree of criticism toward a First Lady not seen since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt. Many people saw the couple as an unprecedented political partnership. Some even suspected that Hillary, and not Bill, was the dominant force behind the team.
Social conservatives were put off by the impression of Bill Clinton having been a "hippie" during the late 1960s, his coming-of-age era. Clinton, however, would probably not have been viewed as such by the hippie subculture. Clinton avoided the draft with a student deferment while studying abroad during the Vietnam War. Clinton's marijuana experimentation — clumsily excused by Clinton's statement that he "didn't inhale" — further damaged his image with some voters. Although he was actually to the right of previous Democratic candidates for the presidency on many issues — he supported the death penalty, curfews, uniforms in public schools, and other measures opposed by youth rights supporters, and he expanded the War on Drugs greatly while in office — Clinton's actions during the 1960s were never forgotten by his opponents. Intense opposition to the Clintons was perhaps the main factor in the phenomenal growth of conservative talk radio in the 1990s.
Clinton's working-class white Southern background was a complicating factor. Many white southern conservatives viewed Clinton as a "traitor" to his class, with his Ivy League and Rhodes Scholarship education and liberal world view. Clinton supporters point out that several prominent conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, had very similar charges of draft evasion, womanizing, and corruption in their past as well, and that these allegations are tied less to Clinton's actual "character" as they are to his refusal to conform to the conservatism expected from white Southern politicians.
Starting from 1992 Presidential election campaign, rumors about Clinton's adultery were floating about, and these surfaced and increased with Paula Jones' accusations of sexual harassment. After allegations had linked him to Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and Katherine Willey, Clinton's sex life would become the focus of his public image when in January 1998 recorded conversations by Linda Tripp contained statements by White House intern Monica Lewinsky about having oral sex.
Perhaps most ominously, several incidents during Clinton's Arkansas governorship and presidency led to lurid accusations made in talk radio and by conservative authors. Among these were rumors of involvement or collusion with drug traffickers (centering on an airport in Mena, Arkansas), cocaine use (his brother Roger was convicted of cocaine possession in the 1980s), and the suicide of long-time friend and aide Vince Foster in Washington D.C. in 1993. The deadly Branch Davidian standoff near Waco, Texas in 1993 fomented further far right and libertarian hostility to the Clinton administration.
Clinton is often referred to by nickname among both detractors and fans. One of the earliest was "Bubba", which alludes to his Southern "good ol' boy" background. Other common nicknames include "Slick Willy" and "Clintoon" (by detractors), and the "Big Dog" (by fans).
Clinton was seen as an educated and intelligent person. Clinton was characterised by good grasp of the scientific issues and strong support of "unlimited scientific discovery, and... unlimited applications"  (http://www.rand.org/scitech/stpi/ourfuture/Rosetta/millennium.html). He sometimes criticised other political leaders for being "out of touch" with the acceleration of technology.
Boris Yeltsin at a private dinner in Russia, January 13, 1994
Clinton presided over the period of longest steady growth of the economy in modern American history. However, his active role in this development is debatable.
Clinton is seen as having led — in conjunction with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) — the Democratic Party away from the left, towards a more moderate centrist position. During the 1990s, the Party was accused of abandoning its traditional base of support (unions, the working class, minorities) in pursuit of a center-right position, responding — and funded by — corporate contributors, with the soccer mom representing his new base. The current quandary of the Democratic party is felt by many to be primarily due to its inability to define itself vis-ā-vis the Republican Party and offer a clear alternative. Clinton was able to surmount this problem through sheer personal charisma, but his successors have been less successful.
Clinton advocated nanotechnology development. Howard Lovy, a nanotechnology writer, said the National Nanotechnology Initiative may "turn out to be one of Clinton's most-important legacies". The Initiative was a federal nanoscale science, engineering, and technology research and development program. In a 21 January 2000 speech at the California Institute of Technology, Clinton said, "Some of our research goals may take twenty or more years to achieve, but that is precisely why there is an important role for the federal government."
Some of the personal failures and moral lapses of Clinton have tainted his legacy in the eyes of many Americans in spite of the good economic growth of the late 1990's. Additionally, there is controversy over his foreign policy actions; while some Americans feel that his foreign policies had resulted in an environment that permitted terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network to strike on September 11th, others feel that his efforts at fighting terrorism were hampered by excessive partisan bickering and were not continued effectively by the succeeding administration.
Like all living former American presidents, Clinton has engaged in a career as a public speaker on a variety of issues. He is in high demand and receives very large fees for this, and his speeches have often been very well received. In these, he continues to comment on aspects of contemporary politics. One notable theme is his advocacy of multilateral solutions to problems facing the world, which may be viewed in contrast to the successive administration which is much more prepared to act unilaterally. Clinton's close relationship with the African-American community has been highlighted in his post-Presidential career with his opening of his personal office in the Harlem section of New York City. He assisted his wife Hillary Clinton in her campaign for office as a federal Senator representing New York.
President Clinton collected his memoirs into a book entitled My Life, which was released on June 22, 2004. Commenting on memoirs in general, he said "some are dull and self-serving, hopefully mine will be interesting and self-serving". The book has made an unprecedented three-time appearance on the Amazon.com best-seller list, before it was even released. In an interview with David Dimbleby aired on BBC TV on June 23, 2004, Clinton was questioned at length about the effects to his presidency of his affair with Lewinsky, conceding that he had made many mistakes while in office. He also spoke about the prospects of a future Clinton presidency, should his wife Hillary Clinton decide to run for office in 2008.
On July 26, 2004, Clinton spoke for the fifth time in a row to the Democratic National Convention. He used his speech to praise candidate John Kerry. Many critics have argued that Clinton's speech is one of the best in Convention history. In it, Clinton criticized George W. Bush, saying that "Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."
On September 2, 2004, Clinton had an episode of angina and was evaluated at Northern Westchester Hospital. It was determined that he had not suffered a coronary infarction, and he was sent home, returning the following day for angiography, which disclosed multiple vessel coronary artery disease. He was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, where he successfully underwent quadruple coronary artery bypass surgery on September 6, 2004. The medical team responsible for Clinton claimed that, had he not had surgery, he would likely have suffered a massive heart attack within a few months.
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