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

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (born August 19, 1946) was the 42nd (1993-2001) President of the United States.

Table of contents
1 Early life and education
2 Early Political Career
3 Presidency
4 Public Image and Personality
5 Impeachment
6 Pardons
7 Legacy
8 Post-Presidential Career
9 Cabinet
10 Major legislation signed
11 Major legislation vetoed
12 Supreme Court appointments
13 Major legislation he failed to get passed through Congress
14 Initiatives
15 Timeline
16 Related articles
17 Further reading
18 External links

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. Billy, as he was called, was raised by his mother and stepfather Roger Clinton, 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).

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

Early Political Career

After teaching law at the University of Arkansas for a few years, Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas in 1976. Bill Clinton was first elected governor of the state of Arkansas in 1978, and 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 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 husbands 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 served five additional terms in Arkansas 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 Democratic party convention in 1988, introducing candidate Michael Dukakis. Clinton's address, scheduled to last fifteen minutes, became a debacle as Clinton gave a notoriously dull speech that lasted over half an hour.

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

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

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

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

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

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. Clinton's role in promoting this prosperity is a matter of considerable debate: some substantial credit can be apportioned to groups such as the Congress and Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, whom Clinton renominated, as well as the congruence of technological and global economic conditions which had little to do with Clinton. In addition to these factors, some Clinton supporters also credit the reduction in the deficit, as well as Clinton's tax policies.

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 on the media.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Image and Personality

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

Hillary Clinton's very strong role in the administration led to a degree of criticism toward a First Lady not seen since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt. Many people saw the couple as a unprecendented political partnership (negatively compared in some quarters to that of Juan and Eva Peron in Argentina). Some even charged that Hillary, and not Bill, was the dominant force behind the team.

Social conservatives were put off by Bill Clinton's having been a "hippie" during his coming-of-age era (Clinton would definitely not have been viewed as such by the hippie subculture). He did not receive support from people who viewed him as a cowardly draft-dodger. Clinton had avoided the draft while he was studying abroad during the Vietnam War. Clinton's marijuana use - clumsily excused by Clinton's claim that he "didn't inhale" - further damaged his image. Although he actually was to the right of previous Democratic candidates for the presidency on many issues, and he supported the death penalty, curfews and uniforms in public schools and other measures opposed by youth rights supporters, and expanded the War on Drugs greatly while in office, Clinton was unable to wash his youthful reputation from his opponent's minds. Intense opposition to the Clintons was perhaps the main factor in the phenomenal growth or right-wing 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. Other opponents viewed Clinton's character faults and boorish tastes as evidence of his "white trash" upbringing. Critics of the right wing 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 conservativism expected from white southern politicians.

Compounded with Clinton's 1960s past was his reputation for a liking of women, which further increased the fears of those who viewed him as a creepy hedonist. 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. From then on, Clinton would be the subject of endless gags and satires portraying him as a sex-hungry man who couldn't keep his zipper zipped. Hillary Clinton's decision to stand by her husband (although publicly uncomfortable with him in the aftermath of the Lewinsky affair) furthered the image of their marriage as one of political convenience.

Perhaps most ominously, several incidents during Clinton's Arkansas governorship and presidency led to lurid accusations made in talk radio, and by conservative authors. Among these were rumors of involvement or collusion with drug traffickers (centering an airport in Mena, Arkansas) and cocaine use (his brother Roger was covicted of cocaine possession in the 1980s), and the mysterious suicide of long-time friend and aide Vince Foster in a Washington park in 1993. The deadly Branch Davidian stand off near Waco, Texas in 1993, and the killing of members of the Randy Weaver family by federal agents at Ruby Ridge fomented further far right and Libertarian hostility to the Clinton administration.

Clinton is often referred to by the nickname "Bubba", which alludes to his southern "good ol' boy" background. Other nicknames in common use for the forty-second president include "Slick Willy", from his sexual escapades and evasive manner, and "Big Dog", portraying him as a large, lusty drooling hound. Clinton detractors from all parts of the political spectrum often refer to him as "Klinton", respelling his name with a K to evoke German orthography, placing him in the same class as the Nazis (see Godwin's Law), concealing that Clinton was a democrat and a friend of modern Germany with its anti-nazi education. Clinton speaks German fluently.


Much of Clinton's presidency was overshadowed by numerous scandals, including the Kenneth-Starr-led Whitewater investigation. Originally dealing with a failed land deal years earlier, Starr's investigation eventually expanded to include the suicide of the Clintons' friend Vince Foster, an alleged sexual encounter with a woman named Paula Jones (who later admitted to taking money from conservative political groups, but received a settlement from Clinton), "Troopergate" -- in which an Arkansas State Trooper claimed to have arranged sexual encounters for then Governor Clinton (claims the State Trooper later recanted while admitting he had taken money from the conservative tabloid "American Spectator"), and his sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky. Starr's successor, Robert Ray, declined to prosecute the Clintons on all the charges.

Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998 by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice, becoming the first elected U.S. President to be impeached (and the second ever, the previous one being Andrew Johnson). The Senate, however, in a trial that started on January 7, 1999, voted not to convict Clinton of the charges on February 12, allowing Clinton to stay in office for the remainder of his second term. The impeachment cited abuse of powers and for perjury -- lying under oath to a grand jury regarding matters related to his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky (uncovered by an investigation into the unrelated Whitewater scandal).

The perjury charge was defeated with 55 "not guilty" votes and 45 "guilty" votes. On the obstruction of justice article, the chamber was evenly split, 50-50. Despite considerable protestations by Senators that they were performing an impartial trial purely on the basis of the evidence, it is notable that both votes were essentially along party lines. A two-thirds majority, 67 votes, is necessary to convict the President on impeachment charges.

Clinton was charged with 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 Clinton surrendered his law license. Clinton was the second President to be impeached, Andrew Johnson being the first.


Clinton gave 140 pardons his last day of office. Although it is common for Presidents to grant a number of pardons before leaving office, as the details of Clinton's pardons unfolded (some given to campaign contributors, one to a cocaine trafficker, and one to fugitive Marc Rich) he was subject to severe and lingering criticism.


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

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

Post-Presidential Career

Like all but one 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.


Major legislation signed

Major legislation vetoed

Supreme Court appointments

Major legislation he failed to get passed through Congress

  • Healthcare Reform - appointed a committee headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton to come up with a universal health insurance plan, known as "socialized medicine" by opponents. Complexity, poor design, and resistance from the insurance and the medical communities resulted in lack of support and it failed to get a single vote.


  • Social Security Reform - appointed a committee on Social Security Reform and then dismissed their recommendations without ever proposing legislation.
  • Tried to get Ehud Barak of Israel and Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Council to agree to a final settlement agreement.
  • Initiated the Don't ask, don't tell policy toward gays in the military, 1993.


Related articles

Further reading

External links

Preceded by:
George H. W. Bush
Presidents of the United States Succeeded by:
George W. Bush