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).
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. The encounter led him to
enter a life of public service.
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 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 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.
Bill Clinton chose then- U.S. Senator Al Gore 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 benefactor
in the successful 1992 campaign.
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
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 ( Al Qaeda members) started
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 an 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
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, some
of the pardons were the subject of severe and lingering criticism. Most
of that was directed at the pardons of Carlos Vignali , convicted of cocaine
trafficking, and Marc Rich , a fugitive from charges of tax evasion, who
was the subject of a clemency plea from Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak
. Also among those pardoned were Susan McDougal , a Whitewater witness
who spent 18 months in prison for contempt of court for refusing to cooperate
with special prosecutor Kenneth Starr , former Housing Secretary Henry
Cisneros , and Patty Hearst .
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-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.
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.
Secretary of State - Warren Christopher (1993-1997), Madeleine Albright
Secretary of Defense - Les Aspin (1993-1994), William Perry (1994-1997),
William Cohen (1997-2001)
Secretary of the Treasury - Lloyd Bentsen (1993-1994), Robert Rubin (1995-1999),
Lawrence Summers (1999-2001)
Attorney General - Janet Reno
Secretary of the Interior - Bruce Babbitt
Secretary of Agriculture - Mike Espy (1993-1994), Dan Glickman (1994-2001)
Secretary of Commerce - Ronald Brown (1993-1996), Mickey Kantor (1996-1997),
William Daley (1997-2000), Norman Mineta (2001)
Secretary of Labor - Robert Reich (1993-1997), Alexis Herman (1997-2001)
Secretary of Health and Human Services - Donna Shalala
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - Henry Cisneros (1993-1997),
Andrew Cuomo (1997-2001)
Secretary of Transportation - Federico Peņa (1993-1997), Rodney
Secretary of Energy - Hazel O'Leary (1993-1997), Federico Peņa (1997-1998),
Bill Richardson (1998-2001)
Secretary of Education - Richard Riley
Secretary of Veterans Affairs - Jesse Brown (1993-1997), Togo West (1998-2000),
Hershel Gober (2000-2001)
Major legislation signed
Creation of the AmeriCorps volunteer program
1994 Crime Bill Expansion - as part of an omnibus crime bill, the federal
death penalty was expanded to some 60 different offenses
On March 14 , 1996 he authorized a $100 million anti-terrorism agreement
with Israel to track down and root out terrorists .
Telecom bill, which eliminated major ownership restrictions for radio and
Communications Decency Act
Minimum wage increase
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Defense of Marriage Act , allowed states the power to refuse to recognize
gay marriages granted in other states, among other things
Major legislation vetoed
Republican 1996 national budget
H.R. 1833, partial birth abortion ban
Twice vetoed Welfare Reform before signing the identical act.
Supreme Court appointments
Ruth Bader Ginsburg - 1993
Stephen Breyer - 1994
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,
April 19 , 1993 - government siege on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco,
Texas results in the death of 80 people - Republicans blame Clinton and
Attorney General Janet Reno , rather than cult leader David Koresh
July 20 , 1993 - Clinton friend and confidant Vince Foster commits suicide
during the height of the Whitewater investigation
October 3 , 1993 - Battle of Mogadishu - Ranger Units receive heavy casualies
in Somalia . Military disgruntled because it was denied the hardware it
thought essential to the operation.
January 14 ???? - Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign the
Kremlin accords which stop the preprogrammed aiming of nuclear missiles
to targets and also provide for the dismantling of the nuclear arsenal
in the Ukraine .
April 19 , 1995 - Oklahoma City bombing - Bombing of federal building in
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma results in the death of 168 people
November 14 , 1995 - Budget negotiations between Congress and the President
break down, resulting in temporary shutdown of U.S. Federal Government.
Shutdowns (partial and full) continue through January, 1996.
November , 1995 - Clinton organizes peace talks for Bosnia and Herzegovina
at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base , Ohio, eventually resulting in
the Dayton Agreement
December , 1995 - Clinton visits Ireland , leading to the establishment
of an International Commission, chaired by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell
November , 1996 - Clinton is re-elected , defeating Republican challenger
October , 1997 - Visit by President of the People's Republic of China Jiang
Zemin to the White House
August , 1998 - Clinton orders cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan and
suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan
December 19 , 1998 - Clinton impeached by the House of Representatives
on grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice
January 7 , 1999 - The Senate starts nationally televised trial of Clinton.
February 12 , 1999 - Clinton acquitted of charges.
March 24 to June 10 , 1999 - NATO bombs Kosovo and Serbia ( Kosovo War
May 7 , 1999 - US planes accidentally bomb People's Republic of China embassy
in Belgrade ( Kosovo War )
June , 1999 - Serbia withdraws from Kosovo ( Kosovo War )
October 5 , 2000 - The defeat of Slobodan Milosevic in earlier elections
leads to mass demonstrations in Belgrade and ultimate collapse of the regime's
authority. Opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica took office as Yugoslav
president on October 6 .