William Jefferson Clinton (1946-) was the 42nd President
of the United States
. Clinton was a Democrat
who focused on progressive legislation throughout his career. Clinton saw a tremendous amount of scandal
during his two terms as President. Despite the slander he encountered from his political enemies, the public's opinion of Clinton was not undermined very much. Though Clinton did not lead a spotlessly moral personal life, his political actions did much for America
and the public realized this.
Clinton was born on August 19, 1946 in Hope, Arkansas, to Virginia Cassidy Blythe. His father, William Jefferson Blythe, was killed in an automobile crash months before Clinton was born. Virginia moved in with her mother, Edith, and much of Clinton's early life was spent here. When Clinton was five, his mother married Roger Clinton. Roger was very abusive to Virginia and young Bill, and Virginia and Roger divorced ten years later. Though his early life was very rocky, Clinton was an excellent student and became very interested in law and politics. His mother encouraged him to begin a political career and told him that he would one day become President.
As a first-rate student, Clinton earned admission to Georgetown University, where he enrolled in 1964. His family was poor, so Clinton had to win scholarships and work part time in order to make his way through school. In his senior year, Clinton became a clerk for the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate. He also was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. He was able to obtain special permission to defer the draft for the Vietnam War and study overseas from the director of the ROTC program of the University of Arkansas School of Law. Thanking him for this permission, Clinton wrote a letter expressing his love for his country, but his loathing for the military. It is ironic how this man, who loathed the military, became the Commander in Chief of the American military. He did not earn a degree from his studies at Oxford, but met a lot of important people. He entered Yale University School of Law in 1970, and obtained his degree in 1973.
After his graduation, Clinton returned to his home state of Arkansas with a ton of ambition. He began as a professor at the University of Arkansas. He almost immediately ran for a seat in government. He ran for the House of Representatives in 1974 against a long-time Republican incumbent Congressman, John Paul Hammerschmidt. He was defeated in this race, in which he was clearly the underdog. Clinton ran an excellent campaign, however, which impressed many politicians in the state. In 1976, Clinton was elected state Attorney General. Two years after that, Clinton was elected Governor. He was only 32 years old at the time, and his inexperience was very evident during his first term. He treated the office of Governor as a stepping stone for higher office. He handled many issues naively and was not popular. This caused him to lose his bid for re-election. In 1983, he would regain the title of Governor, apologizing for his mistakes and swearing to have learned many lessons.
Clinton was much more successful in his second term as Governor than in his first. Clinton would serve as Governor of Arkansas until 1993. During his stint as Governor, Clinton improved education and welfare, and promoted Affirmative Action. He started a competency test for all teachers in the state of Arkansas. He attempted to change the welfare system so it was no longer just a handout. He also appointed a large number of African Americans to important positions in the state government.
Clinton's impressive work as Governor earned him the 1992 Presidential nomination. He easily defeated the incumbent Republican George Bush. Bush had broken promises not to raise taxes and got the United States involved in the Gulf War. Clinton promised to balance the budget and to apply the policies he used in Arkansas to the whole nation. Clinton chose Al Gore as his running mate and won the presidency.
Clinton began implementing his campaign promises as soon as he was elected. By the time he was done as President, the budget had indeed been balanced. He appointed women and minorities to his Cabinet and other important positions. Clinton wanted to take stands on the issues of welfare and health care reform as well. Clinton appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to head the effort to reform health care. In 1994, Republican majorities were elected to both houses of Congress. Newt Gingrich became the Speaker of the House. Bob Dole, who would oppose Clinton for the presidency in 1996, became the Senate Majority Leader. Much of the legislation Clinton had hoped to push through would be heavily contested by his Republican opponents. In the second half of his first term, Clinton did not achieve as much as he had hoped. Though Clinton was an international affairs student at Georgetown, he did not handle his first few international tests very well. His decisions to commit American troops to situations in Somalia and Rwanda were not very popular. However, economic prosperity grew under Clinton's first term, and the people of America recognized this favorably. He easily won re-election in 1996 against the dull Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.
In his second term, Clinton achieved even more of his campaign promises. His health care reform program was showing signs of life. In the summer of 1996, a bill was passed reforming welfare according to his 1992 promise. Clinton made an effort to stop the ethnic cleansing crimes committed by the Serbian government in their province of Kosovo. Clinton's second term as President was marred by the scandals that surfaced. Earlier, his opponents had charged him with dodging the draft, making illegal profit from the Whitewater affair, and using drugs during college. The next scandals, however, would be the ones to make or break his reputation. Paula Jones, who had worked under Clinton while he was in Arkansas, accused him of sexual harassment. Clinton settled out of court on this matter for the sum of $1 million with Jones. Later, it came to light that Clinton and a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky had a sexual affair. Clinton vehemently denied this, going so far as to lie under oath and obstruct justice. This disregard for honesty brought Clinton under scrutiny and Congress was considering impeaching him. The House of Representatives drafted two articles of impeachment. The Senate would need a two-thirds majority vote in order to convict Clinton of the crime of perjury and to remove him from office. The Republicans in Congress were very aggressive with their desire to remove Clinton from office, but the Democrats stuck by their man. This ordeal strengthened the Democratic Party internally, but greatly weakened their image in the public eye. The Republicans' efforts proved too zealous, and they ultimately failed to remove him from office. Though America did not agree with Clinton's lack of morals, they didn't think it affected his ability to be a good President.
Clinton ended his second term as President with a somewhat good reputation. His Vice President, Al Gore, was the Democratic Party's candidate for the 2000 Presidential election, but he lost to George W. Bush. Clinton has retired to Chappaqua, New York, where his wife is now a Senator.