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Bill Clinton

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Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton.jpg
42nd President of the United States
In office
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
In office
January 11, 1983 – December 12, 1992
Lieutenant
Preceded by Frank D. White
Succeeded by Jim Guy Tucker
In office
January 9, 1979 – January 19, 1981
Lieutenant Joe Purcell
Preceded by Joe Purcell (Acting)
Succeeded by Frank D. White
50th Attorney General of Arkansas
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 9, 1979
Governor
Preceded by Jim Guy Tucker
Succeeded by Steve Clark
Personal details
Born William Jefferson Blythe III
(1946-08-19) August 19, 1946 (age 71)
Hope, Arkansas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Hillary Rodham (m. 1975)
Children Chelsea
Parents
Education Georgetown University (BS)
University College, Oxford
Yale University (JD)
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom
Signature Cursive signature of Bill Clinton in ink

William Jefferson 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. Prior to the presidency, he was the Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was ideologically a New Democrat and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy.

Clinton was born and raised in Arkansas and attended Georgetown University, the University of Oxford, and Yale Law School. He met Hillary Rodham at Yale and married her in 1975. After graduating from Yale, Clinton returned to Arkansas and won election as the Attorney General of Arkansas, serving from 1977 to 1979. As Governor of Arkansas, Clinton overhauled the state's education system and served as chairman of the National Governors Association. Clinton was elected president in 1992, defeating incumbent Republican opponent George H. W. Bush. At age 46, he became the third-youngest president and the first from the Baby Boomer generation.

Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history and signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement, but failed to pass his plan for national health care reform. In the 1994 elections, the Republican Party won unified control of the Congress for the first time in 40 years. In 1996, Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected to a second full term. Clinton passed welfare reform and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as financial deregulation measures, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for matters related to a scandal that involved White House employee Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate in 1999 and proceeded to complete his term in office. Clinton is only the second U.S. president to ever be impeached. During the last three years of Clinton's presidency, the Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus, the first such surplus since 1969. In foreign policy, Clinton ordered U.S. military intervention in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, signed the Iraq Liberation Act in opposition to Saddam Hussein, and participated in the 2000 Camp David Summit to advance the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.

Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II, and he has continually received high ratings in public opinion polls of U.S. presidents. Since leaving office, Clinton has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address international causes, such as the prevention of AIDS and global warming. He has remained active in politics by campaigning for Democratic candidates, including his wife's presidential campaigns and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns. In 2004, Clinton published his autobiography, My Life. In 2009, Clinton was named the 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.

Early life and career

Clinton's childhood home in Hope, Arkansas

Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, at Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, Arkansas.[1][2] He was the son of William Jefferson Blythe Jr. (1918–1946), a traveling salesman who had died in an automobile accident three months before his birth, and Virginia Dell Cassidy (later Virginia Kelley: 1923–1994).[3] His parents had married on September 4, 1943, but this union later proved to be bigamous, as Blythe was still married to his third wife.[4] Soon after Bill was born, Virginia traveled to New Orleans to study nursing. She left her son in Hope with her parents Eldridge and Edith Cassidy, who owned and ran a small grocery store.[2] At a time when the southern United States was racially segregated, Clinton's grandparents sold goods on credit to people of all races.[2] 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 and Earl T. Ricks.[2] The family moved to Hot Springs in 1950.[5]

Although he immediately assumed use of his stepfather's surname, it was not until Clinton turned 15[6] that he formally adopted the surname Clinton as a gesture toward his stepfather.[2] Clinton said that he remembered 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.[2][7]

Clinton with his saxophone at the White House in 1996. He began playing the saxophone in elementary school. At one point, Clinton considered pursuing a career in music.

In Hot Springs, Clinton 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.[2] Clinton 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.[2]

Clinton began an interest in law at Hot Springs High, when he took up the challenge to argue the defense of the ancient Roman Senator Catiline in a mock trial in his Latin class.[8] After a vigorous defense that made use of his "budding rhetorical and political skills", he told the Latin teacher Elizabeth Buck that it "made him realize that someday he would study law".[9]

Clinton has identified two influential moments in his life, both occurring in 1963, that contributed to his decision to become a public figure. One was his visit as a Boys Nation senator to the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy.[2][7] The other was watching Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 I Have a Dream speech on TV, which impressed him enough that he later memorized it.[10]

College and law school years

Georgetown University

Clinton ran for president of the Student Council while attending the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

With the aid of scholarships, Clinton attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., receiving a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree in 1968.

In 1964 and 1965, Clinton won elections for class president.[11] From 1964 to 1967, he was an intern and then a clerk in the office of Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright.[2] While in college, he became a brother of co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega[12] and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Clinton was also a member of the Order of DeMolay,[13] a youth group affiliated with Freemasonry, but he never became a Freemason. He is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity.[14]

Oxford

Upon graduating from Georgetown in 1968, Clinton won a Rhodes Scholarship to University College in Oxford, England, where he initially read for a B.Phil. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics but transferred to a B.Litt. in politics and, ultimately, a B.Phil. in politics.[15] Clinton did not expect the second year because of the draft and he switched programs; this type of activity was common among other Rhodes Scholars from his cohort. He had received an offer to study at Yale Law School, Yale University, but he left early to return to the United States and did not receive a degree from Oxford.[7][16][17]

During his time at Oxford, Clinton befriended fellow American Rhodes Scholar Frank Aller. In 1969, Aller received a draft letter that mandated deployment to the Vietnam War. Aller's 1971 suicide had an influential impact on Clinton.[15][18] British writer and feminist Sara Maitland said of Clinton, "I remember Bill and Frank Aller taking me to a pub in Walton Street in the summer term of 1969 and talking to me about the Vietnam War. I knew nothing about it, and when Frank began to describe the napalming of civilians I began to cry. Bill said that feeling bad wasn't good enough. That was the first time I encountered the idea that liberal sensitivities weren't enough and you had to do something about such things".[15] He also developed an interest in rugby union, which he played at Oxford.[19]

While Clinton was president in 1994, he received an honorary degree and a fellowship from the University of Oxford, specifically for being "a doughty and tireless champion of the cause of world peace", having "a powerful collaborator in his wife," and for winning "general applause for his achievement of resolving the gridlock that prevented an agreed budget".[16][20]

Vietnam War opposition and draft controversy

While at Oxford, Clinton also participated in Vietnam War protests and organized an October 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam event.[2]

During the Vietnam War, Clinton received educational draft deferments while he was in England in 1968 and 1969.[21] He was planning to attend law school in the U.S. and was aware that he might lose his draft deferment. Clinton tried unsuccessfully to obtain positions in the National Guard or Air Force, and he then made arrangements to join the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Arkansas.[22]

He subsequently decided not to join the ROTC, saying in a letter to the officer in charge of the program that he opposed the war, but did not think it was honorable to use ROTC, National Guard, or Reserve service to avoid serving in Vietnam. He further stated that because he opposed the war, he would not volunteer to serve in uniform, but would subject himself to the draft, and would serve if selected only as a way "to maintain my political viability within the system".[23] Clinton registered for the draft and received a high number (311), meaning that those whose birthdays had been drawn as numbers 1 to 310 would have to be drafted before him, making it unlikely that he would be drafted. (In fact, the highest number drafted was 195.)[24]

Colonel Eugene Holmes, the Army officer who had been involved with Clinton's ROTC application, suspected that Clinton attempted to manipulate the situation to avoid the draft and avoid serving in uniform. He issued a notarized statement during the 1992 presidential campaign:

I was informed by the draft board that it was of interest to Senator Fulbright'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.[25]

During the 1992 campaign, it was revealed that Clinton's uncle had attempted to secure him a position in the Navy Reserve, which would have prevented him from being deployed to Vietnam. This effort was unsuccessful and Clinton said in 1992 that he had been unaware of it until then.[26] Although legal, Clinton's actions with respect to the draft and deciding whether to serve in the military were criticized during his first presidential campaign by conservatives and some Vietnam veterans, some of whom charged that he had used Fulbright's influence to avoid military service.[27][28] Clinton's 1992 campaign manager, James Carville, successfully argued that Clinton's letter in which he declined to join the ROTC should be made public, insisting that voters, many of whom had also opposed the Vietnam War, would understand and appreciate his position.[29]

Law school

After Oxford, Clinton attended Yale Law School and earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1973.[2][7] In 1971, he met fellow law student Hillary Rodham in the Yale Law Library; she was a class year ahead of him.[2][30] They began dating and were soon 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.[31] They married on October 11, 1975, and their only child, Chelsea, was born on February 27, 1980.[30]

Clinton eventually moved to Texas with Rodham in 1972 to take a job leading George McGovern's effort there. He spent considerable time in Dallas, at the campaign's local headquarters on Lemmon Avenue, where he had an office. Clinton worked with future two-term mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk,[32] future governor of Texas Ann Richards,[33] and then unknown television director (and future filmmaker) Steven Spielberg.[34]

Early political career

Governor of Arkansas (1979–1981, 1983–1992)

After graduating from Yale Law School, Clinton returned to Arkansas and became a law professor at the University of Arkansas. In 1974, he ran for the House of Representatives. Running in a conservative district against incumbent Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt, Clinton's campaign was bolstered by the anti-Republican and anti-incumbent mood resulting from the Watergate scandal. Hammerschmidt, who had received 77 percent of the vote in 1972, defeated Clinton by only a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. In 1976, Clinton ran for Arkansas Attorney General. With only minor opposition in the primary and no opposition at all in the general election,[35] Clinton was elected.[7]

Newly elected Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton meets with President Jimmy Carter in 1978, fifteen years before assuming the nation's highest office.

Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas in 1978, having defeated the Republican candidate Lynn Lowe, a farmer from Texarkana. At age 32, he became the youngest governor in the country. Due to his youthful appearance, Clinton was often called the "Boy Governor".[36][37][38] He worked on educational reform and directed the maintenance of 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 by Republican challenger Frank D. White in the general election that year. As Clinton once joked, he was the youngest ex-governor in the nation's history.[7]

Clinton joined friend Bruce Lindsey's Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey and Jennings.[39] In 1982, he was elected governor a second time and kept the office for ten years. Effective with the 1986 election, Arkansas had changed its gubernatorial term of office from two to four years. During his term, he helped transform Arkansas's economy and improved the state's educational system.[40] For senior citizens, he removed the sales tax from medications and increased the home property-tax exemption.[41] He became a leading figure among the New Democrats, a group of Democrats who advocated welfare reform, smaller government, and other policies not supported by liberals. Formally organized as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the New Democrats argued that in light of President Ronald Reagan's landslide victory in 1984, the Democratic Party needed to adopt a more centrist political stance in order to succeed at the national level.[41][42] Clinton delivered the Democratic response to 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.[7]

In the early 1980s, Clinton made reform of the Arkansas education system a top priority of his gubernatorial administration. The Arkansas Education Standards Committee was chaired by Clinton's wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was also an attorney as well as the chair of the Legal Services Corporation. The committee transformed Arkansas's education system. Proposed reforms included more spending for schools (supported by a sales-tax increase), better opportunities for gifted children, vocational education, higher teachers' salaries, more course variety, and compulsory teacher competency exams. The reforms passed in September 1983 after Clinton called a special legislative session—the longest in Arkansas history.[40] Many have considered this the greatest achievement of the Clinton governorship.[7][41] He defeated four Republican candidates for governor: Lowe (1978), White (1982 and 1986), Jonesboro businessmen Woody Freeman (1984), and Sheffield Nelson of Little Rock (1990).[35]

Governor and Mrs. Clinton attend the Dinner Honoring the Nation's Governors in the White House with President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, 1987.

Also in the 1980s, The Clintons' personal and business affairs included transactions that became the basis of the Whitewater controversy investigation, which later dogged his presidential administration.[43] After extensive investigation over several years, no indictments were made against the Clintons related to the years in Arkansas.[7][44]

According to some sources, Clinton was a death penalty opponent in his early years, but he eventually switched positions.[45][46] During Clinton's term, Arkansas performed its first executions since 1964 (the death penalty had been re-enacted on March 23, 1973).[47] 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 reinstated in 1988.[48]

1988 Democratic presidential primaries

In 1987, the media speculated that Clinton would enter the Presidential race after incumbent 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).[49] 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[50] and poorly delivered.[51] Clinton presented himself as both a moderate and a member of the New Democrat wing of the Democratic Party, and he headed the moderate Democratic Leadership Council in 1990 and 1991.[41][52]

Presidency (1993–2001)

Countries visited by President Bill Clinton during his terms in office.

During his presidency, Clinton advocated for a wide variety of legislation and programs, most of which were enacted into law or implemented by the executive branch. His policies, particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement and welfare reform, have been attributed to a centrist Third Way philosophy of governance.[53][54] His policy of fiscal conservatism helped to reduce deficits on budgetary matters.[55][56] Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.[57][58][59] The Congressional Budget Office reported budget surpluses of $69 billion in 1998, $126 billion in 1999, and $236 billion in 2000,[60] during the last three years of Clinton's presidency.[61] Over the years of the recorded surplus, the gross national debt rose each year. At the end of the fiscal year (September 30) for each of the years a surplus was recorded, The U.S. treasury reported a gross debt of $5.413 trillion in 1997, $5.526 trillion in 1998, $5.656 trillion in 1999, and $5.674 trillion in 2000.[62][63] Over the same period, the Office of Management and Budget reported an end of year (December 31) gross debt of $5.369 trillion in 1997, $5.478 trillion in 1998, $5.606 in 1999, and $5.629 trillion in 2000.[64] At the end of his presidency, the Clintons moved to Chappaqua, New York in order to satisy a residency requirement for his wife to win election as a U.S. Senator from New York.

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 surfaced that Clinton had engaged in an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. Clinton fell far behind former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in the New Hampshire polls.[7] 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.[65]

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.