Bill Clinton

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Clinton, Bill

(William Jefferson Clinton), 1946–, 42d President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Hope, Ark. His father died before he was born, and he was originally named William Jefferson Blythe 4th, but after his mother remarried, he assumed the surname of his stepfather. After graduating from Georgetown Univ. (1968), attending the Univ. of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar (1968–70), and receiving a law degree from Yale Univ. (1973), Clinton returned to his home state, where he was a lawyer and (1974–76) law professor. In 1974 he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Two years later, he was elected Arkansas's attorney general, and in 1978 he won the Arkansas governorship, becoming the nation's youngest governor. Defeated for reelection in 1980, he regained the governorship in 1982 and retained it in two subsequent elections. Generally regarded as a moderate Democrat, he headed the centrist Democratic Leadership Council from 1990 to 1991.

In 1992, Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination after a primary campaign in which his character and private life were repeatedly questioned and, with running mate Senator Al GoreGore, Albert Arnold, Jr.,
1948–, Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Washington, D.C., grad. Harvard, 1969. After serving in the army in Vietnam and working as a reporter, he was elected (1976) to the U.S.
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 of Tennessee, went on to win the election, garnering 43% of the national vote in defeating Republican incumbent George H. W. BushBush, George Herbert Walker,
1924–2018, 41st President of the United States (1989–93), b. Milton, Mass., B.A., Yale Univ., 1948. Career in Business and Government
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 and independent H. Ross PerotPerot, H. Ross
(Henry Ross Perot), 1930–2019, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., as Henry Ray Perot, grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his naval commission and became a salesman for IBM.
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. By his election, he became the first president born after World War II to serve in the office and the first to lead the country in the post–cold war era.

In his first year in office, Clinton won passage of a national service program and of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit. He also proposed major changes in the U.S. health-care system that ultimately would have provided health-insurance coverage to most Americans. Clinton was unable to overcome widespread opposition to changes in the health-care system, however, and in a major policy defeat, failed to win passage of his plan. After this failure, his proposed programs were never as sweeping. The president's wife, Hillary Rodham ClintonClinton, Hillary Rodham
, 1947–, U.S. senator and secretary of state, wife of President Bill Clinton, b. Chicago, grad. Wellesley College (B.A. 1969), Yale Law School (LL.B., 1973). After law school she served on the House panel that investigated the Watergate affair.
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, whom he married in 1975, played a more visibly active role in her husband's first term than most first ladies; she was particularly prominent in his attempt to revamp the health-care system.

In 1994, Clinton sent U.S. forces to Haiti as part of the negotiated restoration of Jean-Bertrand AristideAristide, Jean-Bertrand
, 1953–, president of Haiti (1991, 1994–96, 2001–4). A radical Catholic priest who defended liberation theology, he worked among Haiti's poor and was part of a group of progressive priests who opposed the Duvalier dictatorship.
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's presidency. He also withdrew U.S. forces from Somalia (1994), where while helping to avert famine they had suffered casualties in a futile effort to capture a Somali warlord. Clinton promoted peace negotiations in the Middle East, which bore fruit in important agreements, and in the former Yugoslavia, which led to a peace agreement in late 1995. He also restored U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995.

After the Democratic party lost control of both houses of Congress in Nov., 1994, in elections that were regarded as a strong rebuff to the president, Clinton appeared to have lost some of his political initiative. He was often criticized for vacillating on issues; at the same time, he was embroiled in conflict with sometimes radically conservative Republicans in Congress, whose goals in education, Medicare, and other areas often were at odds with his own. In 1995 and 1996, congressional Republicans and Clinton clashed over budget and deficit-reduction priorities, leading to two partial federal government shutdowns. Perceived as the victor in those conflicts, Clinton regained some of his standing with the public. Allegations of improper activities by the Clintons relating to WhitewaterWhitewater,
popular name for a failed 1970s Arkansas real estate venture by the Whitewater Development Corp., in which Gov. (later President) Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were partners; the name is also used for the political ramifications of this scheme.
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 persisted but were not proved, despite congressional and independent counsel investigations.

By 1996, Clinton had succeeded in characterizing the Republican agenda as extremist while himself adopting many aspects of it. Forced to compromise on such items as welfare reform in order to assure passage of any change, Republicans passed bills that often seemed as much part of the president's program as their own. The welfare bill that he signed at the end of his term revolutionized the system, requiring that recipients work, while providing them with various subsidies to aid in the transition. Clinton won renomination by his party unopposed in 1996. Benefiting from a basically healthy economy, he handily won reelection in Nov., 1996, garnering 49% of the vote against Republican candidate Bob DoleDole, Bob
(Robert Joseph Dole), 1923–, American political leader, b. Russell, Kan.; husband of Elizabeth Hanford Dole. While serving in World War II, he was seriously wounded and required several years of convalescence. After obtaining his law degree from Washburn Univ.
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 and Reform party candidate Ross Perot, and became the first Democratic president since Franklin RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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 to win two terms at the polls.

In 1997, Clinton and the Republicans agreed on a deal that combined tax cuts and reductions in spending to produce the first balanced federal budget in three decades. The president now seemed to have mastered the art of employing incremental, rather than large-scale, governmental action to effect change, leaving the Republicans, with their announced mandate for fundamental change, to appear visionary and extreme. Having taken the center, and with stock markets continuing to boom and unemployment low, Clinton enjoyed high popularity, presiding over an enormous national surge in prosperity and innovation.

At the beginning of 1998, however, ongoing investigations into his past actions engulfed him in the Lewinsky scandalLewinsky scandal
, sensation that enveloped the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1998–99, leading to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate.
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, and for the rest of the year American politics were convulsed by the struggle between the president and his Republican accusers, which led to his impeachmentimpeachment,
in Great Britain and United States, formal accusation issued by a legislature against a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct. In a looser sense the term is sometimes applied also to the trial by the legislature that may follow.
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 on Dec. 19. He thus became the first elected president to be impeached (Andrew JohnsonJohnson, Andrew,
1808–75, 17th President of the United States (1865–69), b. Raleigh, N.C. Early Life

His father died when Johnson was 3, and at 14 he was apprenticed to a tailor.
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, the only other chief executive to be impeached, fell heir to the office when Pres. Lincoln was assassinated). It was apparent, however, that much of the public, while fascinated by the scandal, held the impeachment drive to be partisan and irrelevant to national affairs. In Jan., 1999, two impeachment counts were tried in the Senate, which on Feb. 12 acquitted Clinton. In the year following, U.S. domestic politics returned to something like normality, although the looming campaign for the 2000 presidential election began to overshadow Clinton's presidency. During both his terms Clinton took an active interest in environmental preservation, and by 2000 he had set aside more than three million acres (1.25 million hectares) of land in wilderness or national monuments, protecting more acreage in the lower 48 states than any other president.

The late 1990s saw a number of foreign-policy successes and setbacks for President Clinton. He continued to work for permanent peace in the Middle East, and his administration helped foster accords between the Palestinians and Israel in 1997 and 1999, but further negotiations in 2000 proved unsuccessful. Iraq's Saddam Hussein increased his resistance to UN weapons inspections in the late 1990s, leading to U.S. and British air attacks in late 1998; attacks continued at a lower level throughout much of 1999 while the issue of weapons inspections remained unresolved. In Apr.–June, 1999, a breakdown in an attempt to achieve a negotiated settlement in KosovoKosovo
, Albanian Kosova, Serbian Kosovo i Metohija and Kosmet, officially Republic of Kosovo, republic (2015 est. pop. 1,871,000), 4,126 sq mi (10,686 sq km), SE Europe, a former province of Serbia that unilaterally declared its independence in 2008.
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 sparked a 78-day U.S.-led NATO air war that forced the former Yugoslavia to cede control of the province, but not before Yugoslav forces had made refugees of millions and killed several thousand.

The second term of Clinton's presidency saw a pronounced effort to use international trade agreeements to foster political changes in countries throughout the world, including Russia, China (with whom he established normal trade relations in 2000), Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. While global trade flourished, Clinton's hopes that trade would lead to democratization and improved human rights policies in a number of countries by and large failed to be realized. In 1997 the Clinton administration had won ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (signed 1993), but it refused to join in a major international treaty banning land minesmine,
in warfare, term formerly applied to a system of tunnels dug under an army fortification and ending in a chamber where either explosives were placed to be detonated at a chosen moment or the supports were burned, causing the mine and the wall above it to collapse.
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. The Republican-dominated Senate narrowly rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in late 1999 in a major policy setback; in late 2000, Clinton made the United States a party to the 1998 Rome Treaty on the establishment of an International Criminal Court for war crimeswar crimes,
in international law, violations of the laws of war (see war, laws of). Those accused have been tried by their own military and civilian courts, by those of their enemy, and by expressly established international tribunals.
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Clinton benefited during his entire presidency from a strong economy, leading the country during an unprecedented period of economic expansion and, with some partisan critics giving credit to skill and some to luck, making a steady national prosperity the hallmark of his administrations. He left office having revived and strengthened the national Democratic party, which he guided toward more centrist positions, emphasizing fiscal responsibility, championing the middle class, and reversing many of the public's negative stereotypes regarding the party's liberal stance. Although Vice President Al Gore failed to win the 2000 presidential election, he won a plurality of the popular vote, and the party scored some gains in Congress, especially the Senate. The president's pardoning, however, of more than 100 people on his last day in office sparked one final controversy. Several persons he pardoned were well connnected and even notorious but not apparently deserving, and even Clinton supporters and appointees were openly critical. Charges that pardons were obtained through bribery, however, appeared to be unfounded.

No one major accomplishment or program marked Clinton's terms in office; his many real achievements were mainly incremental, and were often overshadowed by setbacks. However, through his extraordinary ability to relate to ordinary Americans, his intelligence and wit, and his skill in manipulating the media, he maintained an unusual level of popularity and a high approval rating throughout most of two terms in office. Nonetheless, the Lewinsky scandal, in particular, permanently marred his presidency. This was so although the sexual affair at its core was neither unique for Clinton, who had had other extramarital liaisons, nor for the office, some of the earlier holders of which had engaged in similar, although much less publicized, behavior.

As he left office, Clinton faced mountains of legal bills and continued threats of legal action. The youngest former president since Theodore Roosevelt, he established his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., and, moving to New York where his wife was now a senator, opened an office and foundation in HarlemHarlem,
residential and business section of upper Manhattan, New York City, bounded roughly by 110th St., the East River and Harlem River, 168th St., Amsterdam Ave., and Morningside Park. The Dutch settlement of Nieuw Haarlem was established by Peter Stuyvesant in 1658.
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. He remains an influential and generally popular figure, and became prominent in a number of causes, including international AIDS treatment. He joined with George H. W. Bush to raise funds for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004) and Hurricane Katrina (2005), and in 2005 was appointed to a two-year term as UN special envoy for tsunami recovery, with responsibility for sustaining the international efforts for its victims. In 2009 he was named UN special envoy to Haiti, focusing on supporting the island's economic and social developement, and following the 2010 earthquake there joined with George H. Bush to raise funds for relief. With mystery writer James Patterson, he wrote a best-selling thriller, The President Is Missing (2018).


See his autobiography, My Life (2004). See also J. Brummett, Highwire (1994); E. Drew, On the Edge (1994) and Showdown (1996); D. Maraniss, First in His Class (1995); R. A. Posner, An Affair of State (1999); J. Klein, The Natural (2002); J. F. Harris, The Survivor (2005); N. Hamilton, Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency (2007); T. Branch, The Clinton Tapes (2009); K. Gormley, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (2010); M. Takiff, A Complicated Man (2010); W. H. Chafe, Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal (2012); J. Conason, Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton (2016).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Clinton, Bill (b. William Jefferson Blythe)

(1946–  ) forty-second president of the United States; born in Hope, Ark. His father, William Blythe, died in an auto accident three months before he was born. He was adopted by his stepfather, Roger Clinton. As a youth, he thrilled to John F. Kennedy's promise, especially when he shook Kennedy's hand in the Rose Garden in 1963. He went to Georgetown University and then to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received what would become a controversial draft deferment during the Vietnam War. He graduated from Yale Law School (1973) and married Hillary Rodham, a fellow Yale law student (1975). A committed Democrat, he was attorney general of Arkansas (1977–79) and then won the governor's seat in 1978. Defeated for reelection in 1980, he went through a period of soul-searching and made a comeback in 1982, becoming governor again; he went on to reelection in 1984, 1986, and 1990 and was named "the most effective" by his fellow governors. Overcoming serious charges involving alleged extramarital affairs and questions about his avoiding the draft, he won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992. He was accused of "waffling" in his campaign speeches, but he kept the pressure on incumbent George Bush by focusing on the economic plight of many Americans. He won the three-way presidential race with 43% of the popular vote and 370 out of 525 electoral votes. His inauguration was notable for the participation of rock stars, poets, and the public at large, all of which led many to see his administration as the passing of the torch to a new generation, but he faced an enormous national debt and a country fragmented by social strife.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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