Cohen, William Sebastian

Cohen, William Sebastian,

1940–, American politician, b. Bangor, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College (B.A., 1962) and Boston Univ. (LL.B., 1965). A Republican, he was elected to the House of Representatives from Maine, serving three terms (1973–79), and became senator from Maine, also for three terms (1979–97). Sitting on the armed services committee (1979–97) and the select committee on intelligence (1983–91, 1995–97), Cohen was an influential figure in defense and international security issues, establishing a reputation as an independent moderate. From 1997 to 2001, Cohen was secretary of defense under President Bill ClintonClinton, 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
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. He advocated the development of modern weaponry, the closing of obsolete bases, and active but carefully considered U.S. participation in international affairs. Cohen has written a number of books, including mysteries, poetry, and (with George MitchellMitchell, George John,
1933–, U.S. public official, b. Waterville, Maine. An attorney in private and government practice in the 1960s and 1970s, he was a protege of Senator Edmund Muskie.
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) an analysis of the Iran-contra affairIran-contra affair,
in U.S. history, secret arrangement in the 1980s to provide funds to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran. The Iran-contra affair was the product of two separate initiatives during the administration of President Ronald
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