The Clinton Administration
Democratic President Bill Clinton served two terms from 1993 to 2001, during a period of great economic growth in the United States.
Examine the key events during the Clinton administration
- President Clinton was the first Democratic president to serve two terms since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the first president since Roosevelt to have not served in the military.
- The Clinton administration focused mainly on the economy —specifically on raising taxes on the wealthiest 1.2%, reducing welfare, lowering taxes on low income families, offering tax breaks to small businesses, and promoting free trade.
- During the Clinton years, the economy experienced its longest economic growth in history. During the last four years of the Clinton administration, the federal budget had surpluses for the first time since 1969.
- Clinton took office fewer than two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the administration’s foreign policy addressed conflicts in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Haiti, through militarism and economic exploitation.
- The Clinton presidency saw the passage and signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which was a bipartisan measure expressing support for regime change in Iraq.
- Clinton considered himself a “New Democrat” and was a founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group of Democrats who promoted moderate policies.
- Clinton left office with the highest end of office approval rating of any president since World War II, but he was also the first U.S. president to be impeached since Andrew Johnson.
- Democratic Leadership Council: A non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation founded in 1985 that, upon its formation, argued the United States Democratic Party should shift away from the leftward turn it took in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The corporation hails President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of third way politicians.
- NAFTA: An agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. As of 2010, the trade bloc was the largest in the world, in terms of the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of its members.
- Iraq Liberation Act of 1998: A United States Congressional statement of policy calling for regime change in Iraq. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton and states that it is the policy of the United States to support democratic movements within Iraq. It was cited in October 2002 to argue for the authorization of military force against the Iraqi government.
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton served as President of the United States from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001. Clinton was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second full term; he was also the first president since Roosevelt, and the last until Barack Obama, to have not served in the military in any capacity.
The administration faced political opposition in 1994 when Republicans took control of both houses of Congress, but Clinton was reelected in 1996 after a failed attempt at health care reform. His presidency saw the passage of welfare reform in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, and reduced the number of welfare programs overall. This act received support from both political parties. He also signed the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was designed to prevent financial institutions from getting too big to fail. In addition, he signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which legalized over-the-counter derivatives. The Clinton presidency saw the escalation of the War on Drugs, prompting a swell in the prison population from 1.4 to 2 million.
While many welfare programs were reduced, various measures were also introduced to improve the effectiveness of the social safety net, including an increase in the number of child care locations, a significant expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, the introduction of new programs, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and a child tax credit.
Clinton’s presidency included a great period of economic growth in America’s history. In proposing a plan to cut the deficit, Clinton submitted a budget that would cut the deficit by $500 billion over five years by reducing $255 billion of spending and raising taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of Americans. Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA ), which he signed into law in 1994. The three-nation NAFTA had been signed by previous President George H. W. Bush during December of 1992, pending its ratification by the legislatures of the three countries. Clinton did not alter the original agreement; however, he complemented it with the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, making NAFTA the first “green” trade treaty, and the first trade treaty concerned with each country’s labor laws, albeit with very weak sanctions.
Socially, the administration began with efforts by Clinton to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, which culminated in a compromise known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” The policy theoretically allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they did not disclose their sexual orientation (the policy was later repealed in 2010). However, Clinton also signed the Defense of Marriage Act, considered by many to be a blow to the LGBT rights movement.
Clinton took office fewer than two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the administration’s foreign policy addressed conflicts in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Haiti, through militarism and economic exploitation. Clinton oversaw the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in Washington, D.C., which aimed at establishing peace between the warring nations by granting limited self-government of Palestinians in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Clinton presidency also saw the passage and signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which was a bipartisan measure expressing support for regime change in Iraq. On three separate occasions—in 1996, 1998, and 2000—the administration unsuccessfully attempted to capture or assassinate Osama Bin Laden, who was eventually killed by U.S. special operations forces in 2011.
Clinton considered himself a “New Democrat” and was a founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group of Democrats who promoted moderate policies. Clinton left office with the highest end of office approval rating of any president since World War II, but he was also the first U.S. president to be impeached since Andrew Johnson as a result of the Lewinsky scandal; however, like Johnson, he was acquitted by the Senate.
Clintonomics refers to the economic policies of United States President Bill Clinton during the 1990s.
Outline President Clinton’s economic policies
- According to American political scientist Jack Godwin, Clintonomics was more than a set of economic, fiscal, and monetary policies; it was a governing philosophy with political and economic elements, which routinely appropriated nominally Republican and Democratic ideas.
- Clintonomics entailed modernizing the federal government, making it more entrepreneurial, and distributing more authority to state and local governments; this meant making the government smaller, more flexible, less wasteful, and better suited for the global era.
- Economist Alan Greenspan served as the Chair of the Federal Reserve ‘s board of governors throughout Clinton’s presidency. The effects of appointing several other tight money proponents to the Federal Reserve showed up in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which stabilized consistently during the 1990s.
- Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 into law, which cut taxes for 15 million low-income families, made tax cuts available to 90% of small businesses, and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers.
- Clinton also strongly supported ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement ( NAFTA ), a treaty that eliminated tariffs and trade restrictions among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
- During Clinton’s administration, the nation began to experience the longest period of economic expansion in its history, almost ten consecutive years.
- Clintonomics: The economic policies associated with the administration of William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001).
- Alan Greenspan: An American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987-2006.
“Clintonomics” refers to the economic policies of United States President Bill Clinton during the 1990s, as well as the economic policies supported by his staff. According to American political scientist Jack Godwin, Clintonomics was more than a set of economic, fiscal, and monetary policies; it was a governing philosophy with political and economic elements, which routinely appropriated nominally Republican and Democratic ideas. In general, Clinton’s approach entailed modernizing the federal government, making it more entrepreneurial, and distributing more authority to state and local governments. This meant making the government smaller, more flexible, less wasteful, and better suited for the global era.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, the United States had just undergone 12 years of conservative policies implemented by Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Clinton ran on the economic platform of balancing the budget, lowering inflation, lowering unemployment, and continuing the traditionally conservative policies of free trade. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States, and during his presidency (1993-2001), he implemented several economic reforms.
The Policies of Clintonomics
Economist Alan Greenspan served as the Chair of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors throughout Clinton’s presidency. Clinton also appointed two widely considered “moderate advocates of tight money,” Alice Rivlin and Laurence Meyer, and other appointments to the central bank perpetuated this trend of moderates. The effects of appointing tight money proponents to the Federal Reserve showed up in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which stabilized during the 1990s at a fairly low rate, never rising above 5% during the Clinton presidency.
The only laws of the Clinton administration that could be considered deregulatory were the Telecom Reform Act of February 8, 1996, which eliminated ownership restrictions on radio and television; the pesticides legislation of 1996; and the Food and Drug Administration overhaul of 1997. All were signed into law by Clinton, along with the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which allowed banks, insurance companies, and investment houses to merge, thus repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which had been in place since 1932. Some point to this as a partial cause of the financial meltdown of 2008.
Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 into law. This Act cut taxes for 15 million low-income families, made tax cuts available to 90% of small businesses, and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2% of taxpayers. Additionally, through the implementation of spending restraints, it mandated the budget be balanced over a number of years. The cap was repealed on Medicare, taxes were raised 4.3 cents per gallon on transportation fuels, and the taxable portion of Social Security benefits was increased. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 represented a fundamental shift in both the methods and goals of federal cash assistance to the poor; the law fulfilled Clinton’s 1992 campaign promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it.”
Clinton also strongly supported ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a treaty that eliminated tariffs and trade restrictions among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The treaty had been negotiated by the Bush administration, and the leaders of all three nations had signed it in December 1992. However, because of strong opposition from American labor unions and some in Congress who feared the loss of jobs to Mexico, the treaty had not been ratified by the time Clinton took office. To allay the concerns of unions, Clinton added an agreement to protect workers, as well as an agreement to protect the environment. Congress ratified NAFTA late in 1993, and the result was the creation of the world’s largest common market by population, including some 425 million people.
Clinton’s macroeconomic policies can best be examined through three main categories: gross domestic product (GDP), inflation rates, and unemployment rates. Among many parts of Clinton’s policy to lower the deficit, he allowed for the passing of laws that raised the money in the U.S. Treasury. During his administration, the nation began to experience the longest period of economic expansion in its history, almost ten consecutive years. Year after year, job growth increased and the deficit shrank. Increased tax revenue and budget cuts turned the annual national budget deficit from close to $290 billion in 1992, to a record budget surplus of over $230 billion in 2000. Reduced government borrowing freed up capital for private-sector use, and lower interest rates in turn fueled more growth. During the Clinton years, more people owned homes than ever before in the country’s history (67.7%). Inflation dipped to 2.3 percent, and the unemployment rate declined, reaching a thirty-year low of 3.9 percent in 2000.
The “New Economy” of the 1990s
The “New Economy” refers to the U.S. transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service, information, and technology-based economy.
Examine the so-called “New Economy” of the 1990s
- The “New Economy ” term came to be popularized during the “dot-com bubble” of the late 1990s.
- In 1995, the U.S. economy began to grow quickly, which Robert J. Gordon attributed to five positive “shocks”: food-energy, imports, computers, medical care, and measurement. Other economists attributed the growth to the ripening benefits of the computer age.
- Gordon, however, argued that the benefits of computers were marginal or possibly negative for most firms. This assumption proved to have some truth, as evidenced by the 2001 recession.
- Some of the main elements of the New Economy were the emergence of the NASDAQ as a rival to the New York Stock Exchange, the high rate of IPOs, the rise of dot-com stocks over established firms, the prevalent use of stock options, outsourcing, and significant investment in technology companies.
- Kondratiev wave: A supposed cycle-like phenomena in the modern world economy, the period of which ranges from forty to sixty years, with the cycles consisting of alternating intervals between high sectoral growth and relatively slow growth.
- NASDAQ: National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, an electronic stock market.
- Start-ups: Companies or temporary organizations, generally newly created and in a phase of development and research for markets, designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model; the term became popular internationally during the dot-com bubble when a great number of dot-com companies were founded.
Overview: the “New Economy”
The “New Economy” is a term used to describe the result of the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service, information, and technology-based economy. This particular use of the term was popular during the “dot-com bubble” of the late 1990s, in which the high growth, low inflation, and high employment of the period led to overly optimistic predictions and many flawed business plans.
After a nearly 60-year period of unprecedented growth, the United States experienced a much-discussed economic slowdown beginning in 1972. However, around 1995, U.S. economic growth accelerated, driven by faster productivity growth. From 1972 to 1995, the growth rate of output per hour, a measure of labor productivity, had only averaged around 1% per year. By the mid 1990s, however, growth became much faster, averaging 2.65% from 1995 to 1999. The U.S. also experienced increased employment and decreasing inflation.
The economist Robert J. Gordon referred to this as a “Goldilocks economy,” the result of five positive “shocks”: the “two traditional shocks (food-energy and imports), and the three new shocks (computers, medical care, and measurement).” Other economists pointed to the delayed ripening benefits of the computer age, much like the delayed benefits of electricity shortly after the turn of the 20th century. According to another point of view, the “new economy” is a current Kondratiev wave which will end after a 50-year period in the 2040s; its innovative basis includes the Internet, nanotechnologies, telematics, and bionics. A 1983 cover story in Time magazine entitled “The New Economy” described the transition from heavy industry to a new technology-based economy; by 1997, Newsweek was referring to the “New Economy” in many of its articles.
Much of the prosperity of the 1990s was related to technological change and the advent of new information systems. In 1994, the Clinton administration became the first to launch an official White House website and join the revolution of the electronically mediated world. By the 1990s, a new world of instantaneous global exposure was at the fingertips of billions worldwide.
In the financial markets, the new economy has been associated with the “dot-com bubble.” This included the emergence of the NASDAQ as a rival to the New York Stock Exchange, a high rate of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs, or the first sale of stock by a private company to the public), the rise of dot-com stocks over established firms, and the prevalent use of such tools as stock options. In the wider economy, the term has been associated with practices such as outsourcing, business process outsourcing, and business process re-engineering.
Investment in Information Technology
During this time, there was also increased investment in companies in the technology sector. Stock shares rose dramatically and many start-ups were created. Newspapers and business leaders talked of new business models; some even claimed that the old laws of economics did not apply anymore and that new laws had taken their place. Many also claimed that the improvements in computer hardware and software would dramatically change the future, and that information was now the most important value in the New Economy.
Some, such as Joseph Stiglitz and Blake Belding, have suggested that high investment in information technology, especially in software and unused fiber optics, was useless. However, U.S. investment in information technology has remained relatively strong since 2002. While there may have been some over-investment, productivity research shows that much of the investment has been useful in raising output.
The recession of 2001 disproved many of the more extreme predictions made during the boom years, and gave credence to those that minimized the role of computers’ contributions. However, subsequent research strongly suggests that productivity growth has been stimulated by heavy investment in information and communication technology. Furthermore, strong productivity growth after the 2001 recession makes it likely that some of the gains of the late 1990s may endure.
The Healthcare Plan of 1993
Clinton appointed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to lead a task force on healthcare reform during his first term in office.
Summarize the controversy over Clinton’s 1993 healthcare initiative
- Having campaigned heavily on healthcare reform, President Bill Clinton set out to devise a universal healthcare plan, and appointed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton head of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform.
- The core element of the plan was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive, but closely regulated, health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
- The proposed plan was aggressively opposed by conservatives, libertarians, and the health insurance industry, which argued that it was overly bureaucratic and restrictive of patient choice.
- Eventually, even the compromise proposal introduced by Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell failed to gain enough support to pass the Senate. The defeat of this act weakened Clinton politically and laid the foundation for the Republican Revolution of 1994.
- “Harry and Louise” Ad: A year-long television advertising campaign funded by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), a health insurance industry lobby group, that ran intermittently from September 8, 1993 to September 1994 in opposition to President Bill Clinton’s proposed health care plan. Fourteen television advertisements, as well as radio and print advertising campaigns, depicted a fictional suburban middle-class married couple despairing over bureaucratic and other aspects of health care reform plans, and urged viewers to contact their representatives in Congress.
In 1993, a healthcare reform package was proposed by the administration of President Bill Clinton; it was also closely associated with the chair of the task force devising the plan, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bill Clinton had campaigned heavily on healthcare in the 1992 U.S. presidential election. The task force itself was created in January 1993, but its own processes were somewhat controversial and drew litigation. Its goal was to come up with a comprehensive plan to provide universal healthcare for all Americans, which was to be a cornerstone of the administration’s first-term agenda. A major healthcare speech was delivered by President Clinton to the U.S. Congress in September 1993. The core element of the proposed plan was an enforced mandate for employers to provide health insurance coverage to all of their employees through competitive, but closely regulated, health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
Many were unhappy with the way the system worked in the United States, where the cost of health insurance seemed increasingly unaffordable for the middle class. During this period, over 37 million Americans were completely without health insurance. However, opposition to the reform plan was heavy from conservatives, libertarians, and the health insurance industry. The industry produced a highly effective television ad, known as the “Harry and Louise” ad, in an effort to rally public support against the plan. Democrats, instead of uniting behind the President’s original proposal, offered a number of competing plans of their own. By September 1994, the final compromise Democratic bill was declared dead by Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell.
The bill was a complex proposal running more than 1,000 pages. The Clinton health plan required each U.S. citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan, and forbade their dis-enrollment until covered by another plan. It listed the minimum coverage and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate “regional alliances” of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be allocated to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993, and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.
Once in office, President Clinton quickly set up the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, headed by the first lady. Hillary Clinton’s leading role in this project was unprecedented for a presidential spouse. However, the plan ultimately backfired amid the barrage of fire from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries and considerably diminished her own popularity. The plan became more controversial due to the first lady’s participation in the secret proceedings of the Health Care Task Force (which led to litigation from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons), and due to the Act’s preponderance of red tape.
The outlook for the plan looked good in 1993; it had the support of a number of institutions, like the American Medical Association and the Health Insurance Association of America. But in relatively short order, the political winds changed. As budget battles distracted the administration, and the midterm elections of 1994 approached, Republicans began to recognize the strategic benefits of opposing reform.
Starting on September 28, 1993, Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared for several days of testimony before five congressional committees on healthcare. Opponents of the bill organized against it before it was presented to the Democratic-controlled Congress on November 20, 1993. Opposition to the Clinton plan was initiated by William Kristol and his policy group, Project for the Republican Future, which is widely credited with orchestrating the plan’s ultimate defeat through a series of now legendary “policy memos” faxed to Republican leaders. Conservatives, libertarians, the health insurance industry, and the conservative Heritage Foundation proceeded to campaign against the plan, criticizing it as being overly bureaucratic and restrictive of patient choice. Moderate conservatives dubbed the reform proposals “Hillarycare,” and argued that the bill was an unwarranted expansion of the powers of the federal government, and that it would interfere with people’s ability to choose the healthcare provider they wanted. Those further to the right argued that healthcare reform was part of a larger and nefarious plot to control the public.
In August 1994, Democratic Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell introduced a compromise proposal that would have delayed requirements of employers until 2002 and exempted small businesses. However, even with Mitchell’s bill, there were not enough Democratic Senators behind a single proposal to pass a bill, let alone stop a filibuster.
A few weeks later, Mitchell announced that his compromise plan was dead and that healthcare reform would have to wait at least until the next Congress. The defeat weakened Clinton politically, emboldened Republicans, and contributed to the notion that Hillary Clinton was a “big-government liberal,” as decried by conservative opponents.
The Election of 1996
Incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton won reelection over Republican candidate Bob Dole, and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot, in the 1996 election.
Summarize the key events of the 1996 presidential election
- Incumbent President Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee campaigned for re-election in the 1996 campaign.
- The Democrats were up against the Republican national ticket of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas for president, and former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp of New York for vice president.
- Businessman and reform candidate Ross Perot also ran in the 1996 presidential race; however, he was shut out from the debates and received little media attention. Perot later took both of these grievances to court.
- Clinton benefited from an economy that had recovered from the early 1990s recession, and a relatively stable world stage. He was able to use Dole’s flat tax plan to identify him with the unpopular Newt Gingrich.
- Clinton won reelection with a 8.2 million popular vote margin. The electoral map did not change very much from the previous election, with the major exceptions of Arizona and Florida.
- Bob Dole: An American politician who represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1996, and the House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969. In the 1976 presidential election, he was the Republican Party nominee for vice president, and incumbent President Gerald Ford’s running mate. In the presidential election of 1996, he was the Republican nominee for president against incumbent Bill Clinton.
- Ross Perot: An American businessman best known for running for President of the United States in 1992 and 1996.
Overview: the 1996 Presidential Election
The United States presidential election of 1996 was a contest between the Democratic national ticket of incumbent President Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee, and the Republican national ticket of former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas for President and former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp of New York for Vice President. Businessman Ross Perot ran as candidate for the Reform Party with economist Pat Choate as his running mate. Clinton benefited from an economy that had recovered from the early 1990s recession, and a relatively stable world stage. On November 5, 1996, President Clinton went on to win re-election with a substantial margin of the popular vote and electoral college.
A number of Republican candidates entered the field to challenge the incumbent Democratic President, Bill Clinton. The fragmented field of candidates debated issues such as a flat tax and other tax cut proposals, as well as a return to supply-side economic policies popularized by Ronald Reagan. More attention was drawn to the race by the budget stalemate in 1995 between Congress and the president, which caused temporary shutdowns and slowdowns in many areas of federal government service. In the Republican primaries, Bob Dole emerged as the successful candidate to run against Clinton and Perot.
The General Election Campaign
With respect to the issues, Bob Dole promised a 15% across-the-board reduction in income tax rates. Bill Clinton framed the narrative against Dole early, painting him as a mere clone of unpopular House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and warning America that Dole would work in concert with the Republican Congress to slash popular social programs, like Medicare and Social Security. Dole’s tax-cut plan found itself under attack from the White House, who said it would “blow a hole in the deficit,” which had been cut nearly in half during his opponent’s term.
Throughout the run-up to the general election, Clinton maintained comfortable leads in the polls over Dole and Perot. The televised debates featured only Dole and Clinton, locking out Perot and the other minor candidates from the discussion. Perot, who had been allowed to participate in the 1992 debates, would eventually take his case to court, seeking damages from not being in the debate, and citing unfair coverage from the major media outlets.
On election day, President Clinton won a decisive victory over Dole, becoming the first Democrat to win presidential reelection since Franklin Roosevelt. In the popular vote, he outpolled Dole by over 8.2 million votes. The Electoral College map did not change much from the previous election, with the Democratic incumbent winning 379 votes to the Republican ticket’s 159.
In the West, Dole managed to narrowly win Colorado and Montana (both had voted for Clinton in 1992), while Clinton became the first Democrat to win the state of Arizona since Harry Truman in 1948. Although he hailed from Arkansas, Clinton carried just four of the eleven states of the American South, illustrating a broader decline in support for the Democratic Party in the South. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the Democrats would fail to carry even one of the southern states, contributing to their defeat both times. The election helped to cement Democratic Presidential prospects in some states, including California, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut. All went on to vote Democratic in subsequent presidential elections, having voted Republican in the three prior to 1992.
Reform Party nominee Ross Perot won approximately 8% of the popular vote, less than half of his performance in 1992. The 1996 national exit poll showed that just as in 1992, Perot’s supporters drew from Clinton and Dole equally. In polls directed at Perot voters as to who would be a second choice, Clinton consistently held substantial leads.
Clinton and Domestic Policy
Clinton’s domestic policies included One America, reforms of the criminal justice system, and the implementation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Examine Clinton’s One America Initiative
- “One America in the 21st Century: The President’s Initiative on Race” was President Clinton’s initiative to encourage dialogue on racial divisions and diversity in communities and schools. The One America Initiative addressed race and diversity in schools. Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse school districts in the country, was one of the model counties for diversity in schools.
- The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was the largest crime bill in the history of the United States, providing for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons, and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs.
- The Act included a Federal Assault Weapons Ban, an expanded death penalty, the elimination of higher education for inmates, and a variety of new defined crimes relating to immigration law, hate crimes, sex crimes, and gang-related crime. The Act led to increased incarceration and prison overcrowding.
- Though Clinton was thought to be socially liberal and initially sought to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, opposition from Republicans led to the passage of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
- Clinton also faced the challenge of increasing domestic terrorism, as seen in the Waco siege in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
- One America Initiative: A critical element in President Clinton’s effort to prepare his country to embrace diversity. The main thrust of the effort was convening and encouraging community dialogue throughout the country on how to heal racial and ethnic divisions wherever they exist.
In addition to shifting the Democratic Party to the moderate center on economic issues, Clinton tried to break new ground on a number of domestic issues and make good on traditional Democratic commitments to the disadvantaged, minority groups, and women. At the same time, he faced the challenge of domestic terrorism when a federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.
On June 14, 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced One America in the 21st Century: the President’s Initiative on Race. This initiative, established with Executive Order 13050, was a critical element in President Clinton’s effort to prepare his country to embrace diversity. The main thrust of the effort was convening and encouraging community dialogue throughout the country. The committee developed dialogue guidelines designed to help communities discuss how to heal racial and ethnic divisions wherever they exist.
President Clinton introduced the initiative during his commencement speech to the graduating class of the University of California, San Diego. In the speech, he discussed his own experience growing up in the segregated South. The audience included several figures from the Civil Rights Movement, including Congresspersons John Lewis, Maxine Waters, Jim Clyburn, Juanita Millender-McDonald, Patsy Mink, and Robert Filner. The Advisory Board was introduced to the audience as well. President Clinton identified three imperatives for the initiative to focus on: expanding opportunity, demanding responsibility, and creating “one American community” based on respect and shared values.
I want this panel to help educate Americans about the facts surrounding issues of race, to promote a dialogue in every community of the land to confront and work through these issues, to recruit and encourage leadership at all levels to help breach racial divides, and to find, develop, and recommend how to implement concrete solutions to our problems—solutions that will involve all of us in government, business, communities, and as individual citizens.
President Clinton expressed his vision of an America based on opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a unified community. He acknowledged that, even as America rapidly was becoming the world’s first truly multi-racial democracy, race relations remained an issue that too often divided the nation and kept the American dream from being real for everyone who worked for it. The One America Initiative addressed race and diversity in schools. Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse school districts in the country, was one of the model counties of diversity in schools.
The Criminal Justice System
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was an Act of Congress dealing with crime and law enforcement. It is the largest crime bill in the history of the United States, and consisted of 356 pages that provided for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons, and $6.1 billion in funding for prevention programs, which were designed with significant input from experienced police officers. Sponsored by Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, the bill was originally written by Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, and then was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton.
Following the 101 California Street shooting, the 1993 Waco Siege, and other high-profile instances of violent crime, the Act expanded federal law in several ways. One of the most noted sections was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Other parts of the Act provided for a greatly expanded federal death penalty, new classes of individuals banned from possessing firearms, the elimination of higher education for inmates, and a variety of new crimes defined in statutes relating to immigration law, hate crimes, sex crimes, and gang-related crime. The bill also required states to establish registries for sexual offenders by September 1997.
The increase in incarceration as a result of the Act led to prison overcrowding. The legal system began to rely on plea bargains to minimize the increased case load. Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton later expressed regret over the portions of the measure that led to increased prison population, such as the “three strikes” provision.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA
Although Clinton had campaigned as an economically conservative New Democrat, he was thought to be socially liberal, and, just days after his victory in the 1992 election, he promised to end the 50-year ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military. However, in January 1993, after taking the oath of office, Clinton amended his promise in order to appease conservatives. Instead of lifting the longstanding ban, the armed forces would adopt a policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; those on active duty would not be asked their sexual orientation and, if they were gay, they were not to discuss their sexuality openly or they would be dismissed from military service. This compromise satisfied neither conservatives seeking the exclusion of gays, nor the gay community, which argued that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, should be able to live without fear of retribution because of their sexuality.
Clinton again proved himself willing to appease political conservatives when he signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in September 1996, after both houses of Congress passed it with such wide margins that a presidential veto could easily be overridden. DOMA defined marriage as a heterosexual union, and denied federal benefits to same-sex couples. It also allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted by other states.
The fears of those who saw government as little more than a necessary evil appeared to be confirmed in the spring of 1993, when federal and state law enforcement authorities laid siege to the compound of a religious sect called the Branch Davidians, near Waco, Texas. The group, which believed the end of world was approaching, was suspected of weapons violations and resisted search-and-arrest warrants with deadly force. A standoff developed that lasted nearly two months and was captured on television each day. A final assault on the compound was made on April 19, and 76 men, women, and children died in a fire thought to be set by members of the sect. Many others committed suicide or were killed by fellow sect members.
Two years later, on the anniversary of the day that the Waco compound burned to the ground, former U.S. Army soldier Timothy McVeigh parked a rented truck full of explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and blew it up. More than 600 people were injured in the attack and 168 died, including 19 children at the daycare center inside. McVeigh hoped that his actions would spark a revolution against government control. He and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, were both arrested and tried, and McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, for what was at the time considered the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil. Just a few months later, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 broke that record.
Clinton and Foreign Policy
With the end of the Cold War, President Clinton was faced with international crises in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Haiti.
Examine Clinton’s foreign policy successes and failures
- In September 1993, Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, signed the Oslo Accords at the White House, granting some self-rule to Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
- As a small measure of stability was brought to the Middle East, violence erupted in the Balkans, followed by an intervention from NATO and U.S. participation in airstrikes against Bosnian Serbs.
- Failed use of force against a warlord in Somalia led to Clinton’s reluctance to intervene in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which 800,000 were massacred.
- After a coup in Haiti in 1991, Clinton’s administration militarily intervened to reestablish President Aristide in Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994. The U.S. government reinstalled Aristide on the condition that his government adopt specific economic policies.
- Jean-Bertrand Aristide: A Haitian, former Catholic priest, and politician who served as Haiti’s first democratically elected president (1990-1991), until a September 1991 military coup. He was then president again from 1994 to 1996, and from 2001 to 2004, until ousted again in a February 2004 coup.
- Dayton Accords: The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the peace agreement reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, United States, in November 1995, that put an end to the 3 1⁄2-year-long Bosnian War, which was one of the Yugoslav Wars.
- Colin Powell: An American statesman and retired four-star general in the United States Army; the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, and the first African-American to serve in that position.
Overview: Clinton’s International Policy
For decades, the contours of the Cold War had largely determined U.S. action abroad. Strategists saw each coup, revolution, and civil war as part of the larger struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, President Clinton was faced with international crises in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Haiti, on their own terms. He envisioned a post-Cold War role in which the United States used its overwhelming military superiority, and its influence as global police, to preserve the peace. This foreign policy strategy had both success and failure.
The Middle East
One relative success was a level of peace in the Middle East during Clinton’s administration. In September 1993, Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, signed the Oslo Accords at the White House, granting some self-rule to Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A year later, the Clinton administration helped facilitate a second settlement and negotiation of relations between Israel and Jordan.
As a small measure of stability was brought to the Middle East, violence erupted in the Balkans. The Communist country of Yugoslavia consisted of six provinces: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Each was occupied by a number of ethnic groups, some of which shared a history of hostile relations. In May 1980, the leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, died. Without him to hold the country together, ethnic tensions increased, and this, along with the breakdown of communism elsewhere in Europe, led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared their independence. In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina did as well. Only Serbia and Montenegro remained united as the Serbian-dominated Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Almost immediately, ethnic tensions within Bosnia and Herzegovina escalated into war when Yugoslavian Serbs aided Bosnian Serbs who did not wish to live in an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina. These Bosnian Serbs proclaimed the existence of autonomous Serbian regions within the country, and attacked Bosnian Muslims and Croats. During the conflict, the Serbs engaged in genocide, described by some as “ethnic cleansing.” The brutal conflict also gave rise to the systematic rape of “enemy” women—generally Muslim women exploited by Serbian military or paramilitary forces. The International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia estimated that between 12,000-50,000 women were raped during the war.
The North American Treaty Organization (NATO) eventually intervened in 1995, and Clinton agreed to U.S. participation in airstrikes against Bosnian Serbs. That year, the Dayton Accords peace settlement was signed in Dayton, Ohio. Four years later, the United States, acting with other NATO members, launched an air campaign against Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia to stop it from attacking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Although these attacks were not sanctioned by the United Nations (UN), and were criticized by Russia and China, Yugoslavia withdrew its forces from Kosovo in June 1999.
Somalia and Rwanda
In December of 1992, President George H. W. Bush had sent a contingent of U.S. soldiers to Somalia, initially to protect and distribute relief supplies to civilians as part of a UN mission. Without an effective Somali government, however, the warlords who controlled different regions often stole food, and their forces endangered the lives of UN workers. In 1993, the Clinton administration sent soldiers to capture one of the warlords, Mohammed Farah Aidid, in the city of Mogadishu. The resulting battle proved disastrous. A Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, and U.S. Army Rangers and members of Delta Force spent hours battling their way through the streets; 84 soldiers were wounded and 19 died. The United States withdrew, leaving Somalia to struggle.
The sting of the Somalia failure probably contributed to Clinton’s reluctance to send U.S. forces to end the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In the days of brutal colonial rule by European forces, Belgian administrators had given control to Tutsi tribal chiefs, although Hutus constituted a majority of the population. Resentment over ethnic privileges, and the discrimination that began then and continued after independence in 1962, erupted into civil war in 1980. The Hutu majority began to slaughter the Tutsi minority and their Hutu supporters. In 1998, while visiting Rwanda, Clinton apologized for having done nothing to save the lives of the 800,000 massacred in 100 days of genocidal slaughter.
Military Coup in Haiti
In September 1991, a military coup led by Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras ousted Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who escaped to the United States. In 1993, thousands of Haitians tried to flee to the United States as well, but more than half were sent back to Haiti by the U.W. Coast Guard. Although Clinton had criticized former President Bush for returning Haitian refugees to their country, he continued part of Bush’s policy because he feared that accepting refugees might encourage many more to flee to the United States, and slow the formation of a democratic government in the country.
Operation Uphold Democracy
In 1994, Clinton publicly demanded that the Haitian military junta step aside and restore democratic rule, despite the fact that, before the coup, Washington had repeatedly undermined Aristide’s regime. Congress was united in opposition to American intervention. Despite this opposition, however, Clinton deployed a large U.S. military force to the country in September 1994. Operation Uphold Democracy (September 19, 1994-March 31, 1995) was an intervention designed to remove the military regime installed by the 1991 coup; the operation was effectively authorized by the UN Security Council’s Resolution 940, on July 31, 1994.
The operation began with a preparation to invade, and a diplomatic envoy to Haiti led by former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell. This delegation persuaded the leaders of Haiti to step down and allow the elected officials to return to power. Cédras agreed, and surrendered the government to Aristide. Cédras and his top lieutenants left the country in October, and just days later, U.S. troops escorted Aristide into the capital. The democratic government of Aristride was restored, but only on the condition that it adopt the economic program of the defeated U.S.-backed candidate in the 1990 elections.
This effort was successful in part because the U.S. delegation was able to point to the massed forces poised to enter the country. Once Cédras agreed to step down, the mission changed from a combat operation to a so-called “peace-keeping” and nation-building operation with the deployment of the U.S.-led multinational force in Haiti. Special forces teams and marine teams were deployed throughout the country. Operation Uphold Democracy officially ended on March 31, 1995, when it was replaced by the UN Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). From March 1995 until March 1996, 2,400 U.S. personnel from the original Operation Uphold Democracy remained as a support group under a new operation, called Operation New Horizons.
The Impeachment of Bill Clinton
In 1998, Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice by the House of Representatives; he was later acquitted by the Senate.
Evaluate the impeachment of Bill Clinton
- President Clinton was impeached on two charges, one of perjury and one of obstruction of justice, stemming from independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation into the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones.
- The independent counsel investigation originally dealt with a failed real estate venture of the 70s and 80s; when Starr could find no evidence of wrong-doing, he expanded to investigate other allegations.
- When a federal court dismissed Jones’s suit in 1998, her lawyers submitted a list of other alleged victims of Clinton’s harassment; that list included the name of Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern.
- Though both Lewinsky and Clinton denied under oath that they had had a sexual relationship, Lewinsky later admitted to an affair, and Starr submitted his report to the House of Representatives accusing Clinton of perjury.
- Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice on December 19th, 1998, with the House voting along partisan lines.
- Clinton was later acquitted by the Senate on February 12th, 1999; with a two-thirds majority required for conviction (i.e., 67 out of 100 senators), only 45 senators voted guilty on the perjury charge, and 50 on the obstruction charge.
- Clinton was only the second U.S. president to ever be impeached; the first was Andrew Johnson. Nevertheless, he remained a popular president and left office at the end of his second term with an approval rating of 66%, the highest of any U.S. president.
- William Rehnquist: An American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States. Considered a conservative, he favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment’s reservation of powers to the states.
- perjury: The intentional act of swearing a false oath or of falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to an official proceeding.
- ken starr: An American lawyer and educational administrator who was also a federal judge; best known for his investigation during the Clinton administration.
- Janet Reno: Served as the Attorney General of the United States from 1993 to 2001.
On December 19, 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on two charges, one of perjury and one of obstruction of justice, arising from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones lawsuit. Two other impeachment articles, a second perjury charge, and a charge of abuse of power failed in the House.
Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. With a two-thirds majority required for conviction (i.e., 67 out of 100 senators), only 45 senators voted guilty on the perjury charge and 50 on the obstruction charge. Clinton was, thus, 17 votes shy of being removed from office on the latter charge. The voting in the House and Senate was largely partisan; in the House, only five Democratic Representatives voted to impeach, while in the Senate, which had 55 Republican Senators, none of the Democratic Senators voted for conviction. It was only the second impeachment of a president in American history, the other being that of Andrew Johnson, who was also acquitted by the Senate (by the margin of a single vote).
The Independent Counsel Investigation
The charges arose from an investigation by independent counsel Ken Starr. Originally dealing with the Clintons’ possible improper involvement in a failed real estate venture associated with the Whitewater Development Corporation in Arkansas in the 1970s and 1980s, Starr—with the approval of United States Attorney General Janet Reno—conducted a wide ranging investigation of alleged abuses. While Starr was never able to prove any wrongdoing, he soon turned up other allegations, and his investigative authority was expanded. In May 1994, Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton, and Starr’s office began to investigate this case. When a federal court dismissed Jones’s suit in 1998, her lawyers promptly appealed the decision and submitted a list of other alleged victims of Clinton’s harassment. That list included the name of Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern.
Both Lewinsky and Clinton denied under oath that they had had a sexual relationship. The evidence, however, indicated otherwise, and Starr began to investigate the possibility that Clinton had committed perjury. Again, Clinton denied any relationship and even went on national television to assure the American people that he had never had sexual relations with Lewinsky. However, after receiving a promise of immunity, Lewinsky turned over to Starr evidence of her affair with Clinton, and the president admitted he had indeed had inappropriate relations with her. He nevertheless denied that he had lied under oath. At the deposition, the judge ordered a precise legal definition of the term “sexual relations” that Clinton claims to have construed to mean only vaginal intercourse. He also contended that his statement that “there’s nothing going on between us” had been truthful because he had no ongoing relationship with Lewinsky at the time he was questioned.
Impeachment by the House of Representatives
In September 1997, Starr submitted his findings to Congress in a lengthy document (the so-called Starr Report) in which he reported that he believed Clinton had committed perjury. Voting along partisan lines, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives sent articles of impeachment to the Senate, charging Clinton with lying under oath and obstructing justice. Since Starr had already completed an extensive investigation, the House Judiciary Committee conducted no investigations of its own into Clinton’s alleged wrongdoing. The House began impeachment hearings against Clinton before the mid-term elections.
Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998, by the House of Representatives on grounds of perjury to a grand jury (by a 228-206 vote) and obstruction of justice (by a 221-212 vote). Two other articles of impeachment failed–a second count of perjury in the Jones case (by a 205-229 vote) and one accusing Clinton of abuse of power (by a 148-285 vote). Four Republicans opposed all four articles, while five Democrats voted for three of them, and one Democrat for all four.
Acquittal by the U.S. Senate
The Senate refused to meet to hold an impeachment trial before the end of the old term, so the trial was held over until the next Congress. The Senate trial began on January 7, 1999, with Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist presiding. It ended on February 12, when the Senate emerged from its closed deliberations and voted on the articles of impeachment. The perjury charge was defeated with 45 votes for conviction and 55 against, and the obstruction of justice charge was defeated with 50 for conviction and 50 against.
Although acquitted, Clinton did become the first president to be found in contempt of court. Nevertheless, although he lost his law license, he remained a popular president and left office at the end of his second term with an approval rating of 66%, the highest of any U.S. president.