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, University College, 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 perjury and obstruction of justice, relating to a sex scandal involving 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, the first being Andrew Johnson. 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, participated in the 2000 Camp David Summit to advance the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and assisted the Northern Ireland 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 scored high in the historical rankings of U.S. presidents, consistently placing in the top third. 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 the presidential campaigns of his wife and Barack Obama. 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. In addition, he managed to successfully secure the release of two American journalists imprisoned by North Korea, visiting the capital Pyongyang and negotiating their release with Kim Jong-il.
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. His policy of fiscal conservatism helped to reduce deficits on budgetary matters. Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. The Congressional Budget Office reported budget surpluses of $69 billion in 1998, $126 billion in 1999, and $236 billion in 2000, during the last three years of Clinton’s presidency. 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. 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. 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.
As the first baby boomer president, Clinton was the first chief executive since Calvin Coolidge who was not alive during World War II. Authors Martin Walker and Bob Woodward stated that Clinton’s innovative use of sound bite-ready dialogue, personal charisma, and public perception-oriented campaigning were a major factor in his high public approval ratings. When Clinton played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show, he was described by some religious conservatives as “the MTV president”. Opponents sometimes referred to him as “Slick Willie”, a nickname which was first applied to him in 1980 by Pine Bluff Commercial journalist Paul Greenberg; Greenberg believed that Clinton was abandoning the progressive policies of previous Arkansas Governors such as Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers and David Pryor. The claim “Slick Willie” would last throughout his presidency. Standing at a height of 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), Clinton is tied with five others as the fourth-tallest president in the nation’s history. His folksy manner led him to be nicknamed Bubba, especially in the South. Since 2000, he has frequently been referred to as “The Big Dog” or “Big Dog”. His prominent role in campaigning for President Obama during the 2012 presidential election and his widely publicized speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he officially nominated Obama and criticized Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Republican policies in detail, earned him the nickname “Explainer-in-Chief”.
Clinton drew strong support from the African American community and insisted that the improvement of race relations would be a major theme of his presidency. In 1998, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison called Clinton “the first Black president”, saying, “Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas”. Morrison noted that Clinton’s sex life was scrutinized more than his career accomplishments, and she compared this to the stereotyping and double standards that, she said, blacks typically endure. Many viewed this comparison as unfair and disparaging to both Clinton and the African-American community at large. Clinton, a Baptist, has been open about his faith.
Shortly after Clinton took office, Richard Mellon Scaife, a conservative newspaper owner, began to underwrite investigations into Clinton’s past, reportedly with the hope of discovering a scandal which would cost him his presidency. Leading the Arkansas Project, Scaife and other associates sought to find sources in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas who would be able to reveal hidden misconduct of the president.
In 1994, Paula Jones initiated a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, claiming that he made unwanted advances towards her in 1991; Clinton denied the allegations. In April 1998, the case was initially dismissed by Judge Susan Webber Wright on the grounds that it lacked legal merit. Jones appealed Webber Wright’s ruling, and her suit gained traction following Clinton’s admission to having an affair with Monica Lewinsky in August 1998. In 1998, lawyers for Paula Jones released court documents that alleged a pattern of sexual harassment by Clinton when he was Governor of Arkansas. Robert S. Bennett, Clinton’s main lawyer for the case, called the filing “a pack of lies” and “an organized campaign to smear the President of the United States” funded by Clinton’s political enemies. Clinton later agreed to an out-of-court settlement and paid Jones $850,000. Bennett said that the president made the settlement only so he could end the lawsuit for good and move on with his life. During the deposition for the Jones lawsuit, which was held at the White House, Clinton denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky – a denial that became the basis for an impeachment charge of perjury.
In 1992, Gennifer Flowers stated that she had a relationship with Clinton that began in 1980. Flowers at first denied that she had an affair with Clinton, but later changed her story. After Clinton at first denied having a relationship with Flowers on 60 Minutes, he later admitted that he had a sexual encounter with Flowers.
Various colleges and universities have awarded Clinton honorary degrees, including Doctorate of Law degreesand Doctor of Humane Letters degrees. He is an Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar, although he did not complete his studies there. Schools have been named for Clinton, and statues have been built to pay him homage. U.S. states where he has been honored include Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New York. He was presented with the Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 2001. The Clinton Presidential Center was opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in his honor on December 5, 2001.
He has been honored in various other ways, in countries that include the Czech Republic, Papua New Guinea, Germany, and Kosovo. The Republic of Kosovo, in gratitude for his help during the Kosovo War, renamed a major street in the capital city of Pristina as Bill Clinton Boulevard and added a monumental Clinton statue.
Clinton was selected as Time’s “Man of the Year” in 1992, and again in 1998, along with Ken Starr. From a poll conducted of the American people in December 1999, Clinton was among eighteen included in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century.He was honored with a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children, a J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, a TED Prize (named for the confluence of technology, entertainment and design), and was named as an Honorary GLAAD Media Award recipient for his work as an advocate for the LGBT community.
In 2011, President Michel Martelly of Haiti awarded Clinton with the National Order of Honour and Merit to the rank of Grand Cross “for his various initiatives in Haiti and especially his high contribution to the reconstruction of the country after the earthquake of January 12, 2010”. Clinton declared at the ceremony that “in the United States of America, I really don’t believe former American presidents need awards anymore, but I am very honored by this one, I love Haiti, and I believe in its promise”.
U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Clinton the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 20, 2013.