William J. Clinton
|August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas
|Clinton and his wife Hillary divide their time between New York and Washington, D.C.
|States in Union
|Albert A. Gore, Jr.
|Hillary Rodham Clinton (Wife)
|Lawyer, Professor, Public Official
Clinton’s parents were William Blythe and Virginia Dwire Clinton. Clinton married Hillary Rodham in 1975. They have one daughter, Chelsea.
Clinton won the presidency in a three-way race against the incumbent President Bush and the Independent candidate, Texas businessman Ross Perot, by campaigning on a message of change.
Foreign affairs dominated Clinton’s presidency just as they had for President Bush. Clinton successfully negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which eliminated trade barriers and created the world’s largest free trade zone. In 1994 Clinton helped to obtain peace in Haiti by sending 20,000 troops to reinstate its ousted president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide had become Haiti’s first freely elected leader in 1990, but was ousted only eight months later. The following year Clinton sent U.S. troops to lead a NATO attack against Serbian forces that were engaged in ethnic cleansing and also bombed Iraq when Saddam Hussein prevented UN weapons inspections. Clinton also met multiple times with the leaders of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in an effort to bring a lasting peace to the Middle East, but no formal agreements were realized.
In domestic affairs, Clinton pushed early in his presidency for new economic and social policies, such as health care reform and the acceptance of gays in the military. Though he was not able to overhaul the health care system and implement universal care as he had hoped, he did obtain passage of the Family Medical Leave Act that requires companies to provide workers with up to three months of unpaid leave for family and medical emergencies. The acceptance of gays in the military required a compromise that became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” assuring that gay people could serve as long as they did not reveal their sexuality. Later in his tenure Clinton worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans to fashion a complete overhaul of the country’s welfare system. Clinton also emphasized a conservative fiscal policy and managed to pass the first balanced budget in almost 30 years. Indeed, Clinton presided over the longest economic boom in American history. The economy prospered with high levels of employment and home ownership. The prosperous economy helped to ensure Clinton was elected to a second term.”
A number of personal scandals rocked Clinton’s tenure in office, but it was accusations of misconduct with a 21-year old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky that nearly ruined his presidency. At first Clinton denied the allegations, but in the end he admitted to the grand jury that he had had an “inappropriate relationship” with Lewinsky. The House of Representatives impeached Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, but he was acquitted by the Senate. Remarkably, Clinton maintained his highest approval ratings ever throughout the impeachment process.
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” (Inaugural Address; January 20, 1993)
During his European visit to honor the World War II dead on the anniversary of D-Day in France, Clinton stated, “We are the sons and daughters of the world they saved. [Now is our moment] to make common cause with other countries to ensure a world of peace and prosperity for yet another generation.” (June 6, 1994)
“For too long we’ve been told about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Each and every election we see a new slate of arguments and ads telling us that ‘they’ are the problem, not ‘us.’ But there can be no ‘them’ in America. There’s only ‘us.’ ”
At This Time
1993: Clinton announces that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will lead the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, which is charged with reforming the nation’s health care system • Clinton signs the Family Medical Leave Act that requires companies to provide workers with up to three months of unpaid leave for family and medical emergencies • On February 26 six people are killed after a bomb planted under the World Trade Center in New York City explodes • Clinton appoints Vice President Al Gore to head the National Performance Review, which will devise an initiative entitled “Reinventing Government” • The initiative streamlines government by reducing the number of federal employees; it also cuts federal spending as a percentage of GDP to levels unseen since the Kennedy administration • The Senate confirms Janet Reno as Attorney General, the first woman to serve in the position • n April federal law enforcement officers end a 51-day standoff against a religious cult led by self-styled messiah David Koresh in Waco, Texas • In June the U.S. Navy attacks Iraqi intelligence operations in downtown Baghdad after learning that Iraqis had plotted to kill former President Bush during his April 1993 visit to Kuwait • In July Vince Foster, deputy counsel to the President, is found dead in a Northern Virginia park • Authorities rule his death a suicide, but subsequent federal investigators will re-open the case in the future • The Senate confirms Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and she becomes the second woman to sit on the high court • Clinton signs the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which lays out a plan to reduce the budget deficit by $496 billion through 1998, using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases • Clinton presides over a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sign the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the first agreement between Jews and Palestinians, providing for Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank • An elite American special forces unit searching for Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu is ambushed by Aidid’s forces, leaving 18 Americans dead • Three days later, Clinton announces that all American military personnel in Somalia will be home by March 31, 1994 • Clinton signs the Brady Act, which requires a potential handgun purchaser to wait five days while a background check is performed • In December Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) • 1994 Clinton attends the NATO summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at which he announces that the U.S. will maintain at least 100,000 troops in Europe • He also introduces the “Partnership for Peace” program aimed at building closer ties between NATO and former Warsaw Pact states • Clinton ends the 19-year old trade embargo against Vietnam • Clinton renews China’s Most Favored Nation trade status • In June Clinton unveils his welfare reform initiatives • Clinton meets with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and King Hussein of Jordan; the talks result in Israel and Jordan agreeing in principle to end nearly 50 years of official antagonism • Clinton signs into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that includes provisions providing for the hiring of 100,000 more policemen, and the expansion of the death penalty to cover more than 50 federal crimes • After a tense stand-off with the Clinton administration, Haiti’s military government agrees to cede power and reinstate its democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide • In October the Clinton administration announces plans to send more than 35,000 troops to the Persian Gulf to deter an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait • Less than three days after the announcement, Iraqi troops pull back • The Senate votes to approve the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which cuts tariffs by more than a third on a wide-range of products and creates a freer international market for goods • Clinton, along with the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, signs the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in Budapest, Hungary • The treaty eliminates more than 9,000 warheads • 1995: Clinton signs the Congressional Accountability Act, requiring Congress to abide by the same anti-discrimination workplace rules that apply throughout the rest of the country • Clinton authorizes the U.S. Treasury Department to make an emergency loan of up to $20 billion to Mexico • On April 19, in an act of domestic terrorism, a bomb planted in a truck parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City kills 168 people and causes massive structural damage • The U.S. extends full diplomatic recognition of Vietnam, 22 years after the U.S. withdrew military forces from that country • NATO, with a strong contingent of American forces, begins two weeks of air attacks on Serbian positions • In October Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin meet in Hyde Park, New York, and continue to discuss ways to improve relations between the two nations, especially with regard to the issue of nuclear arms • In the months of November and December Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress struggle over how to balance the budget by 2002 • Failure to reach an agreement leads to the shut-down of certain parts of the federal government • In November the representatives of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia agree in principle to a peace agreement, to end three years of war in Bosnia • The agreement establishes a unitary Bosnian state and allows refugees to return home • 1996: Clinton signs a bill giving presidents the power of the “line-item veto,” which allows presidents to veto specific items in spending and tax bills without vetoing the entire measure • Clinton signs a health care reform bill that he expects to expand coverage for many Americans • The measure specifically allows workers who change or lose their jobs to keep their health insurance coverage • Clinton signs a welfare reform bill that radically restructures the American welfare system • The provisions of the new law limit recipients of welfare benefits and enact a “welfare to work” initiative • In September Clinton orders a cruise missile strike against Iraq after Saddam Hussein leads a siege against the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq • An overwhelming majority of UN members, including the U.S., agree to a treaty banning all nuclear weapons testing • Madeline Albright becomes the first woman to serve as Secretary of State • 1997: The Senate votes 99-0 to approve an investigation into the “improper” and “illegal” fund-raising tactics of both the White House and members of Congress • Clinton and President Yeltsin of Russia meet at Helsinki, Finland, and agree to begin negotiations on another nuclear arms reduction treaty (START III) as soon as both nations ratify START II • The U.S. Senate had ratified START II in January 1996 • The Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention, making illegal the production, acquisition, stockpiling, or use of chemical weapons • The Clinton administration and Republican congressional leaders agree in principle to a 5-year budget plan to eliminate the budget deficit • Clinton signs legislation providing for a balanced budget by 2002 • Attorney General Janet Reno announces that the Justice Department’s investigation into allegations that the Clinton administration violated campaign finance laws, has uncovered no major violations • In October Clinton welcomes President Jiang Zemin of China for a state visit • Clinton orders the U.S. government to contribute $3 billion to an international bail-out of Indonesia totaling over $22 billion to help stabilize the shaky financial situation in Southeast Asia • 1998: On January 20 news breaks that Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with a former White House intern, and Clinton denies the allegations • Clinton leaves on a six-country tour of Africa • Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland sign the “Good Friday Peace Accords,” a substantial agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process • In August terrorists bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 20 Americans • U.S. intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile and alleged terrorist leader, is behind the attacks • On August 20, the U.S. military launches reprisal strikes on “terrorist related facilities” in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s country of residence, and Sudan • In September the Office of the Independent Counsel releases its report on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, which asserts that grounds for impeachment against the president exist • After nine days of negotiations Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sign the Wye River Memorandum • Clinton mediates the negotiations, which result in an agreement highlighted by a three-stage withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank • Clinton orders a bombing attack against Iraq after Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors • On December 19 the House of Representatives votes to impeach President Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice • 1999: On February 12 the Senate acquits President Clinton on both articles of impeachment • In March the U.S. leads NATO attacks against Serbia in response to Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Albania and reports of ethnic cleansing • The U.S. and China agree to a trade treaty reducing tariffs and other trade barriers • 2000: The Labor Department announces that the nation’s business expansion has reached eight years and eleven months, marking the longest economic expansion in American history • Clinton sends a bill to Congress asking for permanent normal trade relations with China • Congress approves the bill, and Clinton signs it October 10 • In June Clinton holds his first summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin • They reaffirm each nation’s commitment to strategic arms reductions, but disagree over American plans to research and develop a missile-defense system • In July Clinton hosts Israeli leader Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David but after two weeks of talks, the summit breaks up with no agreement • In September Independent Counsel Robert Ray announces that his investigation has not discovered enough evidence to indict the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings • The presidential elections in Yugoslavia become highly controversial as the incumbent leader, President Slobodan Milosevic, who has held the office for 13 years refuses to accept that Vojislav Kostunica has been elected as the new president • Tens of thousands of people demonstrate and storm the Parliament building to ensure that Kostunica is installed as president
Did You Know?
Clinton was the first Democratic president to win reelection since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Clinton was always an excellent student and became the first president to be a Rhodes Scholar. He chose to study international politics while at Oxford University, then he returned to the U.S. to study law at Yale. Clinton’s passion lay not solely with his studies, however. He also excelled as a saxophone player and during his younger years had considered becoming a professional musician.
When Clinton was in high school, he was a delegate in the American Legion’s Boys Nation program, which provided the opportunity for him to meet President Kennedy at a White House reception. Shaking the president’s hand was life changing for Clinton and from that moment he decided to dedicate his life to politics.
Showcase of the Clinton Administration’s legacy sponsored by the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Biographical information, essays, and access to Clinton’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Field Trips for Bill Clinton
The Clinton Center and Birthplace
Built in 1917 this wood-frame house was William J. Clinton’s first home. After the death of his father three months before his birth in 1946, Clinton lived with his maternal grandparents until his mother’s remarriage in 1950.
William J. Clinton Presidential Center
Little Rock, Arkansas
Housing the most comprehensive digital archive of presidential materials to date, the Clinton Presidential Center site includes the Presidential Library and Museum and the renovated Choctaw Station, built in 1899, home of the Clinton School of Public Service.