AP®︎/College US History
The presidency of Bill Clinton
Read about Clinton's domestic policies and scandal-ridden second term.
- Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States. He was elected in 1992 and reelected in 1996, becoming the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve two terms in office.
- Clinton came to the White House with an ambitious domestic policy agenda centered on economic growth and immediately took steps to reduce the federal budget deficit.
- Clinton’s second term was marred by scandal, as he was impeached for lying to Congress and the American people about an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
- Despite the Lewinsky affair, Clinton left the White House with the highest approval rating of any US president in the post-World War II era.
Bill Clinton’s rise to power
Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope, Arkansas in 1946 but formally adopted his stepfather’s surname, Clinton, when he was fifteen years old. He attended Georgetown University and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford before going on to earn his law degree at Yale. He served one term as Attorney General of the state of Arkansas and was elected governor in 1978.
Photograph of Bill Clinton.
Frequently referred to as the “Boy Governor” because of his young age (he was 32 years old), Clinton enacted reforms in the areas of education, welfare, and healthcare. He was reelected in 1982 and became a leader of the New Democrats, a centrist wing of the Democratic Party that sought to decrease the size and scope of the federal government—a goal to which progressives and liberals were vehemently opposed.
In 1992, he secured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and won in a three-way race against incumbent President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and independent third-party candidate Ross Perot. Clinton was the first US president from the Baby Boomer generation. He was reelected in 1996, becoming the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve two terms as president. He is married to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who represented the state of New York in the US Senate before becoming Secretary of State during the Obama administration.
Clinton’s first term (1993-1997)
Bill Clinton came to the White House with an ambitious domestic agenda centered on economic growth. He immediately set to work reducing the federal budget deficit. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, known unofficially as the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, raised taxes for the wealthiest 1.2 percent, while cutting taxes for small businesses and lower-income wage earners. The legislation included a requirement to balance the federal budget, and set the stage for an economic resurgence that culminated in a federal budget surplus.
The Clinton administration proved less successful in the realm of healthcare reform. Although implementing a national health care plan with universal coverage was a top priority for Clinton, opposition from Republicans, the American Medical Association, and the health insurance industry proved an insurmountable obstacle to healthcare reform.
On January 1, 1994, President Clinton signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated barriers to trade and investment between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Though some have criticized NAFTA for moving jobs out of the United States, the overall economic impact of the agreement has been mostly beneficial, not only for the United States, but for Canada and Mexico as well. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all three countries grew as a direct result of NAFTA, while trade and investment flourished and some industries that were expected to decline instead thrived as never before.
Clinton’s second term (1997-2001)
Although Bill Clinton easily won reelection in 1996, his second term in office was marred by corruption and scandal. Clinton became the second president in US history to be impeached, after he was discovered to have lied to Congress and the American people about his involvement in an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Though the House of Representatives charged Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice, the Senate vote, which was largely along party lines, did not attain the two-thirds majority required by the US Constitution to remove him from office.
Despite the scandal, Clinton left the White House with the highest approval rating of any US president in the post-World War II era. He was succeeded in office by George W. Bush.
What do you think?
What were Clinton’s greatest achievements as president? What were his biggest shortcomings?
Why do you think Clinton continued to enjoy such great popularity even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal?
Overall, how would you rate Bill Clinton’s performance as president?
Want to join the conversation?
- In the last section it says, "Clinton became the second president in US history to be impeached." Then later in the paragraph it says, "Though the House of Representatives charged Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice, the Senate vote, which was largely along party lines, did not attain the two-thirds majority required by the US Constitution to remove him from office." Was he impeached or not?
- You can be impeached without being removed from office. So yes he was impeached.(27 votes)
- How on earth did they know Clinton had Affair? I mean did they actually have proof, Did he say so himself.........Maybe Monica Lewinsky was Lying or Maybe the Scandal wasn't a Scandal. What if it was something bigger in the end to Overthrow him from power(3 votes)
- Some of Clinton's DNA was found on Lewinksy's lab coat. This was enough to convict him, and start impeachment processes.(2 votes)
- Why do you think Clinton continued to enjoy such great popularity even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal?(6 votes)
- Did Bill Clinton have ideas similar to those of the New Democrats, or did he just make an appeal to the New Democrats to get their vote?(2 votes)
- He considered himself a new democrat so I'd say he actually held beliefs similar to the new democrats. He was probably the first "new" democratic president.(2 votes)
- what was the breakdown of votes between democrats & republicans during the impeachment of bill Clinton?(2 votes)
- There were 45 Democratic senators and 55 Republicans.
On the first article of impeachment, perjury, all 45 Democrats voted "not guilty", joined by 10 Republicans. The other 45 Republicans voted "guilty". On the second article of impeachment, obstruction of justice, all 45 Democrats again voted not guilty. This time only 5 Republicans voted not guilty, with 50 voting guilty.(1 vote)
- I'm pretty sure Clinton was the 3rd president to be impeached--Andrew Johnson, Nixon, then Clinton.(0 votes)
- Nixon was never impeached. He quit when he knew that he didn't have the votes to avoid it. He ran away from the opprobrium.(5 votes)
- First of all why did Bill Clinton even have an affair with Monica Lewinsky? Was it for a favor or what was it?(1 vote)
- Bill was in his 50s then, a time in life when many men become insecure about their sexual atrractiveness to young women. This could be one reason.
Bill was always on the prowl for sex, and he saw a chance for some. We could call it that.
Bill liked to show off his power, so he "powered" a young woman into sex. We could see it like that.
Bill was weak, and fell into temptation. If that's true, it makes him similar to me, another weak person.
So, take your pick.(2 votes)
- Clinton's greatest achievements as president He protected the 5 new national parks. He has protected more land in the lower 48. Protection over 60 million acres.
Honestly he's probably thinking that life is too short and like. He let it be by gones, So he continued to be president and saving the world.
Honestly he try's his best too so Honestly I'll give him a 7.5 out of 10(1 vote)
Did it happen(0 votes)
- The 1992 presidential election put the incumbent Republican president, George HW Bush, up against two challengers, Bill Clinton and an upstart independent, Ross Perot, a billionaire with a common touch. Perot's candidacy split off enough Republican votes to allow Clinton, an outsider from a small Southern state, to win the November election. That's how it happened. Perot delivered the White House to the Democrats.(2 votes)