Bill Clinton Presidency – Initial Year
The presidency of Bill Clinton began on January 20, 1993 and ended on January 20, 2001.
Clinton, a Democrat, took office following a decisive victory over Republican incumbent President George H. W. Bush and Independent businessman Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election.
Four years later, in the 1996 election, he defeated Perot and Republican Bob Dole to win re-election.
He was succeeded by Republican George W. Bush, who won the 2000 presidential election.
Clinton inherited major budget deficits left over from the Reagan and Bush administrations; fiscal year 1992 had seen a $290 billion deficit. In order to cut the deficit, Bentsen, Panetta, and Rubin urged Clinton to pursue both tax increases and spending cuts.
Some of Clinton’s advisers also believed that a focus on cutting the deficit would be politically beneficial. Later it would potentially help Democrats shed their supposed “tax and spend” reputation.
Months into his first term, he signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which raised taxes and set the stage for future budget surpluses.
When Clinton took office, approximately twenty percent of American adults lacked health insurance. Dspite the fact that the United States spent more on health care than other developed countries.
The administration formed a task force, led by First Lady Hillary Clinton, that was charged with creating a plan that would provide for universal health care.
After winning the passage of OBRA–93 and the ratification of NAFTA in 1993, Clinton made health care his major area of legislative focus in 1994.
Republicans unified against his plan, and his own party divided. Soon Clinton decided to abandon health care reform in September 1994.
Bill Clinton Presidency – Economy
Clinton presided over a “Goldilocks economy,” a period of low inflation and low unemployment.
During the 1990s, the Dow Jones Industrial Average quadrupled, and the share of families with investments in stocks rose from 32 percent in 1989 to 51 percent in 2001.
Income inequality also grew, as the richest households earned a higher proportion of the total income.
Nonetheless, median household income, adjusted for inflation to 2000 dollars, grew from $38,262 in 1995 to $42,151 in 2000. By 2000, the unemployment rate had declined to four percent, while the poverty rate had declined to 11.3 percent.
Bill Clinton Presidency – Other Reforms
Clinton presided over a period of deregulation in the telecommunications and financial industries. In 1999, Clinton signed into law the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA).
Clinton revoked a gag order that had prevented abortion counseling in federally funded clinics. He also signed an executive order allowing the use of fetal tissue in medical research.
Clinton supported the right of homosexual individuals to serve in the military, and, along with Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, he developed a plan that would allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military.
In November 1993, Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required a background check for gun purchasers.
Bill Clinton Presidency – Foreign Policy
Clinton believed that globalization would promote economic prosperity and democratization throughout the world, and he pursued several major trade agreements.
President Bush had signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in the final year of his term, but the agreement had not yet been ratified when Clinton took office.
Aside from NAFTA, the Clinton administration negotiated approximately 300 trade agreements with other countries. By granting China temporary most favoured nation status in 1993, his administration minimized tariff levels in Chinese imports.
Clinton launched a major bombing campaign in the Balkans. This led the creation of a United Nations protectorate in Kosovo.
He played a major role of the expansion of NATO into former Eastern Bloc countries. However he remained on good terms with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Bill Clinton Presidency – Overseas War
Unrest in Somalia had escalated into a full-scale civil war in 1991, and President Bush had dispatched 25,000 U.S. soldiers to the country to join a United Nation speacekeeping mission.
In October 1993, U.S. special forces launched a raid on Mogadishu with the intention of capturing warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who had led attacks against U.N. forces.
The raid ended in failure and in the deaths of eighteen Americans.
The incident proved embarrassing for the Clinton administration, as many Americans questioned the presence of U.S. soldiers in Somalia.
After Somali leaders signed a peace agreement in early 1994, Clinton removed U.S. forces from the country.
Al-Qaeda grew during the 1990s and engaged in terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The group claimed responsibility for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the bombing of a U.S. ship at port in Yemen.
In retaliation, Clinton ordered the bombing of al-Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan.
The Central Intelligence Agency and the military tracked bin Laden’s movements in an attempt to capture or kill him, but Bin Laden evaded capture or death within the mountainous and hostile country of Afghanistan.
Bill Clinton Presidency – Legacy
Clinton left office with high approval ratings, though his preferred successor, Vice President Al Gore, was narrowly defeated by Texas Governor George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.
Since the end of Clinton’s presidency, historians and political scientists have tended to rank Clinton as an average to above average president.