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Was Clinton A Failure As President?

I have written several articles on our Presidents and Vice-Presidents. A list of the links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional Presidents and their places in history.

The Clinton Presidency managed to remake the image and operations of the Democratic Party in ways that effectively undermined the so-called Reagan Revolution. Clinton had limited goals as president—adoration, reelection, and thwarting Reaganism. His strategy was to take off the table every issue that Reagan and then Bush with his vicious, Lee Atwater–designed 1988 campaign had used to bludgeon the Democrats. As a result, Clinton centered his domestic agenda as president on traditional GOP issues like crime, welfare and budget deficits. His “New Democrat” Party co-opted the Reagan appeal to law and order, individualism, and welfare reform, and made the party more attractive to white middle-class Americans. At the same time, the reborn party retained traditional Democratic commitments to providing for the disadvantaged, regulating the excesses of the private market place, supporting minorities and women, and using government to stimulate economic growth. Moreover, Clinton capitalized on growing dissatisfaction with far right-wing extremism within the Republican Party. Nevertheless, Clinton’s claims to a lasting, positive legacy for the Democratic Party have been severely undermined by two realities: the shift in control of Congress to the Republican Party on his watch and the loss by his would-be successor, Vice President Al Gore, in the 2000 presidential election. Clinton was successful in eliminating the federal deficit and overseeing the strongest economy in recent memory. Although there has been some partisan debate about the extent to which the 1990’s boom can be attributed to Clinton, the mainstream interpretation now tends to give great credit to Clinton and his economic team, especially Robert Rubin of the National Economic Council and later the secretary of the Treasury, for uncommon fiscal discipline in 1993. These efforts fueled a period of confidence in the financial markets. In fairness, Clinton deserves credit for the laudable 1993 expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (which aids the working poor and near-poor) and the 1997 passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPs), which was a last-ditch effort to achieve something tangible after Hillary Clinton’s 1994 health-care debacle

Clinton’s failure to win the health care battle may thus loom larger in the judgment of history than the economic successes that benefited Americans of his era. This may be especially true in Clinton’s case, since his successor as President, George W. Bush, took steps which reversed the nation’s fiscal position, from one of exceptional surpluses to one of exceptional deficits. In terms of foreign policy, the Clinton record is also mixed. One of Clinton’s core missions as President, he often said, was to prepare Americans for a world in which global economic forces failed to respect national boundaries. Perhaps his greatest accomplishments, then, came in the area of economic globalization-—establishing several new regimes of free trade, with NAFTA and GATT. Moreover, he and the Rubin Treasury Department, with the important assistance of Treasury Deputy Secretary Lawrence Summers, headed off a number of economic catastrophes in the developing world. 

I’m going to delve a little more deeply into his successes and failures. I will first talk about his successes. Bill Clinton was a pragmatist to a large degree. He worked with Congress, both when the Democrats controlled it and when the Republicans controlled it, and he compromised with them. He had an agenda and he compromised on items that were lower priority items for him and as a result the economy flourished. The economic agenda was actually set by Newt Gingrich as the Speaker of the House, but Bill Clinton was willing to compromise on the economic priorities in order to accomplish parts of his agenda that were more important to him. Due to his pragmatic approach to compromise, the economy flourished and a large number of people succeeded financially.

Clinton was instrumental in getting the The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It was an Act of Congress dealing with crime and law enforcement.  It was 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 U.S. Representative Jack Brooks of Texas, the bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Senator Joe Biden drafted the Senate version of the legislation in cooperation with National Association of Police Organizations.  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, and a variety of new crimes defined in statutes relating to immigration lawhate crimessex crimes, and gang-related crime. The bill also required states to establish registries for sexual offenders by September 1997. One of the more controversial provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act overturned a section of the Higher Education Act of 1965 permitting prison inmates to receive a Pell Grant for higher education while they were incarcerated. The VCCLEA effectively eliminated the ability of lower-income prison inmates to receive college educations during their term of imprisonment, thus ensuring the education level of most inmates remains unimproved over the period of their incarceration. The Act authorized the initiation of “boot camps” for delinquent minors. The Act included a three-strikes provision addressing repeat offenders.

His biggest failure was in national security, which ironically was the only thing that G.W. Bush succeeded at. Osama bin Laden put together al-Qaeda during Bill Clinton’s presidency and the terrorists who carried out 9/11 entered the country while Bill Clinton was President. Bill Clinton also approved transferring missile technology to China while in office which was another national security failure because that technology improved the accuracy of China’s nuclear missiles. The President’s success in the Balkans will undoubtedly resonate well historically, as the administration helped end a conflict that threatened both the security of Europe and the viability of transatlantic cooperative arrangements. But the failure to act in Rwanda, in particular, seems likely to loom large in future historical evaluations. Clinton’s overall management of the immediate post-Cold War environment will certainly endure great scrutiny.

Another failure was the concept of “Disparate Impact”. That concept is one where the government assumed that when minorities didn’t get the same loans that non-minorities got it was because the banks were discriminating against them. That concept ignores the fact that the underwriters who approve or deny loans use people’s credit scores and credit history and they don’t have any direct interaction with the borrowers so they can’t discriminate on the basis of race. But several government agencies made it their official policy to require equal outcomes in borrowing. The result of that was borrowers were given loans that they couldn’t repay and the lenders knew it but they were giving out the loans to meet quotas. And in the end, those borrowers lost everything and the investors who underwrote the loans lost millions in the process too. No one benefitted, but a lot of people felt good at the time.

The multiple scandals that marred his Presidency were another failure because they distracted him from being President. Instead of focusing his time on being the President of the United States, he was focusing managing the scandals. The scandals themselves, for example when the entire staff in the White House Travel Office was fired and replaced with friends of his, weren’t failures. The failure was how much of his time was spent dealing with them instead of being the President. Future historians will likely evaluate not just what Clinton did, but also what he did not accomplish, because he was tied-up in a second-term struggle for political survival. It is this consideration of “what might have been” that may be Clinton’s greatest obstacle to gaining historical stature.

In 1997, Communism was defeated, a friendly Boris Yeltsin was president of Russia, terrorism was a problem for other countries, and the unsettling effects of global warming were mostly visible in scientific models. The unemployment rate, fueled by the first tech boom, had slipped below 5 percent and the budget was on a glide path toward solvency. On April 24, the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Treaty supported by both Clinton and Yeltsin. NATO expanded into the former Soviet bloc in July as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were welcomed into the alliance. (Liberal foreign policy experts such as Michael Mandelbaum have long argued that this move guaranteed the future enmity of Russia.) And in late November 1997, the Clinton economic team took the lead in successfully containing the damage from the Asian economic meltdown. These were paltry offerings, in what should have been a stellar performance as a president.

His presidency will always be remembered as one with an impeachment hearing, and sexual scandals. While it is true that he did reduce the budget and for the first time we had a surplus. The deficit actually shrunk somewhat under his presidency. But his economic platform resulted in the movement of manufacturing jobs overseas, even though he created millions of new jobs, they were lower income jobs. While the housing market did not crash under his presidency, he certainly was responsible in part for the crash.* For all of Bill Clinton’s undeniable political skills, and for all his many gifts of persuasion and empathy, he will be remembered as the president of diminished expectations. 

Due to his scandals, impeachment, and suspect economic policies his rating will be lower than one would expect.

Rating: 3 out 5 stars

Resources:, “Was Bill Clinton a Good President?” by;, “What were the failures of Bill Clinton’s presidency,” By Tim Scoff;, “Bill Clinton: Impact and Legacy,” By Russell L. Riley;, “Bill Clinton-Key Events,” By;, “Are the Cklintons the real housing crash villians?” By Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore;, Violent Crime Control and law enforcement;”



Battle of the budget

President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, led by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), engage in a political death 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, furloughing more than a quarter of a million government workers.

January 20, 1993

Clinton inaugurated

William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton is inaugurated as the forty-second President of the United States.

January 25, 1993

HRC to head Health Care Reform

President Clinton announces that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. The President hopes to reform the nation’s health care system so that all Americans have health insurance, ensuring what is called “universal coverage,” and to control the sky-rocketing costs of health care.

February 5, 1993

Family Medical Leave Act

President 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.

February 26, 1993

Explosion at the World Trade Center

Six people are killed and more than a thousand suffer injuries after a bomb planted under the World Trade Center in New York City explodes. The bomb marks the beginning of a string of threats against the United States made during the Clinton administration by both foreign and domestic terrorists.Gore heads National Performance Review

President 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.

March 11, 1993

Janet Reno becomes Attorney General

The Senate confirms Janet Reno as US Attorney General, the first woman to serve in the position. Reno was Clinton’s third choice for the position, after his first two selections were scuttled due to financial improprieties.

April 19, 1993

In Waco, Texas, federal law enforcement officers, …

In Waco, Texas, federal law enforcement officers, under the orders of Attorney General Janet Reno, end a 51-day standoff against a religious cult led by self-styled messiah David Koresh. In the ensuing confrontation, the fires that destroy the cult’s compound kill at least seventy-five people, and bring Reno widespread criticism for her handling of the situation.

June 26, 1993

Navy attacks Baghdad

The U.S. Navy, under President Clinton’s orders, 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. The twenty-three tomahawk missiles fired reportedly kill eight people.

July 19, 1993

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

President Clinton announces an “honorable compromise” in the debate surrounding the participation of gay service members in the military. It was determined that these individuals would be allowed to serve, but could face military investigations if they acknowledged their orientation, as well as be expelled for it. The policy is labeled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

July 20, 1993

Vince Foster death

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.

August 3, 1993

Ruth Bader Ginsburg appoint to Supreme Court

The Senate confirms Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg succeeds the retiring Byron White and become the second woman to sit on the high court.

August 10, 1993

Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

President Clinton signs the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The legislation, which passes both houses of Congress by slim majorities, lays out a plan to reduce the budget deficit by $496 billion through 1998, using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

September 13, 1993

President Clinton presides over a ceremony in Wash…

President Clinton presides over a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat sign the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo I Accord; this is the first face-to-face agreement between the Israeli government and the PLO, providing for Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

September 22, 1993

Clinton unveils healthcare plan

President Clinton unveils a plan for universal health care that would fix what he called a “badly broken” system. Clinton emphasizes that under his plan, all Americans would have high quality health care and would be able to choose their physicians.

October 3, 1993

Battle of Mogadishu

On October 3, 1993, U.S. special forces stormed a compound in Mogadishu, Somalia, in order to capture aides to warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. Commanders intended the attack to be swift and precise, but the operation quickly fell apart. Hostile Somalis shot down two hovering U.S. combat helicopters. U.S. ground forces were assaulted as they tried to flee and were ambushed as they attempted to reach the crews of the downed helicopters. With exits to the city blocked, and an increasing number of killed and wounded, American soldiers were forced to hunker down and await reinforcements. In the end, eighteen U.S. troops died, and eighty-four were wounded. America was left with horrific images of soldiers’ bodies being dragged through the streets and angry questions of how and why such a disaster occurred.

The U.S. presence in Somalia dated from December 1992. Then-President George H.W. Bush envisioned that “Operation Restore Hope” would be limited to humanitarian assistance and would ideally conclude sometime in early 1993, time enough to have put Somalia on the road to recovery from famine and civil war. Nevertheless, the operation became more complex than anyone imagined. Leaders at the United Nations became convinced that Aidid, who had resisted political reform both prior to and following the recent introduction of UN personnel, was largely responsible for the harassment and killing of peacekeeping forces and humanitarian workers. In the end, they sought to remove him from power.

When President Bill Clinton came into office, his administrative team sought to scale back the venture in Somalia. Calls from Congress and Pentagon officials, urging the President not to expand “Operation Restore Hope,” contributed further to a more circumscribed approach. Defense Secretary Les Aspin rejected requests from local commanders for more troops and vehicles, confident that U.S. forces would not attempt operations exceeding existing capabilities.

The Battle of Mogadishu, however, led President Clinton not just to minimize but to end the U.S. presence in Somalia. Clinton’s actions generated criticism from those who believed he should have carried through and captured Aidid- that in not doing so, he had simultaneously dishonored the soldiers’ deaths and harmed American military credibility. The affair contributed to the perception that the President lacked foreign affairs expertise. Many became skeptical of the idea that the United States could or should serve as a post-Cold War, peacekeeping nation-builder, particularly under the direction of the United Nations. Regardless, the Battle of Mogadishu- both its causes and its effects -highlighted the complexities of the post-Cold War American military mission.

October 4, 1993

American forces ambushed in Somalia

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 eighteen Americans dead. Three days later, President Clinton announces that all American military personnel in Somalia will be home by March 31, 1994.

November 30, 1993

Brady Act

President Clinton signs the Brady Act, which requires a potential handgun purchaser to wait five days while a background check is performed by law enforcement officers.

December 8, 1993

NAFTA creates free trade zone

After a hard-fought battle in Congress, President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), eliminating nearly every trade barrier between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating the world’s largest free trade zone.

Clinton Signs NAFTA

On December 8, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated nearly every trade barrier between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating the world’s largest free trade zone. The House of Representatives approved NAFTA on November 17, 1993, by a vote of 234 to 200. Remarkably the agreement’s supporters included 132 Republicans and only 102 Democrats. That unusual combination reflected the challenges President Clinton faced in convincing Congress that the controversial piece of legislation would truly benefit all Americans.

President George H.W. Bush was NAFTA’s original sponsor, signing the deal on December 17, 1992. The trade agreement ended tariffs between Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and set a 15-year timetable for the elimination of most other impediments to international investment and commerce between the three nations. Like many Republicans, President Bush believed that open economic borders between nations would benefit all concerned. Ideally, as production rose to meet the new demand for American exports, jobs, wages, and the economy as a whole would improve. However, securing Congressional approval fell to the newly elected President Bill Clinton. It was not an easy task.

Labor leaders were skeptical of NAFTA’s promises. They believed that American corporations would flee the United States in order to profit from much lower Mexican labor costs and the new absence of tariffs. Presidential candidate Ross Perot spoke to those concerns when he famously predicted a giant “sucking sound” as U.S. jobs were lost to America’s southern neighbor. The fears of labor—traditionally one of the strongest components of the Democratic coalition—helped explain why passage of NAFTA proved so difficult.

President Clinton and key members of his administration worked tirelessly to assuage the fears of key House Democrats. The President inserted limits on agricultural imports to minimize the negative effects of competition on produce. He also created a North American Development Bank in order to assist development along the Mexican border and show sympathy with the concerns of Hispanic Representatives. Clinton was willing to risk alienating American labor to some degree because he was convinced that long-term prosperity depended on free trade between nations, and because he felt that his administration needed an important, visible early win to generate momentum and credibility. NAFTA amounted to an administration victory, but many still regarded it as a net loss for American labor and the environment, which they claimed suffered in the absence of adequate Mexican regulations.

January 10, 1994

Clinton attends NATO summit

President Clinton attends the NATO summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at which he announces that the United States 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.

February 3, 1994

Vietnam trade embargo lifted

President Clinton ends the nineteen-year old trade embargo against Vietnam, noting that Vietnam is indeed trying to locate 2,238 Americans listed as missing in action since the Vietnam War.

March 25, 1994

Last Marines leave Somalia

The last American Marines leave Somalia.

May 26, 1994

China trade status renewed

President Clinton renews China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, even though China has not made as much progress on human rights issues as he had hoped.

June 14, 1994

Clinton talks welfare reform

President Clinton unveils his welfare reform initiatives. Clinton had campaigned in 1992 on the issue, promising to “end welfare as we know it.”

July 25, 1994

Israel-Jordan talks

President 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 fifty years of official antagonism.

August 26, 1994

Congress delays heath care reform

The White House and congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), announce that Clinton’s ambitious plan for health care reform will not be acted upon in 1994. Clinton’s initiatives fail to find support in Congress.

September 13, 1994

Clinton expands law enforcement, death penalty

President 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.

September 18, 1994

Haiti general cedes power

After a tense stand-off with the Clinton administration, Haiti’s military government, led by General Raoul Cedras, agrees to cede power. The administration, along with the United Nations, had tried for over a year to restore the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in a coup on September 30, 1991.

October 9, 1994

Deterring invasion of Kuwait

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 from the Iraq-Kuwait border

November 8, 1994

Republicans gain seats

In mid-term congressional elections, the Republican Party wins control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than 40 years. It now holds a 53 to 47 advantage in the Senate and a 230 to 214 to 1 lead in the House.

December 1, 1994

General Agreement on Tariffs approved

The Senate votes to approve the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that 117 nations, including the United States, agree to in December 1993. The agreement cuts tariffs by more than a third on a wide-range of products and creates a freer international market for goods.

December 5, 1994

START I signed in Budapest

President 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.

January 23, 1995

Congressional Accountability Act

President 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.

January 31, 1995

Emergency loans to Mexico

President Clinton authorizes the U.S. Treasury Department to make an emergency loan of up to $20 billion to Mexico to forestall a financial crisis threatening the interconnected Mexican and American economies.

April 19, 1995

Oklahoma City bombed

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, Oklahoma, kills 168 people and causes massive structural damage. In the days following the tragedy, Clinton, in widely-praised efforts, speaks with victims and to the country about how to recover physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the attack.

July 11, 1995

U.S. recognizes Vietnam

The United States extended full diplomatic recognition of Vietnam, twenty-two years after the United States withdrew military forces from that country.

August 30, 1995

NATO begins strikes on Serbia

NATO, with a strong contingent of American forces, begins two weeks of air attacks on Serbian positions.

October 23, 1995

Improving U.S.-Russia relations

President Clinton and Russian president Yeltsin meet in Hyde Park, New York, and continue to discuss ways to improve relations between their two nations, especially with regard to the issue of nuclear arms

November 21, 1995

Principle peace in Bosnia

In Dayton, Ohio, the representatives of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia agree in principle to a peace agreement, brokered by American Richard Holbrooke, to end three years of war in Bosnia. The agreement establishes a unitary Bosnian state and allows refugees to return home.

Dayton Peace Accords Reached

On November 21, 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were initialed in Dayton, Ohio; they were formally signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995. The agreement was reached between the warring nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. It sought to end one of the worst European conflicts since World War II, a four-year struggle of hardship and atrocities that had claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people, and made refugees of more than two million.

President Bill Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke led the negotiations and worked with the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia to reach acceptable terms. The details of the accords were cast in seductively simple and hopeful terms. Bosnia would remain a single state and would be granted international recognition. While its capital of Sarajevo avoided partitioning, the nation now consisted of two divided segments: the Bosnian Croat Federation, inhabiting 51 percent of the territory, and the Bosnian Serb Republic, occupying the remaining 49 percent. The accords also sought to create within Bosnia the institutions of a modern liberal democracy, including a central government composed of a constitutional court, a national parliament, and a presidency, with the latter two being filled by internationally supervised free elections. Military forces were to be substantially restrained, with protections for human rights coming from an independent body and an internationally-trained civilian police. President Clinton sent a peacekeeping force of 20,000 American troops (part of a larger NATO deployment) into the region to enforce a cease-fire that was to be followed by free elections.

While few would say that the Dayton Accords were not an important step toward peace in the former Yugoslavia, violence continued to haunt the region, especially in the neighboring province of Kosovo. Domestically, Republicans attacked President Clinton for keeping U.S. peacekeepers-forces that many Republicans labeled derisively as “nation-builders”-in the area long past the initial proposal of one year. Some fellow Democrats also attacked Clinton for failing to act with similar decisiveness and sympathy in the even more deadly conflict in the African nation of Rwanda.

November 29, 1995

Clinton urges peace in Ireland

During a tour of Europe, President Clinton urges the continuation of peace efforts in Northern Ireland where longstanding conflict between Irish Protestants and Catholics escalated to violence over issues of economic and political autonomy.

January 23, 1996

Clinton delivers State of the Union

President Clinton, in the annual State of the Union address, declares that “the era of big government is over.” More important, he positions himself as a centrist, moderate Democrat for the upcoming presidential election, hoping that these types of pronouncements will blunt Republican charges that he is too liberal.

April 9, 1996

Line-item veto approved

President Clinton signs a bill giving him the power of the “line-item veto,” which had been requested by Presidents Reagan and Bush. With this new power, Clinton can veto specific items in spending and tax bills without vetoing the entire measure.

April 10, 1996

“Safe, legal and rare”

President Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed certain types of late-term abortions, namely the partial birth abortion. Clinton emerges during his presidency as a strong advocate of the “right to choose,” often stating his wish that abortions in the United States become “safe, legal, and rare.”

April 29, 1996

Gore, DNC finance scrutiny

Vice President Al Gore attends a Democratic National Committee fundraising event at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. Gore and the DNC raise more than $60,000, but so through questionable interpretations of several campaign finance laws. The Clinton administration comes under increasing criticism in its second term for these alleged violations.

May 15, 1996

Troops to remain in Bosnia

President Clinton announces that American troops will likely remain in Bosnia as the major component of an international peacekeeping force for an additional eighteen months.

May 28, 1996

Whitewater fraud trail

In the first trial to result from the Whitewater investigation, Jim and Susan McDougal, and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker–Clinton’s friends and former business partners in the Whitewater affair–are convicted of fraud.

August 21, 1996

Expanding health care coverage

President 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.

August 22, 1996

Welfare restructured

President 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.

Clinton Signs “Welfare to Work” Bill

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, reflecting his campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it.”

The act contained several provisions expressing the necessity of work, the primacy of states, and, ultimately, limited government provision. No longer entitled to cash assistance, families could only receive federal aid for a total of five years. States now would receive fixed block grants each year with substantial discretion over how to distribute them. The act also made many legal immigrants ineligible to receive public benefits and reduced spending on the Food Stamp Program and disability benefits for children. To make it easier for needy parents to work, the act increased funding for child-care. Single mothers got strengthened enforcement for child-support, and states were threatened with “participation-rate” requirements, meaning that unless a certain percentage of families receiving assistance were working or training each month, the federal government would slash the grants.

During the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton had campaigned with a promise to reform welfare. He believed that the support stemming from housing subsidies, food stamps, and cash grants to needy families had served to erode the values of independence and hard work. The government bore a dual responsibility, Clinton argued, to assist the truly needy while at the same time being frugal; moreover, he believed, it should help foster such positive character traits as thrift, autonomy, and self-respect. This “hand up rather than a hand out” resonated strongly with the American public, as well as with Republican congressional leaders and moderate Democrats.

Republicans were pleased with the spirit and letter of the act, although presidential candidate Senator Bob Dole thought GOP congressional support for any Clinton-approved measure might aid his opponent in the upcoming election. At the same time, some Republicans found expansion of the day-care credit hard to accept. Even among adamant liberals, the themes underpinning the act-work and responsibility-were largely uncontroversial. Still critics found the treatment of legal immigrants repugnant and the absolute five-year time limit unreflective of an often complex reality. Most of all, they faulted Clinton for failing to explain how a population with so much relative job inexperience, mental and physical disabilities, and poor educational training could find good jobs. But the “New Democrat,” moderate positioning of Clinton once again appealed to voters, and it helped launch the President on the road to reelection later that year.

September 3, 1996

Missile strikes Iraq

President Clinton orders a cruise missile strike against Iraq after Saddam Hussein leads a siege against the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq.

September 24, 1996

UN bans nuclear weapons testing

An overwhelming majority of United Nations members, including the United States, agree to a treaty banning all nuclear weapons testing.

November 5, 1996

Clinton reelected

President Clinton, with 49 percent of the vote, defeats Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), with 41 percent of the vote, for the presidency. Clinton becomes the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt to win reelection to a second term.

December 5, 1996

Madeline Albright becomes Secretary of State

President Clinton selects Madeline Albright, the American ambassador to the United Nations, to serve as his Secretary of State. After winning Senate confirmation, Albright is sworn in on January 23, 1997, becoming the first women to hold the position.

March 11, 1997

Fundraising investigations begin

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. Allegations by Republicans and some Democrats of illegal fund raising by the Clinton White House spur the investigation.

March 21, 1997

Further nuclear negotiations begin

President 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 United States Senate had ratified START II in January 1996.

April 24, 1997

Chemical Weapons become illegal

The Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention, making illegal the production, acquisition, stockpiling, or use of chemical weapons.

Chemical Weapons Convention Ratified

On April 25, 1997, the United States Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It is one of the most ambitious arms agreements in history. The international treaty was originally signed at the United Nations in January 1993, and it went into effect on April 29, 1997.

Since the use of mustard gas in the trenches of World War I, chemical weaponry has held great potential for military scientists and posed a terrifying threat to troops and ordinary citizens. The fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s led the United States to reduce nuclear stockpiles; but the deadly reality of chemical weapons took a back seat in the American public consciousness. A series of frightening events turned the public’s attention back to chemical weapons. The release of poisonous gas into the Tokyo subway in 1995 left eleven people dead and more than five thousand injured, creating strong Japanese and international support for ratification of the CWC. Disturbing reports that thousands of American veterans were suffering from painful and inexplicable illnesses suggested that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi military had used chemical weapons during the Persian Gulf War. Finally, the new reality of terrorism-seen in the 1995 destruction of the Oklahoma City federal building and in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center-brought the potentially catastrophic danger of chemical weapons uncomfortably closer to home.

When the Senate finally ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention on April 25, 1997, it endorsed what had truly been a bipartisan effort. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush first negotiated and signed the convention, but President Clinton had struggled to secure its ratification, which bogged down in the Senate. His difficulty arose, in part, because many feared the United States would put itself at a comparative disadvantage in relation to its adversaries. Troubles also stemmed from the Democrats loss of control over both the House and the Senate in 1994.

As the deadline for pre-approval approached, President Bill Clinton increased his avid support of the treaty, going before Congress and addressing the American people directly to garner sufficient backing. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, Clinton announced that Americans “must rise to a new test of leadership-ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The President argued that endorsement of the treaty would “make our troops safer from chemical attack” and would “help us to fight terrorism,” maintaining that “we have no more important obligations.” Ultimately, the treaty was embraced by many: the Pentagon, the American intelligence community, and the American public favored a future free from the threat of chemical weapons.

May 2, 1997

Eliminating the budget deficit

The Clinton administration and Republican congressional leaders agree on principle to a five-year budget plan to eliminate the budget deficit. That goal would be accomplished, largely due to the strong economy of recent years.

May 27, 1997

Paula Jones lawsuit

In a decision affecting both the scope of presidential power and the immediate future of the Clinton presidency, the Supreme Court rules that Paula Jones can pursue her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, even while he is in office.

August 5, 1997

Balanced budget signed

President Clinton signs legislation providing for a balanced budget by 2002, ending years of partisan wrangling between Clinton and Republican leaders.

October 3, 1997

No major campaign finance violations

Attorney General Janet Reno, in a letter to Congress, announces that the Justice Department’s investigation into allegations that the Clinton administration violated campaign finance laws, especially in its efforts to finance the 1996 presidential campaign, has uncovered no major violations.

October 28, 1997

Zemin makes state visit

President Clinton welcomes President Jiang Zemin of China for a state visit.

October 31, 1997

Stabilizing Southeast Asia

President Clinton orders the United States government to contribute $3 billion to an international bail-out of Indonesia totaling over $22 billion. The Clinton administration argues that the bailout will help stabilize the shaky financial situation in Southeast Asia.

January 20, 1998

Clinton denies Lewinsky allegations

News breaks that President Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with a former White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton, adamantly denying the allegations, states, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

March 23, 1998

Clinton leaves for Ghana

President Clinton leaves on a six-country, 12-day tour of Africa, the first for an American President since 1978 and the longest, with special focus on highlighting the history of American Slavery.

April 2, 1998

Jones lawsuit dismissed

A judge dismisses Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.

April 10, 1998

Good Friday Peace Accords

Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland sign the “Good Friday Peace Accords,” a substantial agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process. President Clinton had worked very hard, with several personal appeals to leaders on both sides, to bring about the agreement.

August 7, 1998

Embassies bombed in Kenya, Tanzania

Terrorists bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 20 Americans. United States intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile and alleged terrorist leader, is behind the attacks. On August 20, the U.S. military, on orders from President Clinton, launch reprisal strikes on “terrorist related facilities” in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s country of residence, and Sudan. The attacks on Sudan, however, come under particular scrutiny, as a number of international observers and members of the Sudanese government contend that the United States destroyed a civilian pharmaceutical facility, and not a chemical weapons plant, as the Clinton administration reported.

Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Bombed

The morning news on August 7, 1998, greeted Americans with a shocking report: a truck bomb had demolished the U.S. embassy in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. More than 200 people, twelve of them American citizens, had been killed. Minutes later, another truck bomb went off outside the American embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing eleven people. The combined attacks resulted in more than 5,000 injuries.

Investigators, working closely with officials in both embassy nations, ultimately picked up six operatives (and indicted several others) connected with Al Qaeda(the base), a loosely knit Islamic fundamentalist, anti-American organization headed by the wealthy former Saudi, Osama bin Laden. In August 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwa (Islamic decree) against the United States, demanding holy war and attacks on American troops. A year and a half later, bin Laden urged his followers to expand their sights to include all American throughout the world.

President Bill Clinton declared the embassy bombings “abhorrent” and “inhuman” and pledged to “get answers and justice.” On August 20, the United States retaliated by firing cruise missile at suspected Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. President Clinton also blocked all financial transactions between bin Laden and U.S. banks, companies, and citizens. In May 2001, the investigation of the embassy bombings yielded four life sentences for men involved, while two others had already confessed to the crimes and had begun serving their sentences.

In retrospect, it is clear that these attacks were precursors to the September 11 attacks in the United States. The embassy bombings confirmed to Americans the treachery of shadowy, able, and committed opponents who refused to distinguish between military and civilian personnel. They were yet another example of the frightening and uncertain dimensions of post-Cold War aggression.

September 11, 1998

Report released on Lewinsky affair

The Office of the Independent Counsel releases its report on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, commonly known as the Starr Report. Two days earlier, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr tells the House that he has uncovered information that may be grounds for impeachment.

October 23, 1998

Wye River Memorandum

After nine days of negotiations in rural Maryland, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sign the Wye River Memorandum. President Clinton mediates the negotiations, which result in an agreement highlighted by a three-stage withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

December 16, 1998

Retaliatory attacks on Iraq

President Clinton orders a three-day bombing attack against Iraq after Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.

December 19, 1998

House votes to impeach Clinton

The House of Representatives votes to impeach President Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

House Impeaches Clinton

On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The House of Representatives, which is responsible for instigating impeachment proceedings, originally considered four articles of impeachment, but declined to charge the President with one count of perjury and abuse of power. That impeachment proceeded on two grounds rather than four did not testify to a bastion of GOP support in the House, for Republican Representatives had staunchly refused a Democratic plea simply to censure the President for reprehensible behavior. Clinton had wait through two agonizing months as the Senate received the case from the House, took testimony, and debated whether or not he could continue as President.

The nation, too, was engaged in a furious debate over impeachment. Republicans and their conservative supporters felt that they were taking a stand for morality and integrity. The President’s predicament flowed from an affair with the former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and his efforts to conceal the moral lapse from lawyers in the Paula Jones case, the public, and apparently even his family. The presidency was not only a position of legal and military leadership, Clinton’s adversaries argued, it was a uniquely visible symbol of America, and as such carried weighty responsibilities of moral leadership. Democrats and their liberal supporters argued that impeachment was intended to remove Presidents who clearly abused their power as Presidents, for misdeeds like treason or using office to harm opponents. They alleged that Republicans were bent on a destructive and hypocritical “sexual McCarthyism,” policing what people did in private intimate relations, although some prominent Republican and conservative leaders had themselves committed affairs.

The Senate acquitted President Clinton on February 12, 1999. Afterwards, Clinton apologized to the nation for the ordeal and hoped that the country could return to the business at hand. Answering a reporter, who asked whether Clinton could in his heart forgive and forget the actions of those who had tried to remove him from office, the President offered a conciliatory response: “I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.”

January 20, 1999

Clinton delivers State of the Union

President Clinton delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress under remarkable circumstances: six days earlier, the Senate had convened an impeachment trial against the President. Despite the impeachment process, public opinion polls show Clinton with his highest approval ratings.

February 12, 1999

Clinton acquitted

The Senate acquits President Clinton on both articles of impeachment, rejecting one article and splitting evenly on the second.

March 24, 1999

NATO attack on Serbia

In response to Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Albania, and reports of ethnic cleansing, the United States leads NATO attacks against Serbia. On February 23, Serbian and Kosovar representatives had agreed to a plan that would have granted more autonomy to Kosovo over a three-year period. Serbia reneged on the agreement, prompting U.S. and NATO military action.June 10, 1999NATO-Serbian campaign ends

The NATO air campaign against Serbia ends after Serb forces agree on June 9 to withdraw from Kosovo. KFOR, an international peacekeeping force of 50,000 troops, enforces the agreement.October 13, 1999Underground nuclear tests upheld

The United States Senate votes down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would have prevented the United States from conducting underground nuclear tests.November 15, 1999Trade with China

The United States and China agree to a trade treaty reducing tariffs and other trade barriers. The treaty is to come into effect after China joins the World Trade Organization and Congress grants permanent normal trade relations between the two countries.

February 1, 2000

Longest economic expansion in history

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.

March 8, 2000

Permanent trade relations with China

President Clinton sends a bill to Congress asking for permanent normal trade relations with China. After securing House (May 24) and Senate (September 19) approval, Clinton signs the bill on October 10.

June 3, 2000

First summit with Putin

President Clinton holds his first summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. They reaffirm their nations’ commitment to strategic arms reductions, but disagree over American plans to research and develop a missile-defense system.

July 11, 2000

Israeli peace summit

President Clinton hosts Israeli leader Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David in the hope of reaching a peace agreement. After two weeks of unsuccessful talks, the summit breaks up with no agreement.

August 14, 2000

Democrats nominate Gore

President Clinton speaks at the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. Vice President Al Gore wins the Democratic nomination for President. His challenger is Republican governor George W. Bush of Texas.

September 20, 2000

Independent Counsel concludes

Independent Counsel Robert Ray announces that his investigation has not discovered enough evidence to indict the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings.

October 7, 2000

Disputed Serbian elections

In Serbia, President Slobodan Milosevic declares that Vojislav Kostunica is the rightful president of Serbia. The announcement comes after disputed elections, which Milosevic had tried to rig, produce massive street protests.

Pro & Con Arguments

Pro 1

Clinton was deeply religious from a young age and regularly attended a Baptist church as an adult. He once said, “Religious faith has permitted me to believe in the continuing possibility of becoming a better person every day, to believe in the search for complete integrity in life.” Clinton’s private marital issues were unrelated to his ability to govern the US. Even after the news of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky broke in early 1998, his approval rating was 63 percent according to a Washington Post poll.

Con 1

Constant scandals took Clinton’s focus off running the country. When Paula Jones sued Clinton for sexual harassment, he became the first sitting president to testify before a grand jury investigating his own conduct. An affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky culminated in Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives on Dec. 19, 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The only other president in US history to be impeached was Andrew Johnson in 1868. Some blame Clinton’s moral shortcomings for disenfranchising Democratic Party members and Independents, and causing Al Gore to lose the 2000 presidential election.

Pro 2

The crime rate fell every year that Clinton was president and was at a 26-year low by the end of his two terms. He got funding for 100,000 new police officers nationwide. He signed the 1993 Brady Bill requiring a waiting period and background check to purchase handguns. Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill included a ban on assault weapons, and there was a 40 percent decline in gun crime by 2001.

Con 2

The number of federal prisoners doubled under Clinton, and 58 percent of them were serving time for drug-related offenses. Resources were geared towards incarceration instead of rehabilitation or crime prevention. Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill was filled with “pork spending” that distributed $10 billion to states and special interest groups.

Pro 3

Clinton presided over a modernization of the US military which led to increased readiness and efficiency. His administration focused on precision weapons and the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. The result of his focus was lower collateral damage, lower casualty rates, and advanced communications. He also increased pay and benefits for military personnel.

Con 3

Clinton was unable to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving in the military. Faced with strong opposition from conservatives early in his presidency, Clinton settled on a compromise policy referred to as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allowed gays to serve in the military if they did not disclose their sexual orientation. Neither conservatives nor liberals were satisfied by the outcome.

Pro 4

The US went from having the largest budget deficit in American history ($290 billion) in 1992 when Clinton was elected to having a budget surplus of $127 billion when he left office in 2001. 22.5 million new jobs were created and unemployment dropped from 7.5% when Clinton took office to 4.0% by the end of his second term, the lowest in 30 years. The poverty rate dropped to 11.8% in 1999, which was the lowest it had been since 1979.

Con 4

Clinton gets too much credit for the good economy of the 1990s, which was already growing when he took office. The Republican-controlled Congress helped improve the economy by exercising fiscal restraint. Clinton’s failure to regulate the financial-services markets enabled the bad lending and Wall Street scams that led to the 2007 banking crisis.

Pro 5

Clinton’s Goals 2000 program distributed two billion dollars between 1994 and 1999 to set uniform standards in US schools. His 1994 Improving America’s School Act (IASA) received support from Republicans and Democrats and from the education and business communities. IASA required that standards and accountability be the same for economically disadvantaged students as for other students.

Con 5

Clinton’s Goals 2000 program did not ensure uniform quality of standards among all the states because he compromised on oversight to get the program passed. The impact therefore varied by state and Clinton never fulfilled his goal of equalizing education standards and improving results for all students. By 2000, six years after IASA was implemented, only 17 states were in full compliance with the standards.

Pro 6

Clinton’s pro-environmental policies included preserving 4.6 million acres of land in national monuments, strengthening the Safe Drinking Water Act, and enacting tougher emissions and energy efficiency standards. The communities of more than 44 million Americans were brought up to clean air standards during his presidency. The Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department prosecuted 241 environmental-related crimes in 1999, more than twice as many as in 1992, the year before Clinton took office.

Con 6

Clinton passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite the fact that it traded lower environmental standards for increased free trade. NAFTA resulted in more air pollution on the US/Mexico border, which experts estimated would cost $15 billion to clean up. Clinton also signed a 1995 measure to allow logging in national forests which suspended environmental laws protecting those forests.

Pro 7
Foreign Policy:

Clinton played an instrumental role in the peace process in Northern Ireland, which culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. He helped to get former Soviet nations to give up their nuclear arsenals and improve their control of nuclear materials. Clinton worked with NATO, a military alliance between Europe and North America, to bomb Serbia to end Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing campaign. Clinton then sent 20,000 American troops to enforce peace in the region, a mission with no American casualties. He nearly orchestrated a historic Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement at Camp David in 2001.

Con 7
Foreign Policy:

A year after 18 American troops were killed in a failed 1993 mission to capture a warlord in Somalia, Clinton was hesitant to take action to stop a genocide in Rwanda. While he failed to act, more than half a million Tutsis were murdered. Critics accused Clinton of appeasement when he gave China Most Favored Nation (MFN) status despite their terrible human rights record and when he granted North Korea concessions in exchange for a promise to discontinue their nuclear weapons program.

Pro 8

Clinton sought to bring attention and action to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Funding for AIDS-related programs increased 150 percent during his presidency, and he was a leader in developing international initiatives to search for a vaccine. He signed the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996, allowing women to stay in the hospital for 48 to 96 hours after giving birth instead of being kicked out in less than 24 hours.

Con 8

Health care reform was Clinton’s major goal when he took office but his administration was ill-prepared for such a large task and made several missteps. Republican opposition was insurmountable and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME) declared on Sep. 26, 1994 that Clinton’s plan would never pass. The failure is considered the biggest of his administration in part because it led to the Republicans regaining control of Congress in the next election but also because he expended a lot of political capital without getting anything in return.

Pro 9
Science / Technology:

Clinton’s instructions to NASA in 1993 led to productivity gains and reduced overhead for the International Space Station program, as well as a better research relationship with Russia. Clinton fought to bridge the “digital divide,” an inequality of access to technology that would make poor people even more disadvantaged in education and employment opportunities. His policies helped schools and libraries introduce computers and the internet to people who wouldn’t otherwise have had access.

Con 9
Science / Technology:

Clinton cut NASA’s budget by $715 million in 1995 (about 5%) and did not restore the bulk of the money until three months before he left office. The result was a space program struggling to operate with less money for most of Clinton’s time in office. Some blame the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia explosion on Clinton’s decision to slash NASA’s budget by an aggregate of $56 million over his presidency.

Pro 10
Social Policy:

In 1996, Clinton fulfilled his campaign promise to reform welfare by creating new rules that required recipients to work within two years of getting benefits and limited the time most people could spend on welfare to five years. As proof that the reform was successful, 10 years after he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, welfare rolls had dropped from 12.2 million to 4.5 million.

Con 10
Social Policy:

Clinton neglected to take to steps to restructure Social Security and Medicare. In anticipation of the upcoming Baby Boom generation retiring and drawing heavily on those social services, Clinton should have worked to secure those programs. In a June 20, 2004 interview with 60 Minutes, he admitted “I’m sorry on the home front that we didn’t get healthcare and that we didn’t reform Social Security.”

Pro 11

The $290 billion national deficit of 1992 became a $124 billion surplus by 1999 because Clinton’s Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 raised taxes on the top income rate from 28 percent to 39.6 percent, thus increasing tax revenues. Just as the 1980s economic boom followed a tax increase by Reagan, the economy likewise improved after Clinton raised taxes in 1993. He also limited the ability of corporations to claim deductions for entertainment expenses.

Con 11

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 increased the gasoline tax by 4.3 cents per gallon, which directly impacted the middle class. The 1993 tax hikes cannot be credited with the economic boom of the 1990s: it was after the Republican Congress passed tax cuts in 1997 that the economy really became stronger and the budget was balanced. Clinton designed his tax plans to place an unfair burden on the wealthy, punishing the most productive members of the US economy while cutting taxes for the least productive.

Pro 12

Clinton was aware of the threat of Al Qaeda and authorized the CIA to kill Osama bin Laden. He sought to hunt down bin Laden after the Oct. 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole, but the CIA and FBI refused to certify bin Laden’s involvement in the terrorist act. “I got closer to killing him than anybody’s gotten since,” Clinton said in a Sep. 24, 2006 interview with Chris Wallace.

Con 12

Clinton failed to deal with the threat of Osama bin Laden, whose terrorist acts escalated and culminated in the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks that killed 2,973 people. Clinton was too distracted by scandals such as the threat of impeachment to take action against Al Qaeda. A former CIA station chief in Pakistan said Clinton ordered the CIA to capture bin Laden alive, which resulted in a missed opportunity to kill him at an al-Qaida training camp in 2000.

Housing Scandal

*The seeds of the mortgage meltdown were planted during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Under Clinton’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, Andrew Cuomo, Community Reinvestment Act regulators gave banks higher ratings for home loans made in “credit-deprived” areas. Banks were effectively rewarded for throwing out sound underwriting standards and writing loans to those who were at high risk of defaulting. If banks didn’t comply with these rules, regulators reined in their ability to expand lending and deposits. These new HUD rules lowered down payments from the traditional 20 percent to 3 percent by 1995 and zero down-payments by 2000. What’s more, in the Clinton push to issue home loans to lower income borrowers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made a common practice to virtually end credit documentation, low credit scores were disregarded, and income and job history was also thrown aside. The phrase “subprime” became commonplace.

Next, the Clinton administration’s rules ordered the taxpayer-backed Fannie and Freddie to expand their quotas of risky loans from 30 percent of portfolio to 50 percent as part of a big push to expand home ownership. Fannie and Freddie were securitizing(sic) these home loans and offering 100 percent taxpayer guarantees of repayment. So now taxpayers were on the hook for these risky, low down-payment loans. Tragically, when prices fell, lower-income folks who really could not afford these mortgages under normal credit standards, suffered massive foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. So many will never get credit again. It’s a perfect example of liberals using government allegedly to help the poor, but the ultimate consequences were disastrous for them. Additionally, ultra-easy money from the Fed also played a key role. Rates were held too low for too long in 2002-2005, which created asset price bubbles in housing, commodities, gold, oil, and elsewhere. When the Fed finally tightened, prices collapsed. So did mortgage collateral (homes) and mortgage bonds that depended on the collateral. Now people owed more money on the houses than they were worth.


(Update 11/4/2022)

Presidential Series

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