William Jefferson Clinton
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas on August 19, 1946. After graduating from Georgetown University and Yale Law School, where he met his wife, former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton taught law at the University of Arkansas. In 1976, Clinton was elected to the Attorney General of Arkansas before being elected as the state’s governor in 1978.
As Governor of Arkansas, Clinton spearheaded educational reform and road improvement, but lost popularity due to a motor vehicle tax and issues with Cuban refugees. He was not re-elected for a second term. For the next two years, Clinton practiced law while working on his re-election campaign. In 1982, he was elected for a second round, remaining in the governor’s mansion for the next 10 years. During those 10 years, he oversaw a transformation of the economy by focusing on job creation and welfare reform. His revamping of the state educational system took it from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best. He gained national prominence during his tenure as Chair of the National Governors Association.
Clinton ran for President in 1992, beating incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush. Shortly after taking office, Clinton signed legislation to increase family leave, reduce discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military. In August, he signed a bill that reduced taxes for lower-income families and small businesses that also outlined a plan for a balanced budget. By the end of his second term, the U.S. had a budget surplus. Later that year, he signed the Brady Bill into law, which placed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases, and expanded the Earned Income Credit.
In 1994, Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law, which opened up trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada. That year also saw a failed attempt by the President and First Lady to reform health care that cost them Democratic control of the Congress in the midterm elections. Though the initiative failed, the First Lady, along with leading Democrats, was successful in passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides coverage for uninsured children. The First Lady was also instrumental in passing other legislation geared toward children and families. Clinton passed laws that expanded the death sentence eligibility to include large-scale drug dealing and the killing of federal officers, along with other violent crimes.
Ethnic cleansing and civil war in Bosnia was a major foreign issue, as was fighting in Somalia. Clinton sent peacekeeping forces to both areas in cooperation with United Nations forces.
Clinton’s presidential legacy is tainted by the scandals that arose due to Clinton’s involvement with Monica Lewinsky and the sexual harassment case by Paula Jones over an incident that took place while Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. Monica Lewinsky was a White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton. While under oath during a deposition for the Paula Jones case, Clinton claimed he did not have sex with Ms. Lewinsky. Evidence was presented to refute that (the blue dress), though Clinton claimed that he did not lie since he never had actual intercourse with Ms. Lewinsky. There was call for, and an attempt at, impeachment of the Clinton by leading Congressional Republicans during a lame duck session after the 2000 elections, but both the House and the Senate acquitted Clinton.