Clinton, William Jefferson (1946–)

Author:Neal Devins

Page 431

The forty-second President of the United States, William J. Clinton, was the first popularly elected President to be impeached by the U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. While he will be best known for the events that precipitated his IMPEACHMENT (the purposeful misrepresentation of his affair with a White House intern), Clinton also played a critical role in redefining the Democratic Party. In particular, rather than seek to transform the nation through government initiatives, Clinton presided over a downsizing of the federal government, especially the reach and prestige of the presidency. By scaling down expectations of what the White House can accomplish and by blurring, if not obliterating, the line separating the personal from the public, Clinton will be long remembered. This legacy permeates the Clinton presidency, including the ways in which Clinton helped shape constitutional values.

Born on August 19, 1946, Clinton was raised in Hope and then Hot Springs, Arkansas. After graduating from high school in 1964, Clinton attended Georgetown University, Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar), and, starting in 1970, Yale Law School. Following law school, he returned to Arkansas. After a year teaching at the University of Arkansas, Clinton, in 1974, became the Democratic nominee for Arkansas's Third Congressional District. After losing a close election, Clinton turned his attention to state politics. In 1976, he was elected Attorney General of Arkansas. In 1978, at the age of 32, he was elected governor of Arkansas. Although failing to win reelection in 1980, Clinton was reelected in 1982 and served as governor from 1982 until his 1993 presidential inauguration.

In October 1991, Clinton announced his candidacy for President. During his campaign, Clinton was plagued by charges of marital infidelity and dishonesty. In response to questions about whether he had smoked marijuana, for example, Clinton at first claimed that he did not violate any law and?after admitting that he had smoked marijuana while in England?later argued that he did not inhale. Clinton likewise claimed that he did not act improperly when, after learning that he would not be drafted to serve in the VIETNAM WAR, he reneged on a commitment to join the National Guard. Nevertheless, Clinton persevered, earning his "comeback kid" reputation. Blaming presidential incumbent GEORGE H. W. BUSH for the high unemployment rate and other economic problems, Clinton successfully convinced voters that he would stimulate the economy, recommit the...

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