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Bill Clinton

Quick Take

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton was only 46 when he was elected the 42nd president of the U.S. Fourteen years earlier, he had been the nation's youngest governor when his fellow Arkansans elected him in 1978. Though bright (a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law graduate) and ambitious, Clinton has also been vulnerable to attacks on his character. Conflicting accounts of how he avoided military service during Vietnam, allegations of marital infidelity, and, following his 1992 election, suggestions of impropriety stemming from the Whitewater and so-called Travelgate affairs have plagued his campaign and his presidency.

Charitably put, Clinton's first two years saw mixed results. He drew fire early on for pushing for gays in the military. He fumbled on judicial appointments. Republicans opposed his commiting U.S. troops in Haiti. Most spectacular was the highly visible failure of the Clinton health care reform effort, led by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The president triumphed with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it came only over loud protest from within his party, and with near-unanimous support of congressional Republicans.

Many blamed the Democrats' rout in the 1994 congressional elections at least in part to the president's perceived weakness. Faced with House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution, however, the "Comeback Kid" proved remarkably adept on defense, successfully portraying the GOP agenda as extreme and out of step with ordinary Americans, especially on the politically explosive issue of reforming Medicare.

Clinton diluted GOP fire by promising action on such traditionally Republican issues as affirmative action, crime, welfare and a seven-year timetable to balance the federal budget. His controversial deployment of U.S. troops in Bosnia has so far kept peace in that region.

In the protracted budget stalemate of 1995, Clinton won the rhetorical fight, blaming the Republicans for two federal shutdowns. By the spring of 1996, Clinton was on offense castigating Republicans for resisting a hike in the minumum wage. His approval ratings rebounded to the highest of his presidency while continued moderate economic growth and a halved deficit allowed him to claim the healthiest economy in years.

While Clinton has incurred the ire of his own party's liberal wing for his willingness to sign GOP welfare reform legislation, Democrats, perhaps spooked by the prospect of Republicans in control of both legislative and executives branches, have rallied around their leader. Despite all the nipping around his heels, and a successful GOP convention, Clinton has held onto a sizable lead in most public opinion surveys, and appears poised to mount a vigorous campaign this fall.

Life Vital Stats Early Life Family Tidbits

Career Political Career Campaign '92 Campaign Finance Skeletons

Campaign '96 Race So Far On The Issues

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