Bill Clinton served as the president of the United States for the 42nd time. He was elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, making him the first Democratic president to serve two terms since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Clinton entered the White House with a bold domestic policy program focused on economic growth, and he took early efforts to cut the federal debt. Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress and the American public about an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky during his second term. Despite the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton had the most excellent popularity rating of any U.S. president in the post-World War II era when he left office.
Major Economic Policy
During his presidency, President Clinton presided over a thriving economy. The United States saw robust economic growth with about 4% yearly and unprecedented employment creation with an estimate of 22.7 million. Early in his first term, he raised taxes on higher-income taxpayers and reduced defense and welfare expenditures, resulting in an increase in revenue and a decrease in spending relative to the size of the economy. These factors contributed to the United States federal budget surpluses from 1998 to 2001, the first surplus years since 1969. During his two terms, the public debt, a vital indicator of the national debt, dropped from 47.8% of GDP in 1993 to 31.4 percent in 2001.
Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA into law with many other free trade accords. In addition, he implemented significant welfare reform. His implicit and explicit financial deregulation through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act has been blamed for contributing to the Great Recession.
Clinton’s administration coincided with one of the most prosperous periods in American history. Clinton’s economy, popularly known as the Clintonomics, was a collection of economic policies as well as a philosophy of government. It involved:
- Modernizing the federal government.
- Making it more business-friendly.
- Giving state and local governments more power.
Given a newly globalized world, the ultimate objective was to make the American government smaller, less wasteful, and more agile.
Clinton led the nation after the recession ended, and his economic policies with fostering recovery and surplus. However, some of the president’s critics were skeptical of the cause-and-effect outcome of his policies. The following four points might be used to summarize Clintonomics’ policy focus:
- To eliminate the budget deficit, fiscal discipline must be established.
- Low lending rates should be maintained, and private-sector investment should be encouraged.
- Protectionist tariffs should be abolished.
- Education and research should be used to invest in human capital.
The domestic policies of Bill Clinton included debt reduction, welfare reform, and education investment. He passed budgets that cut spending while raising taxes on the wealthy during his presidency. He gave the North American Free Trade Agreement Bill during his first term, which removed trade barriers between North American countries. During his first term as president, Bill Clinton also signed the Family Medical and Medical Leave Act.
Bill Clinton also enacted welfare reform. Also, he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which required welfare recipients to look for work and set lifetime limits on how long they could receive benefits. Another domestic policy of Bill Clinton’s administration was to reduce crime. In 1993, he signed the Brady Law, outlaw.
In addition, he increased funding for programs aimed at reducing drug abuse and youth crime. Bill Clinton approved the Violence Against Women Act into law in 1994. During the Clinton administration, the crime rate decreased as a result of these policies. He attempted to enact universal health care for Americans during Bill Clinton’s presidency, but Republican opposition was too strong. He did, however, sign the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan in 1997, which provided funding to cover children from low-income families.
The Bosnian War dominated Clinton’s foreign policy throughout his first term. Bosnia and Herzegovina, located in southeastern Europe, proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia, a multi-ethnic country. This sparked a conflict between Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims and Croats, who wanted Bosnia to stay part of the Yugoslav federation. Bosnian Serbs carried out ethnic cleansing activities that drew international criticism. Clinton retaliated by putting pressure on western European nations to adopt brutal actions against the Serbs during 1994.
He eventually gained backing for NATO’s Operation Deliberate Force, a long-term air operation against Bosnian Serbs. Serbs were obliged to accede to peace negotiations as a result of the process. The Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian War and split Bosnia into two autonomous areas, was signed in 1995.
The Clinton administration orchestrated a successful attempt to reinstall Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in September and October 1994. In 1991, Aristide was deposed by a military coup. Bill Clinton has attempted to act as a mediator in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. In Washington, D.C., in 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords.
The PLO renounced terrorism and acknowledged Israel’s right to exist in peace, while Israel accepted the PLO as the Palestinians’ representation. Other significant Oslo Accords accords included providing limited Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho. Even though the Oslo Accords were heralded as a great accomplishment, Israeli-Palestinian violence had resumed by the time Clinton left office.
In 1999, Clinton joined NATO in launching a major bombing campaign against Serbia’s government to stop the country’s “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians in Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were generated by the execution of this program, which was carried out by specially trained Serb Interior Ministry personnel and paramilitary groups operating in Bosnia for years. Serb forces also murdered thousands of ethnic Albanians.
Clinton’s firm stance in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo bolstered his foreign policy credentials.