The 1990s and President Clinton
Bill Clinton won the presidency
in 1992 in a three-way campaign with Bush and Ross Perot,
who ran on the Independent ticket. Clinton’s presidency included
some notable successes, despite Congressional gridlock and scandals
calling his morality into question.
Bill Clinton struggled to push his domestic reform package
through an antagonistic Congress, which was controlled by conservatives
after the midterm elections of 1994. His most notable failure came
in the realm of healthcare, when Congress blocked his efforts to
create a national healthcare system. Clinton did manage to push
an anti-crime bill and a welfare reform bill through Congress, but
both were modified from his proposals and represented exceptions
to the trend of his administration’s legislative defeats. Political
divisiveness over the budget peaked in late 1995, when the Republican
Congress twice shut down the government because it could not agree
on a budget. The shutdown hurt the Republicans’ public image, however,
and boosted Clinton’s. In this newly supportive atmosphere, Clinton was
able to revise the welfare system and increase the minimum wage.
Economic and Foreign Policy
Perhaps the most important achievements of Bill Clinton’s
presidency were the balancing of the federal budget and a return
to economic prosperity. Clinton’s economic policies at home were
mirrored by efforts to strengthen the U.S. economy through integration
in the global economy. In November 1993, the House passed the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), eliminating most trade
barriers with Mexico and Canada. During Clinton’s eight years in
office, the United States experienced the most powerful economic expansion
in the history of the United States.
Clinton was harangued throughout his first campaign for
president and his time in office by accusations and rumors of sexual
misconduct. The accusations came to a head in August 1998, when
Clinton testified in front of a grand jury that he had not engaged
in inappropriate sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, a White
House intern. Later, he was forced to admit that he had. In December
1998, the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment
for perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton became only the second
president to be impeached, the first being Andrew Johnson in 1868.
In February 1999, the Senate defeated both articles of impeachment.
Clinton remained in office, but the scandal overshadowed the rest
of his presidency. Many pundits believe that Clinton’s scandals
helped pave the way for the victory of Republican George W. Bush
in the heavily disputed 2000 presidential election.