10 Reasons Bill Clinton was an Amazing President
With Hilary Clinton a huge part of the modern news cycle, it has caused many people to look back on the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton. As chances rise that the Clinton’s will find themselves back in the White House, it is well worth a look at the former first family’s years as the Leader (Leaders) of the Free World.
William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. During that time, President Clinton saw many triumphs, but his years in the White House were also marred by personal scandal, and he became one of only two U.S. presidents to ever go through the impeachment process.
Though he was ultimately never impeached, many believed that Clinton would be remembered for the affairs and the perjury that he was accused of. Instead, however, he became one of our most successful modern presidents, and he was ranked as the 8th Most Successful Presidents of All Time by the American Political Science Association.
Before being elected to the presidency, Clinton was the attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979, and then served as the governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and then again from 1983 to 1992. To become president, Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush, and he ultimately served two terms, the first democrat to be elected President twice since Franklin D. Roosevelt. When he left office, Clinton has the highest approval rating of any departing president since World War II. Her are the top 10 reasons Bill Clinton was an amazing president:
10. There Were No Major Military Conflicts
Bill Clinton was president in a time of peace. He was the first president to serve after the Cold War, and the issues in the Middle East, which we still deal with today, had not yet made an appearance on the world stage. Because of this, he was able to take advantage of leading a military that had the time and resources to rebuild and grow, making them stronger than ever before.
Though president Clinton did utilize the military during his time in the White House, it was not for any attack of the U.S. Instead, it was to assist in other world events including the Battle of Mogadishu, the genocide in Kosovo, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also warned the nation about the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, who was starting to collect biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. This, of course, was well before the Gulf War, which was approved by his successor, President George W. Bush.
The only military conflict that President Clinton was involved in during his presidency was Operation Desert Fox. This was a four-day bombing campaign on Iraq that the U.S. participated in along with the United Kingdom. The goal, of course, was to put pressure on Saddam Hussein, but critics of Clinton claim that Operation Desert Fox was simply a way to distract the nation from his impeachment trial, which was going on at the same time.
9. Crime Was At Its Lowest Rate In an Entire Generation
Since President Clinton’s presidency was so economically rewarding, the country had extra money to spare. One of the places that the president put this surplus was in crime fighting. The crime rate in the U.S. fell each year that Bill Clinton was in office, and at the end of both of his terms, crime was at the lowest it had ever been in 26 years. Clinton was able to get funding for more than 100,000 new police officers across the nation, and he signed the Brady Bill (1993), which required a background check and waiting period for those who wished to purchase a handgun. The 1994 Clinton Crime Bill banned assault weapons in the country, and when adding that law to the Brady Bill, by 2001, there was a 40 percent decline in gun crime across the country.
Critics of Clinton don’t see all of this crime fighting as a good thing, as it filled the nation’s prisons with criminals. Prison overcrowding was a serious concern during the Clinton presidency, but opponents of these critics have a simple response to the critics: if you do the crime, you do the time.
There were certainly problems with these bills, and looking back on the Clinton years, even the former president, himself, would make changes to the bill. For instance, there was a three-strikes provision in the bill, which meant criminals who committed felonies had three chances to turn things around, but when they were convicted of their third crime, they were in jail for a very long sentence, though that actual sentence depends on the state.
8. President Clinton Improved the Environment
By the time the Clinton presidency began, there was a big public focus on the environment. He had a very pro-environmental policy during both terms, and he was able to preserve 4.6 million acres of national land. He also strengthened the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996. These amendments put more of an emphasis on science, they made small water supply systems more flexible, and they gave communities more power to assess and protect their own systems. Additionally, the amendments to the act included a public right-to-know should their water become undrinkable, and they helped to improve the infrastructure of water delivery systems.
In addition to national land and water, the Clinton administration also improved the clean air standards for more than 44 million around the country. There was also a focus on prosecuting environmental-related crimes during the Clinton years. During that time, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency prosecuted 241 people for crimes against the environment in 1999, which was more than twice as many people that were prosecuted in 1992, the year before Clinton was elected.
Looking back today, we can look at President Clinton as a “green” president, and though his campaign promises to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels didn’t quite come to pass, his environmental legacy is one that is important to mention when talking about the presidency of Bill Clinton. It is said that part of the reason Clinton wasn’t able to meet his environmental goal, is because he spent much of his time and administration resources to improve the economy.
7. President Clinton Had a Successful Social Policy
When President Clinton was elected, he made a number of social promises including to reform welfare. This reform, known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, gave more control to the states when it came to welfare, and changed many of the requirements that people needed to qualify for welfare services. According to Clinton, these reforms would “end welfare as we know it,” and after the reforms were put in place, the amount of welfare given to the states was based on population and at a flat rate, something that had never been done before.
Due to these reforms, every state must meet a certain criteria and ensure that recipients of welfare eventually can work themselves out of welfare. A new program, called the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, makes this the law. Through this program, recipients of welfare must track employment searches, and the program has a five-year limit on welfare assistance. The bill further restricts welfare for legal immigrants, and offers increased assistance for child care.
After the Clinton administration put these new programs into place, there were millions who left the welfare system, which equated to more than a 60 percent drop. Additionally, the child poverty rate was lowered, and employment rose.
In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office looked back on these reforms and found some interesting information. One of the most interesting one is that the incomes for families who were affected by the program rose by approximately 35 percent. In addition, The Times, a major UK based newspaper, called these reforms, “one of the few undisputed triumphs of American government in the past 20 years.”
6. President Clinton Raised Taxes On the Right People
Another thing that President Clinton was known for, and another reason he was an amazing president, is that he was able to control taxes, and he raised them on the right people. Thanks to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, taxes were raise on the top income earners from 28 to 39.6 percent. The economy had boomed in the 1980s after President Reagan, and then fell again when President George H.W. Bush was in office. Clinton, once again, turned things around, and one reason it did turn around was by raising taxes.
Previous to this act, anyone who made more than $51,900 had a tax rate of 31 percent. After the act, a new bracket of 36 percent was enacted for those who made more than $115,000, and 39.6 percent for income more than $250,000. Corporate taxes were also changed with this act, and any corporate income over $335,000 was now taxed at a rate of 34 percent. There were also new tax brackets for companies that made higher profits.
The Medicare tax, which previously had a cap, now did not, thanks to this act, and taxes for transportation fuels were taxed at a rate of 4.3 cents per gallon. This act also changed the portion of individual’s Social Security benefits that were subject to taxes. It went from 50 to 85 percent. There was also an AMT tax rate increase which took the rate from 24 percent to 26 percent and 28 percent.
5. President Clinton Improved Space Exploration
Though space exploration was not a top priority of the Clinton administration, there were significant advances while he was president. When President Clinton entered into the White House in 1993, he was advised that he should cancel the program that funded the space station, as it was behind its schedule and it was over budget. Clinton, however, decided to accept a proposal that redesigned the space station and used both U.S. and Russian made parts. This not only helped to improve space exploration, it also improved U.S.-Russian relations. Other European countries, Canada and Japan also came together, and thus, the International Space Station was created.
As the space station was being developed, there were missions from the U.S. to Mir, the Russian space station, and Clinton was present to greet astronauts, such as Shannon Lucid, who returned from her mission. Clinton was also present to watch John Glenn return to space on the Discovery space shuttle.
The Clinton presidency also approved initiative to create a new replacement for the shuttle. One of them was the X-33, which pushed the limits of technology, but was ultimately cancelled.
By 1996, NASA announced that they possibly found traces of life on a meteorite. Clinton held a press conference and announced that he was going to ask NASA to put more intellectual and technical power behind the search for life on Mars. After this announcement, Clinton worked closely with NASA throughout his presidency to continuously use resources to search for extraterrestrial life.
4. President Clinton Fought HIV/AIDS and Improved the Health of New Mothers
When President Clinton was elected, he had very lofty goals for healthcare, including the reform of the U.S. healthcare system. Overseas and in Canada, changes were made to their healthcare systems, and the results were something that the Clinton administration thought would work well here. As our healthcare system was so fragile and convoluted, something certainly needed to be done. Clinton introduced the Health Security plan, one that would bring universal health care to the U.S. Within a year, however, Congress had squashed it quietly, and any chance for healthcare reform was dead.
Though his health care reform plan didn’t make it, President Clinton was able to make some positive changes on the healthcare front. The most important of these was the improved health of new mothers. In 1996, he signed the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act, which allowed women to stay in the hospital for as many as 96 hours after giving birth, if necessary. This was a big change from the previous limit of 24 hours, in most cases, and all group health care plans were required to change to this system. Mothers who had a C-section were given a full 96 hours of hospital stay that was paid for through their coverage, and those who had a vaginal delivery were given 48 hours. This extra time also helped to ensure both the mother and baby were in good health before sending them home.
3. President Clinton Brought Peace to Other Areas of the World, Too
Though Clinton is known as a peace-time president, that doesn’t mean that there were not conflicts in other areas of the world. For example, President Clinton was a huge part of enacting the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This agreement brought peace to Northern Ireland, which had been undergoing political turmoil. This agreement was part of the full peace process of Northern Ireland, and Clinton regarded it as one of the crowning achievements of his presidential career.
In addition to helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland, Clinton was also instrumental in helping other nations encourage the former Soviet Union nations to give up any nuclear arsenals and to improve upon the control of nuclear materials. Additionally, Clinton worked closely with NATO to end the ethnic cleansing campaign brought about by Slobodon Milosevic, who was later charged and tried for war crimes. Following the bombing of Serbia in this campaign, Clinton sent 20,000 troops to help enforce peace. There were no American casualties.
Clinton also worked incredibly hard to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and in 2001 attempted to orchestrate a peace agreement at Camp David. Unfortunately, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, walked away from the peace process, and peace was not meant to be between Israel and Palestine. Arafat did complement Clinton for his efforts, however, and told him that he was a great man. Clinton, however, replied with, “I am a failure, and you have made me one.”
2. President Clinton Improved Education Across the Nation
President Clinton was also a president who chose to improve the education of American’s children, and between 1994 and 1999, spent more than two billion dollars to do this. His plan, Goals 2000: Educate America Act, had several points including the goal of ensuring all children will enter school ready to learn, and that there would be a 90 percent graduation rate across the country by the year 2000. Other goals of the act included providing educators the materials necessary to effectively teach their students and ensuring that students in the U.S. will lead the world in math and science. This act also puts a focus on battling adult illiteracy and that every school in the country would be free of drugs and violence.
Though some of these goals were not met by 2000, and some, such as U.S. students leading the world in science and math, are still not met, the act was seen as a success by political leaders on both sides of the aisle.
This was not the only education goal during the Clinton presidency, however. He also enacted the Improving America’s School Act in 1994. This act required that the accountability and standards in schools were the same across the board, and even disadvantaged students would have the same opportunities that other students have. This act was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and in addition, received support from both the business and education communities.
1. President Clinton Brought the Economy Into the Black
When Bill Clinton was elected, the country was facing the largest budget deficit in U.S. history, which equated to $290 billion. By the time he left office, there was a budget surplus of $127 billion. There were more than 5 million new jobs created during the Clinton presidency, and unemployment dropped to 4 percent from the 7.5 percent unemployment rate that was in place when he took office. The 4 percent unemployment rate was the lowest it had been in three decades. Additionally, the poverty rate dropped to the lowest it had been since the late 1970s, and sat at 11.8 percent in 1999.
The economic success of President Clinton was likely his crowning achievement, and something that he will be remembered for in the decades to come. To create this surplus, Clinton took a number of steps, some of which were discussed throughout this article, including raising taxes on the rich, ending corporate subsidies and reformed the welfare system. In addition, Clinton was instrumental in passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated tariffs when trading between countries. Both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush attempted a similar goal, but it wasn’t until Clinton got into office that the achievement was finally met. This agreement created millions of dollars for the U.S. budget, but critics also claim that it created a push for outsourcing and the mistreatment of farmers in Mexico.
It is difficult for people who didn’t like Bill Clinton to list too many of his faults, and though he certainly did not meet every goal he set for himself during his tenure as president, he left the country in much better shape than he received it in. It only took one new term for the next president to eliminate the economic surplus that Clinton created, but with more international conflict at hand, it was difficult not to spend money on the military.
Though Clinton is probably best known for his economic legacy, there was much more to the man than that. From improving the health and education of U.S. citizens to opening up new frontiers in space, the Bill Clinton legacy is one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. These achievements are also what makes him one of the most respected and highly regarded presidents of all time, even though his personal problems, such as infidelity, often got in the way of his political achievements. If there is one thing that Clinton taught us during his presidency, it is that what goes on behind closed doors doesn’t necessarily mean that one cannot be successful and well-remembered in the years to come.