The White House website says that under President Bill Clinton “the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.”
I personally didn’t learn about any of Clinton’s achievements as president until at least middle school and by then he was no longer in office. Honestly, I don’t remember when or how I heard about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but at the time that was the only shred of information about Clinton I had to go by. Based on what I knew about his relationship with his intern, though, I didn’t think too highly of him at all. I think that most people my age feel the same way about him; as someone I never knew, but someone I know best for one reason.
It seems that those that were adults while Clinton was in office don’t shy away from him like I do, though. CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin, in The Telegraph, said “The legacy of this scandal favors Clinton more than his adversaries,” and that “More Americans think that it was a trivial waste of time than think that he got away with something unforgivable.”
A Washington Post article from Clinton’s final days in office said that it would be difficult to predict his presidential legacy because “The problem with assessing Clinton is that there are so many Clintons to assess.”
I think that statement still holds true when we try to assess him today. Many will agree that he was a brilliant public speaker and led the U.S. to a time of economic prosperity, but “he will continue to be regarded by Americans as a living contradiction of all that we value in our president.”
And there’s the fine line. We can’t call him the villain, after he balanced the federal budget, turned deficits into surpluses, passed crime bills, and redeveloped the welfare system, among other accomplishments. But his infidelities and scandals will continue to hang over him and his legacy not only for the current generation of Americans, but for those to come as well.