When our generation thinks back on the 90s, we think back on our first decade of life filled with overalls, Bill Cosby inspired sweaters, the rise of the Internet, Furby, the rise of teenaged pop music stars and the abundance of boy bands with their abundance of hair gel. The 90s were a time of overall economic stability, peace-time and happiness. The 90s were like sophomore year of college – essential, but a more mellow hiatus between the hype of the 80s (like freshman year) and the economic and political unrest of what was to come with the turn of the millennium (junior and senior year). Upon further reflection, we remember vaguely that Bill Clinton, the man with the unfortunate reputation as a result his notorious affair with Monica Lewinsky, remembered more for his misstep in character than for his political agenda. But there was more to Bill Clinton than his scandalized presidency, which was largely overshadowed by his sex-driven mistakes – his presidential “goodness,” so to speak, was thrown to the wind, and he became the object of vicious sexual humor and ridicule for years to come. But our comfort in the 90s can be attributed to some of the successes of his democratic reign.
During Clinton’s presidency, the U.S. was at a time of peace and economic well being, according to the Washington Post, more than at almost any other time in history. He served a second term, during which he achieved the lowest unemployment and inflation rates in the modern economy and low crime rates. He proposed the first balanced budget in decades and even accomplished a budget surplus. He fought to end racial discrimination, upgrade education, protect jobs, restrict handgun sales and strengthen environmental policies. The Arkansas born Georgetown graduate however had his accomplishments tarnished by his sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Clinton, of course, was married to the politically active Hillary and they were the parents of a teenaged daughter, Chelsea). He became infamous for his initial denials of sexual relations with the intern, which plagued the rest of his presidency so terribly that he became the second president in history to be impeached.
Clinton also notably implemented the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy,” and ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He increased national minimum wage, once again making him most noted for reigning over a time of great economic prosperity and equality. Of course there were failures, as in any presidency, such as the failure of the American military mission in Somalia and the U.S. inaction in the Rwandan genocide, but all administrations are blemished. What I have never understood is Americans’ obsession and taboo infatuation with sex. It drives so many of our downfalls and the inability to progressively move forward in this country. In a modern society, we are continuously held back by the overwhelming burden of traditional, biblical-based ideals of how sex should be, or rather shouldn’t be at all. In a society so uptight about the topic of sex, we have been unable to make great strides in numerous facets of the political spectrum. So many politicians have experienced their demise as a direct result of their sex life. While yes, perhaps their actions may have been immoral and a breech of the so-called “trust” we expect of our leaders, I find it wildly illogical how we as a society react to the very personal aspects of our public figures’ lives, right down to what they do in bed.
Clinton went on to recover from his plagued presidency by founding the William J. Clinton Foundation for global and climate initiatives, convening global leaders to find solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, for treating HIV/AIDS through the Health Access Initiative, and for fighting childhood obesity, upon several other initiatives.