Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, is one of the most controversial men to grace the White House. Born and raised in Arkansas, Clinton said in his autobiography, My Life, “Sometime in my sixteenth year, I decided I wanted to be in public life as an elected official.” He attended many different schools, including Georgetown University, Oxford, and Yale University, studying philosophy, politics, and economics. During his time at Yale University, he met and married Hillary Rodham. In 1978, Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas, earning the title of the youngest governor in the country. During his term, Clinton focused specifically on the Arkansas education system, transforming it into one of the best education systems in the country.
Clinton ran for office in the 1992 election against Republican candidate George H.W. Bush, and claimed the title of President of the United States, beginning his first term in January 1993. Over his first term, Clinton focused on trying to cap the budget deficit by raising taxes, trying to put a health care reform plan in action, and implementing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing homosexual people to serve in the military provided that they do not reveal their sexual preference.
Although some were not happy with Clinton’s political agenda, controversy ensued when Clinton was caught lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The two began their affair in 1995, and news of the affair broke on January 17, 1988 on the Drudge Report. Clinton immediately denied the affair, stating, “I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people.”
Although he denied the scandal, Clinton became the second president to be impeached in December 1998. Newspapers, online articles, televisions and radios all over the country focused on Clinton’s infidelity, causing much uproar in the homes of Americans. Clinton’s blunders filled the minds of faithful supporters, and society developed many differing opinions as to his morality.
In my generation specifically, I feel that people saw Bill Clinton as a beacon of hope, a man who would change the direction of the country, and a family man. However, these hopes were shattered when the scandal broke, and my generation began to see Clinton as a man who had lied to them for many years. Because of this affair, Clinton’s policies and promises were no longer as important as his personal choices. My generation lost trust and hope, and although he was a brilliant man with ideas and plans, he was viewed differently because of his choices. Women everywhere lost hope in Clinton, as they empathized with his wife.
In a 2008 article about Hillary Clinton’s reaction to the affair, author Sally Bedell Smith wrote, “But unless evidence of his affairs proved incontrovertible, she simply preferred to turn a blind eye. To keep her marriage going, she had years ago devised a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.”
As a young child during the Clinton era, I was oblivious to politics and the severity of the situation. However, hearing my parents and grandparents speak negatively about the affair definitely shaped my opinion. I feel that many people will forever look back at Clinton’s presidency and only remember his affair rather than his political advancements.
In the Clinton scandal, the personal was definitely political. A brilliant man with a strong set of beliefs, expectations, and hopes was overtaken by his personal choices.