I don’t remember the decline of Clinton’s presidency in detail, but what I do remember isn’t positive. I remember my conservative father calling Clinton a variety of names, most of which I had no idea what they meant at the time, but I could tell by the tone they definitely weren’t positive. I also briefly remember seeing words such as “affair” and “scandal” in headlines on CNN or WRAL News on television as my parents kept up with the events. So even at the age of of 7 or 8 I was aware that the President of the United States had done something he wasn’t suppose to.
But now that I’m older, more informed (somewhat), and have more experience following other presidents at an age that I can actually comprehend what it means to be a president, I can now attempt to look at what Clinton did right, and what he (clearly) did wrong. But first, in order to judge Clinton as a president, it’s necessary to define what characteristics define a president.
Let me propose the idea of a president with terrible morals, but who’s also a socioeconomic genius that knows exactly how to lead a country. This president would be single, sleep around with whoever he/she wanted to and however many he/she wanted to. He/she would party hard and be on the cover of People magazine on the reg. But regardless of how he/she behaved outside of the white house, he/she was always present for congressional meetings and presidential advisory sessions, and was an excellent spokesperson and diplomatic conversationalist. Lets also assume that the people love him/her. This idea is obviously impractical and absurd, but assuming that a candidate such as this could get into office, would this particular president be ridiculed for his/her “extra-curricular activities” if the economy was booming, the unemployment rate was an all-time low and US international relations were as strong as ever? Honestly we’ll never know, but if not, its a definite possibility that Clinton would be remembered quite differently.
My generation must assess Clinton based on his progress made as president, as well as his behavior while doing so. We have to ask ourselves, should Clinton’s sexual relations with White House Secretary Monica Lewinsky, and alleged relations with multiple other women including Barbara Streisand and Sharon Stone, effect our opinion of him as a president? and to what degree should each of these factors count? or should our opinion solely be based on his government involvement?
But as soon as I read Clinton’s name in the prompt I immediately thought of his impeachment in 1998. Clinton lied to the entire country, surrendering his trust and his validity. How can an American citizen trust someone as a politician, if they can’t even trust them as a person? Clinton’s decision to have an affair with Lewinsky ruined his credibility and gave the nation reason to doubt him. Regardless of his campaign promises, Clinton had not even served the length of an entire term before he became sexually involved with a 21 year-old intern in 1995, while still married. It’s not the fact that this made Clinton a bad president, it’s the fact that it made him a bad person. How could our nation allow Clinton to be in control of over 300 million people, when he couldn’t even control himself?
Clinton created the most jobs ever under a single administration, and he was able to make way against the massive amount of US debt that had piled up. In fact, Clinton is responsible for the largest three-year pay-down in American history; $363 billion between 1998 and 2000. As a president, Clinton did an excellent job of putting our county in excellent economic position, but the majority of the American population, as well as the House of Representatives, weren’t willing to allow Clinton to retain office. His behavior was merely unacceptable considering the position that he acquired by the vote of the American people.
As a president, Clinton made significant headway in a time of economic disparity, but as a person, he merely forced the American people to re-evaluate their decision, and gave the House and the Senate the opportunity to correct the voters mistake. In a recent NPR interview with Barak Goodman, the writer and film-maker of the latest PBS documentary, Clinton, Goodman said that the Clintons believed they “…were the victims of a political conspiracy. Their opponents have always said they were the author of their own problems, and I came to believe both were true.” The Clintons were only victimized after they (Bill in particular) had provided the opportunity for it. Had Clinton been able to control his focus on women other than his wife, he may have had the opportunity to accomplish even more as the 42nd President of the United States.