Bill Clinton: Colorful & Complex

Ryan Heshmati

December 01, 2023

President Bill Clinton flipped the White House, unseating Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush in the 1992 presidential election. He went on to serve two terms filled with economic progress and personal scandal; thus, he was certainly a memorable president. When he left office, he held an approval rating of over 65%, according to Gallup Polls. It is worth exploring what shaped President Clinton’s eight years that built the legacy he is remembered for today.

When Clinton won in 1992, he sold himself to voters as a moderate. In office, he promoted free trade by implementing NAFTA, which remained in place until President Trump replaced it in 2020. Further, according to the White House Historical Association’s biography of the 42nd president, Clinton led the nation under a time of “... the lowest unemployment rate in modern times, the lowest inflation in 30 years, the highest home ownership rate in the country’s history, dropping crime rates in many places, and reduced welfare rolls.” He accomplished these great feats through economic policy that included reigned-in spending, resulting in a budget surplus.

Unfortunately, there was a darker element to President Cilton’s time in the White House. During his presidency, he had sexual relations with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and when confronted with the allegations in early 1998, falsely claimed he had not. After he was impeached by the House of Representatives, the Senate acquitted him, many votes off from the ⅔ majority needed to convict. While he survived the attempt to remove him from office, the ordeal stained his legacy, and his Arkansas bar license was suspended for five years. 

A more positive characteristic of his personal life was that Clinton became known for his skill with the saxophone. In fact, before being elected president, then-governor and presidential candidate Clinton played the instrument on Arsenio Hall’s late-night talk show at the outset of an episode he was a guest on.

President Clinton led the United States through a time of great economic prosperity and was responsible for NAFTA’s successful implementation. On the other hand, he was the subject of intense controversy over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and he faced removal from office as a result. While Clinton may not have been the most honest individual to hold office in the United States, his presidency certainly includes a large volume of accomplishments. Ultimately, his presidential approval at the end of his second term (65%+) indicates Americans seek to evaluate Clinton for the good he used his office for, not his personal indiscretions.