The Clinton administration (from January 1993 to January 2001) was characterized by a budget surplus, free trade internationally, military interventions in southeastern Europe, reform of the Great Society welfare system, and impeachment. While Bill Clinton claimed credit, most of the success in his era can be traced to Republican majorities in Congress that crafted welfare reforms and a budget surplus.
- 1 Clinton voter Coalition
- 2 Crime Bill of 1994
- 3 Healthcare fiasco
- 4 1993 World Trade Center bombing and aftermath
- 5 Proposal to privatize Social Security
- 6 Opioid epidemic
- 7 Foreign Policy
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Clinton voter Coalition
Focus groups and opinion polling
Needham (2005) argues the "permanent campaign" is said to have reached its apogee in the incumbent communications strategies of Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. However, their assiduous courting of public opinion while in office has been used to explain both the high approval ratings of these leaders and their unpopularity for long periods of their incumbency. This apparent paradox suggests that the permanent campaign model is too blunt an instrument to usefully describe or evaluate incumbent communications. Its assumption of continuity between election campaigning and office-holding fails to explain how the strategic terrain changes once a challenger takes office. The concepts of branding and relationship marketing can be used to highlight the difference between gaining support in the one-off transaction of an election and retaining voter loyalty in a post-"purchase" setting. The success of Blair and Clinton in establishing a relationship with voters from within office can be assessed using six attributes of successful brands: simplicity, uniqueness, reassurance, aspiration, values, and credibility. As incumbents, facing challenges in shifting strategic and institutional environments, Blair and Clinton developed messages that were simple and appealed to voter aspirations. Voters remained sceptical about the extent to which these leaders embodied values and delivered on their promises.
Suspicions often arose during Clinton's tenure about the timing of cruise missile attacks to manipulate public sympathy at crucial points when his approval ratings sagged. On several occasions  generally when the approval ratings dipped to 47%, surprise cruise missile attacks were launched which resulted in a 10-point gain in the public opinion polls. Nick Gillespie of Reason remarked,
|“||Consider, for instance, the relative lack of scrutiny accorded the August 20 cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan … immediately after the bombing, polls showed that close to half of all Americans thought the missile strikes were meant to divert attention from the president's sex life… the Sudanese bombing suggests something else as well: If and when the public's and the media's attention shifts from the president's sex life to wider-ranging inquiries about how he makes deadly serious policy decisions…"||”|
|The Presidential Vote in Social Groups (percentages)|
| % of
|% of 3-party vote|
|Party and ideology|
|Gender and marital status|
|17||Born Again, religious right||23||61||15||26||65||8|
|17||18–29 years old||43||34||22||53||34||10|
|33||30–44 years old||41||38||21||48||41||9|
|26||45–59 years old||41||40||19||48||41||9|
|24||60 and older||50||38||12||48||44||7|
|6||Not a high school graduate||54||28||18||59||28||11|
|24||High school graduate||43||36||21||51||35||13|
|27||Some college education||41||37||21||48||40||10|
|17||Post graduate education||50||36||14||52||40||5|
|10||Population over 500,000||58||28||13||68||25||6|
|21||Population 50,000 to 500,000||50||33||16||50||39||8|
|30||Rural areas, towns||39||40||20||45||44||10|
Source: Voter News Service exit poll, reported in The New York Times, November 10, 1996, p. 28.
Crime Bill of 1994
- See also: The New Jim Crow
In the wake of the Central Park jogger attack, Democrats took action to deal with what they perceived as a problem with "Superpredators." Sen. Joseph Biden boasted of his greatest legislative achievement passage of the 1994 Crime bill which locked up 10% o\\\\\\f the Black adult male population of the United States.When President George H.W. Bush asked for a record increase in funding to fight the War on Drugs, Biden told a TV interviewer
"In a nutshell, the President's plan does not include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, enough prosecutors to convict them, enough judges to sentence them or enough prison cells to put them away for a long time."
Biden, Ted Kennedy, and Strom Thurmond worked on proposals that raised maximum penalties, removed a directive requiring the US Sentencing Commission to take into account prison capacity, and created the cabinet-level “drug czar” position. In 1984, they passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other things, abolished parole, imposed a less generous cap on “good time” sentence reductions, and allowed the Sentencing Commission to issue more punitive guidelines.
Biden bragged on the Senate floor that it was under his and Thurmond's leadership that Congress passed a law sending anyone caught with a rock of cocaine the size of a quarter to jail for a minimum of five years - the notoriously racist hundred-to-one sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. In the same speech Biden took credit for civil asset forfeiture and seizure laws, and demanded to know why Papa Bush hadn't sentenced more drug dealers to life in prison or exercise the death penalty once Congress had given him that power.
Biden's version of a new crime bill added more than forty crimes that would be eligible for the death penalty. Biden boasted “we do everything but hang people for jaywalking.” The NAACP and other groups lobbied against the bill. Although the 1991 crime bill was defeated by Republicans, the 1994 Biden/Clinton crime bill was passed.
By 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level they had been under Ronald Reagan. Biden's "social planning" had proven effective.The Leftist Jacobin magazine summed up Biden's record:
"It’s not as if Biden didn’t know what he was doing.... He just didn’t care. Biden had made a calculated decision that the elections he would win were worth the damage he inflicted....
But even if Biden has subsequently learned the error of his ways, the rank cynicism and callousness involved in his two-decade-long championing of carceral policies should be more than enough to give anyone pause about his qualities as a leader, let alone a progressive one."
- Main article: Clinton health care plan of 1993
In 1993, the Bill Clinton proposed a significant government-run health care reform package. Clinton had avoided discussing health care plans during the 1992 election campaign. Despite prohibitions on nepotism he set up a task force headed by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, to come up with a "comprehensive plan" to enforce universal socialized health care on all Americans, which in addition to the gay agenda was a cornerstone of the administration's first-term. Various documents relating to the how the Task Force spent government funds still as of yet have not been disclosed.
The recommendation, announced by President Bill Clinton in an address to Congress on September 22, 1993, consisted largely of buzzwords and slogans developed through focus groups with a complicated proposal running more than 1,000 pages. The plan called for a mandate on job creators and employers to withhold the cost of health insurance (equal to one-eighth of GDP) from workers paychecks and funnel money to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The plan dubbed "Hillary Care", was well received by liberal political leaders and socialist commentators, and was promoted by mainstream media organizations as likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Congress.
As the 1994 mid-term elections approached public opinion soured on the plan because it was overly bureaucratic, expensive, inefficient and restrictive of patient's rights and free choice. The effort to bring about rejection of the legislation included minimal advertising criticizing the plan, including the famous Harry and Louise ad, which depicted a middle-class couple despairing over the plan's bureaucratic nature.
Meanwhile, Democrats headed for cover and tried to disassociated themselves from the President, offering competing plans of their own. Some liberals criticized the plan, preferring a Canadian-style single payer system.
On September 26, 1994, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell announced that the plan was dead and did not even bother holding a vote on the bill to force Senators to go on record. The defeat weakened Clinton politically, and contributed to widespread public frustration with the remnants of New Deal socialism. In the 1994 election, the Republican revolution gave the GOP control of both houses of Congress, ending the threat of a Clinton-sponsored health care plan.
Political analysts observed the success of the Republican Party was the result of the Clinton Administration attempting to move the country towards socialism at the very moment the failures of socialism were so evident worldwide.
1993 World Trade Center bombing and aftermath
Jamie S. Gorelick served as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno and authored the 1995 Gorelick memo, erecting a wall of separation between CIA intelligence gathering activities and FBI counterintelligence activities. The Wall Street Journal reported that "during the investigation of the first World Trade Center bombing, Gorelick instructed then-FBI Director Louis Freeh and United States Attorney Mary Jo White that for the sake of "appearances" they would be required to adhere to an interpretation of the wall far stricter than the law required.  The Journal also noted, "the Mary Jo White prosecutions and the 2001 Moussaoui arrest were among our best chances to uncover and unravel the al Qaeda network before it struck the homeland. But thanks in part to the Clinton Administration's concern with appearances and in part to its legacy, these investigations were hamstrung.  Scott Wheeler observed, "Because the memo created a barrier for U.S. intelligence agencies to share information with the FBI, one of its unintended consequences might have been to prevent the FBI from receiving the necessary intelligence to stop the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the worst in American history.
Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft told the 9/11 investigating commission, "The simple fact of September 11th is this ... We did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies. Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls." 
Ramzi Yousef, who delivered the explosives in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing killing six people, is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a top figure in al-Qaeda. After the September 2001 attack, it was the opinion of many investigators and analysts that the perpetrators of that attack had a state sponsor - Iraq. A number of details, including the fact that Yousef was travelling on an Iraqi passport, as well as the date of the 1993 attack - the second anniversary of the U.S. liberation of Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War - furthered suspicions of Iraqi involvement in the 1993 incident. His uncle, Sheikh Mohammed was one of the masterminds the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and was arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003. The Clinton administration neutered the American intelligence agencies that could have stopped the September 11 plot.
Proposal to privatize Social Security
In 1999 President Clinton proposed investing the Social Security Trust Fund in what some might consider "risky" assets in the stock market and bonds. The stock market then was in the late stages of a bull market cycle with stock prices and indexes overvalued. Clinton told a joint meeting fo the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate,
|“||I propose that we commit 60 percent of the budget surplus for the next 15 years to Social Security, investing a small portion in the private sector, just as any private or State Government pension would do.||”|
Critics of Clinton argued that he lacked a knowledge of world affairs. In his 1992 speech at the Democrat National Convention, he devoted one minute to foreign policy issues in an oration that lasted an hour. Clinton entered office after the U.S. won the Cold War, and the U.S. was the only superpower. There were no major foreign crisis during his presidency. His foreign policy was based on five principles: 1) strong alliances with Europe and Asia, 2) positive relations with former adversaries, 3) a global perspective on local conflicts, 4) the adaptation of national security priorities to incorporate technological advances, and 5) effective economic integration.
Butfoy (2006) argues that in the 1990s the "revolution in military affairs" (RMA), which produced "smart" weapons like cruise missiles, came of age. This apparently transformed how America viewed the relationship between force and international relations. It looked as though technology was framing foreign policy. In particular, smart weapons enabled Clinton to combine risk minimization with an expanded security agenda. However, we should be wary of ascribing technological determinism to the conflicts of the 1990s dominated by Washington's flexing of its strategic superiority, such as its bombing of Belgrade. As shown by comparison with US strategy after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington's stance in the 1990s was shaped by linkages between technology and specific political circumstances. As these circumstances changed, so did the RMA's place in US efforts to shape world order.
North Korean nukes
From 1985 to 1992, North Korea "bought time" for its nuclear weapons program by entering into a series of agreements under which it promised to "de-weaponize" its reactors and halt further production of plutonium. Clinton wanted to remove the possibility of a crisis before his 1996 re-election bid. By Clinton's second, however, North Korea violated the terms of most of the non-proliferation agreements, and simply abandoned compliance with the rest.
In 1994 Clinton signed an agreement on paper with Kim Il-sung accepting a vague promise that North Korea would temporarily halt its work on a nuclear weapon. The "agreement" was known as the "Agreed Framework." The agreement gave North Korea food and oil. In addition to oil, the United States and others rendered free, unconditional food aid while not demanding any real reform of its inefficient, Stalinist agricultural system.
By 2000, the food and other forms of aid Clinton gave North Korea amounted to over $61 million. By 2003, the North Korean regime amassed enough time and resources to build and test a nuclear device.
Clinton tried to contain Iraq, and used military attacks to make the point. Clinton launched a small cruise missile attack against Iraq in 1993 as a response to a suspected terrorist assassination attempt made on former President George H. W. Bush in Kuwait. In 1998, Clinton threatened military action when Iraq denied full access to UN weapons inspectors. On February 11, 1998 Bill Richardson told Margaret Warner of the PBS News Hour regarding Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction,
- "We think this man is a threat to the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in his region and future generations there with anthrax and VX....Are we going to stand back and allow Saddam Hussein to continue developing Weapons of Mass Destruction?"
Supporters of human rights faulted Clinton's ideological transition from Wilsonian idealism to realism, especially regarding China and Bosnia. They gave high marks for his efforts at pushing peace negotiations in Haiti and the Middle East, the use of economic sanctions against North Korea, India, and Pakistan, and his efforts to get a chemical weapons convention. However, they give low marks in terms of human rights for inaction on the genocide in Rwanda and the Russian repression of secessionist Chechnya.
There was little progress in the Middle East, where US support for Israel angered the Arabs. While Clinton made some accomplishments, including the 1993 Oslo Accords, the death of Israel's prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 slowed the peace process. The election of Ehud Barak as prime minister in May 1999 appeared to give the president his last chance to achieve a foreign policy success. A meeting at Camp David between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Barak in December 2000 produced a plan to create a Palestinian state in about 95% of the West Bank and Gaza. The plan was not accepted by the public on either side. President Clinton's hesitant political style was partially responsible for the lack of a lasting peace settlement.====Japan==== Relations with Japan, the main American ally in Asia, started off poorly. Yet by 2000, both sides realized how important friendship was, and this led to a redefinition and strengthening of the US-Japanese alliance. Although some changes have occurred in the asymmetry of power in the post-Cold War alliance with the relationship becoming less unequal, US interests still dominate, for the weakness of the Japanese economy limited its self-confidence.
Clinton started off with heavy criticism of the lack of human rights in China. The main issue was Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status for China, favored by China and American business and farm interests but strongly opposed by religious and human rights groups. Clinton's policy, which began with a 1993 executive order to make MFN status conditional on Chinese reforms, changed as the importance of a trade relationship with China forced the issue to be separated from the government's human rights policies.
He adjusted his China policy in 1996 and advocated dialogue and engagement; this led to improved relations. But Washington continued to criticize China on the issues of Hong Kong, human rights, trade, arms sales, Taiwan, and questionable political donations to US election campaigns. President Jiang Zemin's visit to the United States regained the momentum and led to a level of cooperation between the two countries not seen in years. The major factors affecting the relationship include: the enduring impact of the 1989 Tiananmen episode when the Communist Party crushed a democratic movement with the army; the negative coverage of China by American media, American psychological insecurity caused by the rise of China, and US domestic politics which has a love-hate relationship with China (loving to buy cheap Chinese products while watching competing American factories shut down.)
Relations with India were expected to improve following the end of the Cold War. They did not do so as both sides mishandled relations. The contradictory policies of the Clinton administration that simultaneously pressured India to liberalize its economy while criticizing New Delhi on human rights and nuclear issues undermined the very officials who strove to improve ties. In the face of criticism from Washington and opposition at home, Indian diplomats lost their enthusiasm for rapprochement. The controversy that surrounded the passage of the Brown Amendment, which restored aid to Pakistan in 1995 despite Islamabad's violation of the 1985 Pressler Amendment, is a case study of the delicate nature of the Indo-American relationship. In resurrecting Cold War rhetoric, Indian parliamentarians and American congressmen demonstrated their unwillingness to establish a new relationship. However the George W. Bush administration reversed policy and developed close, friendly ties to India.
Relations with Canada went smoothly. Thanks to the precedent set by the Brian Mulroney government and the administration of George H.W. Bush in the resolution of issues such as the acid rain problem and the Pacific salmon dispute. A friendly relationship between the Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and Clinton helped, as did the strong economic growth enjoyed by both countries. In addition, there were multilateral and bilateral institutions in place, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, to resolve some major disagreements. However, the relationship faces a number of challenges in the future. While concerns about ballistic missile attacks and threats of international terrorism are priorities for Americans, Canadians do not share those concerns but view the importation of American culture into their country with trepidation, and there are no institutional structures in place to resolve disagreements on these particular issues.
Mexico and NAFTA
Clinton, with GOP help, passed a free trade agreement over the objection of most Democrats and labor unions. The implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) generated political disagreements and stress in Mexico, involving issues of economics, labor unions, environmentalism, and international power. Mexico's financial crisis of 1993-95, which led to peso devaluation and new dislocations in that country, and disputes between Clinton and the Congress also exacerbated NAFTA's implementation. Nonetheless, the positive consequences of NAFTA included increases in Mexican imports to the United States and shifts in the trade balance in Mexico's favor.
NATO and Eastern Europe
Much attention was devoted to Eastern Europe.
Clinton actively promoted the expansion of NATO to the east, over the objections of Russia. Russia wanted to maintain some degree of control over its former satellites, and they wanted true independence. The NATO expansion was a political decision. An expanded NATO gave full play to political functions aimed at merging East European nations into NATO and bringing about their transformation into Western-style political and economic systems. NATO members will continue to work toward containing Russia if it fails to integrate itself into the West and returns to its traditional expansionist practices. The Russian transformation and NATO's adjustment influenced each other.
With the breakup of Yugoslavia civil wars erupted leading to genocide. With NATO support—but without UN approval—Clinton sent in the US Air Force to launch air strikes on Serbs in Bosnia and later deployed twenty thousand troops. The goal was to protect Muslim Bosnians from genocidal attacks from the Serbs. The policy eventually worked in Bosnia but later had to be extended to nearby Kosovo. Clinton briefly consulted Congress, but promised the troops would soon leave. They remained for years.
There was no internationally significant human rights crisis in Kosovo immediately prior to the NATO bombardment that justified its intervention on behalf of the ethnic-Albanian population. The problems of warfare that existed in Kosovo were largely a result of Clinton's support for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a narco-terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda, with the intent of causing a crisis that justified intervention. The intervention was not humanitarian. NATO failed to produce evidence of massacres approaching anywhere near its claims. The intervention was illegal, destructive, and based on fraudulent claims.
In Africa, Clinton expressed the exasperation of the American public after decades of single-party rule involving massive misuse and pillage of the continent's resources by local dictators. Clinton called for an end to protected European economic and commercial zones and for open competition on terms that would gradually eliminate African dependency. The Americans, in an effort to promote both democracy and prosperity, urged the African political class to create regimes in their states responsible to the people, to accept participation by opposition parties, and to install rigorous accounting and management procedures. Congress and public opinion supported the new initiatives, which involved much less public assistance to Africa and a great deal more private investment and mutually profitable trade. Essentially, American policy challenged African leaders to undertake reforms that would make them artisans of their own futures.
But for the efforts of President Clinton and his administration, and his special envoy Senator George Mitchell, the Good Friday Agreement (1998) reached between the British government, Irish republicans, and Ulster unionists would be impossible and the troubles would still be going on.
- The Facts About Clinton and Terrorism, Byron York, National Review Online, September 11, 2006.
- Airstrikes Against Iraq: 'What Happens Now?', U.S. Information Agency Daily Digest, December 21, 1998.
- Bombs Away - Troubling questions about the U.S. attack on Sudan, Reason, December 1998.
- The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, Naomi Murakawa, Oxford University Press, Jul 10, 2014, p. 141.
- The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, Naomi Murakawa.
- Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote, Michelle Alexander, The Nation, February 10, 2016
- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Admits 9/11, WTC 1993, Plot To Kill Clinton, By J.M. Berger, INTELWIRE.com
- President Bill Clinotn's 1999 State of the Union Address, January 19, 1999. Retrieved from C-Span.org 19 August 2010.
- The Presidents by David Maraniss, Pg. 626
- Samuel R. Berger, "A Foreign Policy for the Global Age," Foreign Affairs 2000 79(6): 22-39. 0015-7120
- Ambassador Bill Richardson, Online Focus, The News Hour Transcript, 11 February 1998.
- A Reminder of Who the Clintons Are Owned By
- Gorelick's Wall: The Commissioner belongs in the witness chair - The Wall Street Journal, review and outlook