what did Clinton actually DO?

First, let me say that I admit that I admit to being conservative leaning. Several posts and opinions I have made here in these forums will back this up.
Second, I am not trying to start a flame war or troll for a round of Clinton/democrat bashing.
Having said that, my question is What did Clinton actually DO that made him so great? I have read any number of people’s opinion that our current terrorism situation would be handled much better if Clinton were still president. What is this based on? What did the man actually do that was so great?
Please do not bring up what he TALKED about doing, such as gays in the military,health care reform etc. I’m talking actions. Also, please do not bring up things like NAFTA and welfare reform, as those are(to my understanding anyway)conservative ideas that he co-opted for his own use(not a criticism,both sides of the political spectrum can lay claim to that particular sin).
So, have at it, Clinton-fans; sell me on him. As long as the facts are accurate, I promise to acknowledge any wrong thinking I may have experienced up to now. Of course, I reserve the right to rebut anything I think is a lot of hooey :wink:

Chris W

PS Clinton-bashers, please refrain from negative comments, as i said, there are other threads where Clinton’s bad points have been discussed at length. I’m honestly trying to understand this legend that seems to follow him no matter what he does.

What did Clinton DO? Every girl in the office…

No sorry! Reall, I can keep a straight face! :slight_smile: AAaacckkk!

Two responses to this idea:

  1. “It took Nixon to go to China.” Would welfare reform (or NAFTA) have made it through Congress if a Republican had been in the White House? Ideas are fine, but Clinton provided the political cover that allowed these ideas to become law.
    BTW, I reject your contention that NAFTA was a conservative idea - note Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s opposition.
  2. Welfare reform was decidedly not a conservative/Republican idea. The godfather of welfare reform was Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who had been advocating it since at least the early Seventies.
    Besides, I think this “well, it was really our idea” business is crap. Reagan didn’t come up with his ideas, nor did Newt, nor did Clinton. Each chose which of the available ideas to advocate. And that is the key decision we need from Presidents, and that decision is how we should judge them.

In any event, Clinton wasn’t a “great” President. A lot of opportunities, particularly in foreign affairs, came his way, and he failed to grasp them.
He was a “good” President, though. He advocated the correct decisions on the economy; he will be remembered well for his key role in the Northern Ireland peace process, and I think his efforts in Arab-Israeli conflict will be remembered as a noble failure.


riserius1: *I have read any number of people’s opinion that our current terrorism situation would be handled much better if Clinton were still president. *

?? I am strongly liberal/progressive (not that most of us are all that enthusiastic about Clinton overall), and I have not heard this. As far as I understand it, Clinton’s foreign military and economic policies didn’t differ that much from what Bush is trying to do. Perhaps the issue here may be that Clinton was less unilateralist and was more supportive of various international treaties, put more energy into Middle East conflict resolution, etc. etc. And maybe there’s a perception that a Democratic administration would have more concern for preserving civil liberties on the domestic side (although Clinton’s support for various draconian measures in the wake of Oklahoma City doesn’t really justify that, IMHO). But I don’t feel at all assured that in a crisis like this Clinton would have done anything very different from what Bush is doing; if anybody thinks differently, I’d like to hear it too.

*Originally posted by SuaSponte *

My hats off to Moynihan as far as that goes, but for the most part, the conservatives have been complaining about welfare abuses and subsequent reforms and it has been(again, for the most part)liberals who have accused welfare reform advocates of being “heartless” and “Draconian”.

Negotiations certainly started under Bush pere, but I have no idea where the idea came from, and really doubt that it came from a single source. My understanding is that NAFTA was a reaction/response to the European Community, and particularly the Maastricht treaty. My point is that the free trade v. protectionism debate has always split across party lines in the US.

Definitely true, but that leads back to my first point. I strongly doubt that a Republican president could have gotten welfare reform passed. Clinton, who felt our pain, allowed the mainstream to think that welfare reform wasn’t “heartless” or “Draconian”. A Republican president would likely have been unable to bring the mainstream along with him.


Actually, NAFTA was a Mexican idea. They were the ones who proposed it. They just happened to do it during the Bush Administration.

IIRC Welfare Reform was passed when both houses of Congress had Republican majorities. I believe one version was vetoed by Clinton, but he signed an amended version.

I give Clinton credit for campaiging on WR and for signing the final version. I give the Congressional Republicans (and especially Newt Gingrich) more credit, because they also campaigned on WR and they pushed the legislation with little support from the White House.

I think a Republican President with that same Republican Congress and Gingrich’s leadership would have enacted WR, and probably a more Draconian version. (which might have been less desirable.)

I also give Clinton credit for supporting NAFTA and getting it passed.

I give him credit for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which I consider a very good step forward. I give him credit for bringing large amounts of land under government protection.

I blame him personally making no progress on Social Security and Medicare deficits. He did nothing, and he used them politically in a way that torpedoed progress that others might have made.

Overall, I’m struck by how little legislation can be credited to Clinton. Many of his significant actions were executive orders.

NAFTA is neither a Mexican idea nor a reaction to Maastricht; it was a logical extension of the original FTA, the 1988 free trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada.
In point of fact, folks, free trade was a product of the Reagan administration. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations deserve credit for continuing the initiative.

As loath as I am (from extensive lurking) to cross Sua, or to me-too anyone, I must respectfully disagree with Sua on his points.

  1. As already noted, the Welfare Reform package was passed under a Republican Congress, and IIRC, Clinton dug in his heels at every opportunity. I have absolutely no doubt that, had Clinton not faced a Republican Congress, elected based in part on their promise to reform welfare, he would never have touched WR. He was, forgive the usage, no Nixon (at least, not on WR). I can give him no credit for going with a wave that he did not believe in, but followed it merely because it was politically expedient to do so (and perhaps, because he wished to co-opt the eventual outcome).

  2. Calling NAFTA “not a conservative/Republican idea” because two “Republicans” disagreed with it (and, in fact, fought it tooth-and-nail) is not up to your usual standards. Consider - NAFTA, IIRC, passed with overwhelming (unanimous?) support from Republicans, and a handful of Democratic defectors, who paid dearly for it. I will happily give credit to Clinton for the defectors, if Sua will give the 250-odd Repubilcans who voted for NAFTA the credit they also deserve.

As to the origin of NAFTA, I am certain it was the “brainchild” of no one man, but it came about under the Bush (I) administration, and was passionately advocated by Bush, Sr. Fair or Foul.

In reading this board, I have worked hard to come up with one pure act by Clinton, not later tainted by a later action. I wanted to give him credit for staying the hell out of the economy’s way, but - that darned Microsoft lawsuit that (whether MS did act illegally or not) sent the NASDAQ into a tailspin. I wanted to give him credit early on for distancing himself from the race-baiters which found voice in the moment of Sister Souljah, but not only did I see at the time that it was a political act (a masterstroke, too), but that act was clearly repudiated later in his administration (Council on Race, anyone?)

Other than that, I cannot come up with a single action Clinton performed that could be called an achievement. I will readily concede that this viewpoint is colored by my conservative leanings, though I am prepared to be corrected, and admit same upon evidence.

If this violates the OP, I apologize.

Ahhh, respect. :smiley:

I certainly accept the disagreements people have expressed concerning my notion that a Republican president would have had much difficulty/probably couldn’t have passed welfare reform. It’s an unprovable opinion.
However, as december already noted, Clinton campaigned on welfare reform - “ending welfare as we know it.” Clinton believed in WR - I think the fact that he was advocating it before the Republicans took Congress in 1994 is strong evidence he wasn’t merely going with the wave - arguably, he helped create the wave.
I do give the Republicans lots of credit on WR (having worked as a welfare rights advocate, I was very aware of the huge problems of the old system and really wanted things changed). In another unprovable opinion, I don’t think it would have been passed had there still been a Democratic majority in Congress in 1994. I think it was the perfect combination for that issue - a Democratic prez and a Republican Congress.

No, NAFTA was not a conservative/Republican idea. Free trade has advocates and detractors on both sides. Indeed, I would submit that until quite recently (about the early 80’s), the Republican party was the bastion of protectionism. At this time, I would say that the GOP is more pro-free trade than the Democrats, but not by all that much - note the difficulties Clinton had (and Bush is starting to have) getting “fast-track” negotiating authority re-approved, not to mention both parties’ love of “anti-dumping” legislation.


Piss off the Republicans and made them look like the fools they are? :wink: That’s worth points in my book, anyway.

Seriously, when all is said and done, Clinton didn’t really do anything spectacular – at best, he managed to ride shepherd over the country at a time of moderate economic success (with a boom near the end). But by the same argument, Reagan and Bush Sr. didn’t do anything spectacular either, and you’ll still find folks who insist on putting Ronnie’s mug up on Mt. Rushmore. :eek:

Well, you may or may not agree with these, but these are some of the things that I consider to be great things done under the Clinton Administration, my little “rah, rah” cheer:

[li]A fair tax cut, which finally righted the cynical disparity created by the Reagan Administration and reinforced by the “Read My Lips” Administration whereby taxes for the poor were ostensibly cut but payroll taxes were raised, keeping their tax burden the same while the burden on the wealthy was reduced. I think we can look forward to the sequel to the Reagan-Bush policy next Spring, despite the obvious success of the Clinton plan. (Someone likely sent you a trailer for that forthcoming episode in the mail this summer.)[/li]
[li]A genuine attempt to improve education, including an improved student loan program and a school anti-drug abuse program that appears to have actually worked. It’s also easier to get a federal grant in order to try to raise standards in bad schools. Furthermore, by nurturing the .edu end of the Internet, information of all sorts is now available to even the poorest and most remote American schools, as well as many around the world.[/li]
[li]While not perfect, one only has to look at the forthcoming fire-sale on federal land to know that Clinton’s record on our natural resources was the best we’ve had since Teddy Roosevelt. One of the lesser-known hallmarks of the Clinton Administration was a streamlined process for protecting historical and natural landmarks. For a time, I personally witnessed a transformation within the EPA whereby that agency was slowly transforming itself into an organization that works with businesses and individuals instead of against them (or works not at all, but because of Clinton’s reworking, our current President won’t have to render the EPA permanently toothless in order to pay off his benefactors).[/li]
[li]“It’s the economy, stupid.” While no president other than Ronald Reagan is allowed to take credit for the economy, one cannot deny that the eight years under Clinton were sweeeet, and there is no denying that the times immediately before–and now, it looks like, after–his tenure sucked. By reducing taxes on the poor and reforming welfare, many lower income people were allowed to improve their lot dramatically, while by rigidly keeping out the bloodthirsty Internet taxers an entirely new form of commerce was created. Moreover, in contrast to my perception of the two prior Administrations, new wealth was created among people who didn’t have it before. Already wealthy people still got richer, too. I maintain that this phenomenon was in fact orchestrated in large part by Clinton himself through his manipulation of taxation, regulation, and federal subsidy. Oh, yeah. Some will try to tell you that the economy was already improving, but somehow nobody actually noticed until Clinton’s economic stimulus package was passed in Congress.[/li]
[li]The real kinder, gentler America. For a while there, it looked like an honest version of the Monroe Doctrine was going to spread worldwide. Briefly, America had the wealth and the inclination to try to keep the peace and make the world a better place. There were failures, like in Rwanda and Somalia, but there was also a resounding success: the eventual stabilization of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. No, those places aren’t entirely peaceful, prosperous, or happy, but they aren’t all war-scarred anarchies, either. America, and Clinton, played a role in that. Oh, and by the way, most of the new nation-states created in the wake of the fall of Communism are democracies. Thanks also to our buddy Jesse Helms and his consistent blocking and delay of diplomatic appointments, we have to give the President a great deal of personal credit for these things.[/li]
(“Stability,” incidentally, is not generally noticed, but when one considers the grand-scale rape and pillage of Eastern Europe and Central Asia perpetrated by the Soviet Union, the lack of a complete meltdown in those regions should be considered a foreign policy triumph on the part of the First World, and Clinton. Another example is the quick and eventually profitable bail-out of Mexico, which could have been a disaster but wasn’t.)

Just you sit back and wait, people. Eventually, we are all going to be astounded at the degree of personal interest–and influence–that Bill Clinton placed on virtually all issues of his day. Unlike any President before–or after–him since Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton personally took the reigns of his office and successfully rode things through without a single major setback for his nation. The future’s perspective of the Clinton Administration may well turn out to be that for a little while, America had both a single, decent heart and brain.

And I suspect we are going to discover by later comparison just how difficult a job that was. The Clinton Era is already proving to have been the best of times, and unlike many of his predecessors, Clinton had a hand in virtually all of it–including Monica.

Didn’t Clinton balance the budget, and begin to take
a bit out of the Federal deficit? Admittedly, he needed
the cooperation of Congress to do this. And Bush Sr. did
take a remarkably hard-assed line (remember “5% across the board budget cuts, or I veto?” anyone?) on spending. But didn’t Clinton, by luck or good timing, actually manage to balance the budget for the first time in many years?

As far as free trade goes, I was active in fighting for free trade in the 1980’s, and I can tell you that Democrats were by far the most likely to be opposed to it, because in the 1970’s and 1980’s the Democrats were the party of Big Labor, and Big Labor vehemently opposed free trade. Free trade was seen by republicans as an extension of free markets at home, and therefore philosophically supported by them. Of course, you could find opposition to free trade on both sides of the aisle whenever a particular politician was trying to please a special interest in his district, but certainly the philosophical torch was being carried by Republicans and Libertarians.

The split was even more pronounced in Europe and Canada, with the Labor/Liberal parties vehemently opposed to free trade, with the conservative parties supporting it (Mulroney in Canada, Thatcher in Britain). I can’t count the number of histrionic lectures I had to suffer through at the hands of liberals and Democrats, claiming that free trade was going to destroy our economies and send all our jobs to the 3rd world.

In the 1990’s, the strength of big labor waned, and new political alignments arose around trade issues. The Democratic protectionists rallied around environmental and ‘social justice’ issues (i.e. Nike Sweat Shops), while the conservative protectionists became ‘fair’ traders, who wanted to use trade policy like a hammer to force other countries into compliance.

Nowadays, the number of free traders in both parties is probably about equal, but it sure wasn’t 15 years ago.

People liked Clinton.
There were lots of jobs.
Some companies had to go begging for employees.
People bought lots of stuff.
People overseas liked Clinton.
The economy was good.
His speeches were almost watchable. Actually, they were quite good.
Most people seemed happier than they are now.
He really did connect with people.
The whole Monica thing was kinda cool. :cool:
I would, without a doubt, vote for Clinton again. For the 3rd time.

One thing nobody has mentioned, and which may some day be a big part of his “legacy” is AmeriCorps. While it may seem like a low-impact program right now, Clinton was never able to get the funding he wanted, so it never was the scale that it could have been. Suddenly now the Republicans have leapt on the “all students should do community service” bandwagon, and there are proposals out there to greatly increase funding to AmeriCorps.

Of course during the Clinton-era, AmeriCorps was too associated with Clinton for Republicans to back it. Now that he is gone, it is the best thing since sliced bread… :slight_smile:


I can’t add much to Sofa King’s excellent list, but I can add this: Clinton acted, uniquely in history (I’ll get to A. Johnson and Nixon later), to preserve the role of the Presidency in the government when the office was under attack as part of a vendetta against him personally. By understanding that the democratic republic and its people were more important than personalities, as his attackers did not, he preserved the concept that the President is chosen by and acts for the people directly, not Congress and certainly not the party of his opposition. It brought into clarity the concept that impeachment is a strictly political process with legal window-dressing (though many still disagree), intended in the case of elected officials to protect the government from a clear and present danger if the occupant remains in it, and using Congress as a surrogate for the people in the name of speed.

The conduct of the 2 candidates and parties in the 2000 election also helps illustrate principled vs. partisan conduct, and will, I suspect, be linked with it in any future historical examination of the Clinton presidency.

That may have looked to some like he was actually preserving his own butt by obstinately refusing to resign over something that was nobody else’s business but his wife’s, but I’m pretty confident that history will judge it the way the majority of us did at the time. When the 3 impeachment processes we’ve been treated to in history are compared, I think it goes as follows:

Johnson: Based on policy disagreements over something pretty fundamental and important, namely, keeping the Civil War won. Partisan by nature - he was actually of the other party than Lincoln, having been chosen as a symbol of national unity, and came from a defeated seceded state that wasn’t even readmitted to the Union at the time. Still portrayed in history (ref. Profiles in Courage) as an assault on democracy itself by rabid partisans, after communications broke down irrevocably.

Nixon: Based again on policy disagreements, primarily over failure to end the Vietnam War. Intensified by revelations over abuse of the office and basic nastiness that hadn’t been known to the public before. Much more arguably than not, reflected the popular will that he be removed from office before the next election. Bipartisan votes and nonpartisan debate, over the charges and the principles behind them, were the most noteworthy features.

Clinton: Any policy disagreements did not get discussed at all during the process. Based on a partisan vendetta that coopted the special prosecutor system and let to its destruction. Charges created strictly for the purpose of getting Clinton personally. Actual impeachment was by a lame-duck session of the House, with no functioning Speaker, along strict party lines, after an election which was most generally interpreted as We the People telling them not to do it, hurried to get done before the election results took effect and the job would have been harder, with massive armtwisting by the party whip including promises that there wouldn’t actually be a removal, with debate enforced by the committee chairman to be exclusively over the mechanics of the process and not the content, and in the midst of constant revelations over the impeachers having done even worse things than those which they intended to subvert democracy itself.

The impeachers of Andrew Johnson could plausibly claim to have been supporting democracy and the popular will, but don’t get that credit now because of the partisanship of the votes. The impeachers of Nixon were and are and will continue to be seen as having been acting on behalf of the people and democracy. The impeachers of Clinton were and are and will be met with this incredulous response “What in the world were those people thinking? How could so many people be so blinded by sheer hate? Good thing they didn’t succeed, but it came close. Thanks for not giving in, Mr. Clinton.”

No offense Elvis, but did you actually read my entire OP? I cannot consider perservering through OR caving in to attacks and/or criticism to be an “Action”. Let me rephrase the question in a term that Mr. Clinton(or was it Gore?) used himself: How was America a better place after his term due to something he did in office? I’m talking legislation that was his baby, he managed to get it through congress, it was signed and enacted into law, and now the country is better off for his efforts.
I really am not concerned with Johnson or Nixon’s circumstances, that is another matter entirely(For the record I respectfully disagree with some of your points, but let us debate that another day).

Chris W

I don’t think the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act has been mentioned here yet.