American History: Bill Clinton’s First Term as President
Governing in an Age of No Majorities: Bill Clinton's mission for a second term The question, for both the president and the Republican congressional .. education, strengthening community life, righting the relationship between work and. By the end of his first year, Clinton had battled Congress to secure adoption of an . Moreover, her unique relationship with the President meant that other. The presidency of Bill Clinton began at noon EST on January 20, , when Bill Clinton was Clinton also pursued closer trade relations with several countries, most notably China. Clinton left office with high approval .. The bill passed both houses of Congress with only minimal resistance. Opposition to the plan came.
In the end, lawmakers decided that the plan would cost too much and would be too difficult to administer. But President Clinton found support on other issues, including crime-fighting legislation. The measure included money for hiring more police officers and building more prisons. Congress also passed his budgets for nineteen ninety-three and ninety-four that reduced federal spending.
The fight over health care and other issues had only led to greater dissatisfaction with Washington. The elections were a big defeat for the Democrats in Congress. It is cutting across all regions, it is cutting across all ages, it is cutting across literally all the candidates. Voters gave Republicans control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. President Clinton supported welfare reform, to reduce spending on public assistance.
But he blocked Republican efforts to cut what he believed was too much money from programs including health care for retirees and the poor. Budget fights with the Republican-led Congress resulted in two shutdowns of government operations.
We must lift the burden of debt that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Washington have put ideology ahead of common sense and shared values. After Bill Clinton became president, the economy grew slowly at first, but then recovered more quickly. A New York City police officer helps a victim of the February 26,bomb attack at the World Trade Center The terrorists left a truck loaded with explosives in an underground parking garage.
Office workers, faces blackened with smoke and soot, hundreds gasping for breath, staggered into the frigid February air. The government later captured those responsible for the bombing. Only this time, it was a case of homegrown terrorism. It was the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil, up to that time.
The man behind the attack was Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier who hated the government. He was captured soon after the explosion. McVeigh was tried and, in two thousand one, executed for his crimes. A friend of his, another military veteran, was also involved in the plot and was sent to prison. Civil war was preventing the people from receiving aid during a drought. These early policies moves signaled Clinton's break with the socially conservative policies of his predecessors.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act provided funding forlocal law enforcement officials, and established a federal three-strikes law that enhanced criminal penalties for repeat offenders. The DMCA provided a framework for sound recording copyright owners and recording artists to seek public performance royalties under statute, which proved to be a landmark achievement for the recording industry.
The administration implemented new rules that would prevent banks from expanding if they failed to meet benchmarks for loans to low-income areas. Between andCRA lending increased at a faster rate than other loans, and home values in many CRA areas rose. Banks implemented new strategies designed to cater to lower-income borrowers, including the adjustable-rate mortgage. And we haven't even engaged the health care monster yet! Indeed, the hiring of David Gergen signals that if you want a politically serious professional to clean up the mess made by the amateurs, send in a Republican.
What is going wrong? Essentially, almost everything that matters. Each incumbent of the White House is a particular individual, gifts and weaknesses attached. Additionally, each incumbent operates in a particular political time. Both must be addressed to gain some purchase on the situation. Both suggest serious problems in Clinton's weaknesses, pounced upon by a White House press corps which is the most hostile faced by any president since Nixon, are becoming glaringly obvious.
Readers of this essay will have already seen the press accounts of serious White House lapses in judgment, ranging from the early thrashings over prospective Attorneys General and the eruption of gays in the military as the first issue before the country down through the most recent spectacles: One can add to this the judgment of an old and sympathetic Washington press hand, Albert Hunt of the Wall Street Journal, that Clinton's White House staff is the most incompetent he has seen in a quarter-century's experience.
We are in a crisis? We all have to sacrifice something? We're all in this together?
Presidency of Bill Clinton
Much or most of this reflects the fact that there has been no successful transition yet from the very small and parochial world of Little Rock to the Big Time in Washington. To this has to be added the phenomenon of presidential waffling, revealed most recently in the capitulation to the Europeans over Bosnia and, at home, the deal cut with western Senators to refrain from imposing grazing fees for use of public lands, after Clinton had gotten western Democrats in the House to walk the plank for him on this issue.
The sense that here is someone who can be rolled, at home and abroad, by people with stronger wills than his own, has grown apace as a result. Apart from recommending that he replace his staff with another--and not a Republican one! One aspect of this power that Neustadt's writings don't directly confront is that in our system, presidents merge what Walter Begehot once called the dignified and efficient functions of government: Accordingly, the public expects gravitas from their presidents--a quality rarely discussed because it has rarely been at issue.
Can Clinton Govern?
Two presidents of about equal youthfulness, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, had this quality at least in public. With Bill Clinton, so far, it is harder to say. By all accounts he is a quick study. One can hope that these self-destructive gaffes will be overcome with experience and that they do not reflect some deeper flaw in presidential character, for such flaws do not yield readily to instruction or good advice.
Life would surely be difficult enough for the president even without these "distractions. The elections give us a decisive clue.
With 43 percent of the total vote, Bill Clinton is president because, essentially, he was the last man standing in a volcanically troubled year. The voters fired George Bush all right: But that was all.
Republicans, if they forgot the presidential race, would be justified in saying that they had quite a good year in After all, they picked up ten seats in the House and after the June special Senate election, one seat in the Senate as well.
They are primed to make further gains in No one thinks that any such thing is going on now.
Neither the economic nor--therefore--the political situation in the s bears comparison with the s. The election of Bill Clinton has really meant something in policy terms already. There is no doubt that it mattered who won the presidential campaign of But the electorate is not divided into two parts but into three. The battles of the first four months of the new administration have already revealed what could have been expected.
Progressive comprehensive change in our political system requires exceptional majorities in Congress and a setting of extreme stress that paralyzes interest-group influence. Without these, as we have seen, the opposition can filibuster a stimulus package to death, and pivotal Democrats in the Senate can use the close balance of partisan forces to defeat or drastically modify a crucial component of the overall Clinton program, the BTU tax.
Calhoun was descriptively if not morally right in his stress on the role of "concurrent majorities" in a constitutional order and political culture that is normally heavily biased against comprehensive policy change. The elimination of formally divided government has once again revealed other layers of deeply echeloned defense against change, giving us a kind of dark-side-of-the-force replay of all the lessons we learned in American Government American politics today pivots around the hopes, fears, and passions of the suburban middle class.
We need not rehearse here all the elements of long-term economic decline, the disastrous borrow-and-spend policy misfire ofor the current impact of downsizing, restructuring, and permanent job loss in corporate America. Out of this farrago comes a classic policymaker's nightmare: This middle class, like many in modern history, is deeply divided.
Old interest-group liberalism and Reaganism have both been exploded within the short space of a dozen years. Something like the Clintonite vision would seem to be about the only comprehensive option left.
But it assumes that the state can play an active, creative role in macroeconomic affairs, an assumption which is the negation of Republican beliefs.
One could read the results not only yielding a balance in favor of "change" but also a balance against a kind of change that centers on this optimistic view of state capacity.
The pivotal figure, of course, is Ross Perot. He is historically unprecedented as a political phenomenon, not least because he has not only held on to his voters ofbut has further added to his favorable ratings and base of support. His core following is white middle class, for the most part. It is worth remembering that, among voters who also voted inPerot drew more than three-quarters of his support from George Bush's original coalition. Put another way, almost half of the voters fleeing from Bush's standard in went to Perot, while barely more than half went to Clinton.
Perot's priorities are overwhelmingly concentrated on debt-deficit reduction. This inevitably places him in a hostile stance to the Clinton program. As Perot is not only a hostile but a formidable presence in the current political scene, he adds another dimension of potential checkmate to the situation.
Perot's appeal is a clinical verification of rapidly developing crisis in public support for government as such.
Presidency of Bill Clinton - Wikipedia
He is virtually the embodiment of anti-state middle-class "common sense" and is in fact a serious threat to the future of both political parties. So there is much public pressure for government to do something, but no evident majority for any particular course of action. America est omnis divisa in partes tres, or at least its middle class is. For much of this middle class, one suspects, "change" really means having government find some way back to the good old days when paying jobs were plentiful and a college degree really meant something.
Such restoration seems beyond any objective possibility of achievement, in the near term at least. But any other kind of change inevitably involves increased tax expense and other ranges of sacrifice and discomfort. Thus blockage arises, as usual, out of basic contradictions within society at large as these are mirrored in political struggle. The inevitable implication is not that Clinton's program will fail to pass through the legislative mill all along the line but that it is likely to be modified, watered down and made less equitable and more incoherent than its authors had intended.
Moreover, the balance of political forces seems unlikely to improve for the Clintonite "development coalition" when the next elections are held in As the two worldviews are so sharply different, this final policy mix may well have quite a few of its own contradictions. Since what we have said up to this point is obvious to most politically knowledgeable people, it is also obvious to Bill Clinton.
Faced with an incipient meltdown of his presidency with more than three years to go, what would he do? One attractive choice would be to execute a combined policy-image realignment toward the political center, "rediscovering" the links between him and the Democratic Leadership Council over which he once presided. With Clinton's choice of long-time Republican insider David Gergen to be something more than a mere communications director, exactly this signal was given.USA - Clinton addresses American public
In the days since, it has been reinforced by a series of policy steps toward the center. For example, there will pretty clearly be a shift in the balance from tax increases to spending cuts, and the health care-package will be delayed for at least three months -- to be considered seriously only under the gun of the congressional election. Such choices are logical enough, particularly considering that there are not enough congressional troops to prevail over united Republicans with a more unambiguously liberal agenda.
In the end, just how many bricks can be made with so little straw? But the president walks a fine line. The sense of betrayal among core Democratic constituencies is likely to intensify, and with it an old political problem that Clinton carries with him: Who is he really, what does he really stand for, and how can he expect to be trusted?
And what sort of "change" will really prevail at the end of the day? This remarkably protean quality in Clinton, dismaying as it is to liberals, might just permit him to salvage his presidency at a cost, of course. But his rightward configuration can also be read as one more reflection of the intractable blockage that we have been discussing--a blockage at least as protean and complex as the president himself.
Underneath it all, the severe structural problems of economy and society that made Clinton's election possible in the first place remain as intact as do the blocked politics of the American middle class. If there is an experiment underway to "govern from the center," there is little enough reason to suppose that the Republicans will join the game except on terms that mean essentially the end of any serious effort to reconstruct the capacities of the state to deal with the situation.
To repeat, both Old Keynesianism and Reaganomics have evaporated as credible organizing principles for dealing with the economy. There is now less reason than there was to assume that anything particularly coherent will emerge to take the place of either. If this is the drift of things, we can certainly hope that, as so often in the American past, the difficulties that seem so mountainous today will evaporate of their own accord through the workings of subsequent capitalist development.
But where is it written that this has to happen again in our time, or that ours will necessarily prove an exception to the usual fate of complex human-society systems in decline? Thinking about political blockage in his own time and place, Antonio Gramsci famously observed, "The old is dying and the new cannot be born.
In this interval a large variety of morbid symptoms appears. But politics is not a determined system such as those with which physicists deal. It is better described in Max Weber's words: We have discussed the setting of politics inthe odds, the balance of probabilities. For those of us who also come from a place called Hope, it is well to remember that odds have been overcome before and that the improbable sometimes happens.
Mondale When I was in the U. Senate, I would look longingly down Pennsylvania Avenue at the power I thought resided at the other end, in the White House. Once I moved to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, however, it didn't take very long before I began to look longingly in the other direction, for by then it seemed all the power lay at the other end.
This frustration probably brought a smile to James Madison in his grave. Pennsylvania Avenue is a two-way street, of course. The Constitution establishes authority at both ends, and power normally flows back and forth with the creative tension the founders intended. These are the institutional realities--separation of powers, checks and balances--all treated with reverence in civics textbooks.
And well they should be. But the Constitution is not a "gridlock machine," as one commentator has recently suggested. In the end, success on Pennsylvania Avenue often depends simply on how well the occupant of the White House and the leaders of Congress, regardless, get along. Although we have the same party in control of the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years, we should not expect miracles from unified government. Especially within the Democratic party, geographic and ideological differences have often diluted partisan loyalty.
It was southern conservatives in the Democratic party, after all, who gave Franklin Roosevelt a hard time in the s. Later, these same forces--in fact, many of the same individuals--fought their fellow Democrats on every major piece of civil rights legislation.
The experience of the Carter administration also provides ample testimony that control of the White House and Congress by the same party does not guarantee peace and harmony on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Family fights can sometimes be the most bitter and intractable. When the time comes for heavy lifting, a president finds just how lonely it gets at the top. Only one person--the president--is elected specifically to watch out for the interests of the whole country.
- American History: Bill Clinton’s First Term as President
- Can Clinton Govern?
Regardless of party, members of Congress are elected, first of all, to represent their state or district. If it comes down to a question of what is good for the nation as defined by the president and what is good for his own district, a Congressman might wish to stick with the president--and he might take a day or two, praying for guidance--but in the end he will probably vote for his district.
Thus a president's particular ability to work with Congress ultimately must depend on deeper qualities of presidential leadership. Congress will respond quickly when it receives a clear message from the public. If the president has the American people on his side, Congress will take notice--because, like a hanging, the prospect of defeat in an election concentrates the mind.
That is why, when the going gets tough, a president must be prepared to take his case directly tot he American people and make full use of the persuasive powers of his office. In fact, a president's responsibility for public education may be the most important responsibility he has and, when properly conducted, the most significant power he possesses.
The public education role goes to the heart of a president's capacity to lead and to gain the public trust and support that he must have. Since FDR, as the president's powers have grown, so has his responsibility for the national prosperity, the global stature of America, the health of democracy abroad, and peace in the world.
The presidency has become an increasingly brutal job. Given the experience of recent decades, one wonders whether we will ever again see a confident presidency from start to finish.
Eisenhower was the last president to complete two terms confidently. After that, Kennedy was killed; Johnson limped home unable to run again; Nixon left in disgrace; Ford was defeated; Carter was defeated; Reagan lost his magic by the end; and his heir, George Bush, was defeated after one term.
I saw President Carter start out as the miracle man from Plains, Georgia, with great hope and confidence.