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William J. Clinton

b. Aug. 19, 1946, Hope, Ark., U.S.

Shorter biography of William Cinton


American politician who became the 42nd president of the United States (in 1993). He was elected to a second term in 1996.

Bill Clinton's father, William Jefferson Blythe II, died in an automobile accident before his son was born. Blythe's widow married Roger Clinton, and Bill eventually took the latter's name. Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) in 1968 with a degree in international affairs and then attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar for two years. He graduated from the Yale University Law School in 1973 and joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law that same year. Clinton directed the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate George McGovern (1972) in Texas and that of Jimmy Carter (1976) in his home state, and in 1974 he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected attorney general of Arkansas in 1976, and in 1978 he was elected governor, becoming the youngest governor the nation had seen in 40 years.

After an eventful two-year term as governor, Clinton failed in his reelection bid in 1980 but regained the governor's office in 1982, after which he was successively reelected three more times by substantial margins. A pragmatic Democrat, he reformed Arkansas' neglected educational system and encouraged the growth of industry in his state through favourable tax policies.

Clinton campaigned for and won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992 after withstanding charges early in the primary campaigns of personal impropriety. He selected Senator Al Gore as his running mate and went on to win the presidential election that November, defeating the Republican incumbent, George Bush, and independent candidate Ross Perot. In 1993 Clinton obtained narrow Congressional approval of legislation designed to reduce the federal government's continuing large budget deficits through a combination of increased taxes on the wealthy and modest cuts in government programs. Later that year he won Congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which created a free-trade zone between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Clinton spent a considerable portion of 1994 campaigning for Congressional passage of his plan to overhaul the U.S. health-care system. But the plan, which sought to control costs while simultaneously providing universal coverage for all Americans, died in Congress. Clinton's major foreign-policy ventures included a successful effort in September-October 1994 to reinstate Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted by the military in 1991, and a commitment of U.S. forces to a peacekeeping initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the Congressional elections of November 1994, the Democrats lost control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Republican Party for the first time since 1954. Clinton subsequently sought to accommodate some of the Republican agenda--offering a more aggressive deficit reduction plan--while opposing Republican efforts to slow the growth of government spending on social programs. He was reelected in 1996, defeating Republican challenger Bob Dole and Reform party candidate Ross Perot.

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