Clinton, Bill (b. William Jefferson Blythe)

Forty­second president of the United States; born in Hope, Ark. His father, William Blythe, died in an auto accident three months before he was born. He was adopted by his stepfather, Roger Clinton. As a youth, he thrilled to John F. Kennedy's promise, especially when he shook Kennedy's hand in the Rose Garden in 1963. He went to Georgetown University and then to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and received what would become a controversial draft deferment during the Vietnam War. He graduated from Yale Law School (1973) and married Hillary Rodham, a fellow Yale law student (1975). A committed Democrat, he was attorney general of Arkansas (1977­79) and then won the governor's seat in 1978. Defeated for reelection in 1980, he went through a period of soul­searching and made a comeback in 1982, becoming governor again; he went on to reelection in 1984, 1986, and 1990 and was named "the most effective" by his fellow governors. Overcoming serious charges involving alleged extramarital affairs and questions about his avoiding the draft, he won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992. He was accused of "waffling" in his campaign speeches, but he kept the pressure on incumbent George Bush by focusing on the economic plight of many Americans. He won the three-way presidential race with 43% of the popular vote and 370 out of 525 electoral votes. His inauguration was notable for the participation of rock stars, poets, and the public at large, all of which led many to see his administration as the passing of the torch to a new generation, but he faced an enormous national debt and a country fragmented by social strife. During his first term, Clinton presided over an increasingly healthy American economy and an international community bent on peacefully resolving long-standing conflicts from the Middle-east to Northern Ireland. When the Republicans wrested control of Congress in 1994, Clinton shifted noticeably to the right in his politics, working with Republican leaders to achieve a balanced budget, while abandoning earlier pledges such as universal health care and gay and lesbian rights. In 1996, after a presidential campaign costing hundred of millions of dollars for both parties, Clinton swept to reelection over Senator Bob Dole. In his second term, American prosperity continued, which may have distracted the public from serious charges of obstruction of justice by Independent Council Kenneth Starr, stemming from revelations about his alleged extramarital affairs.

Except where noted, data in the BIOGRAPHY® Online Database is from the AND Reference Database, which incorporates the Cambridge Encyclopedia database. Copyright © 1997, AND Reference /Data Ltd., Oxford, UK. and The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, edited by J S. Bowmen. Copyright © 1995 Cambridge University Press. Reproduced with permission.


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