Who was Bill Clinton before the presidency


Fields of action, development tendencies, backgrounds

The expectations that the American public placed on William Jefferson Clinton during the 1992 election campaign and when he took office revolved primarily around domestic political issues.

I. Domestic politics and party constellations

The expectations that the American public placed on William Jefferson Clinton during the 1992 election campaign and when he took office revolved primarily around domestic political issues. As long-time governor of Arkansas he had little foreign policy profile, but election campaigns in the US are not won with foreign policy anyway, and the recession year 1992 was no exception. President George Bush, his great successes, the Gulf War and the end of the East-West Conflict, which were of a foreign policy nature, succumbed to the challenger who appeared to be more versed in domestic politics.

But success in domestic politics depends on many factors that can only be influenced to a limited extent. In contrast to foreign policy, which has long been carried out by consensus between the parties, domestic policy has always been the subject of political debate. It is also the domain of Congress, which stands alongside the President on an equal footing and can even overshadow him. Majorities and ideological orientations in Congress decide which program a president can pursue more realistically.

For Clinton there was an abrupt change in the political framework when the voters gave him a Republican Congress in 1994; the first since Eisenhower's presidency. After two years with Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, a second phase began in November 1994, in which Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, set the political agenda. Their dominance came to an end in the winter of 1995/96, when Gingrich paralyzed government affairs over a budget dispute with the president. His calculation didn't work out because the blame was not being blamed on Clinton, but on the Republicans. From their perspective, the government shutdown in 1995 was almost as much a disaster as the 1994 election for the Democrats. Clinton won the initiative back, and so the second turning point can be set here. The new phase they initiated extended to the elections in November 1996, which confirmed the status quo. Clinton scored an easy victory over Senator Robert Dole. On the other hand, for the first time since 1928, a Republican house held up with slight losses, and the majority in the Senate also remained. This political constellation lasted for the entire second term of Clinton's office, which is to be considered here as the fourth phase. The political climate, however, saw significant changes in these four years. In 1997 there was remarkable cooperation between the President and the Republican Congress, often to the displeasure of the Democrats.

But in 1998 the Lewinsky scandal broke out, ending all cooperation across party lines. It paralyzed political life, culminating in the impeachment of the president, who was acquitted by the Senate in early 1999, and stigmatizing Clinton of being the first president-elect to be "impeached". It is hardly surprising that the remaining years of his term in office were marked by domestic political stagnation.

The President's relationship with Congress is not only shaped by that with the opposition, even if it has the majority in Congress. Even then, the relationship with one's own party is important, because he needs their support to maintain vetoes and to force compromises in the Senate, whose rules, unlike in the House of Representatives, give the minority many opportunities for obstruction. So even after 1994, the relationship between Clinton and the Democrats remained central to the success or failure of his presidency. It was all the more so in the first two years, when the majorities in Congress seemed to allow the president an ambitious legislative program. Apart from the four years of President Carter, the past 24 years had been shaped by "divided government", and now there was an opportunity to overcome institutional blockades.