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Clinton Presidency and the Constitutional System

Edited by Rosanna Perotti

Publication Year: 2012

Presidential scholars, former and current policymakers, and a former president bring varied insights and analyses to consider the impact, influence, and legacy of the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, the “'New Democrat' from Hope, Arkansas." In the eight years between 1993 and 2001, the Clinton White House presided over a booming economy that included a budget surplus in Clinton’s second term, oversaw the most significant welfare reform since the New Deal, and wrestled with the challenge of developing a foreign-policy vision for the post–Cold War era. Structurally, the Clinton presidency expanded the office and responsibilities of the First Lady and the Vice President to an unprecedented degree, prevailed in a budget battle with Congress that included two government shutdowns, briefly employed a line-item veto until the Supreme Court declared that power unconstitutional, and endured the second impeachment of the chief executive in American history. The evolution and consequences of the increased power held by modern presidents became sharply evident during the Clinton years. In The Clinton Presidency and the Constitutional System, based on the Eleventh Presidential Conference at Hofstra University, readers are afforded a unique combination of scholarly analysis and the perspectives of former administration officials. Students and scholars of the presidency will glean important understandings from the balanced, judicious studies of the Clinton administration and their juxtaposition with firsthand recollections of some of the participants who defined and shaped those events.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

On Thursday, November 10, 2005, some three hundred scholars, journalists, elected officials, commentators, and former Clinton administration officials assembled at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, for the university’s eleventh presidential conference, entitled “William Jefferson Clinton...

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Introduction: Reclaiming the “Vital Center” in American Politics through the Clinton Presidency

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pp. 1-12

The William Jefferson Clinton presidency shaped both American politics and the office of the chief executive in significant and enduring ways. In the eight years that Clinton served as president, from 1993 to 2001, the United States experienced a booming economy that included a budget...

Part I: Evaluating the Clinton Presidency

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pp. 13-14

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How to Evaluate a President

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pp. 15-30

I want to talk about why I ran for president, what I tried to do, where we succeeded and where we failed, and the questions I think you should ask yourself not simply about my administration and the period in which we governed, but any presidency in any period in American history...

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Breaking into a Conservative Era

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pp. 31-34

Significant questions of historical context, historical contingency, and historical reputation bear on how we understand presidents. In terms of President Clinton’s place in history, it’s important always to understand that he was a progressive president, breaking with a conservative era. He used supple, flexible...

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Clinton the Survivor

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pp. 35-37

Of all the names that Bill Clinton was ever called, the one he probably hated most was the one Arkansas editorialist Paul Greenberg tattooed on him a quarter-century ago: “Slick Willie.” This was also to my mind one of the most unfair names he was ever called. It was one of the great myths about...

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Bill Clinton’s Early Days

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pp. 38-42

I’m in the odd position of being the biographer for the conference on the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose biography ended on October 3, 1991, the day he announced for the presidency. I don’t believe in fatalism. I certainly don’t believe that lives are preordained. I do believe, as Sidney said, that events...

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Clinton, Congress, and the Presidency

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pp. 43-45

When history looks back at President Clinton, I think several things will stand out. His impeachment by the House, of course, the first elected president to be impeached, will stand out. People will continue to argue about whether that was justified or not. Secondly, I think the prosperity of the 1990s and...

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A President Not Yet Ready to Be History

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pp. 46-50

As we all go off from this conference to our own private reflections on this man and this time in our history, I’d like to make four points that I hope we can remember as we compose our thoughts. First, history is volatile, and presidential reputation is especially volatile, particularly in this case. I don’t know...

Part II: Organizing the Clinton Presidency

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pp. 51-52

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The Role of Chief of Staff

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pp. 53-57

The role of chief of staff is a relatively new role in the White House. There were few presidents in our over two-hundred-year history of the presidency who had a chief of staff. Most had personal secretaries. Take Meriwether Lewis, personal secretary to Thomas Jefferson. There were friends, close cabinet members who...

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Clinton as Fearless Leader

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pp. 58-61

I first met Bill Clinton in 1970 during a campaign for the US Senate in the state of Connecticut for a guy named Joe Duffy, who went on to become the head of the US Information Agency and president of American University. Bill Clinton was in law school, and I was still in college. While I followed his career...

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Finding the Vital Center: The Clinton White House

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pp. 62-85

During the hard‑fought primaries of the 1992 election, Democrats chose a moderate candidate from Arkansas, Governor Bill Clinton, to carry their banner against incumbent president George H. W. Bush. Clinton secured the Democratic nomination by a frequently repeated promise that he was...

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Reshaping the Model: Clinton, Gore, and the New Vice Presidency

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pp. 86-104

The passage of time has somewhat dimmed the important legacy of the vice presidency of Al Gore. Gore’s tenure ended amid extraordinary circumstances of tragic proportions. The Lewinsky affair and the subsequent impeachment and trial of President Clinton transformed much of Gore’s second term. Similarly...

Part III: Constitutional Powers of the Presidency

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pp. 105-106

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Bill Clinton, the Constitution,and the War Power

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pp. 107-122

President Bill Clinton’s aggrandizement of the war power imitated the pattern of usurpation that characterized and, in important ways, defined the terms of several of his predecessors, and it rendered the War Clause, as some of us had concluded, a “dead letter.”1 That measured judgment stands. Nevertheless, the...

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Bill Clinton and Unilateral Executive Power

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pp. 123-139

In the waning weeks of his administration, President Bill Clinton took a number of actions that excited many who agreed with his policies, angered his conservative critics, and even shocked many of his supporters. He issued orders that declared large tracts of western lands off limits to development and made...

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Clinton, the Constitution, and Presidential Power: His Legacy for the Office of the President

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pp. 140-160

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded the scope of the federal government, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the office of the presidency, scholars have traced the nearly continuous growth of presidential power from the mid-twentieth century forward. That growth occurred, in part, because...

Part IV: Impeachment

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pp. 161-162

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Impeachment and the Independent Counsel: Collision in the Capitol

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pp. 163-175

Robert Fiske, who served as Whitewater independent counsel for seven months in 1994 before being replaced by Ken Starr, created a stir on Capitol Hill shortly after arriving in Washington. The case he inherited, by definition, was controversial: He had been assigned to investigate allegations linking President...

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The Clinton Impeachment: Politics and Public Law

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pp. 176-189

Clinton’s impeachment involved an irresponsible incumbent outfoxing an irresponsible Congress. For all its high drama the episode was nothing more than the limiting case of the scorched-earth politics of the 1990s. It resembled one of those World War I battles that consumed a generation and settled nothing...

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Assessing the Impeachment of President Clinton from a Post-9/11 Perspective

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pp. 190-220

The atmosphere surrounding the impeachment of President Clinton was more a circus than a serious effort to remove the president from office. The reason for that is simple: very few people—either in the Congress or in the country—really wanted to remove him or thought the impeachment effort would actually result...

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Bill Clinton and the Character Factor in Perspective

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pp. 221-232

In the 1990s the term “character factor” was often used by politicians and the media to criticize Bill Clinton and indicate his personal failings. Whatever else is involved in a person’s character, telling the truth or lying is one of the important indicators of character. Lying under oath was the ostensible reason...

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The View from Capitol Hill

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pp. 233-235

I think the Founding Fathers realized that lying, among other things, is one of the faults that many human beings have. The framers did not hold that up by itself to be a condition of impeachment. Impeachment was confined to very, very severe issues: treason and bribery or comparable crimes. That was one of...

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The View from the White House

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pp. 236-238

I would like to reaffirm and state three words key to understanding why President Clinton was right to fight impeachment. One, the word is illegitimacy— versus legitimacy. The act of impeaching Bill Clinton was an illegitimate constitutional act, period. It was illegitimate how he got into the room with...

Part V: The Presidency in the System of Checks and Balances

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pp. 239-240

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Economic Policymaking and Political Learning: Legislative Leadership and the Rhetorical Presidency

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pp. 241-261

Bill Clinton entered the presidency with ambitious goals, at the head of a party whose wish list of new policies had lengthened steadily over twelve years of Republican rule and following an election in which fewer than four voters in ten backed the incumbent president. The moment was suffused with optimism...

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Retail Politics and the White House Office of Legislative Affairs

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pp. 262-264

One of the things that changed in the Congress over the years is that after the 1974 election, the so-called Watergate Landslide, there was intense pressure to reform how committees and subcommittees were shared in the Congress. The Democrats were in control then, and they decided to share the subcommittees...

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Confirmation Politics: Clinton, Congress, and the Appointment of Federal Judges

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pp. 265-277

Bill Clinton’s goals for the appointment of federal judges during his administration can be summarized as a commitment to quality, diversity, moderation, and consensus. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton answered detailed questions about legal issues for the...

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President Clinton’s Supreme Court Appointments

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pp. 278-294

Bill Clinton came to the presidency with a firm view of the Supreme Court’s role. He spent a formative time of his life as a student at Yale Law School, teaching constitutional law at the University of Arkansas Law School, and as attorney general of Arkansas, successively. This immersion in legal, especially constitutional...

About the Contributors

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pp. 295-300


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pp. 301-312

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603446945
E-ISBN-10: 160344694X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603446600
Print-ISBN-10: 1603446605

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

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Subject Headings

  • Clinton, Bill, 1946- -- Congresses.
  • Clinton, Bill, 1946- -- Impeachment -- Congresses.
  • Executive power -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Congresses.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1993-2001 -- Congresses.
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