Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
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Posts tagged "Bill Clinton"
Hi, I'm working on a paper for U.S. foreign policy and chose to focus on "Probable cultural/experiential/personality issues on one senior-level U.S. FP decision-maker since 1900" as my topic. I leaning towards Bill Clinton. Can you please share some good sources about him focusing on my topic? There are other options like a case study on a crisis, but I am interested in studying a POTUS if you wanna throw out any others I might be able to write a good piece on. Thanks in advance!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think that President Clinton is a strong choice. Here are some sources that I’d suggest:

PBS American Experience: Clinton
As I’ve noted on many occasions, the supplemental websites to PBS documentaries are incredibly loaded with source material and/or links to source material.

My Life by Bill Clinton

The Survivor: Bill Clinton In The White House by John F. Harris

A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton As Told By Those Who Know Him by Michael Takiff

First In His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss

The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein

The Presidency of Bill Clinton: The Legacy of a New Democratic and Foreign Policy by Mark White

And don’t hesitate to check out the oral histories and collections of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Which presidents would you say had the most successful post-presidencies?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There are four whose “retirements” stand out heads-and-shoulders above the rest:

•John Quincy Adams: Defeated for re-election in 1828, but elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 and spent the last 17 years of his life in Congress as a passionate opponent of slavery. He was also a major advocate of what became the Smithsonian Institution and continued his fight for internal improvements throughout our growing country while also opposing Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian-era Democratic Party.

•William Howard Taft: After losing his bid for re-election in 1912’s three-way race against Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, Taft spent the entire Wilson Administration as a law professor at Yale. More importantly, just a few months into President Harding’s term, Taft finally got his dream job — Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft’s term as Chief Justice was undoubtedly the happiest and most fulfilling time of his professional life and he stayed on the Court until just a few weeks before he died.

•Jimmy Carter: Carter forged an entirely new role for an ex-President with his humanitarian work around the world through the Carter Center. His efforts at personal diplomacy have not always been welcomed by incumbent Presidents, but much of what Carter has accomplished during his 33+ years of “retirement” (the longest post-Presidential life of any POTUS in history) has been remarkable. It’s also set the tone for the modern post-Presidency.

Bill Clinton: Following Carter’s lead, the work the 42nd President has done (and continues to do) since 2001 via his Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative has helped millions around the world. Because of Clinton’s popularity, domestically and internationally, as well as the fact that he’s the best politician alive and likely married to the next President of the United States, he is in a unique position in comparison to every other former President in American history. There’s really no ceiling for what he can accomplish other than his personal health and the 22nd Amendment.

It will be interesting to see how active George W. Bush and Barack Obama decide to be and what they focus on during their post-Presidential life. Bush 43 obviously is not as interested in being as visible as Clinton, but he has continued the extraordinary work in sib-Saharan Africa that he began as President. I’m not sure what Obama’s focus will be, but I don’t think he’s going to just retire to a beach house in Hawaii. I’d like to see him focus on domestic poverty and income inequality. I think all of our former Presidents from this point forward will follow the Carter model to some extent. I’m sure they’ll still cash in on some paid speeches (which I have no problem with), but Carter set the standard for post-Presidential public service.

Bill Clinton is famously, and sometimes mockingly, remembered for biting his lip before he prepared to say something.  At times, it seemed corny or even smarmy, and on Saturday Night Live, it became a staple of the great Phil Hartman’s impression of Clinton during the Clinton Administration. The mannerism was usually followed with a comment like, “I feel your pain.”

However, in Michael Takiff’s awesome oral history of Bill Clinton, A Complicated Man, it is revealed that there was much more to Clinton’s lip biting than a goofy quirk. In fact, it was a calculated action — a speed bump for the lightning quick thoughts of one of the most intellectually powerful and supremely gifted politicians in American history.  Clinton’s longtime aide and one of the driving forces of his 1992 Presidential campaign, Paul Begala, says that Clinton was trained to do the lip biting because Clinton answered questions so quickly that it almost seemed unnatural.

According to Begala:

He was so smart about so many things but also could connect.  The whole thing about his biting his lip — that was coached.  Because he would answer so fast.  We’d say, ‘Take a beat.  Pretend you’re thinking about it.  Pretend you haven’t already got an answer.’  It was a studied thing to give himself a second to force himself to slow down.”

Asker Anonymous Asks:
if hillary wins, what do you think bill would concentrate on as fhotus
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I imagine that Bill Clinton will continue to work on the issues he’s focused on with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.  I’d like to see Bill Clinton used as a special envoy for situations like trying to strike a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, or opening up relations with Cuba or Iran.  Something similar to George Mitchell’s role in Northern Ireland or Richard Holbrooke’s role in the Balkans.  Clinton would be even more potent of a force because of his stature around the world.  Ideally, Bill Clinton would be Secretary-General of the United Nations, but that’s not going to happen.  Actually, ideally, the 22nd Amendment would be abrogated and Clinton would be President-for-Life.

As an aside, I don’t think it will be FHOTUS (First Husband of the United States), but instead would be FGOTUS (First Gentleman of the United States).

Bill Clinton’s “Final Days” as President, from his last White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and featuring a cameo from the man who would someday become Frank Underwood.

And #42 continues to be the coolest President ever.

Being President is like running a cemetery — you’ve got a lot of people under you and nobody’s listening.
Bill Clinton, during a speech in Galesburg, Illinois, January 30, 1995
Asker Anonymous Asks:
What president (or presidents) would make the perfect roommate for you?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Bill Clinton. No hesitation on that answer. He’d be a perfect roommate for me for several reasons. We’re both night owls/insomniacs, so neither of us would have to tiptoe around in fear of waking the other roommate, plus we’d have someone to hang out with at 3:00 AM every morning.

All of the Presidents would be interesting in one way or another, but Clinton seems like he’d be the easiest to just sit around and talk to or play rounds of Hearts with. I’m sure he’s also the type of guy who enjoys a good meal (or, at least, was before he decided to eat better after his heart surgery), and finding a roommate who enjoys the same food as you is always a bonus.

Clinton and I have similar tastes in books. I’d pay double the original rent just to combine my library with his. Also, since I tend to be anti-social, Clinton as roommate would be the best medicine for that. He’d be great for throwing parties, and I tend to believe that he’d be a pretty damn good wingman when it came to meeting nice ladies.

Bill Clinton can talk to anybody and immediately make a new friend, and that would be great. He’s just likable, and you can’t ask for much more than a roommate you like being around. Even political rivals seem to end up liking him personally. George W. Bush had quite a bit of resentment towards Clinton because he beat Bush’s father in 1992. But once they got to know each other, 43 was asked how he felt about his predecessor, 42, and Bush said, “Are you kidding? How can you not like Bill Clinton?”

I don’t like living with roommates and feel like living alone is the best way to experience freedom, but I’ve really warmed to this idea while answering this question. I’m in if you’re in, Mr. President! I’ll come work at the Clinton Foundation and we can carpool. Also, I cook, if that helps.

Asker bbkld Asks:
In my lifetime, there have been three "WTF were you thinking, voters?" re-elections: Nixon, Clinton, G.W.Bush. In each, the weaknesses of the incumbents were well known (Nixon: crook; Clinton: the ladies; G.W.: G.W.), yet managed to keep office for valid reasons (like their opponents). Which re-election of a sitting incumbent do you consider to be the most difficult to understand?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t know if “difficult to understand” would be the right term because most re-elections of incumbents can be explained pretty easily.

Let’s just look at your three examples — Nixon, Clinton, and Bush 43. As you mentioned, all three had it pretty easy when it came to their opponents. I have a ton of respect for George McGovern and Bob Dole, but they were no match for Nixon in 1972 and Clinton in 1996, respectively. And, of course, John Kerry was just a terrible candidate for President, so Bush got really lucky in 2004.

It’s important to note, however, that the scandals that tainted Nixon and Clinton didn’t start causing them major problems until after they were re-elected. The Watergate break-in happened during the ‘72 campaign, but the extent of Nixon’s in-depth involvement wasn’t revealed until after Nixon laid an ungodly Electoral College beatdown on McGovern that year — 520-17 was the score, 49 states for Nixon while McGovern took home just Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

The Monica Lewinsky story didn’t break until January 1998, well after Clinton had coasted to re-election against Bob Dole in November 1996. And, even if Clinton had faced re-election at the same time he was being impeached by the House of Representatives, would it have mattered? Remember, Clinton’s approval ratings went UP while he was being impeached and put on trial by the U.S. Senate!

So, I guess we settle on George W. Bush by default. In retrospect, the 2004 election is definitely one that raises eyebrows. Bush was tremendously unpopular and the only reason he was re-elected was basically due to the fact that in John Kerry and John Edwards the Democrats nominated their worst Presidential ticket since the nightmarish duo of John W. Davis and Charles W. Bryan in 1924.

That 1924 Democrats ticket required 103 ballots before the Democratic Convention finally settled on a candidate. At that Convention, the Democrats nominated SIXTY different candidates for the Presidency! And if they had spent just a quarter of that time on coming up with alternate candidates 80 years later in 2004, George W. Bush probably would have lost that election.

The nation did not want to re-elect Bush in 2004, but the Democrats blew it by nominating John Kerry. You can’t really blame Kerry — you have to take that opportunity when you get it. It’s other leading Democrats who could have and should have stepped forward in 2004 who deserve the blame. Most of them recognize that they made a huge mistake by not running in 2004 because (a.) they could have won, and (b.) they may have lost their window for being President. Hillary Clinton is fortunate to be a resilient enough political figure that her window is still open. If Hillary had run in 2004, she would have beat Bush and would have been seeking re-election to the White House in 2008 instead of losing the Democratic nomination to the junior Senator from Illinois that year.

I really don’t know if I’ve answered your question. I guess my point is that none of those re-election victories are difficult to understand, but it is certainly frustrating that an incumbent as vulnerable as George W. Bush in 2004 was able to win another term. I guess the difficult thing to understand is how the Democratic Party, with its vehement opposition to Bush and increasing anti-Iraq War sentiment in 2004, nominated such an underwhelming ticket in such an eminently winnable campaign. I don’t know if I will ever fully understand that.

Do you know what is most frustrating about the 2004 election? Despite the terrible Democratic ticket, despite John Kerry, despite John Edwards, despite the lack of passion from Democratic voters nationwide, and despite everything that happened from the DNC in Boston until Kerry’s concession speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, one thing will always haunt Democrats: Kerry still almost won! The Electoral College count: Bush 286, Kerry 252. If more people had voted for Kerry than Bush in just one state — Ohio — on November 2, 2004, Bush would have been a one-term President.

Like I said, it’s not that I find anything I mentioned to be difficult to understand; it’s just a bitter pill to swallow — still, nearly a decade later.

He’s luckier than a dog with two dicks.

Bill Clinton, to aides, on Barack Obama’s good fortune against Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign

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Asker Anonymous Asks:
Can you explain or point to the leading up to and impeachment of Clinton. Like why did they want to impeach him, what grounds were they coming from, and why was he impeached but not removed from office. I wasn't politically in tune during that period of my life.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The first thing to do is to properly describe what impeachment is. A lot of Americans are confused and think that impeachment means someone gets tossed out of office. Impeachment is one part of a process that could eventually lead to removal from office. It’s a step. It’s probably best to think of impeachment in the same way that we think of indictment. In both cases, a body of enough people has voted that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing to move forward with a trial and ultimate judgment.

When a President is impeached, it is done by the House of Representatives and his trial — and it is literally called a “trial” — takes place in the Senate. The Senators are the jury and the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the trial. In order for the President to be found guilty and removed from office, 2/3rds of the Senate must vote to convict him. That’s 67 Senators. If 66 Senators vote “guilty” and 34 vote “not guilty”, the President stays in office. There weren’t 100 Senators at the time, but that’s what happened to Andrew Johnson in 1868 — he was acquitted by one vote in the Senate after being impeached by the House.

It would take forever to fully explain the Clinton impeachment by including everything about Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster’s suicide, and Kenneth Starr’s ridiculously endless $70 million investigation, so I’ll break it down really simply.

President Clinton was being sued for allegedly sexually harassing Paula Jones when he was Governor of Arkansas. During the trial, rumors that Clinton was having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, came to light. Clinton had to testify under oath during the case and denied an affair by parsing his answer with legalistic vocabulary. Starr, the Independent Counsel desperately seeking something to nail Clinton with, decided he had found it and submitted a report to the House Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee voted out articles of impeachment and the House of Representatives approved two — perjury and obstruction of justice. The perjury charge was for denying a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and it was alleged that he obstructed justice by trying to get Monica from testifying that they were involved.

Once Clinton was impeached by the House, he was put on trial in the Senate with leading House Republicans acting as prosecutors. I’m flying past a ton of information, but the Senate obviously acquitted the President and he finished out his term. Incidentally, Clinton’s job approval ratings remained remarkably high throughout the scandal, impeachment, and trial.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Dewitt Clinton vs. George Clinton (The VP) vs. Bill Clinton vs. Hillary Clinton vs. George Clinton (The Parlement-Funkadelic musician). Who do you vote for and who wins?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Bill Clinton for both answers.  First of all, I think Bill Clinton could probably win an election against anybody, especially if it took place today.

Secondly, P-Funk George Clinton’s appeal would be the idea of having a really cool guy be President and I think even George Clinton would admit that Bill is way cooler than he is.  I mean, sure, George Clinton wrote “Atomic Dog”, but I’m pretty sure that “Atomic Dog” is ABOUT Bill Clinton.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If the recount over the Bush-Gore election in 2000 had stretched out and not been solved by inauguration day what would have happened? Would Clinton have continued in office as an emergency president? I get confused by the succession rules.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You’re not the only person who gets confused by Presidential succession. I receive a lot of questions about who would become President in this-or-that instance.  One particular point that many people seem to be confused by can be answered easily:  there is never, ever an instance in which an outgoing President’s term is extended past the date that he is scheduled to leave office.  No emergency, no electoral dispute, nothing can ever extend a President’s term other than re-election.  If a President is scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20th, that’s the end of the line, no matter what happens.

As for your specific question, if the recount or the court battle over Bush vs. Gore in 2000 had continued into the new year and not been resolved by Inauguration Day 2001, the Presidency would have ended up with the person next in the line of succession.  President Clinton and Vice President Gore were both scheduled to leave office at 12:00 PM on January 20, 2001, so if the election had not had a result by that point, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, would have become President at that time and served until the 2000 election was decided.  

The election dispute in 2000 ended up continuing into December before the Supreme Court ended the recount and Gore conceded to Bush.  Throughout Presidential campaigns, the two major party nominees — in this case Bush and Gore — receive CIA intelligence briefings so that they are up-to-date on what is going on around the world and prepared for if or when they become President.  As the dispute stretched on, President Clinton actually approved CIA briefings for Speaker Hastert in case he had to assume the Presidency on Inauguration Day.