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.”
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. 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.
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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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.
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.
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.
I have previously answered this question with more depth but can’t find it, so I apologize if this answer isn’t quite as good as the first time around.
All three of those Presidents that you mentioned absolutely loved being President. Bill Clinton absolutely would have sought a third term if not for the 22nd Amendment. I think he would have kept running for the Presidency until the day he died if there were no term limits.
Eisenhower and Reagan are a little bit tougher because of their age. To this day, Reagan and Eisenhower (in that order) are the oldest Presidents in history upon leaving office. If they were younger, I think both of them would definitely have run again.
Reagan was just over two weeks shy of his 78th birthday when he left office and his official biographer, Edmund Morris, has noted that Reagan was clearly in failing health with what was probably the early stages of his Alzheimer’s Disease. Although Reagan remained in the public eye until 1994, I doubt that he would have run again if there were no term limits. He probably would have wanted to, but as protective as Nancy was of the President, I don’t think that she would have allowed it because she knew better than anyone the struggles that he was having with his memory and his energy in the last 18 months or so of his Presidency.
Eisenhower was 70 when he turned the White House over to JFK in 1961. Again, if it were up to him, I’m sure Ike would have wanted to remain in office, particularly since he had such doubts about JFK and even about the GOP nominee in 1960, his own Vice President, Richard Nixon. But like Reagan, eight years in the White House had taken a toll of Eisenhower’s health. For a time, there were questions about whether he would run for reelection in 1956, and many of his closest aides and friends and even his influential brother Milton urged him not to. In his first term, Ike had survived a significant heart attack and a brutal bout with ileitis which required emergency surgery. Of course, Eisenhower did win a second term, but there were health scares in that term, as well, including a stroke. Because of his health issues, I don’t think he would have sought a third term even if he were able to.
President Clinton and Bob Dole being Senate Spouses is pretty great. Clinton and Dole are right up near the top of the list when it comes to former campaign rivals who enjoyed a friendly relationship afterward. I think it would probably have to be Clinton and George H. W. Bush, though. I love reading about how close they are and how Clinton’s basically been adopted into the Bush Family.
Honorable mentions would go to Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford who bonded after their 1976 campaign against each other. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie. Despite losing to FDR in 1940, Willkie gave Roosevelt his support as the U.S. entered World War II. FDR even sent Willkie to Europe as a special envoy during the war. Of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had themselves a little bit of a beef that turned into one of history’s most fascinating friendships as they aged.
Worst? The relationship between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams was pretty nasty and I’d be stunned if there wasn’t some animosity between George W. Bush and Al Gore, but I’m going to go with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. At one point, FDR and Hoover were quite friendly, but issues heated up between them during the transition after FDR beat Hoover in the 1932 election. Once FDR was President, Hoover was treated as if he were radioactive. Despite Hoover’s massive success in relief efforts during the first World War, FDR asked nothing from Hoover. After FDR died, it only took a few days before President Truman contacted Hoover for advice and to put him to work.