Bill Clinton began his first term as president of the United States in
January of 1993. During his terms in office, he appointed more women and
minority members to serve in government than any earlier president.
Mr. Clinton became the first Democratic president in twenty-five years
to name associate justices to the United States Supreme Court. He chose
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to serve on America’s highest
court. Ms. Ginsburg was only the second woman named to the court.
Members of President Clinton’s own Democratic Party controlled Congress
for the first two years of his presidency. Still, Congress failed to
consider a major administration proposal. The plan was meant to reform
the health care system to provide health care for all Americans.
Bill Clinton had promised during his presidential campaign to help more
Americans receive health care. A committee led by his wife, Hillary
Rodham Clinton, proposed the new administration plan. But Congress did
not act on the proposal. Lawmakers decided it was too costly and too
difficult to administer.
Congress did pass some Clinton legislation during his first term. For
example, legislators enacted his proposal to fight crime. This measure
included a crime prevention program and increased law enforcement. It
also provided money for building more prisons. Lawmakers also passed Mr.
Clinton’s budgets for 1993 and 1994. The budgets reduced federal
President Clinton’s relations with Congress became more difficult after
the 1994 midterm elections. Voters throughout the country elected the
first majority Republican Congress in forty years. Republicans
controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Republican-led Congress passed measures to reform social welfare in
America. Mr. Clinton also wanted to reform America’s aid system. But he
stopped Congress from cutting what he believed was too much money for
some programs. These included help for education, poor people and old
people needing medical care.
The economy had slowed to recession level during the administration of
President George Bush. Under Mr. Clinton the economy grew slowly at
first. Then it recovered more quickly. Business earnings grew. New jobs
were created. The economic crisis was ended.
Mr. Clinton had to deal with terrorism against the United States very
early in his presidency. On February twenty-sixth, 1993, Islamic
terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. They placed
explosives in a car parked under the building. The huge explosion killed
six people. More than one thousand others were injured. Repair of the
damaged building cost millions of dollars. The government later captured
and tried the bombers.
Terrorism again struck the United States in 1995. On April nineteenth, a
dissident American former soldier placed explosives that destroyed the
Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. One hundred
sixty-eight people died in the bombing.
It was the most serious incident of terrorism on home territory in
United States history. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was captured soon
after the explosion. Another former soldier also was seized later in
connection with the bombing. Many Americans praised Mr. Clinton for the
way he led the nation after this tragedy.
President Bill Clinton also had to deal with a number of foreign
relations crises. For example, President Bush had sent American troops
to Somalia in 1992. The troops were taking food to thousands of starving
Somalis. The people were suffering because of lack of rain and a civil
war. Fighting among ethnic groups was preventing the people from
receiving food and other aid supplies.
Then the United Nations took control of the aid efforts.
President Clinton made American soldiers part of the UN force. In 1993,
18 American soldiers were killed in Mogadishu. They died in a battle
with supporters of a local group leader. Mr. Clinton ordered American
troops to leave Somalia after Congress demanded their withdrawal.
American foreign policy was more successful in other areas. For example,
President Clinton helped return the first democratically elected leader
of Haiti to office.
In 1991, military officers in Haiti had ousted President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. The new rulers established a military dictatorship. Thousands
of Haitian refugees tried to flee to the United States by boat.
In 1994, President Clinton threatened to use military force against the
dictators if they did not let President Aristide return to power. The
dictators surrendered power. Mr. Aristide again became president of
Some of Mr. Clinton’s most important foreign policy decisions involved
the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, formerly a republic of Yugoslavia. A
civil war began in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. Bosnian Serb rebels were
trying to oust the mainly Muslim government.
The United Nations sent peacekeepers to Bosnia. Mr. Clinton ordered the
United States Air Force to aid Bosnian Muslims under attack and try to
stop Serb aggression.
In late 1995, Mr. Clinton helped organize a meeting of the warring sides
in the Bosnian civil war. They signed a peace plan that included a
cease-fire. The plan called for NATO troops to help guard the
cease-fire. The president sent American troops to aid in this effort.
Mr. Clinton gained one of the major foreign policy goals of his first
administration in November of 1993. Congress approved NAFTA, the North
American Free Trade Agreement. The agreement called for ending most
import taxes among the United States, Canada and Mexico. This was to be
done over the next 15 years. The agreement also called for ending
restrictions on the flow of goods, services and investment among the
President Clinton had another trade policy success the following year.
Congress expanded GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The
expansion permitted cuts in import taxes on thousands of products. They
included electronics, wood products and metals.
While Mr. Clinton led the nation, he also had to defend his past. In the
late 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton had invested in the Whitewater
Development Corporation in Arkansas. By the time Bill Clinton became
president, others involved with this company were in legal trouble.
Critics said President Clinton also had acted illegally.
accuser was a former judge in Little Rock, Arkansas. He owned a savings
and loan company that received federal money. This man said Bill Clinton
had secretly pressured him to make illegal loans to help the Whitewater
company. President Clinton denied the accusation.
Some people suspected that Hillary Rodham Clinton was responsible for
wrongdoing years earlier when she working as a lawyer in Little Rock,
Arkansas. In January, 1994, Mr. Clinton asked Attorney General Janet
Reno to appoint a lawyer to lead an independent investigation of the
Clintons’ activities. She named Robert Fiske, a Republican.
But critics charged that Mr. Fiske was too friendly to the Clinton
Administration. In August, three federal judges replaced him with lawyer
Kenneth Starr, also a Republican.
Some Americans expressed anger at the president about the Whitewater
case. Others dismissed the accusations as political attacks. Opinion
studies in spring and summer of 1996 showed that many Americans would
vote to re-elect their president in November. They said they wanted Bill
Clinton to serve as president for four more years.