As President Bill Clinton’s term draws to an end, many wonder what one of the most popular modern politicians will be known for. The answer is not much.
First, President Clinton was not a great foreign policy president. In the Middle East, Clinton failed to finalize any agreements. While his attempts were admirable, why did he wait eight years to have the two sides confront each other? President Clinton’s failed Camp David summit can be viewed as one of the catalysts for the current unrest in Israel.
The Middle East is not the only Clinton foreign policy failure. Perhaps the most tragic is in Africa, where AIDS threatens to destroy the entire population. Clinton knew of the pandemic at the beginning of his presidency, but he took no action.
On domestic issues, Clinton has had mixed results. While Clinton has resided over the longest expanding U.S. economy, it is due more to changes in the technology and telecommunications sectors and the dynamics of the marketplace than to his domestic agenda. After all, government does not create wealth. The American businessman is responsible for the booming economy, not the Clinton White House.
Even on core Democratic issues, Clinton failed to make a major impact. Congress defeated the young Clinton White House on health care. Even Democrats ran away from the Clinton health plan. While Clinton claims welfare reform was one of the major successes of his presidency, the bill he signed into law was Republican-sponsored.
The most profound and saddest legacy President Clinton has left for American history is his lack of character and decency. While the American people are indifferent to the number of scandals that plagued the Clinton White House, it is not because they approved of Clinton’s behavior. Rather, the American people were powerless and could do nothing about it. In the end, they simply stopped caring.
Perhaps the best word to describe the Clinton presidency is ambivalent. On one hand, Clinton had so much brilliance and promise, even the capacity to be a great president. In reality, the man with great promise and for whom we had much hope did very little.
-The writer is majoring in international affairs.