In 1992, Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the United States, defeating George Bush. Bill Clinton was the first President born after World War II and the youngest since John F. Kennedy. He is the second president in United States history to be impeached. His impeachment was the consequence of his indiscretions. The impeachment hearing and all the evidence was publicized and often imitated to make fun, but his impeachment was no laughing matter. President Clinton had serious allegations against him that were continuously denied until the evidence was too incriminating that he could no longer cover the truth.
Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas in 1946. While attending high school he traveled to Washington D.C. with the Boys Nation to attend a leadership conference. He and others in the group were invited to White House. During his visit he shook hands with President John F. Kennedy, an event that became one of the most memorable of his youth and which sparked an early interest in entering politics.
Clinton attended Georgetown University, earning a degree in International Affairs. He then attended Oxford University to study Government and later onto Yale Law School. He met his wife, Hillary, during this time. In 1972, they both worked for presidential candidate, George McGovern. After completing law school he returned to his home, Arkansas, to teach law at the University of Arkansas. During this time he was contemplating his political career. In 1974, he ran for U.S. Congress but lost in a close race.
In 1976, he became the Attorney General of Arkansas. He proceeded to become the youngest Governor in the U.S. and then served as the Chairman of the National Governors’ Association.
Clinton continued his political career and in the 1991-1992 presidential election he became President of the United States. He defeated the allegations of marital infidelity, pot smoking, and draft dodging but the turmoil was just beginning. Widely considered the most investigated President ever, the Clinton administration had been dogged by controversy from the very beginning. Shortly after Clinton was elected president, more allegations began to surface.
The first major Clinton scandal involved the White House travel office and came to be popularly known as “Travelgate”. Whitewater began back in 1978 when Bill and Hillary Clinton along with two Arkansas acquaintances, James B. and Susan McDougal, borrowed $203,000 to purchase 220 acres of riverfront land in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, then formed the Whitewater Development Corporation with the intention of building vacation homes (History Place, 2000).
In 1982, McDougal purchased Madison Guaranty, a small saving and loan company that was shut down in 1989 after several failed loans. In 1992, the Federal Resolution Trust Corporation, during its investigation into the causes of its failure, named both Bill and Hillary Clinton as “potential beneficiaries” of alleged illegal activities at Madison Guaranty. A referral was then sent to the U.S. Justice Department (History Place, 2000). There was said to be illegal dealings and but by late 1997, the Whitewater investigation came to a close. The Office of Independent Counsel failed to produce the necessary “substantial and credible” evidence of an impeachable offense that would justify referring the matter to Congress for further action (Linder, 2005).
After this investigation, Clinton personal affairs were being watched closely by Kenneth W. Starr, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, and federal appeals court judge and solicitor general in the Bush administration. He began investigating the Clinton’s to matters that were personal unrelated to the Whitehouse-Travelgate case.
The second allegation began to surface, the Paula Jones case. Paula was a former Arkansas state employee. In 1994, Paula alleged that in 1991, she was summoned by Clinton’s bodyguard to go his hotel room. She claimed that Clinton committed sexual harassment by dropping his trousers in a Little Rock hotel room and asking her to perform a sex act. She filed a civil lawsuit against the President in federal district court in Arkansas, seeking $700,000 in damages along with a personal apology from Clinton (History Place, 2000). When the alleged event occurred Clinton was not yet the president but when the allegations were made his lawyers advised him to postpone the case. Clinton’s plan to postpone the case didn’t last long before the case reached the United States Supreme Court. For the first time in U.S. history, a sitting President was subjected to a civil lawsuit for actions that occurred before he became President (History Place, 2000).
During the Paula Jones controversy Clinton gets involved with Monica Lewinsky. Monica Lewinsky was an intern that came to work at the White house in 1995. During her internship she was assigned to the West Wing of the White House and met Clinton. This was the start of there sexual encounters and secret meetings. She was transferred to the Pentagon and became friends with Linda Tripp.
Linda Tripp, a Defense Department employee and friend of Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky confided in Tripp and began telling her stories about the affair that she had with Clinton. Tripp began secretly tape-recording her conversations with Lewinsky, which included discussions of Lewinsky’s affair with Clinton. Tripp began to share information with Jones’s lawyers, and Starr. These findings were building a strong case against Clinton.
The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 on May, 27 1997 for the Jones case and it proceeded. Jones’s legal team was in search of more ‘dirt’ on Clinton. The information from Tripp was just the break that they needed to proceed towards the impeachment of Clinton.
Clinton found out that Lewinsky was on the list of witnesses in the Jones case. A close friend on Clinton’s, Vernon Jordan, assisted Lewinsky in finding another job and also found her a lawyer. The lawyer provided help with an affidavit in the Jones case in which she would deny having a sexual relationship with the President.
In 1998, Clinton testified in the Jones case. He was caught off guard because for the first time he was questioned about his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton denied under oath having any sexual relations with Lewinsky. Clinton’s denials would be used as the basis of an article of impeachment.
Internet sites, news reporters, and magazines began to publically reveal the Lewinsky affair for the first time. Clinton continued to deny the allegations. He made a televised appearance to attempt to end the speculation. Clinton stated,
“But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time — never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people” (History Place, 2000).
This was his first speech but not his last he continued to deny the existence of the relationship.
In April 1998, the Paula Jones sexual harassment case was dismissed. It was dismissed on the grounds that the alleged act was not considered sexual harassment under federal law. Starr and his team were still in pursuit of Clinton.
Lewinsky declined to testify against Clinton until July. She hired lawyers and met with Starr’s staff for the first time.
She presented the details of her relationship with Clinton. Starr granted her immunity. Lewinsky also turned over a dress that was stained with semen, the DNA from which proved that Clinton and Lewinsky had been intimate. The next day, Clinton, whom Starr had subpoenaed to come before the grand jury, agreed to appear (Greenburg, 2003).
She testified before Starr’s federal grand jury. She gave explicit details about the sexual encounters but also told the jury that no one told her to lie or offered her a job in lieu of not telling.
In August 1998, Clinton testified and admitted the affair with Lewinsky but continued to deny the Jones’s allegations. He also gave a televised apology for the relationship with Lewinsky that he described as, wrong. Clinton thus became the first President ever to testify in a grand jury criminal investigation concerning his own actions. Some thought his apology was enough but others thought it was inadequate. Clinton’s testimony would later be used as the basis of an article of impeachment.
In September, Starr charged Clinton with impeachable offenses including perjury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering. Starr disclosed the information to the public and America was flooded with explicit details. President Clinton was in jeopardy of loosing his position in office, something that he worked so hard for. The public began to make mockery of the acts, especially Clinton. The press had called on Clinton to resign and others were deeply concerned about the impact on the nation.
In October 1998, the impeachment hearing began. The Democrats, in defense of Clinton, produced an array of scholars asserting that the charges against Clinton did not rise to the level of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” mentioned, but not specifically defined, in the U.S. Constitution as grounds for impeachment, and therefore did not warrant removal of the President from office (History Place, 2000). Clinton was given 81 written questions that asked him to admit or deny allegations in Starr’s report. His answers to the questions will be basis of an article of impeachment.
In December 1998, the Judiciary Committee voted mainly along party lines to approve the first three articles of impeachment, accusing Clinton of committing perjury before Starr’s grand jury and in the Jones case, and with obstruction of justice in the Jones case. The next day, the fourth article was approved, accusing Clinton of making false statements in his answers to the 81 written questions (History Place, 2000).
Most people in America did not approve of an impeachment. Democrats wanted an alternative or a possibly reprimand but the majority wanted him to stay in the office. During this time Clinton had ordered military strike against Iraq because Iraqi leader did not comply with U.N. weapons inspection. Some say that his action was an attempt to prolong the impeachment but others say such allegations are absurd. The impeachment proceedings were delayed twenty-four hours.
On December 19, 1998, President Clinton fate was decided before the full House of Representatives. They voted on the four articles on impeachment: Article 1- perjury before Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s grand jury, Article 2- perjury in the Paula Jones civil case, Article 3- obstruction of justice related to the Jones case, Article 4- abuse of power by making perjurious statements to Congress in his answers to the 81 questions posed by the Judiciary Committee. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives brought two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice (Greenburg, 2003).
The impeachment trial began January 7, 1999. Although this was the second impeachment trial in U.S. history, it would possible be the first for a president to be removed from office. On February 12, 1999, as the whole world watched as Senate voted. On Article 1, the charge of perjury, 55 senators, including 10 Republicans and all 45 Democrats voted not guilty. On Article 3, obstruction of justice, the Senate split evenly, 50 for and 50 against the President (History Place, 2000). A two-thirds majority was needed as stated by the Constitution. President Clinton was found not guilty on both charges and was allowed to serve the reminder of his term in office.
President Clinton concludes by saying,
”Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, bringing this process to a conclusion, I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people” (History Place, 2000).
The allegations that led to the impeachment hearing were indeed immoral actions but did they warrant grounds for impeachment. Many will argue that Clinton was trying to protect his privacy by not disclosing all the facts before the court and others would say that he outright lied to cover the truth. He persuaded Lewinsky and other key witnesses into giving false testimony about the affair. In the case of the court when you swear under oath you are entitled to tell the truth but Clinton did not.
In doing this, William Jefferson Clinton has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, has betrayed his trust as President, and has acted in a manner subversive of the rule of law and justice, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States (Hall, Finkelman & Ely, 2005).
Was justice served? I will say, yes it was. Clinton was wrong for a lot of different reasons but no one other than our God is void of making mistakes. He was humiliated in the public eye and humbly admitted his untrue nature. It is often hard to disclose your own wrong doings to one person but to the whole world that is big. In realizing that he did not have much choice or look like a complete fool he still did the right thing. The trial was needed because there was wrongdoing but the judicial system did not fail the American people. Despite the whole ordeal, I feel that Clinton was one of the best Presidents during my time. Do we judge a person from there wrongdoings or do we look at the bigger picture? I look at the big picture and I stand behind my view, justice was served.