the clinton years

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CHRONOLOGY From Hope, Arkansas to the White House
October 2, 1991

Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton announces that he will run for president.
January 23, 1992

Scandal erupts in the campaign when the Star tabloid releases a cover story claiming that Gennifer Flowers, a long-time acquaintance of Clinton who had previously denied having a relationship with him, has changed her story. On January 26, Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary appear on television's "60 Minutes" program to present their side of the story. Bill Clinton tells interviewer Steve Kroft that he has "caused pain" in his marriage.

The following day Flowers holds a press conference to reiterate that she was Clinton's lover for twelve years. During the press conference, excerpts from recently taped phone conversations between Flowers and Clinton are played for the public.

  • How the Clinton campaign handled the crisis.
  • February 6, 1992

    Clinton faces a new challenge when the Wall Street Journal claims that during the Vietnam War, Clinton manipulated the system to avoid the draft. Clinton says that he did not dodge the draft and did nothing wrong. The next week on "Nightline" Ted Koppel reads to the nation a letter written by Bill Clinton to Colonel Eugene Holmes, director of the University of Arkansas ROTC program in 1969. In the letter Clinton thanks the colonel for saving him from the draft and outlines his beliefs about the war.
    February 18, 1992

    Clinton finishes second in New Hampshire's primary. Following the Gennifer Flowers and the draft controversies, Clinton's poll numbers had dropped and he had to campaign harder than ever. In his speech that night, Clinton says New Hampshire has made him "the Comeback Kid."
    March 16, 1992

    On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton makes a controversial comment. Responding to press questions about whether she profited from state business that came to the Rose Law Firm where she was employed, Mrs. Clinton says, "You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."

  • Campaign staffers' views on the Bill-Hillary relationship.
  • July 16, 1992

    Clinton accepts the Democratic Party's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
    July 17, 1992

    Clinton and vice-presidential candidate Al Gore depart on a bus tour of America. Along with their wives and staff, more than 130 journalists accompany the candidates.
    November 3, 1992

    Election Day. Clinton wins the election with 43 percent of the vote.
    January 20, 1993

    Bill Clinton is sworn in as the 42nd president of the United States. The next day Zoe Baird, his nominee for Attorney General, is under attack. Clinton accepts the request to withdraw Baird's nomination after she admits she had employed undocumented foreigners in her home. Clinton later also withdraws support for Kimba Wood, his second Attorney General nominee, and for Lani Guinier, a candidate for a key Justice Department post.

  • Staffers' views on the "unfocused presidency."
  • January 25, 1993

    The president appoints his wife Hillary as the head of the Task Force on National Health Care reform. Mrs. Clinton also was given an office in the West Wing of the White House. Never before had a first lady had such status in her husband's administration.
    January 29, 1993

    Clinton's decision to fulfill a campaign promise to lift the ban on gays in the military puts him at odds with conservative members of both parties and with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On January 29, he announces a six-month policy that prohibits the military from asking recruits about their sexual orientation. This sparks opposition from liberals and homosexuals who feel that Clinton was stopping short of fulfilling his promise. In July Clinton cements the policy under the nickname "don't ask, don't tell."
    February 17, 1993

    In a nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress, Clinton unveils his economic plan. The plan focuses on deficit reduction rather than a middle class tax cut, which had been high on his campaign agenda. Clinton also discusses the plan in his first State of the Union address later that day. Even though Democrats control both houses of Congress, the economic plan is in jeopardy because of the president's earlier missteps, which have weakened confidence in the new administration.

  • More on Clinton's pivotal budget decision.
  • May 29, 1993

    Clinton announces that David Gergen will serve as Counselor to the President. Gergen previously had counseled three Republican presidents --- Nixon, Ford and Reagan -- and his appointment comes as a surprise to Clinton's young staff.

  • Robert Reich's anecdote about Clinton's staff in the early days.
  • June 26, 1993

    Clinton launches a missile attack aimed at Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation against an Iraqi plot to assassinate President Bush.

  • See the N. Y. Times timeline on Clinton foreign policy decisions
  • July 20, 1993

    Vince Foster is found dead in Fort Marcy Park in Virginia. It's ruled a suicide. Foster had been a longtime friend of Clinton and had worked with Hillary at the Rose Law Firm. Foster was named Deputy Counsel to the President in 1992 and was charged with handling Hillary's legal matters, including the Whitewater affair. Following his death, Foster's office is sealed to investigators, causing suspicion that documents related to Whitewater had been removed.

  • Staffers discuss the scandals that erupted in the spring/summer of '93.
  • August 10, 1993

    Bill Clinton signs the deficit reduction bill that will reduce the federal budget deficit by $496 billion over five years. The bill passes the House by a 218 - 216 margin on August 5th and Vice President Gore places the tie-breaking vote in the Senate on August 6th.
    September 13, 1993

    Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin meet on the White House lawn to sign the Oslo Peace Accords. Clinton and his team carefully plan every detail of this historic occasion, right down to insuring that the two Middle East leaders shake hands.

  • Tony Lake's account of planning the Clinton-Arafat greeting.
  • September 22, 1993

    Clinton unveils the health care reform proposal to Congress.

  • Paul Begala tells the story of the speech snafu.
  • October 3, 1993

    A landmine kills three U.S. soldiers in Somalia. In a subsequent UN force attack against Somali leader Mohammed Farah Aidid, 18 Americans, 2 Pakistanis and 1 Malaysian are killed and 75 Americans are wounded. Video shows two Americans being dragged through the streets of Somalia. What began as a humanitarian mission had evolved into open warfare between UN soldiers and the Somali warlord Aidid. The president has to decide whether to withdraw troops or to continue the mission. [On October 7, Clinton orders 15,000 U.S. reinforcements to Somalia.]

  • See FRONTLINE's report "Ambush in Mogadishu"
  • In Russia the same day, Borin Yeltsin faces a revolt led by his vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, after Yeltsin had dissolved the parliament thirteen days earlier. Clinton tells reporters, "I still am convinced that the United States must support President Yeltsin and the process of bringing about free and fair elections."

    November 3, 1993

    Clinton signs the Brady Bill into law, mandating a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases during which local police are required to perform criminal background checks on prospective buyers.
    December 8, 1993

    Clinton signs the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.
    January 12, 1994

    Following President Clinton's request, Attorney General Janet Reno announces she is appointing an Independent Counsel to investigate Whitewater. Reno names Robert Fiske, who deposes the First Couple at the White House six months later, on June 12, 1994. The deposition is a first for a sitting president and first lady. [Later, after a U.S. Court of Appeals panel refuses to re-appoint Fiske as Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr takes over on August 5, 1994.]

  • David Gergen's views on what really triggered the whole Whitewater investigation.
  • May 6, 1994

    Paula Jones files a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.
    July 26, 1994

    The U.S. Congress begins hearings into Whitewater.

  • See FRONTLINE's report on Whitewater, "Once Upon a Time in Arkansas"
  • September 19, 1994

    After the failure of negotiations and sanctions, Clinton sends U.S. troops to Haiti to restore ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power and to head off a potential wave of Haitian refugees.
    September 26, 1994

    Congress abandons Clinton's health care reform plan.
    November 8, 1994

    Republicans take over the House in a landslide victory, creating the first GOP majority in forty years. The 104th Congress selects Newt Gingrich as Speaker. As the architect of the "Contract with America," Gingrich vows to bring an end to "government that is too big, to intrusive, and too easy with the public's money." Gingrich becomes Clinton's principal political adversary.

  • How Clinton immediately began his strategy for a comeback.
  • April 19, 1995

    A bomb inside a rental truck explodes outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, tearing apart the building and killing one hundred sixty-eight people.

  • Insiders talk about how Clinton found his voice as president in response to the Oklahoma City tragedy.
  • September, 1995

    Following the deadly bombing of a Sarajevo marketplace, NATO forces launch the largest mlitary action in the alliance's history. After two weeks, the Bosnian Serbs are pushed to the negotiating table. The negotiations eventually lead to a peace settlement reached in Dayton, Ohio in November 1995.
    November 13, 1995

    Clinton vetoes the balanced budget proposal given to him by House leaders. With no approved budget, the federal government shuts down. A week later, the president signs a continuing resolution allowing the government to remain open while negotiations continue. A second shutdown in December lasts until January 5, 1996-- the longest government shutdown in history.

  • Staffers discuss how his refusal to compromise helped Clinton win reelection.
  • November 27, 1995

    Clinton presents case for sending 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia to enforce the peace agreement.
    January 9, 1996

    A three-judge panel rules that Paula Jones's lawsuit can go forward.
    January 16, 1996

    Hillary Clinton embarks on a book tour to promote It Takes a Village and is besieged by questions about the travel office and Whitewater. She tells reporters, "I will do anything to cooperate and to bring this matter to a close, and I've said that continually." Ten days later, under subpoena from the Independent Counsel, she appears before a grand jury.

  • More about Hillary under fire.
  • March 1, 1996

    Clinton grants Irish Nationalist leader Gerry Adams a visa to visit the U.S.
    April 29, 1996

    Al Gore attends a fundraising event at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. The event raises $60,000 in illegal donations for the Democratic National Committee and comes to symbolize the Clinton-Gore administration's flaunting of campaign fundraising laws.

  • See FRONTLINE's report "Washington's Other Scandal"
  • May 28, 1996

    Clinton's former Arkansas business partners in the Whitewater affair, Jim and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, are convicted of fraud in the first trial to emerge from the Whitewater investigation.
    August 22, 1996

    President Clinton signs the welfare reform bill, which places a limit of five years on recipients. Clinton had vetoed two previous Republican welfare bills and is unhappy with this, the third one. However, he signs it, vowing to fix what is broken in it.

  • The reactions of White House insiders to Clinton's welfare decision.
  • See the N.Y. Times report "A War on Poverty Subtly Linked to Race"
  • September 3, 1996

    Clinton orders a missile strike against Iraq for Saddam Hussein's siege of the Kurdish-controlled city of Irbil.
    November 5, 1996

    William Jefferson Clinton is re-elected with 49% of the popular vote, becoming only the second Democratic president in the 20th century to win a second term. The first was Franklin Roosevelt.

  • Reactions and analyses of this victory.
  • January 20, 1997

    Inauguration Day. Clinton begins his second term as president.
    August 5, 1997

    Clinton signs legislation that promises to balance the federal budget by 2002. The agreement ends years of battles between Clinton and Republican leaders. The president also signs a bill providing $152 billion in tax cuts, mainly for families with children, college students and investors.
    January 20, 1998

    News breaks that President Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. On PBS's "NewsHour" program, Clinton tells Jim Lehrer, "There is not a sexual relationship." The media wonders whether the president was using verb tense to be evasive. In a press conference on January 26th, Clinton makes a comment that will be repeated for the rest of his presidency. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

  • Clinton's call to Dick Morris right after the story breaks.
  • January 27, 1998

    Clinton delivers his State of the Union address at the height of the sexual controversy. For the first time since 1969 the budget has a surplus. The president proposes that Congress should use the surplus to "Save Social Security first."
    April 2, 1998

    The judge in the Paula Jones case dismisses her sexual harassment lawsuit.
    April 10, 1998

    Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland sign an agreement which becomes known as the "Good Friday Peace Accords." Involved in the Northern Ireland peace process from the start, Clinton personally intervenes in the negotiations, phoning leaders on both sides and pledging continued U.S. support.

  • How Clinton handled day-to-day work during the scandal.
  • August 7, 1998

    Bombs strike U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile and alleged terrorist leader operating out of Afghanistan, is believed to have ordered the attacks.
    January 20, 1998

    Bill Clinton testifies to the grand jury in the White House. Later this same day, he makes a televised address to the nation in which he admits having had an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Three days later, August 20th , the president orders a strike on "terrorist related facilities" in Afghanistan and Sudan in response to the U.S. embassy bombings.

  • The staffers' debate over how Clinton should handle his address to the nation.
  • September 11, 1998

    At the White House prayer breakfast, an apologetic Clinton tells the audience, "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned." That afternoon, the report of the Independent Counsel, commonly referred to as the Starr Report, is released to the public. On September 21, videotape of Clinton's grand jury testimony is released.
    October 23, 1998

    Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasir Arafat sign the Wye River Memorandum after nine days of negotiations on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The agreement, mediated by Clinton, calls for: Israeli troop pullback from the West Bank with extensive Palestinian security arrangements supervised by the CIA; establishment of Israeli-Palestinian joint committee to discuss further troop withdrawal; release of 3,000 jailed Palestinians; opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza; and safe passage for Palestinians moving between Gaza and other Palestinian territories.
    December 16, 1998

    Clinton orders a three-day bombing attack against Iraq for Sadaam Hussein's refusal to allow entry to United Nations weapons inspectors. The action delays the House impeachment vote by one day.
    December 19, 1998

    The U.S. House of Representatives passes two of four articles of impeachment. On counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, the president is impeached. Democratic Congressional leaders assemble on the White House lawn as a show of support for the president.

  • Insiders' memories of the turbulent months leading to impeachment.
  • January 1999

    The Senate trial of President Clinton begins on January 14. When Clinton gives the State of the Union address on January 20, polls show his popularity is higher than ever. Even before the Senate trial ends on February 12, it is clear that the Senate will not vote to impeach the president. The day the trial ends, Hillary Clinton meets with advisor Harold Ickes to plan a campaign strategy for the Senate race in New York. Hillary officially launches her candidacy in the Fall.
    January 20, 1999

    NATO and the U.S bombing campaign against Serbia begins. It's saimed at preventing ethnic cleansing of Albanians. After 79 days of bombing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic signs NATO's agreement to withdraw his forces from Kosovo. But he does not give up power.

  • See FRONTLINE's report "War in Europe"
  • April 20, 1999

    Teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold open fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 students and one teacher and wounding 23. Public outrage leads to a renewed debate on gun control, and Clinton campaigns against excessive violence portrayed in the entertainment industry.
    February 6, 2000

    Hillary Clinton formally announces her candidacy for New York Senate. Mrs. Clinton is the first first lady to run for a Senate seat.
    July 11, 2000

    Clinton hosts a Middle East summit at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. Clinton encourages Ehud Barak and Yasir Arafat to reach a peace agreement, but after two weeks the talks collapse.

  • Analysis of the challenges Clinton faced in the Middle East.
  • August 10, 2000

    At the Ministers' Leadership Conference in South Barrington, Illinois (Willow Creek Community Church) President Clinton talks about his affair, the presidency and his quest for forgiveness.
    August 14, 2000

    President Clinton speaks on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. He leaves Los Angeles that night so that the spotlight can turn to Al Gore, who accepts his party's nomination for president on August 17.
    September 20, 2000

    Independent Counsel Robert Ray announces that the Whitewater investigation is closed. He concludes that there is insufficient evidence to mount criminal charges against the president and first lady. The six-year investigation cost more than $50 million dollars.
    September 29, 2000

    A riot erupts when leader of the right-wing Likud party and former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon tours a Muslim holy site that was captured by Israel in 1967. The violence spreads and its intensity dashes any hope for a lasting peace before the end of the Clinton administration.
    October 6, 2000

    Protesters seize the Parliament in Belgrade following Slobodan Milosevic's refusal to concede the election. Clinton encourages the revolt to continue, but does not call on U.S. military intervention. Milosevic retreats from Belgrade and makes a televised announcement the next day acknowledging Vojislav Kostunica as president.
    October 12, 2000

    The USS Cole, a naval destroyer, is bombed in the waters off the coast of Yemen.
    November 7, 2000

    Election Day. While the outcome of the presidential election will remain uncertain for five more weeks, because of disputed Florida votes, Hillary Clinton easily wins the New York's U.S. Senate race.
    November 16, 2000

    Twenty-fives years after the war that killed 58,000 Americans and about three million Vietnamese, Clinton arrives in Vietnam for a three-day trip. His visit is the first for a U.S. president since the Vietnam war, which Clinton opposed.
    December 13, 2000

    In the most tightly contested presidential election in over a century, Vice President Al Gore concedes the race to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Gore's announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that, in effect, makes it impossible to recount contested Florida votes in time to meet the electoral vote deadline.

  • Clinton's reactions to Election 2000.

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