Clinton, who had been Arkansas general attorney in 1977-78, and governor of the state for five terms (1978-80 and 1982-92), was first elected president of the United States in 1992. occasion brought back 43% of popular votes (compared to 38% obtained by George Bush and 19% by Ross Perot) and 370 electoral votes out of 538.
In the first years of his mandate he encountered obstacles and difficulties that greatly weakened his prestige. The most serious defeats were those concerning the realization of the political objectives that he had supported since the election campaign, starting with the reforms more traditionally in tune with the line of the Democrats. In the fall of 1994, Congress rejected the health care reform – opposed by insurance companies, on the one hand, and, on the other, by employers who would have had to bear a large part of the costs – and the following year the law on assistance to immigrants. Instead, the anti-crime law, in August 1994, and the anti-terrorism legislation, which was enacted in 1996 to deal with the explosion of terrorism, obtained parliamentary approval.
In the international sphere, Clinton took numerous initiatives during his first mandate: diplomatic activity for a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict, which culminated in the meeting in Washington, in September 1993, between Isaac Rabin and Yasser Arafat; pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to allow international controls on nuclear weapons programs in exchange for assistance in developing nuclear weapons for civilian purposes (1993-94); the intervention in support of the president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been dismissed by a military coup (September 1994); involvement in the question of the former Yugoslavia until the signing of the Dayton agreements (1995), which ended the Bosnian Serb war. In the economic field, of particular importance was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), ratified by Congress in 1993, which established a free trade area between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Despite the shadow of both private and administrative scandals (the Whitewater affair, on alleged financial wrongdoing committed by Clinton and his wife Hillary at the time of his tenure as governor of Arkansas), the repositioning at the center in domestic politics, the extraordinary resumption of economy and, together, the weakness of his opponent Robert Dole, allowed Clinton to be re-elected in November 1996 (with 49% of popular votes against 41% of Dole and 8% of Perot; 379 electoral votes against 159 of Dole). First Democratic president to be re-elected, since 1936, for a second four-year period, reinforced by the greater autonomy of choice that came to him from exercising his last term, Clinton reaffirmed a line of compromise between traditionally democratic demands and the demands of majority Republicans in Congress. On this line, in May 1997, he reached an agreement with Congress which set the achievement of a balanced budget for 2002, through a program that established a progressive decrease in health expenditure for the elderly (Medicare), cuts to the health care program for the poor (Medicaid), a reduction in taxes on business activities and on education expenses in family budgets, as well as the provision of new funds for health care for immigrants.
The costs of the centrist line adopted by Clinton, however, seemed not to weigh on the consensus that the president had in the meantime managed to obtain, thanks to the brilliant successes of the US economy and the role played in the fight against international terrorism, in the name of the role of security guards. that the United States seemed to have to assume after the end of bipolarism. But in January 1998, with the first indiscretions published by numerous media outlets, the so-called Sexgate began, a scandal relating to Clinton’s private life that led him to support an impeachment procedure and threatened to demolish his moral credit and political force.
However, in a positive economic situation and therefore favorable to a widespread demand for stability, and after the international success achieved in October 1998 with the signing of the treaty between the PLO and Israel, the result of a personal commitment by Clinton during the negotiations held in Wye Plantation (Maryland), the results of the mid-term elections of November 1998 rewarded the president and his party, weakening the front of the supporters of ‘ impeachment.
On the eve of congressional acquittal (February 1999), Clinton decided to resume aerial bombardments of Iraq with the support of Great Britain, without consulting the UN Security Council. This line reflected the growing hegemonic role of the United States, which was widely confirmed during the NATO air intervention against Yugoslavia (March-June 1999) to put an end to the ethnic cleansing carried out in Kosovo by the Serbs against the Albanians.
The foreign policy followed by Clinton in 2000, the last year of his mandate, has turned in the same direction of affirming the American role, which saw him engaged in several delicate state visits to Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Russia, Colombia., in Vietnam. But above all central was the negotiation effort for the Middle East, of which the summit in Camp David, Maryland, between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in August, and in October the mediation attempt conducted in Sharm el Sheik were the most important moments. in Egypt, after the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
Indirect confirmation of Clinton’s total recovery of popularity in the United States was the large-scale victory won, on November 7, 2000, by his wife Hillary in the election for the seat of senator of the State of New York.