Sunday, January 20, 2013

10 Fun Facts About Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States

1. William Jefferson Clinton was born in August of 1942 in Hope, Arkansas.  At birth, his name was William Jefferson Blythe III, named for his biological father, who died in a car accident three months before his son was born.  Clinton's mother later remarried, and he eventually took his stepfather's name.  Despite this, Clinton's stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who died of cancer in 1967.

2. Deciding as a teenager that he wanted to be a politician, Clinton earned an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, and later studied at Oxford before earning a law degree from Yale.  At Yale he met Hillary Rodham, a fellow law student, and they were married in 1975.  They have one child, Chelsea, who was a teenager during her father's time in office.

3. Clinton's first foray into politics occurred in 1972, when he helped coordinate the Dallas office of Democrat George McGovern's presidential bid.  While working on the McGovern campaign, Clinton met Steven Spielberg, who was, at the time, a little known TV director.  The two have remained friends ever since.

4. Clinton ran for Congress in 1974, but was defeated by the Republican incumbent.  Two years later, he was elected Attorney General for Arkansas in an uncontested election.  Only two more years after that, he was elected governor.  At the age of 32, he was the youngest governor in the nation, and the second youngest elected in the 20th century.  He lost his re-election bid in 1980, but won again in 1982 and kept the office until his presidential bid in 1992.

5. Clinton considered a White House run in 1988.  This was in the middle of one of his terms as governor, and the idea was floated that if he resigned as governor to run for president, Hillary might run to replace him as governor of Arkansas.  The idea was eventually dropped, and Clinton gave his support to Democrat Michael Dukakis.  He also delivered the opening night address of the Democratic National Convention that year, as one of the party's rising stars.

6. In 1992, Clinton ran for president against six other contenders, including the popular California governor, Jerry Brown.  Despite a slow start in the primaries, Clinton began attracting attention late in the primary season and ended up winning the nomination.  In the general election, he faced George H.W. Bush, who had seen his popularity during the Gulf War evaporate under a broken pledge not to raise taxes and a weak economy.  In addition to this, the Republican ticket was largely split by a major third party run from Texas billionaire Ross Perot.  Perot ended up winning almost 20% of the popular vote.  Clinton won the election with 43% of the popular vote, the lowest total for a winning candidate since 1912, and the second lowest since 1860.

7. Clinton's time as president was a successful one for the country, though Clinton himself remained consistently under scrutiny from his political enemies.  Despite this, he managed to pass a significant amount of popular legislation, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the North American Free Trade Act, the Brady Bill regarding gun control, bills on immigration reform and welfare reform, a balanced budget bill, and Don't Ask/Don't Tell, which effectively allowed gays to serve in the military.  He attempted to pass a major bill overhauling healthcare early in his presidency, but this measure was defeated in Congress.  In 1994, the Clinton administration launched the first White House website.

8. Despite legislative success and a booming economy, the last few years of Clinton's presidency were marred by the revelation of an affair with a White House intern, which Clinton lied about while under oath.  This led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives, the first such action taken by the U.S. House since the 1860's.  The Senate, despite having a significant Republican majority, acquitted him of the charges.

9. Unlike most presidents, whose approval ratings tend to drop over time, particularly during their second term, Clinton's actually improved significantly during his second term, and he left the White House with an approval rating between 65 and 70%, the highest for any president upon leaving office.  His peak approval rating, about 75%, actually came right in the middle of the impeachment proceedings against him in late 1998 and early 1999.

10. Having taken the White House as one of America's youngest presidents, Clinton has had a prominent post-presidential career, writing a best-selling memoir and devoting his time to charity work with other former presidents.  He has also remained active in politics, supporting his wife in her own presidential run in 2008 and through her term as Secretary of State under Barack Obama.  Clinton has won two Grammy awards for spoken word albums, and although he was the first president to win a Grammy, both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have since won the award as well.  Hillary Clinton has also won a Grammy.  Clinton's vice-president, Al Gore, has controversially won both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize.  

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