Bill Clinton - Key Events
William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton is inaugurated as the forty-second President of the United States.
President Clinton announces that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. The President hopes to reform the nation's health care system so that all Americans have health insurance, ensuring what is called “universal coverage,” and to control the sky-rocketing costs of health care.
President Clinton signs the Family Medical Leave Act that requires companies to provide workers with up to three months of unpaid leave for family and medical emergencies.
Six people are killed and more than a thousand suffer injuries after a bomb planted under the World Trade Center in New York City explodes. The bomb marks the beginning of a string of threats against the United States made during the Clinton administration by both foreign and domestic terrorists.
President Clinton appoints Vice President Al Gore to head the National Performance Review, which will devise an initiative entitled “Reinventing Government.” The initiative streamlines government by reducing the number of federal employees; it also cuts federal spending as a percentage of GDP to levels unseen since the Kennedy administration.
The Senate confirms Janet Reno as US Attorney General, the first woman to serve in the position. Reno was Clinton's third choice for the position, after his first two selections were scuttled due to financial improprieties.
In Waco, Texas, federal law enforcement officers, under the orders of Attorney General Janet Reno, end a 51-day standoff against a religious cult led by self-styled messiah David Koresh. In the ensuing confrontation, the fires that destroy the cult's compound kill at least seventy-five people, and bring Reno widespread criticism for her handling of the situation.
The U.S. Navy, under President Clinton's orders, attacks Iraqi intelligence operations in downtown Baghdad after learning that Iraqis had plotted to kill former President Bush during his April 1993 visit to Kuwait. The twenty-three tomahawk missiles fired reportedly kill eight people.
President Clinton announces an “honorable compromise” in the debate surrounding the participation of gay service members in the military. It was determined that these individuals would be allowed to serve, but could face military investigations if they acknowledged their orientation, as well as be expelled for it. The policy is labeled “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
Vince Foster, deputy counsel to the President, is found dead in a Northern Virginia park. Authorities rule his death a suicide, but subsequent federal investigators will re-open the case in the future.
The Senate confirms Ruth Bader Ginsburg's nomination to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg succeeds the retiring Byron White and become the second woman to sit on the high court.
President Clinton signs the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The legislation, which passes both houses of Congress by slim majorities, lays out a plan to reduce the budget deficit by $496 billion through 1998, using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
President Clinton presides over a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat sign the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, also known as the Oslo I Accord; this is the first face-to-face agreement between the Israeli government and the PLO, providing for Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
President Clinton unveils a plan for universal health care that would fix what he called a “badly broken” system. Clinton emphasizes that under his plan, all Americans would have high quality health care and would be able to choose their physicians.
On October 3, 1993, U.S. special forces stormed a compound in Mogadishu, Somalia, in order to capture aides to warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. Commanders intended the attack to be swift and precise, but the operation quickly fell apart. Hostile Somalis shot down two hovering U.S. combat helicopters. U.S. ground forces were assaulted as they tried to flee and were ambushed as they attempted to reach the crews of the downed helicopters. With exits to the city blocked, and an increasing number of killed and wounded, American soldiers were forced to hunker down and await reinforcements. In the end, eighteen U.S. troops died, and eighty-four were wounded. America was left with horrific images of soldiers' bodies being dragged through the streets and angry questions of how and why such a disaster occurred.
The U.S. presence in Somalia dated from December 1992. Then-President George H.W. Bush envisioned that “Operation Restore Hope” would be limited to humanitarian assistance and would ideally conclude sometime in early 1993, time enough to have put Somalia on the road to recovery from famine and civil war. Nevertheless, the operation became more complex than anyone imagined. Leaders at the United Nations became convinced that Aidid, who had resisted political reform both prior to and following the recent introduction of UN personnel, was largely responsible for the harassment and killing of peacekeeping forces and humanitarian workers. In the end, they sought to remove him from power.
When President Bill Clinton came into office, his administrative team sought to scale back the venture in Somalia. Calls from Congress and Pentagon officials, urging the President not to expand “Operation Restore Hope,” contributed further to a more circumscribed approach. Defense Secretary Les Aspin rejected requests from local commanders for more troops and vehicles, confident that U.S. forces would not attempt operations exceeding existing capabilities.
The Battle of Mogadishu, however, led President Clinton not just to minimize but to end the U.S. presence in Somalia. Clinton's actions generated criticism from those who believed he should have carried through and captured Aidid- that in not doing so, he had simultaneously dishonored the soldiers' deaths and harmed American military credibility. The affair contributed to the perception that the President lacked foreign affairs expertise. Many became skeptical of the idea that the United States could or should serve as a post-Cold War, peacekeeping nation-builder, particularly under the direction of the United Nations. Regardless, the Battle of Mogadishu- both its causes and its effects -highlighted the complexities of the post-Cold War American military mission.
An elite American special forces unit searching for Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in Somalia's capital city of Mogadishu is ambushed by Aidid's forces, leaving eighteen Americans dead. Three days later, President Clinton announces that all American military personnel in Somalia will be home by March 31, 1994.
President Clinton signs the Brady Act, which requires a potential handgun purchaser to wait five days while a background check is performed by law enforcement officers.
After a hard-fought battle in Congress, President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), eliminating nearly every trade barrier between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating the world's largest free trade zone.
Clinton Signs NAFTA
On December 8, 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated nearly every trade barrier between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating the world's largest free trade zone. The House of Representatives approved NAFTA on November 17, 1993, by a vote of 234 to 200. Remarkably the agreement's supporters included 132 Republicans and only 102 Democrats. That unusual combination reflected the challenges President Clinton faced in convincing Congress that the controversial piece of legislation would truly benefit all Americans.
President George H.W. Bush was NAFTA's original sponsor, signing the deal on December 17, 1992. The trade agreement ended tariffs between Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and set a 15-year timetable for the elimination of most other impediments to international investment and commerce between the three nations. Like many Republicans, President Bush believed that open economic borders between nations would benefit all concerned. Ideally, as production rose to meet the new demand for American exports, jobs, wages, and the economy as a whole would improve. However, securing Congressional approval fell to the newly elected President Bill Clinton. It was not an easy task.
Labor leaders were skeptical of NAFTA's promises. They believed that American corporations would flee the United States in order to profit from much lower Mexican labor costs and the new absence of tariffs. Presidential candidate Ross Perot spoke to those concerns when he famously predicted a giant “sucking sound” as U.S. jobs were lost to America's southern neighbor. The fears of labor—traditionally one of the strongest components of the Democratic coalition—helped explain why passage of NAFTA proved so difficult.
President Clinton and key members of his administration worked tirelessly to assuage the fears of key House Democrats. The President inserted limits on agricultural imports to minimize the negative effects of competition on produce. He also created a North American Development Bank in order to assist development along the Mexican border and show sympathy with the concerns of Hispanic Representatives. Clinton was willing to risk alienating American labor to some degree because he was convinced that long-term prosperity depended on free trade between nations, and because he felt that his administration needed an important, visible early win to generate momentum and credibility. NAFTA amounted to an administration victory, but many still regarded it as a net loss for American labor and the environment, which they claimed suffered in the absence of adequate Mexican regulations.
President Clinton attends the NATO summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at which he announces that the United States will maintain at least 100,000 troops in Europe. He also introduces the “Partnership for Peace” program aimed at building closer ties between NATO and former Warsaw Pact states.
President Clinton ends the nineteen-year old trade embargo against Vietnam, noting that Vietnam is indeed trying to locate 2,238 Americans listed as missing in action since the Vietnam War.
The last American Marines leave Somalia.
President Clinton renews China's Most Favored Nation trade status, even though China has not made as much progress on human rights issues as he had hoped.
President Clinton unveils his welfare reform initiatives. Clinton had campaigned in 1992 on the issue, promising to “end welfare as we know it.”
President Clinton meets with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and King Hussein of Jordan. The talks result in Israel and Jordan agreeing in principle to end nearly fifty years of official antagonism.
The White House and congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME), announce that Clinton's ambitious plan for health care reform will not be acted upon in 1994. Clinton's initiatives fail to find support in Congress.
President Clinton signs into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that includes provisions providing for the hiring of 100,000 more policemen, and the expansion of the death penalty to cover more than 50 federal crimes.
After a tense stand-off with the Clinton administration, Haiti's military government, led by General Raoul Cedras, agrees to cede power. The administration, along with the United Nations, had tried for over a year to restore the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in a coup on September 30, 1991.
The Clinton administration announces plans to send more than 35,000 troops to the Persian Gulf to deter an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Less than three days after the announcement, Iraqi troops pull back from the Iraq-Kuwait border.
In mid-term congressional elections, the Republican Party wins control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than 40 years. It now holds a 53 to 47 advantage in the Senate and a 230 to 214 to 1 lead in the House.
The Senate votes to approve the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that 117 nations, including the United States, agree to in December 1993. The agreement cuts tariffs by more than a third on a wide-range of products and creates a freer international market for goods.
President Clinton, along with the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine, signs the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) in Budapest, Hungary. The treaty eliminates more than 9,000 warheads.
President Clinton signs the Congressional Accountability Act, requiring Congress to abide by the same anti-discrimination workplace rules that apply throughout the rest of the country.
President Clinton authorizes the U.S. Treasury Department to make an emergency loan of up to $20 billion to Mexico to forestall a financial crisis threatening the interconnected Mexican and American economies.
In an act of domestic terrorism, a bomb planted in a truck parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, kills 168 people and causes massive structural damage. In the days following the tragedy, Clinton, in widely-praised efforts, speaks with victims and to the country about how to recover physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the attack.
The United States extended full diplomatic recognition of Vietnam, twenty-two years after the United States withdrew military forces from that country.
NATO, with a strong contingent of American forces, begins two weeks of air attacks on Serbian positions.
President Clinton and Russian president Yeltsin meet in Hyde Park, New York, and continue to discuss ways to improve relations between their two nations, especially with regard to the issue of nuclear arms.
In Dayton, Ohio, the representatives of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia agree in principle to a peace agreement, brokered by American Richard Holbrooke, to end three years of war in Bosnia. The agreement establishes a unitary Bosnian state and allows refugees to return home.
Dayton Peace Accords Reached
On November 21, 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were initialed in Dayton, Ohio; they were formally signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995. The agreement was reached between the warring nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. It sought to end one of the worst European conflicts since World War II, a four-year struggle of hardship and atrocities that had claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people, and made refugees of more than two million.
President Bill Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke led the negotiations and worked with the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia to reach acceptable terms. The details of the accords were cast in seductively simple and hopeful terms. Bosnia would remain a single state and would be granted international recognition. While its capital of Sarajevo avoided partitioning, the nation now consisted of two divided segments: the Bosnian Croat Federation, inhabiting 51 percent of the territory, and the Bosnian Serb Republic, occupying the remaining 49 percent. The accords also sought to create within Bosnia the institutions of a modern liberal democracy, including a central government composed of a constitutional court, a national parliament, and a presidency, with the latter two being filled by internationally supervised free elections. Military forces were to be substantially restrained, with protections for human rights coming from an independent body and an internationally-trained civilian police. President Clinton sent a peacekeeping force of 20,000 American troops (part of a larger NATO deployment) into the region to enforce a cease-fire that was to be followed by free elections.
While few would say that the Dayton Accords were not an important step toward peace in the former Yugoslavia, violence continued to haunt the region, especially in the neighboring province of Kosovo. Domestically, Republicans attacked President Clinton for keeping U.S. peacekeepers-forces that many Republicans labeled derisively as “nation-builders”-in the area long past the initial proposal of one year. Some fellow Democrats also attacked Clinton for failing to act with similar decisiveness and sympathy in the even more deadly conflict in the African nation of Rwanda.
During a tour of Europe, President Clinton urges the continuation of peace efforts in Northern Ireland where longstanding conflict between Irish Protestants and Catholics escalated to violence over issues of economic and political autonomy.
President Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress, led by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), engage in a political death struggle over how to balance the budget by 2002. Failure to reach an agreement leads to the shut-down of certain parts of the federal government, furloughing more than a quarter of a million government workers.
President Clinton, in the annual State of the Union address, declares that “the era of big government is over.” More important, he positions himself as a centrist, moderate Democrat for the upcoming presidential election, hoping that these types of pronouncements will blunt Republican charges that he is too liberal.
President Clinton signs a bill giving him the power of the “line-item veto,” which had been requested by Presidents Reagan and Bush. With this new power, Clinton can veto specific items in spending and tax bills without vetoing the entire measure.
President Clinton vetoes a bill that would have outlawed certain types of late-term abortions, namely the partial birth abortion. Clinton emerges during his presidency as a strong advocate of the “right to choose,” often stating his wish that abortions in the United States become “safe, legal, and rare.”
Vice President Al Gore attends a Democratic National Committee fundraising event at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. Gore and the DNC raise more than $60,000, but so through questionable interpretations of several campaign finance laws. The Clinton administration comes under increasing criticism in its second term for these alleged violations.
President Clinton announces that American troops will likely remain in Bosnia as the major component of an international peacekeeping force for an additional eighteen months.
In the first trial to result from the Whitewater investigation, Jim and Susan McDougal, and Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker--Clinton's friends and former business partners in the Whitewater affair--are convicted of fraud.
President Clinton signs a health care reform bill that he expects to expand coverage for many Americans. The measure specifically allows workers who change or lose their jobs to keep their health insurance coverage.
President Clinton signs a welfare reform bill that radically restructures the American welfare system. The provisions of the new law limit recipients of welfare benefits and enact a “welfare to work” initiative.
Clinton Signs “Welfare to Work” Bill
On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, reflecting his campaign promise to “end welfare as we know it.”
The act contained several provisions expressing the necessity of work, the primacy of states, and, ultimately, limited government provision. No longer entitled to cash assistance, families could only receive federal aid for a total of five years. States now would receive fixed block grants each year with substantial discretion over how to distribute them. The act also made many legal immigrants ineligible to receive public benefits and reduced spending on the Food Stamp Program and disability benefits for children. To make it easier for needy parents to work, the act increased funding for child-care. Single mothers got strengthened enforcement for child-support, and states were threatened with “participation-rate” requirements, meaning that unless a certain percentage of families receiving assistance were working or training each month, the federal government would slash the grants.
During the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton had campaigned with a promise to reform welfare. He believed that the support stemming from housing subsidies, food stamps, and cash grants to needy families had served to erode the values of independence and hard work. The government bore a dual responsibility, Clinton argued, to assist the truly needy while at the same time being frugal; moreover, he believed, it should help foster such positive character traits as thrift, autonomy, and self-respect. This “hand up rather than a hand out” resonated strongly with the American public, as well as with Republican congressional leaders and moderate Democrats.
Republicans were pleased with the spirit and letter of the act, although presidential candidate Senator Bob Dole thought GOP congressional support for any Clinton-approved measure might aid his opponent in the upcoming election. At the same time, some Republicans found expansion of the day-care credit hard to accept. Even among adamant liberals, the themes underpinning the act-work and responsibility-were largely uncontroversial. Still critics found the treatment of legal immigrants repugnant and the absolute five-year time limit unreflective of an often complex reality. Most of all, they faulted Clinton for failing to explain how a population with so much relative job inexperience, mental and physical disabilities, and poor educational training could find good jobs. But the “New Democrat,” moderate positioning of Clinton once again appealed to voters, and it helped launch the President on the road to reelection later that year.
President Clinton orders a cruise missile strike against Iraq after Saddam Hussein leads a siege against the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq.
An overwhelming majority of United Nations members, including the United States, agree to a treaty banning all nuclear weapons testing.
President Clinton, with 49 percent of the vote, defeats Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), with 41 percent of the vote, for the presidency. Clinton becomes the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt to win reelection to a second term.
President Clinton selects Madeline Albright, the American ambassador to the United Nations, to serve as his Secretary of State. After winning Senate confirmation, Albright is sworn in on January 23, 1997, becoming the first women to hold the position.
The Senate votes 99-0 to approve an investigation into the “improper” and “illegal” fund-raising tactics of both the White House and members of Congress. Allegations by Republicans and some Democrats of illegal fund raising by the Clinton White House spur the investigation.
President Clinton and President Yeltsin of Russia meet at Helsinki, Finland, and agree to begin negotiations on another nuclear arms reduction treaty (START III) as soon as both nations ratify START II. The United States Senate had ratified START II in January 1996.
The Senate ratifies the Chemical Weapons Convention, making illegal the production, acquisition, stockpiling, or use of chemical weapons.
Chemical Weapons Convention Ratified
On April 25, 1997, the United States Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It is one of the most ambitious arms agreements in history. The international treaty was originally signed at the United Nations in January 1993, and it went into effect on April 29, 1997.
Since the use of mustard gas in the trenches of World War I, chemical weaponry has held great potential for military scientists and posed a terrifying threat to troops and ordinary citizens. The fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s led the United States to reduce nuclear stockpiles; but the deadly reality of chemical weapons took a back seat in the American public consciousness. A series of frightening events turned the public's attention back to chemical weapons. The release of poisonous gas into the Tokyo subway in 1995 left eleven people dead and more than five thousand injured, creating strong Japanese and international support for ratification of the CWC. Disturbing reports that thousands of American veterans were suffering from painful and inexplicable illnesses suggested that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military had used chemical weapons during the Persian Gulf War. Finally, the new reality of terrorism-seen in the 1995 destruction of the Oklahoma City federal building and in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center-brought the potentially catastrophic danger of chemical weapons uncomfortably closer to home.
When the Senate finally ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention on April 25, 1997, it endorsed what had truly been a bipartisan effort. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush first negotiated and signed the convention, but President Clinton had struggled to secure its ratification, which bogged down in the Senate. His difficulty arose, in part, because many feared the United States would put itself at a comparative disadvantage in relation to its adversaries. Troubles also stemmed from the Democrats loss of control over both the House and the Senate in 1994.
As the deadline for pre-approval approached, President Bill Clinton increased his avid support of the treaty, going before Congress and addressing the American people directly to garner sufficient backing. In his 1997 State of the Union Address, Clinton announced that Americans “must rise to a new test of leadership-ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The President argued that endorsement of the treaty would “make our troops safer from chemical attack” and would “help us to fight terrorism,” maintaining that “we have no more important obligations.” Ultimately, the treaty was embraced by many: the Pentagon, the American intelligence community, and the American public favored a future free from the threat of chemical weapons.
The Clinton administration and Republican congressional leaders agree on principle to a five-year budget plan to eliminate the budget deficit. That goal would be accomplished, largely due to the strong economy of recent years.
In a decision affecting both the scope of presidential power and the immediate future of the Clinton presidency, the Supreme Court rules that Paula Jones can pursue her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, even while he is in office.
President Clinton signs legislation providing for a balanced budget by 2002, ending years of partisan wrangling between Clinton and Republican leaders.
Attorney General Janet Reno, in a letter to Congress, announces that the Justice Department's investigation into allegations that the Clinton administration violated campaign finance laws, especially in its efforts to finance the 1996 presidential campaign, has uncovered no major violations.
President Clinton welcomes President Jiang Zemin of China for a state visit.
President Clinton orders the United States government to contribute $3 billion to an international bail-out of Indonesia totaling over $22 billion. The Clinton administration argues that the bailout will help stabilize the shaky financial situation in Southeast Asia.
News breaks that President Clinton may have had a sexual relationship with a former White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton, adamantly denying the allegations, states, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”
President Clinton leaves on a six-country, 12-day tour of Africa, the first for an American President since 1978 and the longest, with special focus on highlighting the history of American Slavery.
A judge dismisses Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton.
Catholic and Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland sign the “Good Friday Peace Accords,” a substantial agreement in the Northern Ireland peace process. President Clinton had worked very hard, with several personal appeals to leaders on both sides, to bring about the agreement.
Terrorists bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 20 Americans. United States intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile and alleged terrorist leader, is behind the attacks. On August 20, the U.S. military, on orders from President Clinton, launch reprisal strikes on “terrorist related facilities” in Afghanistan, bin Laden's country of residence, and Sudan. The attacks on Sudan, however, come under particular scrutiny, as a number of international observers and members of the Sudanese government contend that the United States destroyed a civilian pharmaceutical facility, and not a chemical weapons plant, as the Clinton administration reported.
Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Bombed
The morning news on August 7, 1998, greeted Americans with a shocking report: a truck bomb had demolished the U.S. embassy in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. More than 200 people, twelve of them American citizens, had been killed. Minutes later, another truck bomb went off outside the American embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing eleven people. The combined attacks resulted in more than 5,000 injuries.
Investigators, working closely with officials in both embassy nations, ultimately picked up six operatives (and indicted several others) connected with Al Qaeda(the base), a loosely knit Islamic fundamentalist, anti-American organization headed by the wealthy former Saudi, Osama bin Laden. In August 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwa (Islamic decree) against the United States, demanding holy war and attacks on American troops. A year and a half later, bin Laden urged his followers to expand their sights to include all American throughout the world.
President Bill Clinton declared the embassy bombings “abhorrent” and “inhuman” and pledged to “get answers and justice.” On August 20, the United States retaliated by firing cruise missile at suspected Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. President Clinton also blocked all financial transactions between bin Laden and U.S. banks, companies, and citizens. In May 2001, the investigation of the embassy bombings yielded four life sentences for men involved, while two others had already confessed to the crimes and had begun serving their sentences.
In retrospect, it is clear that these attacks were precursors to the September 11 attacks in the United States. The embassy bombings confirmed to Americans the treachery of shadowy, able, and committed opponents who refused to distinguish between military and civilian personnel. They were yet another example of the frightening and uncertain dimensions of post-Cold War aggression.
The Office of the Independent Counsel releases its report on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, commonly known as the Starr Report. Two days earlier, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr tells the House that he has uncovered information that may be grounds for impeachment.
After nine days of negotiations in rural Maryland, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sign the Wye River Memorandum. President Clinton mediates the negotiations, which result in an agreement highlighted by a three-stage withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.
President Clinton orders a three-day bombing attack against Iraq after Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate with United Nations weapons inspectors.
On December 19, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The House of Representatives, which is responsible for instigating impeachment proceedings, originally considered four articles of impeachment, but declined to charge the President with one count of perjury and abuse of power. That impeachment proceeded on two grounds rather than four did not testify to a bastion of GOP support in the House, for Republican Representatives had staunchly refused a Democratic plea simply to censure the President for reprehensible behavior. Clinton had wait through two agonizing months as the Senate received the case from the House, took testimony, and debated whether or not he could continue as President.
The nation, too, was engaged in a furious debate over impeachment. Republicans and their conservative supporters felt that they were taking a stand for morality and integrity. The President's predicament flowed from an affair with the former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and his efforts to conceal the moral lapse from lawyers in the Paula Jones case, the public, and apparently even his family. The presidency was not only a position of legal and military leadership, Clinton's adversaries argued, it was a uniquely visible symbol of America, and as such carried weighty responsibilities of moral leadership. Democrats and their liberal supporters argued that impeachment was intended to remove Presidents who clearly abused their power as Presidents, for misdeeds like treason or using office to harm opponents. They alleged that Republicans were bent on a destructive and hypocritical “sexual McCarthyism,” policing what people did in private intimate relations, although some prominent Republican and conservative leaders had themselves committed affairs.
The Senate acquitted President Clinton on February 12, 1999. Afterwards, Clinton apologized to the nation for the ordeal and hoped that the country could return to the business at hand. Answering a reporter, who asked whether Clinton could in his heart forgive and forget the actions of those who had tried to remove him from office, the President offered a conciliatory response: “I believe any person who asks for forgiveness has to be prepared to give it.”
President Clinton delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress under remarkable circumstances: six days earlier, the Senate had convened an impeachment trial against the President. Despite the impeachment process, public opinion polls show Clinton with his highest approval ratings.
The Senate acquits President Clinton on both articles of impeachment, rejecting one article and splitting evenly on the second.
In response to Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Albania, and reports of ethnic cleansing, the United States leads NATO attacks against Serbia. On February 23, Serbian and Kosovar representatives had agreed to a plan that would have granted more autonomy to Kosovo over a three-year period. Serbia reneged on the agreement, prompting U.S. and NATO military action.
The NATO air campaign against Serbia ends after Serb forces agree on June 9 to withdraw from Kosovo. KFOR, an international peacekeeping force of 50,000 troops, enforces the agreement.
The United States Senate votes down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would have prevented the United States from conducting underground nuclear tests.
The United States and China agree to a trade treaty reducing tariffs and other trade barriers. The treaty is to come into effect after China joins the World Trade Organization and Congress grants permanent normal trade relations between the two countries.
The Labor Department announces that the nation's business expansion has reached eight years and eleven months, marking the longest economic expansion in American history.
President Clinton sends a bill to Congress asking for permanent normal trade relations with China. After securing House (May 24) and Senate (September 19) approval, Clinton signs the bill on October 10.
President Clinton holds his first summit meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. They reaffirm their nations' commitment to strategic arms reductions, but disagree over American plans to research and develop a missile-defense system.
President Clinton hosts Israeli leader Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David in the hope of reaching a peace agreement. After two weeks of unsuccessful talks, the summit breaks up with no agreement.
President Clinton speaks at the opening day of the Democratic National Convention. Vice President Al Gore wins the Democratic nomination for President. His challenger is Republican governor George W. Bush of Texas.
Independent Counsel Robert Ray announces that his investigation has not discovered enough evidence to indict the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings.
In Serbia, President Slobodan Milosevic declares that Vojislav Kostunica is the rightful president of Serbia. The announcement comes after disputed elections, which Milosevic had tried to rig, produce massive street protests.
On election day, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush run so closely that no winner can be declared. Only after the Supreme Court rules on December 13 that there would be no recount of Florida's contested votes does Gore concede the election to Bush.
Texas governor George W. Bush is inaugurated as the forty-third President of the United States.