Compare and Contrast Essay
Compare and Contrast: The Clinton and Bush Presidencies
The past 15 years have been a turbulent period of trials and tribulations for our nation. During this period two elected leaders guided our growing nation through wars, international affairs, and issues here at home; William Jefferson Clinton and George Walker Bush. Despite facing an incredible amount of criticism on both of their parts, both presidents managed to preserve American influence in the world.
Elected as the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, or better known as Bill Clinton, held office from 1993 to 2001. Taking office in January 1993 with an approval rating well over 60%, and with a dispirited Republican party torn by differences over abortion rights and other social issues, Clinton had the confidence to restore the Democrats to national dominance. Rather than making the needs of the larger national interest his top priority, however, Clinton devoted large amounts of his time and presence to the controversial issue of gays in the military and to the appointment of women and African Americans to highly visible federal positions, while appearing inexperienced and indecisive in dealing with issues in Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia. His popularity tumbled, and then nose-dived when he reneged on his promise to cut middle-class taxes. Congress passed his deficit-reduction budget, providing for $433 billion in savings over five years, by just two votes in the House and only one in the Senate. Clinton then alienated most Perot supporters by pushing all-out for the North American Free Trade Agreement, a measure opposed by most Democrats in Congress and enacted only because of overwhelming Republican support. On other matters Clinton successfully worked with Congress in 1993 to achieve legislation making it easier to register to vote, enabling
workers with new children or sick family members to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave, providing child immunization, requiring a waiting period and background check for handgun buyers, and cutting taxes on the working poor and raising them on the wealthy.
In the 1998 mid-term congressional elections, Democrats won more seats than expected, showing that a majority of Americans continued to support the president. Nevertheless, on December 19, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.. After a trial in the Senate, the president was acquitted on both the impeachment and perjury charges. However, he faced the possibility of a future indictment on criminal charges connected with the Lewinsky scandal at the end of his term. Despite these difficulties, Clinton was able to reach an agreement with Congress on a program designed to bolster the Social Security system in the long run. In 2000 the Clintons were cleared of any wrongdoing in the Whitewater matter.
Elected in the close and controversial election of 2000, George Walker Bush came to leadership at an awkward time for America. In his inaugural address, the new president laid out the agenda of his administration: lowering taxes, improving education, and upgrading the military. During his first few months in office, Bush methodically set about implementing this agenda, giving special emphasis to his plan for a $1.6 trillion tax cut, which was criticized by the Democrats as mainly benefiting the rich and eliminating tax revenues that could have been used to shore up social security and Medicare and to pay down the national debt. In May 2001, after much debate, Congress passed a tax cut of $1.35 trillion. Bush's first budget increased spending for education and the military but reduced funding for transportation, agriculture, and environmental protection. On the environment he moved away from Clinton-era policies: while
proposing a relaxation of restrictions on oil exploration in public lands, he lowered drinking-water standards and reversed a decision to regulate carbon dioxide emissions by power plants. Another controversial Bush proposal was to channel federal funds to "faith-based", religious, charities, which some felt would violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.
In foreign affairs the Bush administration moved to limit U.S. peacekeeping activities in the Balkans, reduce economic aid to Russia, and curtail the effort to come to an agreement with North Korea on its nuclear-weapons program. However, in June 2001, the administration announced that it was willing to resume talks with North Korea. The administration's seeming lack of enthusiasm for multilateral approaches in foreign affairs created concerns among European allies, and against this backdrop Bush visited Europe that same month for the first time as president to confer with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders and with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Eight months into Bush's presidency in 2001, in response to the September 11th attack on America, President Bush announced a "war on terror", which would become a central issue of his presidency. In early October 2001, he ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban as part of an attempt to defeat al-Qaeda. In March 2003, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, asserting that Iraq was in violation of UN Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction. Following the invasion of Iraq, Bush stated his policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2006 a majority of respondents in 18 of 21 countries surveyed around the world were found to hold an unfavorable opinion of Bush. Respondents indicated that they judged his administration as "negative" for world security.
There is no doubt that each president had his high and low points. Despite which political party we belong to we must acknowledge that being the leader of an entire nation is no easy task. We as Americans have one of the most powerful gifts given to man: choice. How we use this is up to us and where we lead our country is a contract between us and our elected leaders that should be forever cherished and upheld.