Key evidence in the case against Clinton

DURING the presidential election campaign, George Bush painted Bill Clinton as a waffler and opportunist unfit to enter the White House. Last week several worried Democrats admitted he might have had a point.

'William J Clinton is an undisciplined and inveterate babbler,' Murray Kempton, a liberal commentator, wrote. 'No president before him has so speedily made it so easy for one to take his full and puny measure.'

The surprise is that Mr Clinton was meant to be, if nothing else, one of the more professional politicians in America. The election campaign showed him tactically adroit, but since he entered the White House he has repeatedly shot himself in the foot: having his hair styled by Christophe of Beverly Hills while delaying traffic at Los Angeles International airport, or firing the White House travel staff to make way for his cousin.

Among Mr Clinton's blunders and policy reversals:

Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood: James Carville, who ran Mr Clinton's campaign, blamed it all on appointing people with strange first names. Within weeks of entering the White House his first two choices as attorney general had to withdraw because they employed illegal aliens. Everybody said it was the teething trouble to be expected from a new administration, but why had Mr Clinton chosen a caricature corporate lawyer for such an important post? And why make the same mistake twice?

Haiti: During the campaign, Mr Clinton said Haitians fleeing their homes on leaky boats for Florida should have a chance to make their case for asylum. On the eve of inauguration, his staff had a nightmare: just as the new President was entering the White House, 100,000 Haitians would be sailing for the US. To the amusement of Mr Bush's staff, they reverted to Republican policy of sending the Haitians home.

The Haitian junta noted that Mr Clinton had changed his mind. It hinted at first it would allow a civilian government to return. Then it said UN monitors or special police force could reduce human rights abuses. As Mr Clinton weakened, the junta's line toughened. Compromise was rejected. The democratic opposition, which won two-thirds of the vote in the last election, and had rejoiced in the streets when Mr Clinton was elected, became dispirited at what it saw as a his betrayal.

Gays in the military: Not a total flip-flop or a mistake for which Mr Clinton carries much blame, but politically costly all the same. Ronald Reagan and Mr Bush spent dollars 500m on a witch-hunt to detect and expel gays from the military. Mr Clinton had promised to end discrimination, but when he tried to end the ban, he met resistance from General Colin Powell, the immensely popular chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As an opponent of the Vietnam war, committed to cutting the defence budget, Mr Clinton was always going to have difficult relations with the military, but this was an unpopular issue on which to fight.

A compromise is likely, whereby gays will not say openly that they are homosexual and the military will not ask them. Mr Clinton knew he was taking up an unpopular cause, but it is surprising that he did not foresee the strength of the opposition that he would face.

Middle-class tax hikes: During the campaign, Mr Clinton said he would not raise taxes for the middle classes. At one moment he declared that nobody earning less than dollars 200,000 would be affected. Then in February his budget taxed much lower income groups, even if the main burden fell on the high earners. A little unfairly, the Republicans were able to accuse him of a flip-flop. Most of the dollars 115bn in new income taxes comes from the wealthy, but the dollars 71bn energy tax hits everybody and is deeply unpopular in such oil states as Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

If all else had gone well for Mr Clinton, his deficit reduction plan might not be in such trouble. Its introduction was the high point of his presidency. Wall Street liked it and so did a majority of voters. Nobody predicted he would have to fight so hard to get it through a heavily Democratic House, whatever difficulties he faced in the Senate. But the Republicans wanted to win back their reputation as the low tax party, and Mr Clinton's campaign for his plan was undermined because other blunders by his administration were dominating the television headlines.

Real Life, page 22

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'