Last updated on: 5/1/2017 | Author:

Pro & Con Quotes: Was Bill Clinton a Good President?

PRO (yes)

Pro 1

David Greenberg, PhD, Professor of History, Journalism, and Media Studies at Rutgers University, in an article for the Mar./Apr./May 2017 edition of the Washington Monthly titled “A Consequential Presidency,” wrote:

“[T]he booming prosperity over which Clinton presided, combined with his progressive tax and distribution policies, meant that for the first time since the 1960s, the lowest quintile of earners saw their lot improve during his presidency…

Bill Clinton oversaw the most successful foreign policy since John F. Kennedy… By the end of his second [term], he had achieved major diplomatic achievements – sometimes with the aid of military force – in Bosnia and Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Israel and the Palestinian territories…

Clinton did much more than survive. He made the Democratic Party viable again in presidential elections. He reoriented liberalism, retaining its core commitments to a mixed economy, a welfare state, civil rights, civil liberties, and an internationalist foreign policy – while also acknowledging where its past policies on welfare, crime, and other issues had lost the confidence of the American people. He recognized the coming of globalization and sought new policies to deal with its challenges. His programs contributed… to peace and shared prosperity, declines in violent crime and out-of-wedlock births, and a liberalizing national temper on culture war issues. Race relations improved steadily, according to both whites and blacks.”

Mar./Apr./May 2017

Pro 2

Leon Panetta, JD, White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton, in an interview with Russell L. Riley for the 2016 book Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History, stated:

“[Bill Clinton was] a president who really did provide strong leadership for the county in both foreign affairs and domestic affairs. I always think that the centerpiece … is what he did on the economy and on the [1993] economic plan, because that really did take leadership to do that and he was willing to do it, knowing all the risks involved… But in addition to that, obviously, his achievements in terms of trade, of domestic policy, on education, establishing AmeriCorps, and beginning the process of the healthcare debate … that was important for this county. His environmental record is probably comparable to Teddy Roosevelt’s in terms of the steps he took to try to protect our environment. On foreign affairs … he preserved the peace and he did it in a way that established the United States as a world leader. And he certainly had the ability to deal with our allies and to get them to support what he was trying to do. He certainly made every effort to try and promote peace in the Middle East, which is essential.”


Pro 3

Paul Begala, JD, former political advisor to President Clinton, stated the following in an interview with Frontline for a special titled “The Clinton Years: Promise/Defeat,” posted Jan. 16, 2001 on the PBS website:

“I think he will be seen as a stunningly successful president…

When I traveled around with him in the country, these are the promises he made: he said, ‘I’ll revive the economy.’ 22 million jobs later, this is the best economy in the history of the world, in the history of capitalism, the finest economic situation any people have ever had. He said, ‘I’ll reduce the deficit by half.’ I thought that was a little optimistic over-promising in the campaign. He’s more than reduced it. He’s now going to pay down the national debt if the Republicans don’t squander it away in a tax cut.

‘I’ll end welfare as we know it.’ Mission accomplished. He said, ‘I’ll put 100,000 cops on the street and cut crime.’ The lowest crime rate in 30 years. He said, ‘I’ll expand trade and be a new kind of Democrat, passing a free trade deal with Mexico and then later with China.’

Mission accomplished on every critical juncture, except health care, where he promised national health insurance… I tell you, it’s the most successful presidency since FDR, maybe LBJ if he hadn’t had Vietnam, but if you look at what the man set out to do and what he accomplished, stack him up against anybody.”

Jan. 16, 2001

Pro 4

Bill Clinton, JD, 42nd President of the United States, stated the following in his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 18, 2001, as transcribed by ABC News:

“In all the work I have done as president, every decision I have made, every executive action I have taken, every bill I have proposed and signed, I’ve tried to give all Americans the tools and conditions to build the future of our dreams, in a good society, with a strong economy, a cleaner environment, and a freer, safer, more prosperous world.

I have steered my course by our enduring values. Opportunity for all. Responsibility from all. A community of all Americans. I have sought to give America a new kind of government, smaller, more modern, more effective, full of ideas and policies appropriate to this new time, always putting people first, always focusing on the future…

I’m very grateful to be able to turn over the reins of leadership to a new president, with America in such a strong position to meet the challenges of the future.”

Jan. 18, 2001

Pro 5

Alan Colmes, political commentator for the Fox News Channel and former co-host of the show Hannity & Colmes, stated the following in his 2004 book Red, White & Liberal: How Left Is Right & Right Is Wrong:

“Bill Clinton was the greatest American president in the second half of the twentieth century and may, through the lens of a longer history, go down as one of our greatest presidents, ever. We had unheralded prosperity, as evidenced by the rising tide of jobs, the stock market, and real estate values, and falling unemployment. He forged a peace agreement in Northern Ireland after decades of turmoil, achieved the Dayton Accords to calm the Balkans.”


Pro 6

Tony Blair, JD, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stated the following in his 2010 memoirs, A Journey: My Political Life:

“Bill [Clinton] is an extraordinary mixture of easygoing charm and ferocious intellectual capacity. Probably, in terms of political intuition and certainly in terms of turning such intuition into analysis, he is the most formidable politician I ever met. My theory is that, in a curious way, the blessing of his times is the disadvantage of his legacy. As with any period, the years 1993-2000 were full of events, many of them significant. But the world-changing events – 9/11 and the financial crisis – happened in the next presidency.

Bill was actually a brilliant president. He made it at times look easy. He ran a good economy; made big reforms; handled… Kosovo with real leadership.”


Pro 7

Gregory Craig, JD, White House special counsel to President Clinton, stated the following in an interview with Frontline for a special titled “The Clinton Years: Promise/Defeat,” published Jan. 16, 2001 on the PBS website:

“I think that this president will be seen as one of the most highly qualified, most talented, most skilled political leaders that this country has ever seen. In that measuring stick, he is up there, in my view, with the Ronald Reagan capacity to communicate with the nation, with the John Kennedy capacity to inspire a generation. I think he probably had more sense of politics and policy than we’ll ever see again in a president, and more intelligence about dealing with it.

I think people will be talking about William Jefferson Clinton as a president and as a person forever because of the combination of incredible forces that are wrapped up in this man. And we know about the flaws. And we know about the lost promise. And we know about the squandered opportunities. But they also shouldn’t conceal the reality that this was a time of enormous achievement and transformation of the nation…: the diversity, the commitment to diversity, to recognizing and celebrating diversity in our country, to dealing with the post Cold War era in a way that made sense. Where the country was not afraid of exercising leadership, of projecting power and influence at the same time that it developed a very powerful economy at home.”

Jan. 16, 2001

Pro 8

John F. Harris, Editor in Chief of Politico, stated the following in his 2006 book The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House:

“However heedless he could sometimes be in his personal life, Clinton brought a dutiful sensibility to his public life… One can argue over how much credit any president deserves, but the larger picture of American life at the end of the Clinton years was unmistakable. Twenty-two million jobs had been created over eight years. The budget was in surplus. Crime was down; so were welfare rolls and teen pregnancies. Home ownership was on the upswing, as were median incomes for African-Americans and Hispanics…

Clinton’s presidency was anchored to an authentically populist spirit and animated by a genuine connection between a politician and common folk whose support he needed.”


Pro 9

Joe Klein, author and political columnist for TIME magazine, stated the following in his 2002 book The Natural: Bill Clinton’s Misunderstood Presidency:

“Amid the dashed hopes and the scandals and the bitterness, a great deal of real work was done. Bill Clinton conducted a serious, substantive presidency; his domestic policy achievements were not inconsiderable and were accomplished against great odds. He had rescued the Democratic party from irrelevance and pursued a new philosophy of governance that made public-sector activism plausible once more…

Moreover, he performed the most important service that a leader can provide: He saw the world clearly and reacted prudently to the challenges he faced; he explained a complicated economic transformation to the American people and brought them to the edge of a new era.”


Pro 10

Walter Mondale, LLB, Vice President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter, stated the following as quoted by Michael Takiff in the 2010 book A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton Told by Those Who Know Him:

“I’m sorry about the one mistake, everybody knows about it, no point in discussing it, but I think [Bill Clinton’s] a very good person who tried very hard to help produce an America that is sensitive, that is fair, that tries to create hope instead of this bitterness. He tried to do the same thing internationally. I think he’s got to go down as a very successful president.”


CON (no)

Con 1

Thomas Frank, PhD, author and Founding Editor of The Baffler, in his 2016 book titled Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?, an excerpt of which is available from under the titled “Bill Clinton’s Odious Presidency: Thomas Frank on the Real History of the ’90s,” wrote:

“Evaluating Clinton’s presidency as heroic is no longer a given… After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.”


Con 2

Fredrik deBoer, PhD, Academic Assessment Manager at Brooklyn College, in a Mar. 16, 2016 article for the Observer titled “Bill and Chain: The Clinton Presidency Could Hold Back Hillary,” wrote:

“Bill Clinton’s presidency was a disaster for progressives, for the constituencies they speak for and the country writ large…

We’re living through a great national reckoning on our country’s vast inequalities – racial, economic, and otherwise; the Clinton administration inarguably contributed to those inequalities. His welfare reform bill, which he and his administration championed relentlessly, undercut the economic security of millions of Americans…

[T]he Clinton administration instituted harsh economic sanctions on Iraq… resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of children from malnutrition and lack of medicines…

Even Mr. Clinton’s oft-celebrated economic credentials seem far less impressive when put under scrutiny… Having pushed for and signed NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], Mr. Clinton watched as more than 650,000 jobs eventually moved overseas…

Much more devastating, however, was the Clinton administration’s culpability in the unprecedented financial implosion of 2008 and 2009. By pushing for and winning deregulation of speculative financial assets, the Clinton administration surely deepened and expanded the crisis.”

Mar. 16, 2016

Con 3

Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC political analyst and Chief of Staff for the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee during Clinton’s presidency, stated the following as quoted by Michael Takiff in the 2010 book A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton Told By Those Who Know Him:

“I don’t think that his presidency amounted to very much. There was a two-year Clinton presidency, where if Clinton wanted to do something it would not necessarily get done but would get a fair hearing and a lot of legislative energy pushing it. And then there was a six-year Gingrich government, in which Clinton was allowed a small editing function on what the Gingrich government would do. In those six years not a single thing that the White House wanted to do got done…

Throw in a grotesquely stupid scandal, involving his own personal behavior, that overtakes every day of his presidency for a year, and it becomes one of history’s least important presidencies, in terms of actually setting some kind of direction or establishing some kind of principle that goes forward beyond that presidency.

What’s the legacy? I don’t get it. There’s no lesson on how to be president — at all.”


Con 4

Dick Armey, PhD, former House Majority Leader (R-TX), stated the following as quoted by Michael Takiff in the 2010 book A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton Told By Those Who Know Him:

“What’s his legacy? To me it’s that he got away with it. He’s the accidental president who’s the luckiest guy I’ve ever seen in politics; who is charming and seductive and charismatic; who had one or two good policy moments in terms of my interpretation of what’s good for the country; and whose conduct was so boorish that the average family would have cut their college sophomore kid out of the will for it. He is, in my estimation, the most successful adolescent I’ve ever known…

I know I’m being harsh, but I could never bring myself to believe that in the case of Bill Clinton I was dealing with a serious adult.”


Con 5

Robert C. Byrd, JD, former US Senator (D-WV), stated the following in a video shown on the Jan. 19, 2001 episode of Crossfire, as transcribed by CNN:

“He [Bill Clinton] squandered a lot of his time and his talents. He could have done a lot more and a lot more good. He’s been a disappointment, in many ways, to the American people.”

Jan. 19, 2001

Con 6

Sean Hannity, political commentator for the Fox News Channel and former co-host of the show Hannity & Colmes, stated the following in his 2005 book Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism :

“The events of the Clinton presidency contributed to many of the international problems we now face… When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, most people probably would have assumed that his impeachment would be the most enduring black mark he left on history. Yet… with the events of September 11 it became clear that the Clinton administration’s most damaging legacy had nothing to do with his personal moral recklessness. It concerned his utter failure to safeguard the national interests of the United States by refusing to confront evil with strength and resolve.

Today, Bill Clinton may pine over his lost ‘opportunity’ to shine in foreign policy. But he conveniently overlooks the many chances he had to engage the terrorists. If Clinton had had the courage to recognize and act upon them, he could have seized any number of legitimate opportunities to commence the war on terrorism that America was destined to face.”


Con 7

Bill O’Reilly, MA, MPA, host of The O’Reilly Factor on the FOX News Channel, stated the following in his 2002 book The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life:

“In two terms the man created no meaningful legislation, except the Family Leave Act… Mr. Clinton’s true legacy will become clearer in the next few years, but I promise you he is less likely to become a hero to the American people, when everything is out in the open, than to the Communist Chinese. Forget impeachment. If it were not for the powerful economy, he would have been tarred and feathered long before now.

The much-publicized affair with Monica Lewinsky was trivial (except to Hillary and Chelsea). What was not trivial was his lying about the whole thing, which paralyzed the nation’s executive and legislative branches for more than a year. This man did tremendous damage to our country…

He let us down on almost every level. After taking credit for Republican legislative programs that downsized welfare and cut crimes, he and Congress raised taxes while doing absolutely nothing to deal with… the health care confusion and the crisis in public education… These are the actions and inactions of a truly ridiculous leader. For that reason, Bill Clinton is sentenced to be the butt of jokes for the rest of his life.”


Con 8

Forrest McDonald, PhD, Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Alabama, stated the following as quoted in the article “Soundbite: 18th Century Man,” written by Michael W. Lynch and published in the Apr. 2001 issue of Reason magazine:

“[Bill Clinton] was not a strong president; he was a popular one. Ask yourself, what did he get done? Was there any major legislation he was responsible for? Welfare reform came from the Republican Congress. Health care was a disaster. He simply didn’t get much done. He was a comedy of errors. Everyone approves of what he’s doing, but when you ask the question, no one can say anything he did.”

Apr. 2001

Con 9

Gene Kizer, freelance writer, stated the following in a July 25, 2005 article titled “Why Did So Many People Hate Bill Clinton? An Exchange Among Conservatives,” posted on George Mason University’s History News Network website:

“People hated Clinton and still do because the entire time he was president, he was a monumental LIAR. His ‘Slick Willie’ moniker is true, but understates his level of dishonesty…

Clinton is probably the best pure ‘politician’ in American history, but that is no compliment. It’s a testament to his skill as a liar and ability to get away with it (I’m surprised he didn’t bite off that lower lip). Just imagine the sincerity of a Ronald Reagan in comparison to Slick Willie…

If it had not been for the anomaly of Ross Perot, we would never have had to endure Clinton. Clinton’s re-election occurred because of the power of incumbency, but even then, he did not get a majority of the popular vote.”

July 25, 2005

Con 10

William Kristol, PhD, Editor of the Weekly Standard, stated the following in his Aug. 28, 2008 article titled “Bill Clinton: My Excellent Foreign Policy,” posted in the Weekly Standard:

“Clinton didn’t, as he now claims, lead us ‘to a new era of peace.’ He inherited a hard-won peace, failed to lead, and part of his legacy is 9/11. It was understandable (if unfortunate) that in 1992, after the end of the Cold War, the American people would think they could afford a president who would fatuously think it enough to claim to be ‘on the right side of history’ (whatever that means), rather than being willing to make tough decisions.”

Aug. 28, 2008

Con 11

Ann Coulter, JD, writer and legal correspondent, wrote the following in a June 28, 2004 article titled “How Bill Clinton Will Be Remembered,” published in the Warsaw Indiana Times-Union:

“What actually happened during Clinton’s presidency? No one can remember anything about it except the bimbos, the lies, and the felonies. Fittingly, in the final analysis, Clinton will not be remembered for what he did as president, but for who he did.”

June 28, 2004