Baby Boomer-in-Chief: The Presidency of Bill Clinton

Jeffrey Engel
Jeffrey Engel
Southern Methodist University

Jeffrey Engel is the founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. He has taught at Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Haverford College, and taught history and public policy at Texas A&M University. He has authored/edited thirteen books on American foreign policy, most recently, When the World Seemed New: George H. Bush and the Surprisingly Peaceful End of the Cold War.

 

Overview

Bill Clinton was often the first, but rarely unique.  The first non-veteran since World War II to be commander-in-chief, he was indeed the first since that conflict who had not fought in World War II.  Part of the first all-Southern national political ticket to win the White House, he governed during tremendous years of economic growth yet broader uncertainty, and he nearly lost the presidency when the type of scandal ignored for previous presidents ran afoul of his political enemies, and of subsequent standards for workplace behavior and morality.  In other words, he was the quintessential Baby Boomer, and his rise to power, near fall from power, and years since power tell us much about the man, but also post-war America itself.

 

Professor Engel’s Recommended Reading:

First in his Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, by David Maraniss

The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism, by Steve Kornacki

Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President, by Patrick J. Maney

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What forces fueled Bill Clinton’s campaign for the presidency?  Could he have won four years earlier?
  2. Compare and contrast Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign themes to the Democratic and Republican party platforms of 2020?
  3. Does private morality matter for elected officials?  Should it?

 

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