Does Clinton Matter?

What effect has Bill Clinton's presidency had on American politics? How long a shadow will Clinton cast over the 2000 presidential election? Atlantic Unbound has invited The Atlantic Monthly's Jack Beatty, David Brooks of The Weekly Standard, David Corn of The Nation, and the historian Sean Wilentz of Princeton University to take up the question of the Clinton legacy

Jack Beatty
Introduction -- January 26, 2000

Before we look at Bill Clinton's effect on the 2000 presidential race, let's look back to 1992, and how Clinton's policies compare with those of George Bush.

President Bush raised taxes on the rich in the name of deficit reduction. President Clinton did likewise. Bush pushed NAFTA. Clinton completed it. Bush used force abroad in the Persian Gulf and in Panama, boasting that the U.S. had licked "the Vietnam Syndrome." Clinton also used force abroad, most notably in the Balkans. Conservatives called Bush "the regulation President." Clinton has pushed deregulation, notably in telecommunications and banking. The Bush Administration supported the cause of national standards in schools, and President Bush convened a governors' conference to dramatize the issue. Clinton dropped the idea of national standards of excellence, urging each state to select its own standards. Bush advocated a plan to extend health-care insurance to the uninsured (similar to Bill Bradley's, but leaner). It died in Congress. Clinton made a more ambitious health-care proposal to insure the uninsured, and it too died in Congress. Both Presidents sought to enlist market forces to make their plans work: both rejected single-payer reforms relying on government, à la Canada. Bush re-appointed Alan Greenspan, as did Clinton. Bush favored tough reform in welfare policy, but was frustrated by a Democratic Congress. Clinton allowed a Republican Congress to abolish welfare as we knew it, replacing it with workfare, a tough version of reform. Bush appointed one moderate justice to the Supreme Court, David Souter, and one conservative, Clarence Thomas. Clinton appointed two moderate justices. Bush did nothing to stop abortion, though his party platform called for its abolition. Clinton spent political capital to secure the right of abortion, even late into the last trimester. Bush vetoed the Family and Medical Leave Act. Clinton signed it.

In view of this record, what difference has Clinton made? Will Clinton's policies -- and his distinctive style of politics -- be a significant factor in the 2000 election?

Round Three -- February 9, 2000
Jack Beatty | David Brooks | David Corn | Sean Wilentz

Round Two -- February 2, 2000
Jack Beatty | David Brooks | David Corn | Sean Wilentz

Round One -- January 26, 2000
David Brooks | David Corn | Sean Wilentz

Jack BeattyJack Beatty is a senior editor of The Atlantic Monthly and the author of, most recently, The World According to Peter Drucker (1997).

Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.