To say that there is a reasonable amount of information to be gained and learned from studying Bill Clinton reign as president of the USA would be a great understatement. There is a great deal that can be learned from studying his reign between his appointment and fall from power. By studying Clinton reign we can begin to determine and analyse how effective the American constitution is in restricting one individual from becoming to powerful and if it adequately fulfils its purpose. Clinton had a hugely controversial spell in office; this was partly down to the Monica Lewinski affair.
Clinton and Al Gore represented a new generation in American political leadership; this was down to the fact that for the first time in nearly twelve years the White House and congress were both held by the same party. What was so special about Clintonís rise to power was that he was from a very poor lower class background, which was very unusual for a president of the USA as many of his predecessors came from wealthy and rich backgrounds. By coming from such a background as his Clinton showed that the constitution was effective to the extent that it allowed for people from the lower classes to become president, as the constitution states that no financial or property qualifications needed in order to become president. This would suggest to us through our study that it is possible to achieve the American dream so to speak in the way that the constitution claims to be possible.
Article two of the American constitution states that no president can declare war on a country without the approval of congress, by acting in a way to escape this loophole Clinton showed that it was possible to find a way around restrictions imposed by the constitution. When Saddam Hussein refused to allow United Nations inspections for evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction to continue Clinton ordered his armed forces to bomb Iraq. Clinton showed that this clause set in the constitution essentially means nothing to the president and commander in chief of the USA. Clinton was able to bomb Iraq by calling this process a military operation and in doing so not actually waging war. There is a great deal that we can learn from the actions of Clinton in this particular circumstance. Clinton showed that by bombing Iraq he had found a loophole in the constitution that allowed him to act in a manner that the constitution would not have allowed had he declared the bombings part of a war. This shows us that the American constitution that is written perhaps may not be as rigid as first assumed, this example of behaviour by Clinton showed that there were all sorts of ways for a president to act in a way that the constitution theoretically bans, but due to it being so un-specific is perfectly possible.
What was so very rare, but yet not unique about Clintons presidency was that he became only the second president of the USA to be impeached by the House of representatives. This came about as the result of a scandal involving a young woman working as secretary for Clinton in the White House; many saw Clintonís behaviour as un-becoming of a president and demanded that he was removed from office. However he was tried at the senate and was found not guilty, after this he was able to continue in his role as president whilst still maintaining high popularity levels throughout the country. We can learn several different things from this, not only does this suggest that the American public can be very loyal to its presidents and that a popular presidents can survive even the most heinous scandals but it also tells us about the restrictions that are supposedly imposed on the presidential powers. The convention of impeachment is intended to remove a president from office if the house of representative sees him as acting in a way that is seen to be radical, unconstitutional or unbecoming of a president. Whilst in theory and on paper this is a suitable and good idea, in reality it is vastly different. Essentially the method of impeachment is a clumsy and inappropriate weapon of congress if it is carried out to its final stages. If Clinton had been found guilty by the senate and forced to resign through impeachment then the consequences on American politics would have been severe. In modern times if a president were impeached the result would almost certainly lead to governmental paralysis and political uncertainty. We can learn from this that perhaps some of the restrictions on the actions and powers of the president laid down in article two of the constitution may not be as effective as first appeared. Whether Clinton intended it or not his presidency showed us that the restrictions in the constitution to a great extent are not all that effective as clauses set can often be easily avoided and got around, and that the other more serious constitutional acts such as impeachment would have such a disastrous affect on the politics of the USA that nobody truly dares to really ever go through with the procedure.
The House of representatives and the Senate that make up Congress are also intended to put restrictions on the president and stop them from getting too powerful if it appears necessary, but yet there are more examples of how Clinton acted that would suggest to us that Congress is even less effective at controlling presidents than earlier assumed. In 1994 the republicans launched a scathing attack on Clinton, this should have put Clinton under a severe amount of pressure as the republicans had not held both houses of congress since 1955, but throughout this period Clinton was able to remain standing firm despite the onslaught he received for refusing to sign a hugely controversial budget that was passed by the republican controlled congress. Clinton was able to hold his ground and despite the fact that congress generated a shut down of the federal government in order to put pressure on Clinton he was able to avoid backing down and in the end forced the republicans to cave in. This episode obviously had no real effect on Clintonís popularity, as he was decisively re-elected in 1996.
Essentially that by standing firm and not giving in despite immense pressure from both houses of congress we can determine that perhaps the restrictions they truly impose on limiting the presidents power and influence are minimal, the evidence gathered from the actions of Clinton would certainly suggest to us that the presidents actions arenít anywhere near as restricted as it is made out in the constitution.