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Clinton legacy marred by personal failures

Jan. 18, 2001

When President-elect George W. Bush takes the oath of office Saturday in Washington, D.C., it will mark the end of eight years of the Bill Clinton era -- an era of success mixed with failure, popularity mixed with personal problems and great comebacks mixed with blowing defeats.

Clinton came from behind after declaring himself the 'comeback kid' in 1992 and overcame early accusations of sexual misconduct to win election.

He came roaring in with an aggressive agenda. Among his successes are the 'don't ask don't tell' policy allowing gay men to serve in the military; the Brady Bill; imposing a waiting period on new gun purchases; and the 1993 deficit-reduction bill that transformed our economy into the best in history.

Clinton also signed a historic welfare reform bill, placing a limit to benefits and encouraging recipients to look for work. Then, he and the Republican Congress compromised on a balanced budget that allowed for tax cuts and additional spending on social programs.

In the mid-1990s, he began trying to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. His administration restored democracy in Haiti, brokered a peace deal between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and put an end to ethnic cleansing by Slobadon Milosevic in Yugoslavia.

But Clinton's successes were often overshadowed by his failures. His national healthcare plan, which First Lady Hillary Clinton oversaw, failed, and questions still remain over the government-ordered raid on the Branch Davidians' compound.

Clinton had personal failures as well. Questions about his investments as governor of Arkansas led to an investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

Most notably, his affair with intern Monica Lewinksy dominated the media and his administration. Because it led to his becoming only the second U.S. president to get impeached, 'Monicagate' was the biggest news story in a long time and it will always be one of the first sentences in his biographies.

Impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate, Clinton entered his final years as president bruised personally, but politically his job approval ratings remained high during and after the ordeal was over.

On Saturday, Clinton will leave office with the highest approval rating of any outgoing president in history, at 66 percent, according to the most recent Gallup poll. Though Clinton's personal character may be looked down upon, he did his job pretty well. Though his failures outshined his successes, he does have a long list of accomplishments.

Impeachment may be the first thing history associates with Clinton, but the many achievements of his administration have done far more good for our country than the failures and scandals have done harm.