Alternative History

[Here the timeline follows events more or less as they were.] Clinton started off well, being regarded as something of a political wunderkind for managing to win the 1992 elections. Soon, missed opportunities in the nomination process for cabinet secretaries and a controversial attempt to extend Health Care benefit to all Americans (an effort chaired by his wife, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton) backfired, creating the perception of a man "above his head" for the task. In addition, Cuomo had, in his usual Quixotic fashion, ordered troops into Somalia for "humanitarian" purposes in the waning days of his administration, and Clinton found himself in a civil war-like situation, with the presence of U.S. troops opposed by all sides in the conflict. Clinton added to his own foreign policy woes by ordering American forces into Haiti in 1993 to restore the Democratic administration of President Aristide. It was just another in a long list of Democratic mini-interventions abroad which cemented the Democrat's fame as an interventionist party. Finally, the emergence of a tough anti-Clinton leadership in Congress (led by House majority Leader New Gingrich of Georgia) chipped away at the President's credibility while building steady pro-Republican support. Manufactured scandals and much rumor-mongering regarding alleged infidelity and womanizing episodes did not help the President either.

Thus, by 1994 Clinton found himself exactly where Cuomo had been 4 years earlier: relatively unpopular and saddled by sagging poll numbers. Worse, his miscalculations in Haiti and Somalia led him to become overly-cautious in foreign policy manners; he did not order American troops into Bosnia nor Rwanda to ameliorate very grave genocide-like human rights abuses there (some 800,000 perished in Rwanda alone as a result). As a consequence of all this, Clinton suffered the devastating loss of both houses of Congress to the Republicans in 1994. The new anti-Clinton leaders of Congress, in turn, used their new positions of power to investigate and hound the President on a number of grounds, some valid and some mere acts of political vendetta. They overdid it a bit, however, for the average voter began to sense something rather unbecoming and sinister in the constant bullying of Clinton and his wife (herself despised by the Republican Right). With the U.S. economy booming as a result of U.S. leadership in the computer and telecommunications industries, Clinton entered the re-election year of 1996 polling ahead of his Republican rivals, who began to scramble for the right to challenge him in November.

On the Republican side, 1992 nominee Jack Kemp decided not to enter the primaries, choosing instead to remain retired, as did his running mate Dick Cheney, then CEO of a major oil corporation based in Texas. However, conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan, Governor Pete Wilson of California, former Governor Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Senators Phil Gramm (TX) and Richard Lugar (IN) entered the race, among others. In a close and often acrimonious contest, it was Alexander -- the plain-talking, plaid-wearing former Tennessee Governor, university president, and Bush cabinet member -- who surprised all the pundits and emerged victorious. He had been seen as the more viable candidate over the polarizing Buchanan, the decidely uncharismatic Gramm, and the controversial Wilson. Desperately needing someone more conservative, younger, and more charismatic than himself to balance the ticket, he had privately selected Governor Wilson of California, but was over-ruled by his staff, which considered Wilson a risky pick (he was widely seen as anti-immigrant, and his pro-choice stance on abortion offended many conservative Republicans). In the end, Alexander tapped the former Senator from Missouri (and ordained Episcopalian minister) John Danforth. Come November, Clinton and Gore won re-election easily, besting the lackluster duo of Alexander-Danforth by 51% to 47% in the popular vote.

Reinvigorated by his 1996 mandate, but chastened by the 1994-96 period and still facing a Republican Congress, Clinton governed as a moderate for the entirety of his second term, demoting his wife and other Left-leaning advisors to a secondary role. This was not enough for his enemies in Congress, however, who continued to investigate and subpoena him over all kinds of alleged misdeeds, real and imagined. One of these eventually paid off for them, when in early 1998 they obtained testimony from Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, that she had had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the President. Asked under oath s part of another investigation if he had had an affair with Lewinsky, Clinton denied it, thus stepping into the trap and providing his adversaries with the grounds for impeachment (perjury). With America at peace and the economy in its soundest footing, the Republican Congress opened up impeachment proceedings against Clinton, who, faced with evidence, had by now acknowledged the inappropriate sexual relationship with Lewinsky. As in 1995-96, U.S. public opinion massively turned pro-Clinton; Americans didn't want their President impeached over a matter largely seemed as trivial and private (not an abuse of power of "high crime" against the state). The procedures against the President were seen for what they truly were: petty "payback" for Watergate and Iran-Contra. Faced with such national opposition to Clinton's removal, Congress merely censured him in January 1999 (as the Democratic Congress had done against Bush in 1988) and allowed him to finish his second term.

With Clinton retiring and his Vice-President and heir-apparent Gore seeming vulnerable due to the impeachment crisis and some voter fatigue after 12 years of Democratic control of the White House, a number of high-profile Republicans vied for their party's nomination to the 2000 elections. Among them were Arizona Senator John McCain and Governor George W. Bush of Texas, son of the last Republican to be elected President (George H. W. Bush in 1984). In a bitter race, Bush bested McCain to capture the Republican nomination. With the two top vote-getters seemingly irreconcilably estranged as a result of the acrimonious primaries, Bush "followed his heart" and surprisingly selected Gary Bauer, a man tied with evangelist conservative circles. Gore, for his part, was confirmed as the Democratic torch-carrier, although only following a surprisingly spirited primaries challenge from former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Gore selected as his running mate California Senator Diane Feinstein of California, energizing Democratic women voters and thus reconciling the party with many females following the Clinton infidelity scandals (Feinstein had been one of the strongest critics of Clinton and his moral lapses). Senator Feinstein also solidified Jewish support for the ticket, being the first Jewish candidate for Vice-President in U.S. history.

The country seemed to be split by this point: many saw the advantage of keeping Gore and maintaining the pace of economic growth, while others longed for new leadership after 12 years of Democratic control of the White House. Gore seemed decent and high-minded, but also somewhat wooden, "coached," phony, while Bush Jr. appeared as more direct and personally likable. The polls remained close (within the margin of error) throughout the summer and fall. In the November 2000 elections, Gore won by an agonizingly narrow margin of about half of a percentage in the popular vote. The electoral results were contested by the Republicans (especially the crucial Florida results, where Gore had won by less than 1000 votes) but, without recourse to a mostly Democratically-appointed Supreme Court, the certification remained with Gore. He was sworn in (along with Vice-President Feinstein) in January 2001.

Key members of the two-term Clinton administration were:

  • Secretaries of State: Richard Holbrooke (1993-97); George Mitchell (1997-99); Madeleine Albright (1999-2001)
  • Secretaries of Defense: Adm. William Crowe (1993-95); William Perry (1995-97); Sam Nunn (1997-2001)
  • Secretaries of the Treasury: Lloyd Bentsen (1993-95), Warren Rudman (1995-99), Robert Rubin (1999-2001
  • Secretaries of Defense: Richard Riley (1993-1997), ? (1997-2001)
  • Attorney Generals: Vernon Jordan (1993-97); Jamie Gorelick (1997-2001)
  • National Security Advisors: Anthony Lake (1993-96); Madeleine Albright (1996-1999); Sandy Berger (1999-2001)

See also