Bush–Clinton era

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Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton in January 2005.

The Bush–Clinton era, alternatively described as the Clinton–Bush era, is a term used by some political journalists and commentators to describe the period in United States federal and presidential political history from 1980 to 2016 when the Bush and Clinton families held significant political power.[1][2][3]

In the 2016 presidential elections, members of both families ran for president, but both were defeated in their bids by Donald Trump, who defeated Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election.


The Bush–Clinton era covers the Presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The Bush–Clinton era began with George H. W. Bush's election as Vice President of the United States in 1980, and with his election as President in 1988 and his candidacy for re-election in 1992. The Bush–Clinton era further expanded with Bill Clinton's and George W. Bush's two terms each from 1993 to 2009. The term is frequently used to discuss the interconnected dynastic success of these two families over the course of over thirty years. From 1981 to 2009, a Bush or Clinton was President or Vice President of the United States. George H. W. Bush was on the national ticket four straight times spanning 1980 to 1992, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were each nominated twice for the presidency from 1992 to 2004, and Hillary Clinton received the nomination in 2016.

The Bush family was already prominent in federal politics prior to George H. W. Bush's election as Vice President; his father Prescott Bush had been a U.S. Senator from Connecticut from 1952 until January 1963.

The period of Bush and Clinton presidencies also encompasses the terms of members of both families as state governors. Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1983 to 1992, George W. Bush was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, and Jeb Bush was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

After her term as First Lady ended, Hillary Clinton served as a U.S. Senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, during the presidency of George W. Bush. She was considered the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, though she narrowly lost to Barack Obama in the presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton then served as Secretary of State during Obama's first term. From 2013–2016 neither a Bush nor Clinton held major federal or state public offices, but Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton were seen as favorites for their respective party's nominations in the next presidential election.

The era ended in 2016 when in the 2016 presidential elections, members of both families ran for president, but both were defeated in their bids by businessman Donald Trump, who defeated Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election.


Numerous political themes run through the presidential terms. All three presidencies were marked by divided government, bitter partisanship, corruption, and political anxiety, especially with the several scandals of Bill Clinton's and George W. Bush's presidencies. All three presidents promoted an expansion in the size and scope of government and an expansive monetary policy, managed by the Federal Reserve. There were several economic bubbles during this time, most notably the dot-com bubble (1993–2000) and the housing bubble (2003–2007). All three presidents initiated military operations in Iraq aimed at limiting and ultimately removing Saddam Hussein from power, and Reagan also took a large and active role in watching over the situation in Iraq during his Presidency. Further, the re-positioning of the United States in the post Cold War era and the rise of anti-U.S. terrorism became priorities.

The Bushes and Clintons have also remained political active, similar to the Kennedy family, even when not holding public office. Robert Reich has suggested that Bill Clinton is in a state of "permanent election", due to the impeachment proceedings during his presidency and his continuing support in the campaigns of his wife Hillary Clinton.[4][5] With the backing of his aide Doug Band, Bill Clinton has remained socially prominent through the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, something that did not sit well with one of his predecessors, Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton has spoken in support of the Democratic presidential nominee at every DNC from 2000 to 2016; by contrast the Bush family has been less active after 2009 after George W. left Bush departed the presidency, but Jeb Bush was mentioned as a presidential contender for 2012 and spoke at the RNC that year.

In his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump has used similar campaign themes in criticizing both the Bushes and Clintons, painting both families as part of the political establishment, and pledging to "drain the swamp".[6] Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley who contested the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries said "The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families".[7]

Family relations[edit]

George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, despite having been opponents in the 1992 election, have since had amicable relations. Since 2001, Clinton and Bush have become especially good friends and maintained strong teamwork and relationships. Outside politics, the two of them have worked together on a number of important issues, such as relief for victims of 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, lending their combined influence to charities and awareness initiatives. They were jointly awarded the 2006 Philadelphia Liberty Medal for their work on the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund.[8] After his 2008 presidential run and electoral victory, current President Barack Obama has also formed close relations with these two former Presidents. The five currently living Presidents (Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama) all posed inside the Oval Office and had lunch together before Obama's inauguration in January 2009. They also joined Clinton Bush Haiti Fund when there was an earthquake in Haiti. They've also helped together to help relief areas in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy and in 2013 from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.


Federal positions[edit]

Non-federal positions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Hampshire Voters Take Independent Tack". Blog.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  2. ^ The BC Era Archived October 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Bush-Clinton: What Went Wrong?". Cato.org. 1996-11-13. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  4. ^ The Permanent Election. (August 27, 2003) The American Prospect. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  5. ^ The Permanent Election. The American Prospect. August 27, 2003.
  6. ^ Dave Levinthal (2016-12-15). "Federal Election Commission: The Tool Donald Trump Forgot". Time.com. Retrieved 2017-01-22. 
  7. ^ "Bush vs. Clinton: the battle of the royal families was sabotaged by Donald Trump | Mulshine". NJ.com. 2016-11-06. Retrieved 2017-01-22. 
  8. ^ "About the Liberty Medal - National Constitution Center". Constitutioncenter.org. 2016-09-19. Retrieved 2017-01-22.