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Clintonian is an ambiguous term that either refers to the political behavior of United States President Bill Clinton or his administrative style and personal group of political allies. Also it represents reform of centrist political position of Democratic Party.
Ideally, Clintonian would mean a member of the political faction of the United States Democratic Party centered on then President Bill Clinton and his wife, former First Lady of the United States, former U.S. Senator of New York, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both in their times in office and subsequently. This faction is also thought to include journalist Sidney Blumenthal, Democratic National Committee Chairman Steven Grossman, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, Treasury Department Secretary Robert Rubin, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
While the primary qualification is being aligned with or part of the web of political and donor connections associated with the Clintons, the ideology of the faction can be said in broad outline to favor certain policies:
- Free trade: Bill Clinton supported and worked to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and create the World Trade Organization. Free trade was an essential component of his economic policy.
- Balanced budget: The Clintonians are associated with restraining the growth of federal spending, in order to allow lower interest rates and freer monetary policy.
- Greater willingness to use and fund the military and show up a willingness to compromise on social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights.
- Reform or reduction of some government programs, exemplified by the ending of Aid to Families with Dependent Children as part of welfare reform.
- Internationalism, particularly the expansion of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The ideology is sometimes thought of as part of the Third Way, a brand of politics that is said to include (at the time or since) Prime Minister Tony Blair's New Labour in the United Kingdom, the Liberal Party in Canada, and the Social Democratic Party in Germany under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
President Clinton spoke after the Lewinsky scandal broke: "There's nothing going on between us." In fact there had been a sexual relationship, which was later proven. Clinton later excused his deceptive statement as 'not false' on the meaning of the word 'is' in the immediate sense of the present tense, confessing to a crafty evasion rather than to a lie. This after-the-fact and lawyerly nit-picking is commonly referred to as a Clintonian defense. The term has entered the lexicon to mean a defensive or revisionary argument which may be legally or logically correct, while the defense remains obscure and foolish to a reasonable person's assessment of content and ordinary meaning.
It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement...— Bill Clinton during the independent counsel testimony.
Following the Lewinsky scandal and the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, the term "Clintonian" has also carried the connotation of verbal craftiness, usually in a political or legal context, intended to deceive or obscure the truth.