Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Theodore C. Sorensen, former special counsel and adviser to President John F. Kennedy and a widely published author on the presidency and foreign affairs, practiced international law for more than[…]

Ted Sorensen says Bill Clinton didn’t do enough to make change.

Question: You’ve said that Bill Clinton didn’t accomplish much in office despite rhetorical skills. Why?

Sorensen: Bill Clinton, of course he was effective. Very good communicator – so good that if he were sitting here right now he might even persuade me that I was wrong. But what did he do with it? What did he accomplish? He had a better understanding of Black values and culture in this country than any president since Lyndon Johnson. But what did he do with it? The problems faced by Blacks in this country – segregated schools; segregated neighborhoods; unjust discrimination in the law enforcement process, whether we’re talking about profiling by police or disparate penalties in the sentencing; populating our prisons with such a large percentage of the young black male population in this country – terrible situation. None of it changed during eight years. Clinton had two terms – an opportunity to do so much. And he appointed a commission of some very distinguished people. They delivered a report which was noble in its sentiments, but nothing changed. Nothing was done. There was an opportunity to send legislation. Ted Kennedy for example just within the last week or so has sent to . . . has introduced in Congress new civil rights legislation to undo the damage done by the United States Supreme Court under its new conservative rule. Why wasn’t that done during the Clinton administration? Why didn’t he go out on a limb? The same is true internationally. It was an era for multi-lateral cooperation. There was established an international criminal court. Clinton decided the U.S. wouldn’t participate. There was signed in Kyoto a protocol to take the first steps against global warming and other climate change crises. Clinton decided not to send it to Congress. There was with leadership from our friends in Canada and some of the non-governmental organizations a new treaty to restrict the use of landmines. And I’ve been in countries where I’ve seen the limbs that are blown off by landmines that are still littering the ground. Clinton decided the United States wouldn’t participate. We didn’t participate in the biodiversity treaty. We didn’t even participate in the treaties against discrimination against women. We didn’t even discriminate in the treaty against the drafting to the military service of people too young to be inducted into Armed Forces. We backed away from every one of those, because Mr. Clinton with all his wonderful, rhetorical gifts was not willing to go out on a limb.