Hofstra Hosts 3 Day Conference on Clinton Presidency

Hofstra University's 11th Presidential Conference, this one analyzing Bill Clinton's eight years in office, begins today, ushering in what presidential historian Douglas Brinkley called the "opening salvo of scholarship" on the 42nd president.

Clinton is scheduled to give a speech at the conference today. About a dozen cabinet members and former staffers will speak at the three-day event.

Among those scheduled for the first day are Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former secretary of state; Leon Panetta, former chief of staff and former director of the Office of Management and Budget; Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary; John Podesta another former chief of staff; and Richard C. Holbrooke, another former U.S. ambassador to the UN.

About 2,000 people have registered for the conference at the Hempstead campus, which concludes Saturday, university officials said. The university also announced receiving a $1.5-million pledge from Hofstra alumnus and university trustee Peter Kalikow to endow an academic chair in presidential studies.

Beyond the big names from the Clinton administration, about 300 scholars will appear on some 50 panels, which include two on Clinton's impeachment. In addition, 100 scholarly papers have been submitted. Given the wide spectrum of participants and scholarly papers, conference director Eric J. Schmertz, an emeritus professor of the Hofstra Law School, said the forum presented a "balanced" approach to assessing Clinton's presidency.

The event "is not intended to be a celebration," he said. "We are not honoring a presidency. We are studying and assessing a presidency through the academic community of scholars."

Hofstra began its presidential conferences in 1982, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and continuing with every American president since Roosevelt.

Brinkley, an author and professor of history at Tulane University in New Orleans who is to deliver the conference overview today, said earlier this week, "I'm going to talk about the highs and lows, the good and the bad of the [Clinton] presidency."

"The positives of Clinton are becoming obvious," said Brinkley, citing his economic policy and welfare reform. "I think the gorilla in the room is his impeachment problem," which he called a "great curse on the Clinton legacy."

"There is an argument to be made if you didn't have the whole impeachment problem, Bill Clinton would go down as a great president. The problem is we did have the impeachment."

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