Chat with Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss

How will history treat Bill Clinton? Will he be remembered for his brilliant political skills, or will the shadow of impeachment tarnish his legacy?

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss joined for a live chat as Clinton prepares to give his farewell address to his party's convention. Beschloss is the author of several books about the presidency, including Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964, The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963, and Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance.

Beschloss discussed where Clinton ranks among the nation's greatest presidents and whether the president's youth provides him the opportunity to rehabilitate his legacy. Look below to read a transcript of the chat.

Moderator at 3:32pm ET

Welcome Michael Beschloss. Thanks for joining us.

Michael, will Bill Clinton's impeachment overshadow all of his accomplishments when the history of his presidency is written?

Michael Beschloss at 3:34pm ET

It certainly will be mentioned in any historical account of the Clinton presidency — and it will be mentioned at the top. But what future Americans think about the impeachment will depend on the answer to two questions: Number one, how much credit does Bill Clinton deserve for what we can all agree has been the most prosperous years in American history? And, number two, was the impeachment merely an exaggerated partisan vendetta by Republicans, or did it expose an element of Clinton's leadership that tended to play fast and loose with the law?

Often times, we find out a lot about presidents after they leave office that we never could have known at the time they served. If, 10 years from now, we find that whatever malfeasance Bill Clinton committed in the Lewinsky scandal was simply one lapse, then impeachment will probably not loom very large.

Moderator at 3:35pm ET

What great accomplishments will mark Clinton's political legacy?

Michael Beschloss at 3:37pm ET

The most obvious, as I've mentioned, is the economy. Beyond that, this has been a leader who managed to storm-proof the Democratic Party, so that it could elect a president twice in the 1990s, a time that was in many ways a conservative period. In a way, this is the mirror image of Dwight Eisenhower, who moved the Republicans to the center in the 1950s, and managed to give them the White House twice during what was otherwise a pretty liberal period.

Beyond that, oddly enough, I think historians and future Americans will give Bill Clinton points for some of the acts of political courage he showed during his first two years in office, such as fighting for gays in the military, pressing for the 1993 budget bill, and at least trying to confront the need for universal health care. Voters love winners; historians are more likely to give credit to presidents who try to do important things, even if they don't succeed.

Quin at 3:39pm ET

History typically remembers great leaders with quotes that inspired, moved and motivated a nation. For example, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Kennedy's "Ask not what your country has done for you..." or Reagan's "Tear down this wall."

Has Clinton said any such thing to stir the nation? Will any of his quotes ring more loudly than his defiant (and dishonest) denial at a White House press conference?

Michael Beschloss at 3:41pm ET

I assume you mean Clinton's assertion in January, 1998, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

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