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"It’s the only track I ever wanted to run on.”

Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas and future President of the United States, was speaking to a class of high school students. When one of the students asked him why he chose a career in politics Clinton responded, "It's the only track I ever wanted to run on."

Clinton's answer demonstrated nicely some of the most salient aspects of the Performer Artisan character: love of contest and excitement; delight in risk; joy in performing, in being "on stage"; the urge to have an impact; easy friendliness and a fondness for, even a need for being in contact with, people. While these characterize the Performer Artisan (the ESFP), we also find in Clinton enormous energy which makes even more obvious his Performer character. Add to temperament his life-long fascination with the game of politics, and you have a good overview of Bill Clinton the 41st President of the United States.

Of course his temperament, his high energy, and his fascination with political contest are far from the whole story of the Performer Bill Clinton. As these words are written, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment are still resonating in the newspapers, television, and radio. The question was no longer whether Clinton engaged in illicit sexual behavior with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office but whether his denials of such behavior constitute perjury, whether he suborned perjury and whether he should be removed from office. Ken Starr's voluminous report was delivered to the Congress, the predictable political partiality, Republican versus Democrat, occurred, and now, at the conclusion of the Senate trial, both sides are trying to salvage their tarnished images.

All this has occurred against the backdrop of Clinton's admission to sexual relations with Gennifer Flowers while Governor of Arkansas, as well as rumors of other affairs during his professional life. There are also charges of dishonest and illegal behavior concerning the Clintons' Whitewater investment, the argument over whether Clinton illegally avoided military service, questions about missing FBI files, the Vince Foster murder or suicide (depending upon who is describing the event), and so on. To what degree these charges were merely politically motivated efforts to ruin Clinton rather than legitimate inquiries into illegal conduct depends (as we would expect) upon who is describing them. Even as the dust begins to settle we can still hear most Democrats shouting loudly that they were simply a dishonest political vendetta, nothing more. And of course we can also hear on the other side of the aisle more dramatic, outraged voices as the Republicans shout equally loudly that they have not been political, but a matter of the preservation of the Constitution and of the rule of law.

To offer an analysis of temperament in the immediate wake of such furor is difficult. While avoiding legal or moral judgments may seem to be tacit approval of Clinton's behavior, making such judgments presents one as either a detractor or an apologist. In either instance, the real intent of the present analysis could be called into question. So this essay will avoid as best it can legal, moral, and ethical judgments about the President's behavior. Little more will be said about these matters except as they are relevant to temperament. This is after all a portrait of character and temperament, not a court of law or a pulpit.

Perhaps one can do no better in writing dispassionately about Bill Clinton than to quote David Maraniss. In his excellent biography of Clinton he wrote that he found himself struggling with a paradox as he labored to understand the man:

Whether he was doing something admirable or questionable, I would say the same thing to myself: Well, that's Clinton. In that sense, I came to like him even when I disliked him and dislike him even when I liked him.

Getting started

Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III in Hope, Arkansas on August 14, 1946. The future American President was the product of an impulsive wartime marriage between W. J. Blythe II and Virginia Cassidy. W.J. Blythe died in an automobile accident before Billy was born, and a few years later Virginia Cassidy was married again, this time to Roger Clinton. From this second marriage was born Billy's brother, also named Roger. Billy's stepfather later died of cancer, but not before Billy Blythe age 15, took "Clinton" as his legal last name. (He had been using it informally for years anyway.)

Those trying to understand Bill Clinton's behavior have attached considerable significance to the death of Billy's biological father and to the abusive behavior of his step-father, the heavy­drinking Roger Clinton. But powerful as young Bill's difficult early years might have been in shaping him, they do not -- and cannot -- explain his obvious Performer Artisan character. It is interesting that Bill Clinton's mother and his biological father were both Artisans. In fact both were Performer Artisans like Bill. His stepfather Roger Clinton was also an Artisan, and may have been a Performer Artisan as well. Important shaping of the character of the Artisan Bill Clinton surely has arisen from the presence (or, in William Blythe's case, the absence) of these people in his life. Still, temperament seems to be inborn, present and unfolding from earliest life, shaped but never fundamentally altered by a person's life experience.

Young Billy Blythe was obviously bright. He was also the center of attention and of conflict between his mother and his grandmother, a much stricter person than Virginia. Billy and his accomplishments were a source of great pride and pleasure to both women, and he understandably learned to think well of his own abilities and achievements. He enjoyed showing off his knowledge; in elementary school he raised his hand in class so much that one teacher gave him a "C" for being a busybody.

His Performer temperament, buttressed with his great self-confidence and powered by his own natural high energy, showed itself early in school. He sought to be the center of attention on the playground and in class, and usually was.

Billy would "light up" when he was around other children, [interviewee] Donna Taylor later recalled. "Some people like to be with other children. He was like that. He was always right there. Almost obnoxious. He was in the center of everything."

This was not just simple extroversion; his was always a commanding presence. At the beginning of fourth grade he shifted to Ramble Elementary School and within days he seemed to be running the place. An expression that he had brought with him -- "Hot dog!" -- became part of the Ramble lexicon. He stuck out his big right hand and introduced himself to everyone in the school as Bill Clinton.

And so it was in high school and college, where he tended to be highly visible and the center of attention everywhere. He joined school organizations, worked to excel in class standings, took up (and did very well with) the saxophone, joined the school band, and in other ways maintained high visibility. By the time he finished high school he already had a file of 3 x 5 cards filled with notes about the people he had met. As the years passed, his index cards have grown more and more numerous, following him through his entire career.

Excerpted from Presidential Temperament by David Keirsey, PhD and Ray Choiniere, Phd

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