United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

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Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

$87.99

Per volume

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

$87.99

Per volume

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

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Chapter 30: America at the Turn of the Century


Chapter Overview

In 1992, President George H. W. Bush, having brought the Cold War to a successful conclusion and successfully prosecuted the Gulf War, faced an economic downturn that ultimately condemned him to a one-term presidency. After a contentious three-way election race, Arkansas governor and virtual unknown William “Bill” Clinton defeated Bush, ushering in a period defined by both economic prosperity and political contention. Despite the president’s Democratic ideology, a conservative Congress pushed Clinton to the right, resulting in a large number of well-received economic reforms, including an overhaul of the national welfare program. As Clinton entered the twilight years of his presidency, he became increasingly aware of the growing threats in the Middle East and was simultaneously bogged down in an impeachment trial, only the second in all of U.S. history. 

Following the 2000 election, arguably the most contested contest in the nation’s history, new president George W. Bush inherited the problems that Clinton had left behind. Bush’s first major test as president came early on, when terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda attacked several major U.S. targets using commercial airliners on September 11, 2001, mere months after Bush’s inauguration. The attacks sent the nation into a tailspin of racial profiling and heightened nationalism, culminating in the declaration of two wars, one against Afghanistan in October 2001 and another against Iraq in March 2003. Although the wars dragged on, Bush maintained a high level of popularity thanks to the relatively stable economy and his perceived authority in handling the Middle Eastern wars. As his time in office came to a close in 2008, he faced a second major challenge when several major banks and Wall Street money lenders defaulted in the face of unprecedented losses in the U.S. housing market. The Bush administration struggled to keep the U.S., and by extension, the world economy from freefall as the U.S. entered the 2008 election season. The election proved a historic one, as the nation elected its first African-American president: Barack Obama. The new Obama administration worked effectively with the outgoing Bush administration to provide a cohesive solution to the growing economic crisis and create the appearance of a seamless transition during this difficult time. Despite Obama’s successes in preventing a second Great Depression, combined with his accomplishments in human rights legislation and ending the two Middle Eastern wars, his leadership proved divisive and his election opened old racial wounds that had long festered in American society. 

Chapter Objectives

  • Explain the factors that led to the rise of the Democrats in the 1990s
  • Determine the reasons for the fluctuations in the American economy between the 1990s and the early 2000s
  • Indicate the reasons for the rise of global terrorism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and point to economic, political, and social consequences
  • Assess the significance of the 2008 election



Question 30.01

30.01 - Level 5

What were the biggest problems facing the United States going into the 1992 election? What role, if any, did President George H. W. Bush play in creating those problems?

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.01. 

1992 Election

President George Bush entered the 1992 election season reasonably hopeful about his chances for re-election. Although his economic record was uneven, he had proven a foreign policy dynamo capable of distinguishing his legacy from that of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. His chances seemed further assured due to the indecisiveness that plagued the Democratic Party in its search for a candidate. There were at least half a dozen Democratic contenders, each of whom seemed equal parts qualified and uninspiring. When the party ultimately selected Arkansas governor William “Bill” Clinton, a relative unknown, as its candidate, Bush seemed like a sure thing. Although Clinton was charismatic, relatively moderate, and seemed to have a more youthful and energized base of supporters, his lack of experience in national politics was a clear mark against him. Also problematic were the personal scandals that plagued Clinton. In addition to being branded a serial adulterer, Clinton also faced intense criticism over his failure to serve in the military and active avoidance of the draft during the Vietnam War.

Texas oil tycoon H. Ross Perot unexpectedly proved to be the deciding factor in the outcome of the 1992 election. Running as an independent candidate, Perot rivaled Clinton in terms of the fresh perspective he brought to the campaign trail. Perot, a billionaire with no political experience, spoke off the cuff and seemed unworried about offending people, a trait many people found refreshing in the face of the platitudes of so many career politicians. Despite the fact that Perot at one point suspended his campaign, he re-entered the race in the fall of 1992 and ultimately captured 18% of the popular vote in the general election. Although he did not win any electoral votes, it is clear that his votes siphoned away from George Bush’s tally, contributing to the Republican’s ultimate defeat. While Bush received 168 electoral votes and 39% of the popular vote, Clinton captured 370 electoral votes and 43% of the popular vote. 

Figure 30.1: 1992 election results, broken down by electoral and popular votes.​​


30.02 - Level 2

Which of the following candidates served as a “spoiler” for denying the incumbent President his reelection bid in 1992?

A

Bill Clinton

B

George H. W. Bush

C

Ross Perot

D

Bob Dole


Clinton’s First Term

As expected, Clinton’s lack of national political experience translated into a number of major missteps during his first months in office. One of his first actions in office was an attempt to allow openly homosexual service members in the U.S. military. In an age when homosexuality was still not publicly acceptable, Clinton’s proposal provoked ire from both Congress and high-ranking military officials, and he was forced to withdraw the proposal less than two weeks into his term. Instead, Clinton developed an ambiguous new policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allowed homosexual members into the military as long as said members did not reveal their sexuality to anyone. Clinton also abandoned a campaign pledge to cut taxes for the middle class. Lastly, a 51-day standoff led by federal law enforcement agents against a Waco, TX cult ended abruptly on April 19 when the compound caught fire, killing 75 people inside, mostly women and children. Attorney General Janet Reno drew national criticism for her aggressive handling of the situation, drawing even more negative attention on the administration. Altogether, these factors caused Clinton’s popularity to drop precipitously over the first few months. 

The first years of the Clinton presidency also saw several major foreign interventions. Clinton sent humanitarian aid to the African nation of Somalia, which was suffering from the effects of severe famine. Meanwhile, the United Nations sent in peacekeeping officers. In October 1993, in the midst of one of these peacekeeping missions, Somali soldiers shot down two American Black Hawk helicopters, beginning a battle that ended in the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis (Figure 30.2). The Battle of Mogadishu battle represented the most violent U.S. combat firefight since the Vietnam War. Clinton pulled U.S. troops out of the battle zone four days later and removed all U.S. troops from Somalia by early 1994. The U.N. followed suit the next year, despite the fact that the region remained devastated by war and famine.

​Figure 30.2: Photograph of battle zone during the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, October 3, 1993. [1]

As the Somali crisis unfolded, the Clinton administration also faced problems in Haiti. In 1991, a military coup overthrew the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The issue developed during the 1992 election season, when Clinton criticized the Bush administration’s policy of returning Haitian refugees who had fled to the U.S. to escape the oppressive new regime. When Clinton took office, he pushed the United Nations for a resolution allowing the use of force against the Haitian regime. Former president Jimmy Carter then took on the role of diplomat, successfully negotiating with military leaders in Haiti to turn the government back over to Aristide. The resolution to the Haitian crisis represented one of the foreign policy highlights of the early Clinton years.

Question 30.03

30.03 - Level 4

How did Clinton’s handling of foreign policy issues differ from Bush’s approach?

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.03.

One of Clinton’s major initiatives during his first term was the development of a federal healthcare system. Nationalized healthcare had been adopted by most other industrialized nations before World War I, and it had been a dream of progressive American politicians dating back to the early 20th century. The president, along with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, believed that universal healthcare would translate to lower healthcare costs and a healthier population, particularly since nearly 39 million Americans did not have health insurance coverage in the 1990s. For the first two years of his presidency, Clinton and the First Lady campaigned for a universal health plan, but they encountered stiff opposition from special interests in the form of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, which worried about the potential impact on their bottom lines. By 1994, when Republicans in the Senate led a filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill, the Democrats admitted defeat on the issue. 

In terms of economic proposals, Clinton fared slightly better in his first term. He successfully pushed through a bill designed to raise taxes for corporations and the rich, although the proposal only barely passed through Congress, with the help of Vice-President Al Gore, who cast the deciding vote. Congress also passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Bill, designed to balance the federal budget over a period of five years. One particularly divisive measure was the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a three-way trade agreement with Canada and Mexico which was actually a holdover from the Bush administration. NAFTA made North America the largest free trade zone in the world, but it was not without its detractors, who argued that lower taxes on foreign items would lower the demand for U.S. made goods and could potentially divert American jobs to Mexico. On this issue, Clinton found his base among Republicans, who supported the measure while Democrats strongly protested. Many of those Democrats hailed from Southern and Midwestern states with large manufacturing sectors, and they feared the loss of jobs and industry—a fear that unfortunately proved well-founded.

Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America

In 1994, President Clinton faced a stunning rebuke of his leadership thus far. For the first time since the 1950s, the Republicans took control of both the House and Senate after midterm elections, in addition to winning a number of governorships and capturing a majority in fifteen state legislatures. Leading the Republican insurgency was a former history professor from Georgia named Newton “Newt” Gingrich (Figure 30.3). Gingrich, who captured the coveted position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, had proven very effective at mobilizing the Christian right and social conservatives and was quite vocal in announcing the 1994 midterm elections as the death of liberalism. Upon becoming Speaker of the House, Gingrich immediately promoted the Contract with America, a ten-point contract outlining Republican plans to destroy big government control over American lives and businesses. Among other things, the contract called for a reduction in government regulations and environmental protections along with a mandate to balance the national budget and establish comprehensive welfare reform. Gingrich also encouraged new members of Congress to eschew becoming part of the “Washington elite,” instead pushing them to maintain a strong connection to their constituencies by going home as much as possible.


 Although Gingrich’s policies were initially well received, much of the Contract with America never came to fruition. The inexperienced freshman Republicans did not know much about the legislative process and, given their frequent trips home, they never caught on, thus limiting their party’s ability to make the most of their newly gained congressional majority. Although Republicans expected that controlling both houses of Congress would lead to consensus building, many Senate Republicans found Gingrich and his bombastic personality off-putting. As a result, they frequently did not feel any particular allegiance to the Contract with America, and and thus the Senate frequently refused to approve legislation that had sailed through the House of Representatives.

Moreover, Gingrich quickly became a reviled figure in American politics due to his aggressive and sometimes off-putting personality. The government shutdown of 1995 played a large role in Gingrich’s ousting from public favor. Throughout the 1995 congressional session, Gingrich and President Clinton sparred over the issue of raising the debt ceiling. Clinton believed that this was necessary in order for the U.S. to maintain good credit, while Gingrich and other House Republicans believed that the U.S. should risk defaulting on its current debts instead of incurring more. The warring parties failed to resolve the issue, resulting in two government shutdowns in November and December 1995-January 1996. In January, the president and Congress finally reached an agreement to balance the budget utilizing a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, while also agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Gingrich believed that the American people, having voted so vociferously for the Republicans during the midterm election, would side with his party during the impasse; instead, most Americans expressed fury with what they perceived as congressional obstinance. Worse, Gingrich publicly indicated that he and other Republican leaders had been unwilling to compromise with Clinton due to a perceived snub they had received while accompanying the president to a state funeral aboard Air Force One. The admission did nothing to help the public perception of Gingrich as a tantrum-throwing dilettante.

Figure 30.3: Official portrait of Newt Gingrich, created to commemorate his time as Speaker of the House. [2]

For his part, Clinton recalibrated his political stance to accommodate the changes in Congress. Understanding that a Republican-controlled Congress meant that liberal policies had little chance for passage, Clinton moved in a significantly more conservative direction. With Republicans, he began to make public calls for limitation on affirmative action policies and supported the Republican-sponsored welfare reform package that dwarfed his initial plan. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which ultimately passed in 1996, put drastic limits on the welfare system, partially by turning over many federally run programs to the states. The bill also put strict limits on the amount of time that recipients could receive certain types of public assistance and required that welfare recipients participate in either job training or job-finding programs. 

The bill sailed through both houses of Congress and Clinton eagerly signed it into legislation, providing him with a much needed political victory on the eve of his re-election campaign. While liberals were incensed with Clinton for essentially abandoning his principles for political exigency, he found a base of support growing among social conservatives. Clinton had successfully cut government spending during his first term, an accomplishment at least partially attributable to the end of the Cold War and the decreased need for defense spending. The president also had the benefit of a relatively stable economy, bolstered by the burgeoning “dot-com” industry and internet-based business, and a lack of major foreign crises. In fact, in 1993, Clinton had successfully brokered a historic peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli defenses and the restoration of Palestinian rule in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and on the West Bank, stipulations that the UN Security Council agreed to oversee and uphold. Although Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli ultra-nationalist who resented his dealings with the Palestinians, Clinton still received much credit for his attempts to bring peace to the beleaguered Middle East. Due to these conditions, Clinton handily won his bid for re-election in 1996 against Republican candidate Bob Dole, the Senate Majority Leader, although Republicans maintained their control over both houses of Congress. 

30.04 - Level 4

Which issue(s) did the Clinton administration not successfully address during its first term in office?

A

Somalia crisis

B

Establishing peace between Israel and the PLO

C

Healthcare reform

D

Welfare reform

E

Creation of a free-trade agreement with other North American nations


30.05 - Level 3

Which of the following domestic policy agendas was most ideologically similar to Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America?

A

Great Society

B

New Deal

C

Reaganomics

D

Square Deal


Although Clinton remained relatively popular until the end of his presidential tenure, his second term was plagued with scandal and intrigue, which often threatened to overshadow his policymaking. Throughout his first term, Clinton was plagued by allegations stemming from the Whitewater Development scandal. While governor of Arkansas, Clinton had invested in a resort development which turned out to be a fraud, causing the Clintons to take a massive loss on their investment. In 1994, Republican Kenneth Starr was appointed as an independent counsel to investigate the case further. Although the investigation did not turn up any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons, Starr’s investigations turned up evidence of other scandalous behavior—namely, Clinton’s inappropriate relationship with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Allegations soon surfaced that Clinton had asked Lewinsky to lie about their relationship while under oath. Clinton was forced to appear before a grand jury in connection with the Lewinsky allegations in 1998. Eventually, he appeared on television to acknowledge that he had engaged in an “inappropriate” relationship with Lewinsky, although he continued to plead innocence on allegations of illegal activity.


While much of the American public felt embarrassed for Clinton and wished that the scandal would go away, Kenneth Starr pressed Congress for further investigations. In October 1998, in the face of Starr’s allegations and evidence against Clinton, the House of Representatives voted to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. He was charged with lying under oath and obstructing justice, crimes of which he was acquitted by the Senate in 1999 following a five week trial (Figure 30.4). Ultimately, the Senate had a difficult time justifying Clinton’s adultery as a “high crime and/or misdemeanor,” a requirement for removing a president from office. 

Figure 30.4: Tickets to Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, dated January 14 and 15, 1999. These tickets were presented to former President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty. [3]

Spotlight on Primary Source



Although the House Judiciary Committee voted on 11 articles of impeachment, they only agreed to proceed with four of them. The resulting impeachment trial took five weeks and Clinton was ultimately found not guilty of all charges.

30.06 - Level 1

After Bill Clinton was impeached during the third year of his Presidency, he was subsequently removed from office.

A

True

B

False



Clinton and Foreign Policy

Clinton’s personal scandals in the latter part of his presidency drew attention away from several major crises developing in the realm of foreign policy. In the Balkans, Clinton attempted to address issues that continued to stem from the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia, in particular, proved a flash point in the region; the nation broke into pieces following independence, and ethnic conflict escalated into civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The latter war devolved into ethnic cleansing, as Bosnians drove local Muslims and Croats from their homes and villages. Clinton sent supplies to the victims and set up strikes in retaliation for Bosnian attacks against UN safe havens. In 1995, Clinton had gotten the foreign ministers of Croatia, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia to agree to a comprehensive peace plan which called for free elections and separate governing regions along ethnic and religious lines. In 1998, however, tensions re-erupted in the Yugoslavian town of Kosovo, a Muslim stronghold. Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic called for Christian Serbs to re-take the town, long considered sacred to Christians in that region. Ethnic cleansing efforts resumed, resulting in the murder, rape, and general displacement of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. In March 1999, the United Nations, relying heavily on U.S. military resources, launched air strikes against Yugoslavia. After seventy-two days of non-stop bombings, the Yugoslavian president sued for peace. Although Clinton and NATO received accolades for their actions in stopping the genocide, the ethnic killings continued as the Serbs fled and the Kosovo Liberation Army stepped in to fill the power vacuum. 

Eastern Europe continued to present problems as it transitioned to the post-Soviet sphere. Clinton successfully lobbied to have several Eastern bloc states included in NATO, including Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Clinton also supported giving international aid to Russia during its difficult economic and political transition. However, Clinton’s support of the new Russian regime backfired when in 1999, allegations surfaced that much of the aid money had been diverted to Russian crime syndicates, including ones associated with relatives of Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Despite these financial improprieties, Clinton’s support for the new Russian regime did result in some huge benefits, including the protection of Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal. The U.S. provided technical assistance in creating safeguards for Russian nuclear power plants and dismantling nuclear weapons. By the end of the Clinton administration, the likelihood of a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had dwindled to virtually nonexistent. 

Meanwhile, American relations in the Middle East remained tense. Despite Clinton’s success in securing a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis, tensions remained high in other regions. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein continued to buck the sanctions placed on his nation following the 1990 Gulf War. The United Nations sanctions included the removal of weapons of mass destruction and regular inspections of Iraq weapons stores by U.N. officials. The U.N. regulations also limited the number of Iraqi exports and stipulated that Iraq was responsible for paying war reparations. If Iraq complied with the regulations, the U.N. promised humanitarian aid in return. However, Hussein frequently stalled the U.N. investigators, causing international aid to grind to a halt. There were numerous reports of malnutrition, diseases stemming from a lack of clean water, and the overall rise of disease during the 1990s as the people of Iraq struggled to make due during the U.N. sanctions. 

30.07 - Level 4

Click on the part of the former Yugoslavia that had the highest concentration of a non-Christian population.


Meanwhile, the United States started to experience its first major brushes with Middle Eastern terrorism. In the aftermath of the Afghanistan and Gulf Wars, the United States continued to maintain a military presence in Saudi Arabia as a deterrent for future aggressors. This continued American presence inflamed many Muslims, who chafed at foreign invaders maintaining a semi-permanent presence so close to Mecca. Many perceived this as just the latest in a series of concerted efforts on the part of the United States to meddle in Middle Eastern affairs. They also believed that the American support for Israel, sanctions against Iraq, and response to the Muslim insurgency in Somalia were examples of inappropriate and imperialistic behavior that needed curbing. A number of conservative Muslim extremists, many of whom had fought for the mujahedeen during the Afghanistan war, joined together to form a terror group called Al-Qaeda, which was committed to removing the western presence from Islamic nations. The organization, which spanned the Middle East and also had cells in Africa, Europe, and Asia, attacked military and civilian targets throughout the 1990s. 

One of their first major attacks was a bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City in February 1993. Al Qaeda member Ramzi Yousef detonated a truck bomb in the parking deck under one of the towers. The bomb was meant to destroy the building and cause it to collapse, but this did not happen, although six were killed and more than 1000 injured in the ensuing blast. As the CIA became increasingly aware of this growing terrorist network, Al-Qaeda became more bold in its attacks. The organization considered itself to be the true inheritors of Islamic law, believing that its mission was to engage the United States and its allies in a holy war. In order to wage such a war according to Islamic law, it was necessary to make a public announcement of intentions towards one’s opponent. 

Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, made two such declarations. In 1996, he published a declaration of holy war in a London-based Islamic newspaper, which did not gain much attention. Uncertain that Americans were aware of the declaration, Bin Laden decided to issue a second declaration. In 1998, in addition to issuing a second written declaration, he did an interview with a British reporter in which he declared war on the United States on camera. This interview received much more attention, particularly from the CIA and the Defense Department, but most Americans were still unaware. Over the course of the 1990s, the organization orchestrated bombings at two U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, both in Eastern Africa. These attacks marked the first time that Al-Qaeda came to national attention in the United States. The embassy bombings were followed by another attack in October 2000 on the U.S.S. Cole, an American destroyer stationed off the coast of Yemen. Despite the increasing boldness of the attacks, most Americans were oblivious to the increasing danger the organization posed to national security. Although there was some outrage stemming from a lack of action in retaliation to the U.S.S. Cole incident, international terrorism was not a major theme of the 2000 election.

Question 30.08

30.08 - Level 2

What events sparked the terror group Al-Qaeda to launch attacks against American interests?

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.08.

Globalization and the Federal Budget

Despite these increasing problems in the foreign affairs arena, the development of U.S. relationships with the rest of the world had a positive effect on the U.S. economy. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States had the world’s largest export economy and became a leader in the growing information and communications sector. Combined, these factors contributed to an increase in the number of American goods marketed, shipped, and sold to foreign markets. By the end of the 20th century, the U.S. economy was dependent on world markets, to the point where global economic and political trends heavily influenced domestic affairs as well.

At least partially as a result of these global economic gains, Clinton successfully created a bipartisan effort in Congress to pass the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. The purpose of this bill was to create the first balanced federal budget since 1969. Following years of contentious wrangling between Clinton and the Republican-led Congress over budget issues, the two sides had endured public censure as a result of subsequent government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, a situation that neither wanted to repeat. Larger international markets and increased tax receipts due to the technology boom also meant a looming budget surplus in the coming years, making it easier to create a balanced budget. Surpluses continued for the next four years, allowing Clinton’s budget plan to come to fruition.

30.09 - Level 3

During which other period of American history did the U.S. enjoy an unchallenged status as world leader?

A

1980s

B

1970s

C

1920s

D

1930s


30.10 - Level 4

Identify whether the following Clinton administration’s policy proposals enjoyed a high degree of bipartisan support.

Premise
Response
1

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act

A

No

2

Allowing openly homosexual people to serve in the military

B

Yes

3

North American Free Trade Agreement

C

Yes

4

Universal health care reform

D

Yes

5

Balancing of the federal budget

E

No

F

Yes

G

No


2000 Election

The presidential election of 2000 was one of the most contentious in U.S. history. The two major candidates were scions of political families. The Democratic candidate was Al Gore, Jr., the sitting vice-president and son of a former Tennessee senator. The Republican candidate was George W. Bush, the governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush, as well as the grandson of Connecticut senator Prescott Bush. The two candidates represented two drastically different visions of presidential leadership. Gore was a dedicated environmentalist who advocated for an active federal government and an aggressive nation-building foreign policy, while Bush wanted to limit environmental regulation and transfer federal powers to the states as well as limit U.S. interventions overseas. In addition to the two major party candidates, there were also two independent candidates: conservative Patrick Buchanan and consumer activist Ralph Nader. 

The voter turnout for the election was one of the lowest in recorded history, and those that did vote demonstrated the deep partisan divide starting to overtake the country. Although the media initially reported Gore as the winner, Florida’s votes proved contentious. The state’s vote was so close that it required a recount, particularly amid allegations that some voters had been erroneously forbidden from voting and others had misunderstood the state’s complicated “butterfly” ballot, which made it difficult for voters to tell who they were selecting. The recount resulted in Bush getting just over 300 more votes than Gore out of a total of six million cast. This triggered a second recount in the four Florida counties that had experienced the highest levels of voter complaints about ballot irregularities. This recount, carried out by hand, was required by Florida state law to be certified by the Secretary of State within one week of the election. Three of the four counties were unable to complete their recount process by the certification deadline. Al Gore sued the counties and the Secretary of State in an effort to allow the recount process to continue. The resulting lawsuit, entitled Bush v. Gore, eventually found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed the case on December 9, 2000, more than one month after the election. Bush argued that the recount process was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Florida did not have a statewide standardized recount procedure. Meanwhile, Gore argued that by not allowing counties with high levels of voting irregularities to recount their votes, the rights of the voter were not being considered. The Supreme Court had to decide whether the recounts were constitutional, and if they were not, what the appropriate solution was. In a controversial decision that the court itself ruled as non-precedent setting, the justices ruled 5-4 in favor of stopping the recount vote and allowing the Secretary of State to certify the Florida election results in favor of George Bush. With this verdict, Bush won the presidency.

30.11 - Level 3

The Constitutional amendment that was used to decide Bush v. Gore was originally passed during which period of American history?

A

The Federalist Era

B

The Civil War

C

Reconstruction

D

The Progressive Era


Question 30.12

30.12 - Level 3

Explain the controversy over the outcome of the U.S. Presidential Election in 2000.

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.12.

Bush Presidency

George W. Bush was inaugurated as the 43rd U.S. President on January 20, 2001, becoming the second president whose father had also held the office. His first seven months in office were fairly uneventful. Congress was a relatively even split between Democrats and Republicans, meaning the passage of legislation might prove difficult. In his first months, Bush pushed for a number of social and economic reforms. He pushed for more federal funding for faith-based community service organizations, particularly those involved in reproductive services, and he also pushed for a ban on the use of human embryos in stem cell research. Additionally, Bush was able to get congressional approval for a series of tax cuts scheduled to take place over the course of his first three years in office. One of Bush’s biggest initiatives in his first year of office was the adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act, a program aimed at closing the achievement gap between the highest and lowest performing students. The bill was sponsored by Democratic senator Ted Kennedy and received bipartisan support in Congress. It called for more federal spending in public schools and initiatives to increase science and math opportunities for schools in low-income areas. Between the tax cuts and education initiatives, Bush proved popular in his first year, with his approval ratings often at 60% or higher.

September 11, 2001

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, whose leader had declared holy war on the United States years prior, executed the climactic event in its campaign of terror against the United States. After years of attacking U.S. targets on foreign soil, the organization decided to bring its war closer to home. That day, nineteen members of Al-Qaeda boarded four separate transnational flights in East Coast airports. Shortly after takeoff, these terrorists, in groups of four or five, systematically hijacked the aircrafts, claimed control of the cockpits, and began an attack unprecedented in U.S. history. Two of the planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, soon causing both buildings to collapse. Another plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the fourth plane, presumed headed for either the White House or the Capitol Building, was re-taken by passengers, who subsequently crashed the plane into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (Figure 30.5). Nearly 3,000 people perished in the combined attacks, including hundreds of emergency personnel who rushed to the World Trade Center to offer assistance and were subsequently killed when the towers collapsed. The attack was the most destructive and deadly terrorist event in American history.

Figure 30.5: Photograph of damage caused to the Pentagon building due to terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. [4]

The terrorist attacks immediately and forever changed the political climate in the United States and shifted the Bush presidency into wartime mode. On the very evening of the attacks, Bush addressed a shell-shocked nation and laid the groundwork for what would become known as the Bush Doctrine. Bush made it clear that when it came to seeking justice for the attacks, the government and its allies would “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

Spotlight on Primary Source

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the nation’s history. The morning of the attack, President Bush was in Florida making a public appearance at a school. As the attacks unfolded, Bush disappeared, his whereabouts unknown for several hours as officials struggled to determine if the attacks were still in progress. By the evening, Bush was back in the White House, where he gave the following address to the nation.

Question 30.13

30.13 - Level 3

What were some of the steps that President Bush proposed for dealing with those involved with perpetrating the attacks of September 11?

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.13.


Wars in the Middle East

The nation rallied behind President Bush in the days following the September 11 attacks. A survey of the intelligence community demonstrated that although most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, they had been trained at Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, more than likely with the knowledge and consent of the government. The Afghan government was controlled by the Taliban, a group of ultra-radical Islamic fundamentalists who, along with Osama Bin Laden, had been part of the mujahedeen in the 1980s. Many in the intelligence community believed that Bin Laden was hiding somewhere in Afghanistan, prompting the U.S. government to demand that he be handed over for trial and that the Afghan government terminate Al-Qaeda activity within its borders; the Afghan government refused. They, like other Al-Qaeda leaders, severely underestimated the degree to which the United States was willing to strike back. Bin Laden believed that U.S. retaliation for the September 11 attacks was likely to take one of two forms: either the U.S. would use cruise missile attacks against Al Qaeda bases, a relatively ineffectual method used in the late 1990s, or the United States would withdraw its presence from the Middle East gradually, as it had with the Somalia crisis in the mid-1990s. 

Instead, when Afghan officials refused U.S. requests for cooperation, NATO invoked the portion of its charter that allowed its members to organize a collective defense against the perceived threats in Afghanistan. On October 7, the United States and several of its allies launched an attack against Afghanistan with the goal of capturing Osama Bin Laden and other senior Al Qaeda officials who had planned the September 11 attacks, as well as destroying Al Qaeda bases and camps (Figure 30.6). Within months, the Taliban government was deposed and many of its leaders were in hiding, including Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda officials. The U.S. military continued to track down high-level targets and destroy Al-Qaeda installations in Afghanistan until 2013, all while attempting to create a new democratic government free of Taliban influence. As the Taliban fell and the U.S. was suddenly faced with a huge number of prisoners and potential terrorists in training, the problem of housing these prisoners developed. Ultimately, the U.S. government decided to detain prisoners from the war at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Figure 30.6: Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden sits with advisor, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview with a Pakistani journalist in November 2001. [5] ​

Meanwhile at home, the government enacted tighter security measures in response to what was deemed the “systemic security failure” that allowed the September 11 attacks to occur. The so-called USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress in October 2001, significantly expanded the authority and powers of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, all in the name of locating potential terrorists within the United States. The Bush administration also established a Cabinet-level Homeland Security Advisor position and created a corresponding department, which was designed to streamline the process by which government agencies could react in the event of another national security crisis. 

The Bush administration was prepared to go still further in its attempts to prevent another terrorist attack from occurring, apparently with the support of the American people. In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush expanded on his foreign policy doctrine, stating that the United States was now prepared to engage in preemptory wars in order to prevent against nations or organizations perceived to be a threat. This meant that the U.S. now had the potential to invade or attack any nation perceived as threatening to U.S. interests, regardless of whether an actual threat had manifested. Bush named the three largest threats facing the U.S. at the moment—North Korea, Iraq, and Iran—and termed them the “Axis of Evil,” an echo of Reagan’s assessment of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire. As there was no evidence that Iraq was involved with Al Qaeda or had any knowledge or participation in the creation of the September 11 attacks, Bush’s act of placing Iraq on this danger list seemed suspect to some, almost as though the son was attempting to avenge the mistakes of his father. 

30.14 - Level 3

Match the members of the Bush administration’s “Axis of Evil” to the official religion of the nation.

Premise
Response
1

Iraq

A

Atheist

2

Iran

B

Catholic

3

North Korea

C

Shiite Muslim

4

Cuba

D

Sunni Muslim


However, there was some reason to be concerned about Iraq’s place in the future of the Middle East. More than ten years after the end of the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein continued to act as a thorn in the side of UN missile inspectors, who were constantly thwarted by Iraqi officials in their attempts to assess Iraq’s weapons capabilities. After one such aborted inspection, intelligence planes captured surveillance of Iraqi weapons sites and supposedly found evidence that the nation had started a program to develop weapons of mass destruction. There was also some documentation indicating the Iraqis were attempting to purchase uranium with which to build nuclear weapons, although these documents turned out to be forgeries. On these grounds, the United States, along with a so-called “coalition of the willing” comprised mainly of British troops, launched an invasion of Iraq called Operation Iraqi Freedom beginning on March 20, 2003. Within weeks, U.S.-led forces controlled the capital of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein was on the run, although the alleged weapons of mass destruction and bomb-making facilities were never located. Members of the Bush administration were optimistic about the outcome of the invasion, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld commenting that “there will be Iraqis who not only offer to help us but to help liberate the country and free the Iraqi people. The more there are, the greater the chance that the war will be limited.” Indeed, by May 1, President Bush felt confident enough in the prospect of a quick victory that he gave a televised speech announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq. Unbeknownst to him, hanging in the background was a sign that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.” 

Unfortunately, Bush’s declaration was premature. Saddam Hussein remained at large and an Iraqi insurgency was beginning to develop. The insurgency’s use of guerilla tactics, including suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices (IED), and bombings, slowed the progress of the coalition forces as they searched for Saddam Hussein while also trying to develop a transitional government and secure the lucrative oil fields in the Iraqi deserts. The U.S. achieved a major victory on December 13, 2003, when they captured Saddam Hussein hiding in an underground hole on a farm near Tikrit, a small city a short distance away from Baghdad (Figure 30.7). Hussein was arrested and eventually put on trial for high crimes, specifically genocide of the Kurds, by the Iraqi High Tribunal. His trial took place between October 2005 and August 2006, and he was convicted of all counts and executed in December 2006, thus bringing to an end a multi-decade siege between the U.S. and the conflicted Iraqi leader. 

Figure 30.7: U.S. Army personnel pull Saddam Hussein from his hiding place in Tikrit, Iraq, December 13, 2003. [6]

With the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein, many in the Bush administration, along with many Americans, were optimistic that democracy would now thrive in the new Iraq. The provisional government arranged for democratic elections, which the people embraced. However, the insurgency only continued to grow, with attacks mounting daily against both military personnel and civilians. Meanwhile, the democratically elected leaders of Iraq began to protest the continued U.S. occupation, making the case that their continued presence only invited more violence against civilians and prevented the nation from establishing a peacetime government and economy. On the world stage, many nations were vocal in their distaste for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its continued presence in the country. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, questioned the legality of U.S. actions in Iraq, saying that the invasion was not “in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the point of view of the charter, it was illegal.” Meanwhile, Americans were experiencing fatigue from the burden of being involved in two wars, neither of which seemed close to ending. Nonetheless, the Bush administration believed that U.S. involvement was necessary in order to ensure the stability of both the Iraqi economy and government, as well as to defeat the insurgency, so U.S. forces remained in country well into the next decade.

Despite growing domestic concerns over American involvement in a two-front war as well as new concerns about the use of torture against detainees, George Bush handily won his bid for re-election in 2004. Running against Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Bush edged out his opponent in both electoral and popular votes (Figure 30.8). Bush’s powerful response to the September 11 attacks, combined with a relatively thriving economy, gave him a powerful edge as an incumbent. However, Bush quickly found his approval rating dropping in his second term thanks to the growing anti-war movement and the administration’s response to one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history.

30.15 - Level 3

Click on the nation that offered the most military support to the United States during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


30.16 - Level 4

Sort the following events in chronological order.

A

Launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom

B

Passage of USA Patriot Act

C

9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Center

D

2004 Presidential Election

E

Capture of Saddam Hussein


Question 30.17

30.17 - Level 3

Why did many Americans consider President George W. Bush’s speech declaring the end of combat military operations in Iraq to be premature in May 2003?

Click here to see the answer to Question 30.17.

Figure 30.8: 2004 Presidential election results.


Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst storms to hit the United States in the past hundred years. Classified as a Category 5 storm, the highest possible classification for a hurricane, Katrina tore a path through the Caribbean before making landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 28, 2005 (Figure 30.9). Once it reached the coast, it ravaged several major cities, including New Orleans, Louisiana, Mobile, Alabama, and Gulfport, Mississippi, sustaining an average wind speed of 125 miles per hour. Nearly two thousand people perished in the storm, along with countless others who were injured or left stranded as their towns and cities disappeared under water. The storm ultimately caused more than 100 billion dollars in property damage, and forced more than one million people permanently from their homes and communities.

Although officials at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) initially thought that New Orleans had weathered the storm relatively well, the danger that faced the city soon became apparent. Situated near the mouth of the Mississippi River, most of metropolitan New Orleans is located below sea level, thus requiring an intricate levee system to keep flood waters at bay. The levees, which were later found to be in poor repair and inadequately constructed, were overwhelmed by the rains and flood surges and burst on August 28. The city’s mayor ordered an evacuation, but by this stage, it was too late for many of the city’s residents to comply, as many were poor and without means of reliable transportation. By the following day, 20% of the city was under water, and by the next day, it was 80% under water, which at times reached as high as 20 feet. Thousands were left stranded on roofs and in attics as many police and other peacekeeping officials abandoned their posts in search of safety. Many sought refuge in the Superdome, a massive local sports stadium, but it too had been heavily damaged. As storm refugees waited for relief efforts to begin, conditions in the Superdome deteriorated as more than 30,000 people went days without access to food, water, medical relief, or restrooms, all in temperatures that rarely dipped below 90 degrees. With no law enforcement in place, rampant looting and crime overtook the city and its beleaguered residents. 

Figure 30.9: Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, at its peak strength on August 28, 2005, as it hits the Gulf Coast of the United States. [7]​

The Bush administration immediately received criticism for what was perceived as a slow and disproportionate response to this massive natural disaster. Although the Red Cross was able to assist some residents as early as August 30, federal relief workers and military personnel did not arrive in New Orleans until September 2, nearly a week after the hurricane made landfall. Some detractors said that the government response to the crisis was slow due to the fact that most of the storm’s victims were poor and African American. FEMA director Michael Brown, a man with no disaster relief experience, resigned in disgrace on September 12 as relief efforts continued to mount. Countless relief organizations, including FEMA and the Red Cross, continued to offer assistance well into the following year, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unable to even remove the remaining flood waters from the city until October 2005. Thousands of New Orleans residents were relocated to other cities, while others who chose to stay relied on FEMA assistance and temporary housing as the city slowly re-built itself. Bush remained defensive to criticisms concerning his treatment of the Katrina crisis until the end of his tenure in office.

30.18 - Level 1

Which federal department was responsible for coordinating the relief efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina?

A

Housing and Urban Development

B

Federal Emergency Management Administration

C

Homeland Security

D

Department of Defense


2008 Economic Crisis

Like his predecessor before him, President Bush enjoyed a relatively stable and healthy economy during his administration. Although job growth was relatively slow, averaging 2% over the length of his tenure, there were no major economic crises. In 2008, as the next presidential election loomed, Bush’s luck in the economic realm ran out. For more than a decade, banks had been finding ways to offer sub-prime mortgages to buyers who did not meet traditional requirements for a home loan. As a result, the mortgage industry boomed, which in turn created an increase in the number of new homes built and an accompanying increase in the average home values across the country. Despite the fact that many of the mortgages were taken out by people who did not have the resources to pay them, banks continued to issue them with ever more lenient terms, then sell them to Wall Street brokers, who then bundled them into bonds. The Wall Street brokers wagered that although one bad home loan was not a good investment, the odds were that most would pay their mortgages, meaning that if they packaged thousands of bad loans together, they would form a valuable and marketable bond. The Wall Street brokerage houses invested heavily in these bonds for several years, making huge profits on the seemingly never-ending stream of new mortgages on homes whose values only seemed to increase. 

The financial markets were already starting to dip in early 2008, prompting Congress to pass an economic stimulus package designed to give tax credits and rebates to citizens in the hopes of preventing a recession. Ultimately, the expected recession turned out to be worse than anyone anticipated. The housing bubble burst in the summer of 2008 as homeowners began defaulting on their mortgages en masse. As Wall Street struggled to cover its bets, many came up short, causing a number of respected credit and banking agencies to fold in the face of astronomical losses in the housing market, including the finance giants Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. By the fall of 2008, twelve of the thirteen most important financial institutions in the United States were at risk of failing, according to former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. Many of these banking houses had made complicated financial arrangements and loans with international banks in order to finance their purchases, resulting in the development of a worldwide economic crisis. As the stock market went into free fall and the financial industry went into panic mode, it was clear that a crisis on par with the Great Depression was potentially at hand. 

In the face of this crisis, the Bush administration decided that the best course of action was to bail out the finance industry so as to prevent further bankruptcies and a possible collapse of the U.S. economy. Many economists at the time argued that allowing the financial institutions to fail would undermine public faith in all credit and financial institutions and create a worldwide depression with the potential to dwarf the 1930s crisis, although polls at the time showed that the public overwhelmingly disapproved of bailing out the banks responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which was commonly referred to as the government bailout. The bill called for the government to purchase up to 700 billion dollars in bad assets from private financial firms in order to prevent them from failing. Congress passed the bill on October 3, 2008, and President Bush signed the bill into law the same day. The bill created the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which authorized the Treasury Department to purchase most of the bad debt from the financial companies in question. Following news of the bailout, stocks surged both in the United States and in foreign markets, an indication that consumer confidence in the market could potentially return. Although the government bailout remains controversial to this day, partially due to the fact that it cost more than expected, many economists credit the legislation with preventing a major economic crisis from becoming a worldwide catastrophe. 

2008 Election

The election that year took place under the shadow of the economic crisis and subsequent bailout. Long-time Arizona senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and former POW, was an early favorite in the Republican race, but the Democratic ticket was more contentious. Illinois senator Barack Obama battled for the nomination against former First Lady and New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Although Clinton took an early lead against Obama, at the time a relative unknown, many voters were soon drawn toward Obama, resulting in his capturing the Democratic nomination. Voters appeared invigorated by the young senator’s inspiring rhetoric, sorely needed in a time of economic uncertainty. Part of what made Obama different was his background and heritage—his parents had an interracial marriage and Obama was half-white, half African, making him the first serious biracial presidential contender. Given the changing demographics of the United States, Obama’s race became an asset. African Americans and women, already a dedicated voting bloc for the Democratic Party, voted for Obama in record numbers, while his youth and vigor inspired younger voters. Obama also proved popular with the growing Latino population, which was on the verge of becoming the largest ethnic minority in the United States. By contrast, McCain appealed to a predominantly white constituency, a reflection of the growing racial polarization developing both in the nation and in the party system. McCain attempted to offset this lack of female and minority voters by bringing in Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a virtual unknown, as his vice-presidential nominee. Although Palin demonstrated broad appeal among Republican true believers, she failed to draw new voters to the party. Barack Obama ultimately defeated John McCain in an election that drew a record number of voters to the polls. Of 131.3 million votes cast, Obama captured just shy of 53%, with McCain receiving just under 46%. Obama also captured 68% of the electoral votes. Obama’s election represented a major milestone in U.S. history. With the election of its first African-American president, the United States had taken a huge stride in its centuries-long quest to fully incorporate African Americans into its cultural and political systems. Obama’s election was the fulfillment of the promise created by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, enabling African Americans to both vote and fully participate in the political system as candidates. For the first time, the U.S. had an executive that represented the growing diversity of the nation. 



Figure 30.10: Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, as John Boehner, Richard Blum, Michelle Obama, and Paul Pelosi look on. [8]
30.19 - Level 3

Click on the person in this picture who would later become the Speaker of the House.


Conclusion

The turn of the century represented a major transition for the United States, which went from enjoying a booming economy and unprecedented world power in the late 1990s to being mired in multiple wars and facing economic doom within the first decade of the 21st century. Decisions made during both the Clinton and Bush administrations contributed to the development of the war on terror and the creation of the 2008 economic crisis. Rapidly changing demographics meant that racial, ethnic, and gender identity played an increasing role in choosing political candidates and philosophies, as demonstrated by demographics of the 2008 presidential election. As the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first, the nation faced a seismic shift as terrorist attacks and major changes in the makeup of the population challenged American notions of security and identity and created rifts in the electorate that continue to widen into the present day.

Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 30.01

Class Discussion 30.01 - Level 3

What factors accounted for the Democrats’ successes in the early 90s, and - by contrast - the Republican victory in 1994?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 30.01.

Class Discussion 30.02

Class Discussion 30.02 - Level 2

Why was the 2000 presidential election so controversial? How was the conflict over the election results finally resolved?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 30.02.

Class Discussion 30.03

Class Discussion 30.03 - Level 4

What were the consequences, both domestic and foreign, of global terrorism in the 21st century?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 30.03.

Class Discussion 30.04

Class Discussion 30.04 - Level 3

What factors account for the financial surge of the 1990s and the subsequent decline of the financial markets after 2007?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 30.04.

Class Discussion 30.05

Class Discussion 30.05 - Level 3

In what ways did the 2008 election reflect changes in the demographic makeup of the United States?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 30.05.

Suggested Additional Material

Lewis, Michael. 2010. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (New York: WW Norton and Co.).

Maraniss, David. 2008. First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton (New York: Simon & Schuster).

Obama, Barack. 1995. Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York: Random House).

Schweizer, Peter and Rochelle Schweizer. 2005. The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty (New York: Anchor Books).

Wright, Lawrence. 2006. The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Vintage).


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Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 30.01

The U.S. was facing an economic downturn as a result Reagan-era tax policies, although the recovery had begun by the time the election occurred. The nation also faced the problem of dealing with post-Cold War Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as the fact that Saddam Hussein continued to thwart UN attempts at oversight in the wake of the Gulf War. Bush was part of the administration that created the tax cuts and was attacked for raising taxes in order to correct the economy. Many also blamed him for failing to remove Hussein from power, although Bush did not have the international support to do so at the time.

Click here to return to Question 30.01.


Answer to Question 30.03

Clinton’s foreign policy approach was more aggressive than Bush’s. While Bush had favored a hands-off approach in most foreign policy affairs (excepting the Middle East), the Clinton administration staged large military interventions in a number of foreign countries during his first term.

Click here to return to Question 30.03.


Answer to Question 30.08

Al-Qaeda was upset over western interventions in Middle Eastern affairs and western influence in Middle Eastern culture. Specifically, they did not care for American support for Israel, U.S. interference in Somalia, the sanctions against Iraq, or for the continued presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca.

Click here to return to Question 30.08.


Answer to Question 30.12

The outcome of the 2000 election hinged on the results of the popular vote in Florida, which was so close that a recount was required. Although Bush ended up with about 300 more votes than Gore, the latter demanded a second recount due to concerns over ballot irregularities. The counties with the biggest problems could not complete the recount in time, so Gore sued and the issue was brought before the Supreme Court, who ultimately decided to end the recount based on the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment.  

Click here to return to Question 30.12.


Answer to Question 30.13

Using domestic and international resources to search for those who committed the acts, as well as those who harbored them, in addition to building international coalitions to defeat U.S. enemies. This ultimately involved invading Afghanistan when that government refused to stop Al-Qaeda activity within its borders.

Click here to return to Question 30.13.


Answer to Question 30.17

Although American forces had successfully toppled the Iraqi government by 2003, the Bush administration did not account for the strength of the Iraqi insurgents and the number of obstacles they would create for the new Iraqi government.

Click here to return to Question 30.17.

Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 30.01

The Democratic candidate won in the 1992 presidential election due to a third party candidate splitting the conservative vote, but also because the nation was in the throes of an economic recession at the time of the election. Republicans won the midterm election in 1994 due to a combination of distaste for Clinton’s first term performance and the Republicans ability to martial the Christian conservative voting base.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 30.01.


Answer to Class Discussion 30.02

The 2000 election was so controversial because the number of popular votes was incredibly close, particularly in the swing state of Florida. The state was plagued by accusations of voters being turned away at the polls, machines not correctly tabulating the votes, and voters accidentally voting for the wrong candidate. Several counties went through a recount. After more than a month, the Supreme Court ultimately determined that since the recount process had not changed the outcome of the election, that the recounts should be stopped and the election certified in favor of George Bush.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 30.02.


Answer to Class Discussion 30.03

The United States, along with a number of its foreign allies, became embroiled in two long-term Middle Eastern wars in the ongoing effort to destroy Al-Qaeda. Domestically, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which extended federal ability to investigate citizens for terrorist activity.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 30.03.


Answer to Class Discussion 30.04

The economy surged in the 1990s due to the growing communications industry, particularly the dot-com bubble of the mid-to-late 1990s. The market collapsed in 2008 due to a combination of an inflated housing market and lenders giving mortgages to unqualified borrowers.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 30.04.


Answer to Class Discussion 30.05

The election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president, demonstrated the growing power of non-white voting blocs. While white men overwhelmingly voted for the Republican candidate, female, African-American, and Hispanic voters turned out for Obama in overwhelming numbers. Given that these are the largest so-called “minority” populations in the United States, their votes demonstrated that minority populations can effectively muster a majority when they align their interests.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 30.05.


Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of the United States Army Rangers in the Public Domain.

[2] Image courtesy of Biographical Directory of the United States Congress in the Public Domain.

[3] Image courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Museum in the Public Domain.

[4] Image courtesy of Cedric H. Rudisill in the Public Domain.

[5] Image courtesy of Hamid Mir under CC BY-SA 3.0

[6] Image courtesy of the United States Army in the Public Domain.

[7] Image courtesy of the NOAA in the Public Domain.

[8] Image courtesy of Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo in the Public Domain.