Chapter 41

America Confronts the Post-Cold War Era



Bill Clinton:  The First Baby-Boomer President

For the election of 1992, the Democrats chose Bill Clinton as their candidate (despite accusations of womanizing and draft evasion) and Albert Gore, Jr. as his running mate.  The Democrats tried a new approach, promoting growth, strong defense, and anticrime policies, while campaigning to stimulate the economy.

The Republicans dwelled on "family values" and re-nominated George H. W. Bush for the presidency and J. Danforth Quayle for the vice presidency.

Third party candidate, Ross Perot entered the race and ended up winning 19,237,247 votes, although he won no Electoral votes. 

Clinton won the election of 1992. Democrats also gained control of both the House and the Senate.

Presidency Clinton hired minorities and more women in Congress and his presidential cabinet. This included the first female attorney general, Janet Reno, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court


A False Start for Reform

Clinton called for accepting homosexuals in the armed forces, but he had to settle for a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that unofficially accepted gays and lesbians.

Clinton appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to revamp the nation's health and medical care system.  When the plan was revealed in October 1993, critics blasted it as cumbersome, confusing, and stupid.  The previous image of Hillary as an equal political partner of her husband changed to a liability.

By 1998, Clinton 's policies had led to budget surplus and he had shrunk the federal deficit to its lowest levels in ten years. 

On February 26, 1993, a radical Muslim group bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six people.  On April 19, 1993, a standoff at Waco, Texas between the government and the Branch Davidian cult ended in a fire that killed 82 people. On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 169 people.


The Politics of Distrust

In 1994, Newt Gingrich led Republicans on an attack of Clinton's liberal failures with a conservative "Contract with America."  That year, Republicans won eight more seats in the Senate and 53 more seats in the House, where Gingrich became the new Speaker of the House.

A conservative Congress passed the Welfare Reform Bill, which made cuts to welfare programs.

In 1995, the government shut down when Congress could not agree on a budget.

In the election of 1996, Clinton beat Republican Bob Dole Ross Perot, the third party candidate, again finished third.


Clinton Again

During his second term, Clinton was more of a political moderate.

The economy was booming in the late 1990s due to the Federal Reserve Board's low interest rates and the growth of Internet business.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed in 1993, and it created a free-trade zone between Mexico, Canda, and the United States. (It eliminated tariffs between the countries).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created in 1994, and it promoted trade between the participating countries. It was supported by Clinton.

Clinton fought for two domestic issues during his second term: the fight against tobacco companies and the fight for gun control.


Problems Abroad

Clinton struggled to develop an American foreign policy that wasn't centered around fighting communism.

Clinton sent troops to Somalia, but eventually withdrew them. Clinton initially criticized China for its human rights abuses, but he eventually supported China when he realized how important trade with China was to America.

Clinton committed American troops to NATO to keep the peace in the former Yugoslavia.

Clinton led the 1993 reconciliation meeting between Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Yasir Arafat at the White House.  Two years later, though, Rabin was assassinated, ending hopes for peace in the Middle East.


Scandal and Impeachment

In 1998, it was discovered that President Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky (Lewinsky Affair). Clinton lied about the affair under oath. The House Republicans passed two articles of impeachment against Clinton: perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice.

In 1999, the Senate voted to remove Clinton from office, but the Republicans failed to obtain the 2/3 majority that was required.


Clinton's Legacy and the 2000 Election

The American economy prospered during Clinton's era in large part because of the global economic expansion.

The Democrats nominal Albert Gore for president and Joseph Lieberman for vice president for the election of 2000. The Republicans nominated George W. Bush for president and Dick Cheney for vice president. Bush won nomination in large part because he was the son of former president George H. W. Bush.

Bush supported returning the federal budget surplus back to the people through tax cuts and through giving money to private institutions who would help the poor. Gore supported smaller tax cuts and strengthening Social Security.

The election was very close and the electoral votes of Florida would decide who won. For five weeks, it was uncertain who won Florida's ballots, some of which were defective or unreadable. The Supreme Court eventually ruled (on party lines) that Bush had won the presidency. Although Bush won more electoral votes, Bush lost the popular vote. (More people voted for Gore than for Bush.)

Bush Begins

Although he entered office promising to be a uniter between the Democrats and Republicans, President Bush was a very divisive president. He strongly opposed welfare programs opposed environmentalist policies. He rejected the Kyoto Treaty, which was an international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He enacted large tax cuts that, along with upcoming wars, turned a federal budget surplus into a massive budget deficit.


Terrorism Comes to America

On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania. Al Qaeda, which was based in Afghanistan and led by Osama bin Laden, was responsible for the attack.

In October 2001, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which expanded the government's ability to monitor citizens' communication, and it allowed immigrants suspected of terrorism to be deported. In 2002, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security which sought to protect the nation's borders. Hundreds of immigrants were put into jail without formal charges.

Guantanamo Detection Camp was created on the American military base in Cuba to hold captured Taliban fighters from Afghanistan.

The attacks on September 11th coincided with the beginning of an economic recession.


Bush Takes the Offensive Against Iraq

In January 2002, Bush created the "axis of evil," which included Iraq, North Korea, and Iran.

Hussein had been harassing and dodging U.N. weapons inspectors for years. (Inspectors were supposed to be allowed in the country after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.) Bush was determined to invade Iraq and overthrow its dictator, Saddam Hussein (finish the job that his dad had started). Bush made a variety of false claims in his case for war against Iraq: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; Iraq could be a democratic beacon for the Middle East; Iraq supported Al Qaeda.

The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003. Britain was America's only major ally in the invasion. Hussein was quickly defeated.

On May 1, 2003, Bush made a speech in which he claimed that major combat operations in Iraq were complete.


Owning Iraq

Sectarian violence spread throughout Iraq as violence erupted between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sunnis were the minority in Iraq that had power under Saddam. The Shia majority took over after Saddam was overthrown. In retaliation for being displaced from power, many Sunnis turned to bombings and political assassinations.

In April, 2004, it was discovered that Iraqi prisoners were being tortured in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.


Reelecting George W. Bush

For the election of 2004, the Republicans re-nominated Bush and the Democrats selected John F. Kerry.

Bush supported the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which mandated sanctions against schools that failed to meet federal performance standards.

Bush supported a constitutional amendment for banning gay marriage and he opposed stem cell research.

Bush won the election of 2004.


Bush's Second Term

Bush appointed two new conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff was convicted of perjury in an investigation into who leaked the name of undercover CIA agent in retaliation against her antiwar husband.

Also in 2005, it was discovered that the government was illegally wiretapping American citizens' communications.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded poorly to help New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


Midterm Elections of 2006

Anti-Republican sentiment helped Democrats win majorities in the House and Senate in the midterm elections of 2006.

By 2005, most of the American public opposed the war in Iraq. By 2008, Bush's approval rating was below 30%.


The Presidential Election of 2008

Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton to win the Democrat's presidential nomination for the election of 2008. The Republicans nominated John McCain for president and Sarah Palin for vice president. McCain had extensive experience in government, while Palin had no experience and was not politically astute.

Another recession hit the American economy in 2008. It was caused by a bursting housing bubble and the private banking system's poor lending practices. Real estate prices and the stock market plummeted. The federal government responded by taking over the country's two biggest mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and by taking over the world's biggest insurance company, the American International Group (AIG). Congress also passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to keep the nation's banks and businesses afloat.

Obama won the election of 2008 by a large margin.


Obama in the White House

To jumpstart the economy, Obama supported the passage of the American Relief and Recovery Act. This was an economic stimulus bill that was comprised of tax cuts, spending for jobs programs, and funding for state and local governments.

The economy started to recover from the "Great Recession" by 2009.

Obama supported a healthcare reform bill in 2010 called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Most notably, this required all Americans to buy health insurance and prohibited health insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

In 2010, Obama signed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This overhauled the nation's financial regulatory system.


A Sea of Troubles

The "Tea Party" emerged in 2009 as a right-wing, ultra-Republican party. They vehemently opposed most of Obama's policies.

In 2010, Obama helped repeal the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy and he renewed a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.


Wars, Oil Spills, and Political Backlash

By 2011, Obama had withdrawn all American combat troops from Iraq. Afghan insurgents made Afghanistan very unstable and made it difficult for American troops to leave.

On April 20, 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, pouring billions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. This was the worst oil disaster in American history.

Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in Pakistan in 2011.


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