Chapter 41

The American People Face a New Century

2001-2014

 

Bush falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He used this rationale to invade Iraq.

 

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 Bruising 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.

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.

 

Back to Backlash

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.

 

New Directions in Foreign Policy

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

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. American troops began leaving Afghanistan in 2011.

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

 

The Politics of Inequality

"Occupy Wall Street" began in 2011 as small demonstrations by young people who were upset about income inequality.

Income inequality grew between 1968 and 2012. It was likely caused by: increasing global competition; reduction in high-paying manufacturing jobs; growth of the financial sector; growth of part-time work; influx in low-skill immigrants.

 

Battling for the White House in 2012

Mitt Romney was the GOP nominee in the presidential election of 2012. He promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Wall Street Reform Act.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in Citzens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations, unions, and advocacy groups could not be limited in how much money they spent on political campaigns. This ruling vastly increased the amount of money spent on campaigns.

Obama won the election of 2012.

 

Second-Term Stalemate

Despite losing the presidential election of 2012, congressional Republicans continued to oppose Obama's policies.

The GOP forced a government shutdown in 2013 when they prevented Congress from passing a budget.

 

Citizenship and Civil Rights

Obama tried to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, but it was blocked by congressional Republicans. The bill would have given undocumented youths a path to citizenship if they had graduated from college or served in the U.S. armed forces.

Anti-immigration sentiment swept over America as people were concerned that the U.S. could not absorb the influx of immigrants. Studies showed that immigrants actually took jobs that Americans didn't want. Immigrants also paid more dollars in taxes than they received in welfare.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. The Act had denied federal benefits to same-sex couples.

In 2013, it was revealed through government leaks that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on Americans.

 

Gridlock Grinds On

In the midterm elections of 2014, Republicans expanded their majority in the House and took control of the Senate. Republicans gains were likely due to dissatisfactions with the Democratic party.



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