History of the United States (2000s)

History of the United States (2000s)

The history of the United States in the 2000s saw the rise of the George W. Bush administration, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

September 2001 terrorist attacks

On the morning of September 11 2001, four airliners were hijacked; two of them were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and another into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, destroying both towers and taking just under 3,000 lives. The fourth plane crashed in southern Pennsylvania after some passengers fought back and are believed to have caused the piloting hijackers to crash. The immense shock, grief and anger brought on by the attacks profoundly altered the national mood; it was found that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network sponsored the attacks and President Bush announced a "war on terror."

Congress approved several measures to protect against future attacks, including creating the Department of Homeland Security and passing the USA PATRIOT Act, which was criticized by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union. The administration's military response was to invade Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban government that supported and sheltered them. The U.S. was joined by a coalition which included forces from more than a dozen countries, and was successful in removing the Taliban from power, although fighting continues between the coalition and Afghans of various factions.

In 2002, the GDP growth rate rose to 2.8%. A major short-term problem in the first half of 2002 was a sharp decline in the stock market, fueled in part by the exposure of dubious accounting practices in some major corporations. Another was unemployment, which experienced the longest period of monthly increase since the Great Depression. The robustness of the market, combined with the unemployment rate, led some economists and politicians to refer to the situation as a "jobless recovery." Nevertheless, the United States between 2003-2005 has made a significant economic recovery from the post 9/11 recession.

econd Iraq War

In his State of the Union address in January 2002, President Bush called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an "axis of evil," accusing them of supporting terrorism and seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration began making a public case for an invasion of Iraq, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein supported terrorism, had violated the 1991 U.N.-imposed ceasefire, and possessed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, among other charges. [ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq ] ]

Some important allies of the U.S., including India, Japan, Turkey, New Zealand, France, Germany, and Canada, did not believe that the evidence for the President's accusations was well-founded enough to justify a full-scale invasion, especially as military personnel were still needed in Afghanistan. The United Nations Security Council did not approve of the invasion, and the U.S. therefore provided most of the forces in the invasion of Iraq. With the support of a coalition whose major partners included the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Spain, and Italy, Iraq was invaded on March 20, 2003.

After six weeks of combat between the coalition and the Iraqi army, the invading forces had secured control of many key regions; Saddam had fled his palace, his regime clearly over; on May 1, Bush declared, under a sign reading "mission accomplished," that major ground operations were at an end. Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday were killed by U.S. forces; Saddam himself was captured in December 2003 and taken into custody. Nevertheless, fighting with the Iraqi insurgency continued and escalated through the 2004 U.S. national elections and beyond.

With casualties increasing and the cost of the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq estimated at over $200 billion, the war has lost about one-third of its supporters in the U.S. since the end of major operations was announced. Recent polls suggest that international displeasure with the United States is at an all-time high, with a majority of people in Europe believing that the country is too powerful and acts mainly in self-interest, and a vast majority in predominantly Muslim nations believing that the United States is arrogant, belligerent, or hateful to Islam. [ [http://people-press.org/commentary/display.php3?AnalysisID=46 International Surveys: What We Are Finding] ]

2004 U.S. presidential election

George W. Bush was re-elected in November 2004, defeating Democratic contender John Kerry in the electoral vote, and receiving 50.7% of the popular vote against John Kerry's 48.3%. Republicans also made gains in both houses of Congress, contrary to recent mid-term electoral trends.

As the situation in Iraq became increasingly difficult, policymakers began looking for new options. This led to the formation of the Iraq Study Group, a nonpartisan commission chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. This produced a variety of proposals; some of the more notable ones were to seek decreased US presence in Iraq, increased engagement with neighboring countries, and greater attention to resolving other local conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The recommendations were generally ignored and the U.S. direct involvement in the Iraq war continues to this day (May 2008).

2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes

In August and September of 2005, two powerful hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, struck the Gulf Coast region. Katrina broke the levees of New Orleans and flooded 80% of the low-lying city. Extensive devastation and flooding also occurred from Mobile, Alabama west to Beaumont, Texas, with the Mississippi coastline especially hard hit. At least 1,800 lives were lost in the worst domestic calamity since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Port facilities, oil rigs and refineries in the Gulf region were damaged, further increasing already high U.S. fuel prices.

Residents of New Orleans, many of whom were impoverished and unable (or unwilling) to evacuate before the storm, were trapped for days by the floodwaters. Thousands had to be rescued by the U.S. military from their rooftops or from unsanitary and dangerous shelters in public buildings. State and local authorities were overwhelmed by the scale of the events. Their response to the disaster, as well the federal government's, were harshly criticized by legislators and citizens who saw in the confusion a dangerous unreadiness and inability to preserve public safety. President Bush promised that the federal government would underwrite the rebuilding of New Orleans and other storm-damaged areas, the cost of which was estimated to run as high as $200 billion.

The George W. Bush administration

Though his election had been the focus of intense controversy which led eventually to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in "Bush v. Gore" where the court ruled 5-4 in the former's favor by siding with the State of Florida's official vote count, George W. Bush was sworn in as President on January 20, 2001. This made the 2000 election the third presidential election in which the electoral vote winner did not receive a majority of the popular vote. The first eight months of his term in office were relatively uneventful; however, it had become clear by that time that the economic boom of the late 1990s was at an end. The year 2001 was plagued by a nine-month recession, witnessing the end of the boom psychology and performance, with output increasing only 0.3% and unemployment and business failures rising substantially. President Bush approved a large federal tax cut with the intent of revitalizing the economy.

Some major acts in the second Bush administration included the September 11th terrorist attacks, the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, a $1.3 trillion tax cut, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Democratic Congress

Democrats swept to victory in the 2006 elections, making Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the first female in that position, and electing record numbers of women and minorities. Upon winning the elections, the Democrats drew up a 100-Hour Plan of policy proposals upon assuming power in Congress. Major components of the plan included a pay-as-you-go plan for reducing the deficit; enacting the 9/11 Commission recommendations; increasing the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour; allowing the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies so as to secure lower drug prices for Medicare patients; and ending large tax subsidies for big oil companies to help foster energy independence. After the 100 hours, the 9/11 Commission recommendations were not implemented by Congress.

Many saw the Democratic victory as a referendum on the Iraq war.Fact|date=January 2008 Nevertheless, the 110th Congress did little to change anything about the war except to pass a non-binding resolution against President Bush's troop surge. In addition, the House passed a $124 billion emergency spending measure for war funding with the stipulation of a phased troop withdrawal. President Bush vetoed the bill because of the proposal of scaling down forces, making this the second veto of his term.

During the months of May-June 2007, Edward Kennedy and other senators co-sponsored Senate Bill 1348 and reform Bill 1639. The purpose of this bill called for immigration reform under the intent of bringing Amnesty and citizenship. This bill greatly divided the American public from its government. On June 7 2007 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid removed this bill from debate. On June 14 2007 President Bush initiated the supporters of this bill to return it to the Senate floor. On June 26 2007 the Senate voted 64-35 for cloture and for greater debate. On June 27 2007 27 Amendments were debated with only 5 considered into Senate Bill 1639. On June 28 2007 a cloture vote considered ending debate was held. The outcome of 53-45 against cloture meant the end to the 2007 Immigration Bill. In the days to come, immigration will remain a closely contested battle between conservatives who believe the borders with Mexico must be secured. After the boarders are secured, Conservatives feel that all illegal alein's in the United States should be removed from the country. Liberals and supporters of immigration reform believe that amnesty should be granted and secure borders are not an issue.

The approval rating of Congress plummeted to an all-time low over the summer of 2007. In late 2007, some polls had Congress's approval rating as low as 18%. By January 2008, Congressional approval rating was in the low to mid twenties. [ [http://www.pollingreport.com/CongJob.htm Congress: Job Ratings ] ]

2008 Elections

The nation went into the 2008 election cycle having a Republican president and Democratic Congress both with extremely low approval ratings. The 2006 mid-term elections had barely finished before the nation started focusing on the 2008 presidential elections. Initially, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Arizona Senator John McCain appeared to be front-runners for the Republican party; New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards were apparent front-runners for the Democrats. Other candidates popularly considered possible candidates that did not run included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell, media mogul and New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former vice president of the United States, Al Gore.

As 2007 wore on, longshot Republican candidate Congressman Ron Paul of Texas began to gain unexpected grass-roots support, especially on the internet, where his campaign received three "money bombs" courtesy of individual contributors, two of which broke one-day online political fundraising records. Congressman Paul stood out from his Republican colleagues in the race for his strong anti-war stance, and formed a small but loyal contingent of supporters ranging from anti-war Democrats to disenchanted Republicans to independent libertarians. In spite of this, his campaign was still often considered to be a "long shot" and received little media coverage. Meanwhile, scandals involving misuse of taxpayer money and the hiring of illegal immigrants began to appear among front-runners Giuliani and Romney, as Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee began to rise in the polls.

When primary season entered the actual voting phase, Obama pulled an unexpected win out of Iowa. Clinton pulled off her own surprise wins in New Hampshire and Nevada, also capturing the invalidated, virtually uncontested Michigan primary. On the Republican side, the field remained much more ambiguous. Huckabee won in Iowa with Romney following closely behind. McCain, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson and Paul came in 3rd, 4th, and 5th, but within extremely small margins of each other. McCain would go on to win New Hampshire and Romney would win Michigan. Giuliani and Thompson ended up in the back of the pack, with Ron Paul pulling barely ahead. John McCain won a victory in South Carolina over Huckabee, causing Fred Thompson to drop out of the race. A week later, Senator Obama won the state in a landslide over Hillary Clinton.

After Senators Clinton and McCain won in Florida, Senator Edwards and Mayor Giuliani ended both their candidacies. Super Tuesday solidified John McCain's standing and wrapped up the GOP nomination for the Arizona senator. Senators Clinton and Obama came out of Super Tuesday almost tied. However, Obama proceeded to sweep the next series of primaries and caucuses. His string of victories ultimately gave him a nearly unbeatable lead in pledged delegates, though neither candidate will be able to claim the 2,025-delegate total needed to secure the nomination without the endorsement of superdelegates. Clinton regained some strength with wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which allowed her to claim a lead in the popular vote total by including votes from the invalidated Michigan and Florida primaries and strengthen her petition for support from Democratic superdelegates. A couple weeks later, Obama bested Clinton by a mere seven votes in caucuses held on the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, with the result that they split the territory's eight pledged delegates, who each hold half a vote at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Three days later, Obama won North Carolina overwhelmingly, while a closer contest in Indiana ultimately resulted in a very narrow win for Clinton.

On June 3, 2008, Obama received a large surge of delegates. That, combined with recent wins in Montana and Oregon, putting him over the needed delegate amount of 2,117 and effectively making him the presumptive nominee. He is currently searching for a vice president to run with, with Clinton as one of the top most likely.

References


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