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> Chapter 41 > Prepare for Class
Prepare For Class

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Chapter Summary


The dynamic young baby-boomer Bill Clinton defeated Bush in 1992, and promoted an ambitious reform agenda within the context of his centrist new Democrat ideology. Clintons stumbles over health care reform and foreign policy opened the door to aggressive conservative Republicans, who gained control of Congress in 1994 for the first time in fifty years advocating a contract with America. But the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans over-reaching enabled Clinton to revive and win a second term in 1996.

In his second term, Clinton downplayed reform and successfully claimed the political middle ground on issues like welfare reform, affirmative action, smoking, and gun control. A booming economy created budget surpluses, and encouraged Clintons efforts toward ending international trade barriers. Conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans led to American diplomatic and military involvements, with mixed results. A series of scandals, culminating in the Monica Lewinsky affair, led to Clintons impeachment and acquittal in 1999.

Texas Governor George Walker Bush defeated Clintons vice president, Al Gore, in a contested cliffhanging election in 2000 that was finally decided by a Supreme Court decision. As the fourth president elected in American history to lose the popular vote, George W. Bush entered the oval office promising to bring to Washington the conciliatory skills he had fine tuned as Republican governor of Texas, where he had worked well with the Democratic majority in the states legislature. But as president, Bush proved to be more of a divider than a uniter, focusing on social issues like abortion, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, embryonic stem cell research, the environment, and add to that an increasing budget deficit these polarizing policies both reflected and deepened the cultural chasm that divided American society.

On September 11, 2001 suicidal terrorists slammed two hijacked airliners into the twin towers of New York Citys World Trade Center, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane was forced down by its heroic passengers in rural Pennsylvania. Osama bin Laden had been identified as the mastermind behind the World Trade Center attack, and when the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden to American officials, Bush ordered a massive military campaign against Afghanistan. Within three months, American and Afghani rebel forces had overthrown the Taliban but failed to find bin Laden.

The fear of future threats lead American officials to take aggressive and controversial actions following the events of September 11; congressional passage of the USA-Patriot Act, creation of the Department of Homeland Security, rounding up and trying suspected terrorists in military tribunals (where the usual rules and procedures do not apply), and the controversial invasion and occupation of Iraq.



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