Bill Clinton was the first Democratic president to win two terms as president since Franklin Roosevelt.
He still faced a hostile Republican Congress
Clinton needed the popularity he had gained from the budget surplus when the most serious crisis of his presidency emerged.
Clinton had been bedeviled by scandals from his first weeks in office.
In early 1998, the president was charged with having had a sexual relationship with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, and lying about it in a deposition.
Those revelations produced a new investigation by the independent counsel in the Whitewater case, Kenneth Starr, a former judge and official in the Reagan Justice Department.
Clinton forcefully denied the charges, and the public strongly backed him.
His popularity soared to record levels and remained high throughout the year that followed.
The Lewinsky scandal revived again in August 1998, when Lewinsky struck a deal with the independent counsel and testified about her relationship with Clinton
In 1999, the president faced the most serious foreign policy crisis of his presidency, once again in the Balkans.
A long-simmering conflict between the Serbian government of Yugoslavia and Kosovo separatists erupted into a savage civil war in 1998.
Clinton finished his eight years in office with his popularity higher than it had been when he had taken office.
Indeed, public approval of Clinton’s presidency—a presidency marked by astonishing prosperity and general world stability—was consistently among the highest of any post-war president, despite the many scandals and setbacks he suffered in the White House.
The roots of the economic growth of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s lay in part in the troubled years of the 1970s when the United States seemed for a time to be losing its ability to produce long-term prosperity.
Businesses cut labor costs in many ways.
They took a much harder line against unions.
Nonunion companies became more successful in staving off unionization drives.
Some companies moved their operations to areas of the country where unions were weak and wages low—the American South and Midwest in particular.
Digital technology made possible an enormous range of new products: computers, the Internet, cellular phones, digital music, video, and cameras, personal digital assistants, and many other products.
The technology industries created many new jobs and produced new consumer needs and appetites.
But they did not create as many jobs as older industrial sectors had.
The American economy experienced rapid growth in the last decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
The most visible element of the technological revolution to most Americans was the dramatic growth in the use of computers and other digital electronic devices in almost every area of life.
Considerable technological innovation was needed before the microprocessor could actually become the basis of what was at first known as a “minicomputer” and then a “personal computer.” But in 1977, Apple launched its Apple II personal computer, the first such machine to be widely available to the public.
Several years later, IBM entered the personal computer market with the first “PC.”
IBM had engaged a small software development company, Microsoft, to design an operating system for its new computer.
Microsoft produced a program known as MS-DOS (DOS for “disk operating system”).
No PC could operate without it.
The PC, and its software, made their debut in August 1981 and immediately became enormously successful.
The civil rights movement and the other liberal efforts of the 1960s had two very different effects on African Americans.
For the black middle class, which in the first decade of the twenty-first century constituted over half of the African American population of America, progress was remarkable in the decades after the high point of the civil rights movement.
African American families moved into more-affluent urban and suburban communities.
The percentage of black high school graduates going on to college was virtually the same as that of white high-school graduates by the early twenty-first century (although a smaller proportion of blacks than whites completed high school).
But there were still many other African Americans whom the economic growth and the liberal programs of the 1960s and beyond had never reached.
These impoverished people—sometimes described as the “underclass”—made up as much as a third of the nation’s black population.
Many of them lived in isolated, decaying, and desperately poor inner-city neighborhoods.
As more successful blacks moved out of the inner cities, the poor were left behind in their decaying neighborhoods.
Two new and deadly epidemics ravaged many American communities beginning in the 1980s.
One was a dramatic increase in drug use, which penetrated nearly every community in the nation.
The enormous demand for drugs, particularly for “crack” cocaine in the late 1980s and early 1990s, spawned what was in effect a multibillion-dollar industry
AIDS is the product of the HIV virus, which is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids (blood or semen).
The first American victims of AIDS (and for many years the group among whom cases remained the most numerous) were gay men.
But by the late 1980s, as the gay community began to take preventive measures, the most rapid increase in the spread of the disease occurred among heterosexuals, many of them intravenous drug users, who spread the virus by sharing contaminated hypodermic needles.
In the aftermath of September 2001, the United States government launched what President Bush called a “war against terrorism.”
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, government intelligence indicated, had been planned and orchestrated by Middle Eastern agents of a powerful terrorist network known as al-Qaeda.
Its leader, Osama bin Laden—until 2001 little known outside the Arab world—quickly became one of the most notorious figures in the world.
Convinced that the militant “Taliban” government of Afghanistan had sheltered and supported bin Laden and his organization, the United States began a sustained campaign of bombing against the regime and sent in ground troops to help a resistance organization overthrow the Afghan government
The post–September 11 laws and policies made it possible for suspected terrorists to be held for months, and in many cases years, without access to lawyers, without facing formal charges, subjected to intensive interrogation and torture.
They became examples to many critics of the dangers to basic civil liberties they believed the war on terrorism had created.
Both parties began the 2008 campaign with large fields of candidates, but by spring the contest had narrowed considerably. Senator John McCain of Arizona emerged from the early primaries with the Republican nomination assured.
As the nomination campaigns were heating up, a series of financial problems had arisen in mid-2007.
By 2008, the nation was facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Other loans, called “jumbo loans,” extended credit to people who lacked the financial means needed to pay them back.
For a while, the sale of houses, many of which were based on these risky mortgages, increased, causing a “housing bubble”—a rapid rise in housing prices fueled by high demand
The so-called Great Recession of 2008, influenced by the loan crisis, also pushed down wages and triggered widespread job layoffs making it impossible for the additional owners of ARMS and jumbo loans to make payments thus increasing the number of home foreclosures
Few modern presidents have entered the White House with higher expectations from the nation and even the world, so it was inevitable that many of Obama’s supporters would eventually be disappointed.
To shore up the faltering economy, Obama engineered the largest economic stimulus in history.
The Obama stimulus package, announced in 2009, included tax cuts, expanded unemployment benefits, and increased spending on education, infrastructure, police, health care, and job creation
There were many opponents of “Obamacare”—as many derisively called the Affordable Care Act. Some of Obama’s political adversaries were a group of evangelical, conservative, and libertarian Republicans who came to be known as the “Tea Party.”
With former rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, Obama sought peace between Israel and Palestine—an effort that, like all previous ones, was extraordinarily difficult.
The Tea Party wasn’t Obama’s only critic during his first term—he also faced opposition from the political left.
The key issues of the 2012 election included healthcare reform, immigration reform, the federal budget deficit, and taxation and spending.
The strained economy kept the focus more on domestic than international concerns
President Obama’s second term posed many challenges on both the domestic and international fronts.