Topics in the News
After the Cold War
End of the Cold War.
Political revolutions never just happen. Rather, they are part of processes that begin long before they are discernable by political scientists or historians. Cold War ideological and military competition began in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II. The Soviet Union had driven the Nazis out of Soviet territory, across Eastern Europe, and back into Germany. After the war the Soviets insisted on establishing friendly governments in all Eastern European nations occupied by its forces; they also subverted other governments and formed a Soviet empire stretching from the western sectors of Germany across Europe and Asia to the Pacific Ocean. Communist revolutions in China (1949) and Cuba (1959) seemingly added to their empire, at least as it was perceived in the West. From 1945 to 1989 there was constant ideological competition between the United States and the U.S.S.R. for allies. That struggle was especially intense in Africa and Asia as many
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Bush's Gulf War
On 2 August 1990 the Iraqi army moved into neighboring Kuwait and seized control of the oil-rich sheikdom. The United States and Western Europe were caught off guard by the unprovoked action, which threatened not only the world supply of oil but also the stability of the Middle East. These Western nations immediately sought a United Nations (U.N.) resolution condemning the action of Iraq. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, was surprised by the Western reaction, because scarcely a week earlier (25 July 1990) U.S. ambassador April C. Glaspie had told him that the Iraq/Kuwait border dispute was an Arab, not American, issue. This interchange, a classic case of cultural miscommunication, ultimately resulted in war. Hussein thought he had been clear about his intentions; the ambassador thought Hussein was merely restating an old internal dispute. Once Iraq acted, however, the West could not ignore the situation.
The U.N. coalition against Iraqi militarism was formed and led by President George Bush, who demonstrated his ability to deal with international relations. Bush contended that U.S. political and economic positions in the Middle East were threatened by the Iraqi action. First, Iraqi militarism threatened the balance of power in the Middle East. The United States had for two decades walked a delicate path in trying...
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The Election of 1992
Governor Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) was sworn in as the forty-second president of the United States on 20 January 1993, after a close race against the Republican incumbent George Bush. The victory was most surprising because of President Bush's
popularity. Nevertheless, a slowing economy during the intervening months and a cutthroat three-way race among Clinton, Bush, and H. Ross Perot (I) allowed the victor to take office with 43.3 percent of the vote, while Bush garnered 37.7 percent and Perot took 19 percent. Clinton was a masterful campaigner and Bush failed to adequately defend his presidency. There was also a large measure of luck. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince (1513) that one-half of success is based on ability and one-half on fortune (luck). Clinton's election in 1992 was a dramatic illustration of Machiavelli's observations—both ability and luck played critical roles.
The Campaign Staff.
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Health Care Debate
Health-care reform was one of the first and most divisive major-policy initiatives of the Clinton administration. Health care first became a public policy issue for Americans after World War II, when President Harry S Truman advocated national health insurance. The American Medical Association (AMA), however, vigorously opposed it, and it was not until 1965 that Medicare and Medicaid were finally established, covering retired persons and those on welfare, respectively. The remainder of the population was still responsible for paying for its own health care either through employers or out-of-pocket. The working poor were most at risk under these conditions because they did not qualify for Medicaid and generally did not work for employers that offered medical insurance. From the 1960s to the 1980s, health-care costs continued to rise because of inflationary trends and technological advances. By the 1990s even employers who furnished health-care plans found it difficult to continue to provide the level of protection to which workers had become accustomed without raising copayments and/or lowering benefits. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) entered into this environment with the promise of lowering insurance costs by focusing on preventive care rather than corrective medicine. Though the premise was sound—save money by preventing expensive health problems—it assumed...
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Natural disasters are a relatively common occurrence in a country as large as the United States, yet the severity of the events in the 1990s was unusual. Floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes hit the United States repeatedly, causing billions of dollars in damage and taking many lives. These storms and resulting catastrophes tested the wherewithal of a new federal agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which had been established in 1979 to respond quickly to the needs of citizens suffering from a natural disaster. It was not until 1989 that FEMA was tested fully. Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina, in September 1989, causing $7 billion in damage. Because of the massive destruction caused by the hurricane, and the newness of FEMA, the
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The congressional elections of 1994 resulted in a Republican landslide as voters across the country, angered by President Bill Clinton's liberal agenda and afraid of socialized medicine, turned en masse to the Republican candidates. Much of the credit for their success, however, must be attributed to Representative Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich (R-Georgia), who came to Congress in 1978 with the goal of becoming Speaker of the House. As far-fetched as the goal may have seemed, Gingrich continued in this pursuit until 1990, when he was elected Minority Whip by the Republican Caucus. That position put him second in line to Minority Leader Robert Henry Michel (R-Ilinois), a moderate, whose gentlemanly demeanor was at odds with the scrappy and antagonistic style of Gingrich. When Michel announced his retirement in 1994, Gingrich seized the opportunity for leadership by promoting a "Contract with America."
The Contract with America promised eight legislative reforms in the first one hundred days of the 104th Congress and ten major pieces of legislation in the following one hundred days. The Republicans promised to clean up Congress by requiring that all federal legislation be applicable to Congress, reducing the number of committees, opening committee meetings to the public, requiring a three-fifths vote on tax...
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The Clinton administration was plagued by scandals and allegations of corruption. Women, money, and power led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1998 by the House of Representatives and trial by the Senate in 1999. From the beginning of his 1992 campaign, rumors swirled about Clinton's penchant for women. The first scandal concerned a woman named Gennifer Flowers, who alleged that she had a twelve-year affair with Clinton while he was the governor of Arkansas. She also claimed that he got her a job in the state government because of their relationship. Clinton refused to admit the affair and went on national television with his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, claiming that even though they had had problems in their then seventeen-year marriage, they loved and supported each other. The appearance defused the rumors and seemed to end Clinton's personal problems, at least until after the inauguration.
Jones v. Clinton.
The second womanizing scandal broke shortly after President Clinton's inauguration, when his opponents convinced a young woman in Arkansas, Paula Corbin Jones, to go public with an allegation of sexual harassment that had occurred in 1991. Jones claimed that at a political function Clinton had invited her up to his hotel room, where he exposed him-self. Clinton denied the...
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Trials of a President
Since the founding of the Republic, only two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives: President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1999. Neither man was convicted. Johnson was impeached because he refused to succumb to the dictates of the Radical Republicans in Congress when he fired Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in opposition to the Tenure in Office Act (1867). The issue for Johnson revolved around how to govern and what treatment was to be given the former confederates after the Civil War. Though Johnson was not a strong president, he has been viewed sympathetically by historians, much more so than by the Congress that impeached him. The impeachment of Clinton was simply a tawdry affair. The issue was whether the president had lied to a grand jury in the sexual harassment trial instigated by Paula Corbin Jones, used his influence to cover up the perjury, lied about his actions, and if his sexual relations with White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky entailed abuse of power. Unlike the Johnson case, it was personal action, not political activity, that led to impeachment.
High Crimes and Misdemeanors?
The emphasis on personal morals and behavior was a legacy of the Vietnam War (ended 1975) and the Nixon administration (1969-1974). Both President Lyndon B. Johnson and President...
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Albright, Madeleine 1937-
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED
NATIONS (1993-1997); SECRETARY OF
Madeleine Korbel was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on 15 May 1937, only a little more than a year before the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Her Father was a Czech diplomat and was forced to move his family to England after the German invasion of their country. They went back after the war and her father was accredited as a Czech diplomat to the United Nations in New York. She came to the United States in 1948, and in the wake of the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia that year, her father asked for political asylum for himself and his family. It was granted and Madeleine ultimately became a naturalized citizen. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science; earned her Master of Arts in international affairs, with an emphasis on Soviet studies, from Columbia University in 1968; and was awarded a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1976. She married, was divorced, and raised three daughters.
Early Public Career.
Achieving high office in the United...
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Bush, George 1924-
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on 12 June 1924, and was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was an investment banker and later a U.S. Senator from Connecticut (1952-1963). The younger Bush was in his last year of high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Like many young men of his generation, he joined the military at his first opportunity, enlisting in the U.S. Navy on his eighteenth birthday in 1942. He went to flight school and won his wings to become the youngest pilot in the Navy. He served in the Pacific and flew in fifty-eight combat missions against the Japanese. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions taken after his plane was shot down over the water where he was eventually rescued by a submarine. After he came back to the United States early in 1945, he married Barbara Pierce and entered Yale University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics. Instead of entering his father's firm, Bush moved his family to west Texas to go into the oil business. He was...
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Clinton, Bill 1946-
PESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (1993-2000)
Historians, political scientists, and psychologists will write at length about Bill Clinton and his presidency. First elected in 1992 with only 43 percent of the popular vote, and reelected in 1996, Clinton dominated the U.S. political landscape for most of the 1990s. He was the first president to be born after the end of World War II (1945) and he symbolized the rise to political maturity of the baby boomers. He began his presidency with the intention of resolving several high-profile, but seemingly intractable, political issues including national health insurance, balancing the budget, civil rights, and education. Like all presidents, Clinton soon learned that progress on any of these issues required spending political capital, and that significant progress on all of them was impossible. As the first president elected after the end of the Cold War, he enjoyed the benefits of an end to the hair-trigger military standoff with the U.S.S.R., but along with that came a host of new and unanticipated foreign-policy problems unleashed by the untidy demise of the Soviet Empire. Finally,...
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Gingrich, Newt 1943-
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (1979-1998);SPEAKER (1995-1998)
Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 17 June 1943 and spent most of his childhood years with extended family, or in following his stepfather to military postings in Europe. He learned the pleasures of reading early, and his years overseas influenced his interest in European history and led to his determination to be involved in politics. He graduated from Emory University (1965) and earned his Masters (1968) and Ph.D. (1971) degrees from Tulane University. Beginning in 1970 he served as an assistant professor of history at West Georgia College. While he was a popular teacher, he did not envisage a long career as an obscure academic and, instead, got involved in politics. After unsuccessful runs for a seat in Congress in 1974 and 1976, he was finally elected in 1978 after dropping his previous commitment to environmentalism and adding a strong conservative message.
Changing the Nature of Congressional Politics.
Gingrich burst onto the political scene in 1979 as a brash young Republican congressman who was...
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Perot, H. Ross 1930-
New Political Force.
Third parties and third-party candidates typically share several characteristics on the American political stage: they do not get elected; they may attract significant voter interest in one election, but both the candidate and party soon thereafter disappear from the public's radar; they do not have an effective state-by-state grassroots organization; and any success they might enjoy contains the seeds for their eventual demise as the major issues they champion are absorbed by one or both of the major parties. H. Ross Perot, however, was not typical, nor was the third party he inspired and initially bankrolled. He ran for president as the Reform Party candidate in 1992 and 1996, and though he lost, he made a credible showing. The Reform Party continued to exist at the end of the decade, with several well-known political figures vying to run under its banner in the 2000 presidential election. In addition, it had success organizing on a grassroots and state-by-state level, and succeeded in electing a governor (Jesse Ventura, Reform-Minnesota). Finally, neither of the major parties successfully captured the major issues fueling support for the Reform Party. At the end of the decade, Ross Perot's political vision continued to draw support across the United States.
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People in the News
Richard Keith Armey (R-Texas) came to Congress in 1985 as a supporter of President Ronald Reagan's economic policy. An economist, he quickly gained recognition in Congress as a leader of the conservative forces when he opposed President George Bush's tax compromise with the Democrats in 1990. In 1995, as the Republicans took control of the House for the first time in forty years, Armey sought and won the post of House Majority Leader. Upon taking office he delivered the line repeated often since, "The American people didn't give us power, they gave us responsibility." Armey continued as majority leader, even after the resignation of Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich (R-Georgia) as Speaker in 1998 and the election of John Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) to succeed him.
Bill Bradley (D-New Jersey) retired from the U.S. Senate in 1996 after eighteen years of service. The exNew York Knicks basketball star returned to politics in 1999 when he announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2000.
In 1992 Carol Moseley Braun (D-Illinois) was elected as the first African American woman to serve in the Senate. She lost her bid for reelection in 1998 to state senator Peter G. Fitzgerald, largely because of charges that her campaign finances had been misused. On 10 November 1999 Braun was confirmed by the Senate as U.S. ambassador to New...
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Ralph David Abernathy, 64, minister, leader in the civilrights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), 12 March 1992.
Bella Savitsky Abzug, 77, outspoken feminist and Democratic representative from New York (1971-1977); first Jewish woman in Congress; known also for her outstanding collection of sometimes-outlandish hats, 31 March 1998.
Spiro Theodore Agnew, 77, Republican governor of Maryland (1967-1969) and vice president of the United States (1969-1973); resigned because he was facing bribery and tax evasion charges and eventually pleaded "no contest" to tax evasion, 17 September 1996.
Leslie "Les" Aspin Jr., 56, Democratic representative from Wisconsin (1971-1993) and Secretary of Defense (1993-1994), 21 May 1995.
Harvey Leroy "Lee" Atwater, 40, chairman of the Republican National Committee (1988-1990); infamous for designing negative political campaigns, especially the 1988 "Willie Horton" campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Massachusetts governor Michael Stanley Dukakis, 29 March 1991.
Daisy Lee (Gatson) Bates, 85, African American civil rights activist, who in 1957, at considerable risk to her own safety, supported and nurtured the nine African American students who integrated Little...
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Ryan J. Barrilleaux and Mary E. Stuckey, eds., Leadership and the Bush Presidency: Prudence or Drift in an Era of Change? (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1992).
W. Lance Bennett and David L. Paletz, eds., Taken by Storm: The Media, Public Opinion, and the U.S. Foreign Policy in the Gulf War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Knopf, 1998).
Dan T. Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution 1963-1994 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).
Elizabeth Drew, On the Edge: The Clinton Presidency (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).
Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999).
Ed Gillespie and Bob Schellhas, eds., Contract with America: The Bold Plan by Rep. Newt Gingrich, Rep. Dick Armey and the House Republicans to Change the Nation (New York: Times Books, 1994).
Martin L. Gross, The Great Whitewater Fiasco: An American Tale of Money, Power, and Politics (New York: Ballentine, 1994).
Mark Grossman, Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War (Santa Barbara, Cal.: ABC-CLIO, 1995).
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Important Events in Government and Politics, 1990–1999
- On June 26, President Bush reverses his campaign pledge "Read My Lips, No New Taxes" by agreeing to raise taxes in order to lower the federal deficit.
- On July 26, President Bush signs the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.
- On August 7, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on August 2, President Bush orders the deployment of American troops to the Middle East.
- On August 22, President Bush calls up United States military reserves.
- On November 8, President Bush orders further military deployments to give "offensive options" to American forces in the Middle East.
- On November 20, a suit is filed by forty-five liberal Democratic legislators demanding that President Bush seek Congressional approval for military operations, but the suit is thrown out of court.
- On November 22, President Bush, his wife, Barbara Bush, and several cabinet officials visit servicemen in the Middle East for Thanksgiving.
- On January 12, the 102nd Congress passes Senate Joint Resolution 2, authorizing the President to use United States Armed Forces against Iraq pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 678.
- On July 1, President Bush nominates the conservative jurist Clarence Thomas to...
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