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U.S. History Curriculum

Courtesy of
George Burson
Aspen School District
Aspen, Colorado
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SINCE 1968


Understand the election of 1968.

By early 1968 the debate over the American involvement in Vietnam was beginning to tear the country apart. The February Tet offensive by the North Vietnamese seriously discredited the Johnson administration which had been claiming that the war would soon be over with an American victory. Eugene McCarthy, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, entered the presidential 1968 contest as an anti-war candidate. Thousands of students rushed to New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, to help McCarthy. Even though Johnson won, McCarthy's vote was great enough that Johnson realized that his re-election was seriously threatened. A few weeks later, on March 31, 1968, President Johnson went on national television to announce that he would not run for re-election.

With Johnson's withdrawal, Vice President Hubert Humphrey entered the race for the Democratic party presidential nomination. He had an immediate edge on McCarthy since the party professionals favored him and he was an old favorite of the labor movement and minorities, groups to whom he had devoted his career. However, Humphrey was so closely associated with Johnson's Vietnam policy that the anti-war movement would not accept him. With the withdrawal of Johnson, Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York also entered the race. Kennedy threatened both McCarthy and Humphrey. His antiwar record was excellent and he maintained contacts with the party professionals and labor leaders on whom Humphrey was counting. In addition, he had strong Hispanic and black support. But, on June 6, the night he won the California Democratic primary, Kennedy was murdered by a Palestinian Arab who resented the senator's sympathy for Israel.

The assassination demoralized the antiwar Democrats and helped lead to protests at the Democratic party convention in Chicago. The police responded violently, clubbing and arresting hundreds of antiwar demonstrators. After Kennedy's death, Humphrey easily won the Democratic nomination (Senator Edmund Muskie from Maine was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee).

Richard M. Nixon won the Republican nomination. After his defeat in 1960 to John Kennedy, Nixon had run for governor of California -- he had been soundly defeated and it looked like his political career was over. Yet, he continued to work hard to firm up his support within the Republican party. He attended every local Republican function to which he was invited, no matter how small. By making himself so available to the party's grass-root workers, Nixon built up energetic, active cadres of supporters. Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland was picked as Nixon's vice-presidential running-mate.

George Wallace, governor of Alabama, also threw his hat into the ring as the American Independent party candidate. Wallace attempted to forge an alliance of conservatives and racists who believed that both parties were too liberal. Wallace knew that he could not win the election. His purpose was to take just enough electoral votes from both Humphrey and Nixon to throw the election into the House of Representatives. Because each state had one vote in selecting the president, segregationist southern congressmen under his leadership could make a deal with one of the presidential candidates.

The election was very close. Nixon received 31.8 million votes (43.4% of the total), against 31.3 million for Humphrey and 9.9 million for Wallace. The margins were greater in the electoral college: 301 for Nixon, 191 for Humphrey, and 46, all in the Deep South, for Wallace.


Understand the election of 1972 and the Watergate crisis.

By 1972, Nixon had greatly reduced American involvement in Vietnam and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissenger, had promised the American people that "peace was at hand" in Vietnam. In addition, mainstream Americans looked favorably on the administration's opening up relations with Communist China and reducing tensions with the Soviet Union. Inflation, which had been running as high as 14% a year, had been reduced to around 3% a year. And, the Nixon presidency was seen as a stabilizing influence in society. Many Americans were tired of the "excesses" of the 1960s -- draft and civil rights disturbances, "free-love," drug use, women's liberation, hippies -- the entire counter culture scene was very disturbing to many Americans; Nixon played upon people's fears and frustrations.

The Democrats on the other hand, had reorganized the system by which they selected convention delegates. They guaranteed minimum representation to minority groups, young people and women. The people who gathered at the 1972 Democratic convention formed the youngest convention in political history and reflected the values of their generation. They nominated George McGovern, senator from South Dakota, and an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war as their candidate. McGovern selected Thomas Eagleton, senator from Missouri, as his running mate. A couple of weeks after the convention the press discovered that Eagleton had undergone psychiatric treatment (including electric shock treatment for severe depression) several years earlier. At first McGovern defended Eagleton "1000%." But then he turned on him and forced him to drop out of the race. McGovern then had the embarrassing task of having several top Democrats turn him down when he asked them to replace Eagleton. Finally, Sargent Shriver, JFK's brother-in-law, and ex-head of the Peace Corps, agreed to take the second place spot on the Democratic ticket, but the damage had already been done.

The Republicans featured McGovern as the "candidate of acid, amnesty and abortion." To vote for George McGovern was to vote for sin, and Nixon won easily with 60.8% of the popular vote. He carried the electoral vote of every state except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. The Democrats did manage to hold on to wide margins in Congress.

On June 17, 1972, early in the presidential campaign, Washington, DC police arrested five men who were trying to plant electronic listening devices in the Democratic Party National Headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Three of the suspects had White House contacts and were on the payroll of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) -- the other two were Cuban exiles who had worked for the CIA. McGovern tried to exploit the break-in during the campaign, but Nixon diffused the issue by claiming that no one on his staff had any knowledge of the break-in, and that it was just a "third rate burglary." Nixon had probably not know about the break-in in advance, but when he learned of it the next day he immediately order his staff to cover up the incident and to pay the burglars hush money.

After the election new and disturbing information came to light. During the two years after the break-in, the term Watergate came to describe a series of illegal or immoral acts involving President Nixon and his associates. Among them were:

The break-in itself and the cover-up of it.

The burglary of the office of a psychiatrist by White House employees (the Plumbers -- originally organized to stop news "leaks" in the administration) who had treated Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, the man who had stolen secret military papers (the "Pentagon papers") about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and released them to the media. The papers showed that the government had lied to the American people about Vietnam. The burglars had wanted to find evidence to use against Ellsberg in his trial for stealing the documents. When the judge in the case found out about the burglary, he dismissed the charges against Ellsberg.

Large illegal cash donations to CRP by a number of large corporations, interest groups and wealthy individuals, often in return for favors from the administration.

"Dirty tricks" during the 1972 campaign to discredit Democratic candidates.

Attempts by President Nixon to have the Internal Revenue Service investigate tax returns of people opposed to his policies (IRS officials refused).

The refusal by President Nixon to release voluntarily to a grand jury, the special prosecutor for Watergate matters, the Senate Committee on Campaign Activities, or the House Judiciary Committee voice activated tape recordings that he had secretly made of conversations in the White House.

Revelations that President Nixon had made false claims on his income tax returns and that he owed $432,000 in back taxes.

The bombing of Cambodia without authorization of Congress.

Nixon was already reeling when it was revealed that Vice President Agnew had accepted bribes when he was governor of Maryland and Vice President. To avoid prosecution, Agnew pleaded no contest to charges of income-tax evasion and resigned from the vice presidency in October 1973. Under the 25th amendment to the Constitution (adopted in 1967) Nixon appointed the Republican minority leader of the House of Representatives, Gerald R. Ford, Vice President.

Several of the Nixon's top aides were indicted, and later sent to jail. During the judicial process it was learned that Nixon had made secret voice tapes of conversations that took place in the Oval Office. The judge handling the case demanded that President Nixon release the tapes which figured in the cases before his court. Nixon, claiming executive privilege, refused. Finally, in July 1974 the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn the tapes over. This decision forced Nixon to release transcripts of conversations which showed that he knew about, and tried to cover up, the break-in. Moreover, the tapes indicated that Nixon had lied about his role in the cover-up. They also damaged his support by showing that Nixon used racial slurs and that he cursed profusely.

In October 1973, the House of Representatives ordered the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. On July 27, 1974 the Committee recommended that the House impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice in the Watergate case. The televised hearings of this committee had a profound effect in turning public opinion against Nixon. By the summer of 1974, only about 25% of the electorate approved of his presidency.

Nixon realized that the game was up and on August 8, 1974 he resigned from the presidency. Gerald Ford, the first person to become President who had not been elected to the presidency or vice-presidency, took office the next day. In September President Ford pardoned former President Nixon for all the crimes that he committed during his presidency. Nixon received until his death in 1994, as do all past presidents, a government pension of about $100,000 a year.


Understand the presidencies of Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter.

A major crisis of the Ford administration was the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Americans, while only about 6% of the world's population, consumed 33% of the world's annual production of oil--39% of all that oil was imported (in 1990 it was 50%). In October 1973, in response to American support of Israel during its war with Syria and Egypt earlier in the month, the Arab nations levied a temporary embargo on oil exports and announced the first of a series of big jumps in the price of oil. The price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. quickly jumped from 30 cents to nearly $2.00 a gallon.

The giant rise in oil prices fed inflation which by 1974 reached 12 percent per annum. The Ford administration persuaded the federal reserve board to reduce the money supply in order to help control inflation and the result was the most serious recession since World War II -- unemployment climbed to 9%. Ford was stymied by the same vicious circle that caught up his predecessor and successor: slowing inflation meant throwing people out of work; fighting unemployment meant inflation; trying to steer a middle course meant "stagflation," mild recession plus inflation.

Jimmy Carter, came out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination in 1976. His political career consisted of one term in the Georgia assembly and one term as governor. But, through adroit political maneuvering, Carter was able to win enough primary elections to garner the Democratic nomination. Carter ran as an "outsider" to the political establishment, which, after the manipulations to the system by Johnson and Nixon, was exactly what people wanted. Ford lost a close election to Carter because of his pardon of Nixon and the nation's poor economic condition.

Carter will probably go down in history as one of our worst presidents. Even though the Democrats had large majorities in Congress, Carter either refused, or did not know how, to work with them. Inflation reached almost 20 percent by 1980. Between 1970-1980 the value of the dollar declined by half. Relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support a Soviet sponsored regime against anti-Communist rebels, Carter cut-off U.S. grain exports to the Soviet Union (thus greatly angering American farmers), stopped discussion on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT-II), and refused to allow American athletes to participate in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. None of these actions had any impact on Soviet policy -- they continued to stay in Afghanistan, they bought their wheat from other countries, they built many more missiles. They retaliated to Carter's Olympic boycott by not allowing their athletes to participate in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

While Carter did achieve some diplomatic successes (the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and the Panama Canal Treaty) the steadily worsening economy would have probably doomed his reelection chances in 1980. As it was, the Iranian hostage crisis sealed his fate. In 1951 Iran had nationalized its petroleum industry. But, Iran was unable to produce and market oil in the face of an international boycott organized by the expropriated oil companies. The country became poorer and political disturbances more serious until in 1953, with the help of the CIA, the Shah dismissed the prime minister and took total control of the country. He then gave the oil industry back much of what it had lost in 1951. The U.S. immediately provided an emergency grant of $45 million to the Shah.

To keep control, the Shah gave his secret police (the SAVAK) almost unlimited power. Through arbitrary arrests and the torture of prisoners, it made many enemies for the Shah's government. The average Iranian was extremely poor, yet a small group of friends of the Shah lived in absolute luxury. The U.S. supported the Shah since the U.S. government wanted Iran's oil and the Shah was seen as a buffer against Soviet expansion into the region. The oppression by the Shah caused riots to break out in late 1977 and early 1978. In both cases a number of people were killed when the army fired into mobs. These deaths triggered further mass demonstrations in the capital city of Tehran and elsewhere in spite of official bans. Massacres of demonstrators by the Shah's troops ended all pretense that there was broad popular support for him, and the bloodshed united opposition groups in the single goal of ridding the country of the monarch once and for all.

After months of confusion and strikes, with oil production and exports halted and the economy in chaos, the Shah finally left the country on January 16, 1979. The Ayatollah (an Ayatollah is an Islamic scholar and holy man) Khomeini, who had been living in exile in Paris for the preceding 15 years, took control of the government. On April 1, 1979 the Islamic Republic of Iran was proclaimed. In October, despite warnings from the embassy in Teheran that his action could lead to reprisals against Americans in Iran, President Carter admitted the Shah to the United States to get medical treatment for cancer.

A few days later, a group of Iranian students seized the American embassy compound and took fifty Americans hostage. For more than a year, American public opinion was centered on the crisis. Nightly news broadcasts signed-off with "and this is the 220th day of captivity for the hostages." The ABC news program "Nightline" began as a program that did nothing else except cover the Iranian hostage crisis. President Carter knew that unless he solved the hostage crisis he was doomed to defeat in the 1980 presidential election. In April, 1980 he sent an ill planned and ill conceived rescue mission into Iran to try and rescue the hostages. The helicopters carrying the American commandos became disoriented in a desert sand storm, and during a refueling stop on the floor of the Iranian desert, a helicopter and a cargo plane collided, killing eight soldiers. The mission was canceled before it hardly began.

The Republican party had long been split between "liberal" and "conservative" wings. In the election of 1980 the conservative wing won and the Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan for president. Reagan was an ex-movie actor and a successful two term governor of California. Reagan had almost taken the nomination away from Gerald Ford in 1976 and he had strong support from conservative special interest groups. Reagan easily defeated Carter in November and he passed the word to the Iranians that he would take drastic action if the crisis was not resolved before he took office. The deposed Shah had died in Egypt on July 27th and this removed the Iranian fear that the U.S. might try to reinstate him in Iran. The hostages were released on inauguration day, January 20, 1981.


Understand the United States under the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

A fundamental goal of the Reagan presidency was to overhaul the basic programs of the New Deal. Reagan wanted to reduce the involvement of the federal government in social programs and increase the amount of money spent on defense; he was successful in both attempts (in 1986 the government spent about $172 billion on nondefense discretionary spending -- a cut of 20% between 1980 and 1986 in constant dollars. The defense budget was $300 billion in 1988 -- an increase of more than 100% between 1980 and 1988).

A major objective of the Reagan administration was to do away with the progressive income tax that had been instituted by FDR during the New Deal. Through a series of tax laws culminating with the 1986 "tax reform" act, and by setting a governmental climate of pro-business and anti-labor (the firing of the Air Traffic Controllers for their illegal strike exemplifies this attitude), the Reagan presidency created a significant change in American policy. Average real hourly earnings for American employees declined about 6% from 1972 to 1987. The real median income of families in the U.S. dropped (in consistent 1984 dollars) from $28,200 in 1973 to $26,433 in 1984. Meanwhile, the percent of total net personal wealth controlled by the wealthiest 1% of households increased about 25% between 1968 and 1988. They controlled approximately 40% of the nation's personal wealth. Their average net personal worth was more than $5 million per household. In sharp contrast, the average annual income of the poorest 20% of the nation's families dropped (in 1984 dollars) from $9,136 to $7,297 during the decade of 1973-1984. Even the upper middle class was not doing that well, during the same decade the top fifth of the nation's families average annual income fell from $68,278 to $66,607.

Corporate wealth also become more concentrated. The largest 200 corporations now control roughly 60% of the assets of all industrial corporations--a 10% growth since the early 1950s. In Germany and Japan managers and administrators make up about 4 to 5% of total private employment. In the U.S. these corporate bureaucrats make up about 12% of total private employment, and they tend to earn at least twice the compensation of their Japanese equivalents. In 1984 the CEO of IBM made $200,000 and his secretary made $25,000 (a ratio of 10 to 1), in 1996 the CEO made $2 million and his secretary made $50,000 (a ratio of 40 to 1).

The tax bill of 1986 drastically reduced the top income-tax rate from 50 to 28%. This reduction gave a select group of Americans -- 390,000 taxpayers making over $200,000 a year -- reductions averaging $50,000 apiece in their federal taxes. This adds up to nearly $20 billion. It would have been enough revenue to make a real dent in the federal deficit and it was more than twice what the government spent every year on its basic welfare programs. It was roughly ten times what the bill devoted to tax relief for the millions of poor families with incomes of $10,000 or less. These 390,000 beneficiaries were the taxpayers in the top bracket who were not using tax shelters that were scaled back or eliminated by changes in the 1986 law. Other high income taxpayers lost proportionately when their tax shelters were eliminated. Even so, the wealthiest gained the most from the 1986 tax bill in terms of after-tax income. For people who made above $200,000 a year, the tax bill provided an average dividend of $2,856--compared with about $200 for families on the middle of the income ladder. In addition, higher social security taxes, actually raised the tax burden of most Americans during the Reagan years.

For years the country has been consuming more than it produces, making up the difference by borrowing from abroad. At the end of 1996 the U.S. national debt was $5 trillion--interest on this debt was around $200 billion a year. Our foreign investment deficit had reached $1 trillion. At this level, interest and other payments to foreigners exceed $50 billion a year, or 1% of the G.N.P. The United States attempted to work itself out of this dilemma by devaluing the dollar and reducing the cost of goods made in the U.S. and sold abroad. The lower dollar boosted exports, but it did not reduced imports (which cost more and therefore increased even more the country's foreign debt). Between 1985-1987 the dollar's value fell against major foreign currencies by 50%, and imports actually increased. Most of the large corporations in America contract out a large portion of their parts and labor to lower-cost foreign manufacturers. This trend will not be reversed easily. So, even when consumers "buy American" they tend to increase the country's foreign debt. There is really only one way to reduce imports and that is to reduce consumer demand. Unfortunately reduced consumer demand leads to recession and recent experience shows that this is not a popular political platform to run on.

One way to solve our economic problems is to reduce the nation's military spending. The U.S. spends about 6% of its G.N.P. on defense (about 25% of the national budget), compared with around 3% for Europe and 1% for Japan. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a debate has begun over how much can be cut from the military and how to spend the savings. Many congressmen refuse to cut defense spending because of the defense jobs in their district.

In 1984 Reagan easily won re-election by defeating Carter's vice president Walter Mondal. Mondal's running mate was New York congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. She was the first woman ever named to a national party ticket. In 1991 Reagan was shot and wounded by an potential assassin. His courage and demeanor during and after the incident increased his stature among the public.

In foreign affairs Reagan called the Soviet Union the "Evil Empire." To protect the U.S. from a Soviet Missile attack he initiated the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or as it was commonly known -- Star Wars. This antiballistic missile attack program cost tens of billions of dollars with little tangible results. In October 1983 The U.S. invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada to oust a pro-Communist government (18 Americans died). The United States increased aid to the conservative government of El Salvador to aid it in its fight against left-wing rebels. In 1983 Reagan sent the Marines to Lebanon as part of an effort to stabilize the region. Terrorists drove a truck loaded with explosives into the Marine barracks early one morning, killing 241 of the Marines.

Reagan, through the CIA, gave large sums of money to support the Contras ("those against" in Spanish) who were fighting the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Increased ties with Communist bloc nations and the expropriation of property strained Nicaraguan relations with the U.S.. In the spring of 1981 the Reagan administration suspended all aid to Nicaragua and the State Department accused the Sandinistas of aiding the leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. In 1982, U.S. backed guerrillas, the Contras, composed primarily of supporters of the deposed Nicaraguan dictator Somoza, attacked government outposts from bases in Honduras. In response, the Nicaraguan government declared a state of siege. Opposition political activities were banned, most constitutional guarantees were suspended, and censorship imposed on the news media.

According to President Reagan, Nicaragua was "a Soviet-supported client state" that the U.S. had to oppose in order to prevent a red tide from sweeping over the Western Hemisphere. In 1989 the Soviet Union supplied Nicaragua with $750 million in aid. In 1986 a impassioned debate broke out in the United States as to whether the U.S. should continue to give military aid to the Contras. The U.S. Congress voted to give $100 million in "humanitarian" aid to the Contras. The discovery, in late 1986, that members of the President's staff were illegally diverting money from the sale of arms to Iran (in return for Iran freeing western hostages in Lebanon) to the Contras confused the issue even more than before.

In 1988, Latin and Central American countries, led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, urged the U.S. to halt aid to the Contras and back a negotiated settlement in Central America. The six year war had cost Nicaragua 60,000 casualties and created an estimated 350,000 internal refuges. The Iran-Contra scandal caused American and Congressional opinion to swing away from supporting the Contras and the Reagan administration agreed to suspend its covert military operations in Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan economy was devastated by the war. These problems were exacerbated by the October, 1988 hurricane that hit the country. The resulting damage may have exceeded the damage of the 1972 earthquake. One-third of college-educated professionals had fled Nicaragua by the end of 1988 along with hundreds of thousands of less educated citizens. The economic collapse (caused in large part through U.S. efforts) led President Ortega in February, 1989 to sign a joint declaration with the four other Central American Presidents to hold free elections in February 1990 (although the victors did not take office until January, 1991). The collapse of the Soviet Union ended aid from that country to Nicaragua. The election of February, 1990 produced a stunning upset when the National Liberation Front was decisively defeated and Violeta Chamorro, the leader of the 14 party National Opposition Union (UNO), was elected president. With the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Ortaga, the U.S. lost interest in Nicaragua.

Americans tend to seek the middle ground. The vast majority of us are neither right nor left wing extremists. The Iran-Contra Affair of 1986-87 weakened the Reagan White House. The two men directly responsible for the affair (LTC North & Admiral Pondexter) were convicted of violating the laws of Congress. Evidence that Reagan consulted an astrologer before making major decisions, and that he often did not know what was going on in his administration have reduced his stature since he has left office. ("The battle for the mind of Ronald Reagan was like the trench warfare of World War I; never have so many fought so hard for such barren terrain." -- Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan).


Understand the U.S. during the presidency of George Bush

In the presidential election of 1988 the Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts and the Republicans nominated George Bush, Reagan's vice president. After a slow start, hurt by the selection of Dan Quayle as his vice presidential candidate (Quayle had used family influence to join the National Guard during the Vietnam War and he was perceived as an intellectual light-weight), Bush and his advisors ran a masterful campaign.

In the election Bush emphasized the factors that had won the Republican party the presidency in every election, but one, since 1968: anti-Communism; conservative social issues (limited access to abortion, being tough on crime and drugs, the pledge of allegiance, the death penalty [during the final televised debate the first question asked Dukakis was if would he still oppose the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, had been raped and brutally murdered -- when Dukakis said "yes" Bush had the election sewn up]); subtle racism (the Willie Horton commercial blasted Dukakis for allowing a black convict to be furloughed from prison -- Horton raped a white women while out); and, "read my lips: no new taxes." Bush easily won.

During the Reagan years the United States relations with the President of Panama, Manuel Noriega had deteriorated. For years Noriega had been playing a double game. He accepted United States money ($1.2 million during the 1980s) for intelligence information, a pro-American stand, and for not interfering with the operation with the Panama Canal. On the other hand, he also fed intelligence information to Cuba's Castro, he allowed aid to the rebels in El Salvador and to the Communists in Nicaragua to travel freely through Panama, and Panama became a major transfer point for Latin American drugs traveling to the rest of the world. Noriega was paid for all of these activities.

On May 7, 1989 Panama held elections and neutral observers reported that Guillermo Endara won the election by a 3-1 margin. Noriega refused to give up power and on May 10th he annulled the election, claiming that "obstruction by foreigners" had made the election meaningless. Noriega had his "Dignity Battalions" break up protests in Panama City over his decision and Endara was severely beaten by Noriega's thugs. President Bush denounced the election and called for Noriega to resign; he also sent 2,000 additional troops to Panama. The OAS condemned the election abuses by Noriega and called for a "peaceful transfer to democracy." On October 3, 1989 a coup attempt against Noriega failed and the leader of the coup was killed. The United States had actively participated in the coup, but had refused to commit troops at the last minute.

On December 15, Panama's National Assembly voted unanimously in naming Noriega "maximum leader" of Panama and the members declared that Panama was in a "state of war" with the U.S. During the next few days several incidents occurred in which an American soldier was killed and several Americans were harassed and beaten-up. Shortly after midnight on December 20, 1989, 11,000 troops from the U.S., along with 13,000 already stationed in Panama, invaded Panama. An additional 2,000 troops joined the forces on December 22 to help restore order. Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy until he surrendered on January 3. After his surrender he was flown to the United States were he stood trial, and was convicted, for drug trafficking. Endara was sworn in as president on the day of the invasion. Casualties were reported as 24 American soldiers and 139 Panamanian (probably higher). Civilian casualties were probably in the hundreds but are unknown.

American objectives in the invasion of Panama were to remove Noriega from power, reduce the drug traffic flowing through Panama, and to support U.S. interests in Central America. The OAS censured the U.S. use of force and in the UN Security Council the U.S. had to veto a resolution critical of its action. Domestic reaction was generally favorable. Evidence in early 1994 indicated that other drug traffickers have replaced Noriega and the drug traffic through Panama has not slowed down.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq, led by the military dictator Saddam Hussein, invaded and occupied Kuwait. Kuwait had been pumping more oil than it was allocated under OPEC quotas, and had driven down oil costs, greatly hurting Iraq which needed revenue to pay for the expenses that it had occurred during the eight year long Iraq-Iran War. Iraq was a nation of 18 million people in an area slightly larger than California. With Kuwait, Hussein controlled 20% of the world's oil.

With a one million man army, the fourth largest in the world, Iraq represented a major conventional power a the beginning of the Persian Gulf conflict. In 1988 during the last major battle of the Iran-Iraq war, Hussein's troops had killed 65,000 Iranians. Favored in that war by the U.S. government as the "lesser of two evils," Hussein was shipped extraordinary amounts of sophisticated military equipment -- supplied mostly by the USSR, Great Britain, and France.

The U.S. and the UN condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and demanded its immediate withdrawal. General Norman Schwarzkopf was named commander of Operation Desert Shield, the code name for the defensive phase of the Gulf War, and a naval blockade of Iraq was mounted and all shipments of Iraqi oil were halted. The UN set a January 15, 1991 deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait. When it refused to do so, the coalition forces began a massive bombing campaign called Operation Desert Storm. By war's end more bomb tonnage had been dropped on Iraq than had been dropped by U.S. forces during all of World War II. At the same time thousands of American, Egyptian, Syrian, French, British and other troops moved to Saudi Arabia. At the height of battle, some 500,000 American troops were deployed to the Gulf.

After six weeks of Allied bombing, half of Iraq's front-line army had deserted. On February 24, 1991 the Allied ground campaign began and it met with little resistance. The fighting ended after 100 hours on February 27. Only 390 Americans died in the war, with an additional 458 wounded in action. Other allied nations had 510 casualties. Iraq suffered an estimated 10,000-12,000 deaths during the air war, and about 10,000 Iraqis were killed during the ground war. Iraq was forced out of Kuwait, and its freedom of action in future military and economic matters severely restricted.


Understand the U.S. during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

In the 1992 election events at first favored Bush. Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua allowed free elections to be held and when he lost the national debate over Central America was effectively ended. The Soviet Union, under Mikhail Gorbachev, liberalized its policies toward the West, and then collapsed. The end of the Soviet Union left Bush free to let the democratization and capitalization of Eastern Europe take place without any fear of Communist retaliation.

Bush's strong response to the August, 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, and the easy American victory in Operation Desert Storm, brought the president's popularity to an all-time high. Political commentators speculated that the Democrats would not even be able to find someone to run against the President.

Things began to change in late 1991. The United States economy underwent a severe economic recession. Many women were galvanized into action when the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that states could restrict a women's right to an abortion. Women were further incensed when Bush appointed Clarence Thomas, a black conservative to the Supreme Court, and he was charged with sexual harassment by Annita Hill. The Senate confirmation of Thomas helped regenerate the women's movement.

The winding down of the Cold War weakened the Republican Party's hard line anti-Communist stand. Because of the rising national debt, Bush went back on his pledge not to raise taxes, but the money raised did not go into social programs. Bush's aversion to social legislation hurt social programs like education, housing, and health care. In May, 1992 riots and looting broke out in Los Angles in protest to a jury verdict that acquitted four white policemen for beating a black motorist. Because of Bush's apparent lack of concern over social problems, people began to question his policies.

Concern over the environment began to increase and the Democrats were perceived as the more activist party in this area. The Savings and Loan crisis, brought on in large part because of Republican advocated deregulation, cost the American taxpayer $500 billion -- when the magnitude of this cost hit home (in the form of new taxes), it hurt Bush.

When the election was held in November, 1992, Saddam Hussein was still in power in Iraq, Kuwait was still an absolute monarchy, the national government did not have an energy policy to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, and in retrospect, the American victory in the Persian Gulf War did not seem as splendid as it did to the American people in 1991.

Because a Bush presidential victory had seemed such a sure thing after the Gulf War, many high powered Democrats decided not to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. This decision allowed the 47 year old governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, to gain the Democratic nomination. Clinton selected Tennessee Senator Al Gore as his running mate. Texas billionaire Ross Perot also declared himself an independent candidate. His candidacy helped Clinton because many frustrated Republicans had someone to vote for and he took votes away from Bush. Perot's major program was a plan to reduce the $5 trillion national debt. In Clinton's campaign headquarters was a sign that said "It's the economy, stupid." That was indeed the case. A severe recession, the end of the Cold War, the gender gap, frustration with "trickle down" economics, and Clinton's masterful campaign allowed the Democrats to win the presidency for the first time since 1976.

In Clinton's first two years of office the Democratic controlled Congress passed a family leave act; a motor-voter act; a budget that increased taxes on the wealthy, decreased taxes on the poor, and reduced the rate of increase of the national debt (zero Republican votes); the Brady Gun Control Act; a ban an assault weapons, and, with the help of Republicans in Congress, the North American Free Trade Agreement (strong labor opposition). Clinton also proposed a major reform of the nation's health care system that failed to pass Congress. In the off-year elections of 1994 the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1948.

With the Republican congressional victory many pundits again wrote off Clinton. During a press conference one reporter even asked him if he was "still relevant" in the political process. Clinton played a masterful game. He moved toward the political center, taking away many traditional Republican issues (the signing of a "a welfare reform act" is an indication of this move). The Congressional Republicans misjudged their power, and the political climate, and in a fight over the budget allowed the government to be shut-down twice.

In 1996 the Republicans nominated the 73 year old Senate majority leader Bob Dole for the presidency. The stock market was at a record high, inflation was low, and the economy was booming. Earlier in his presidency Clinton had sent the U.S. military into Haiti and Bosnia as part of peacekeeping operations, and both operations were perceived as successful by the American public. Clintonâs advocacy of a womanâs right to have an abortion, his appointment of women and minorities to high government positions, his strong commitment to civil rights and social issues like education increased the "gender gap" between Democrats and Republicans, and also ensured him the vast majority of the African-American and Hispanic vote. Clinton easily won the presidential election and the Republicans kept control of Congress.


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