As President Bush authorized the invasion of Afghanistan and considered invading Iraq, Congress worked on legislation to prevent foreign terrorist attacks on the United States.
Shortly after 9/11, the administration also pushed the USA Patriot Act through Congress.
To increase cooperation between federal law enforcement agencies, and to improve their ability to prevent terrorist attacks, the Bush administration established the Office of Homeland Security in October of 2001. The following year, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, which created the Department of Homeland Security.
As some Americans suspected that there were enemies in their midst, crimes against Muslim Americans, and those thought to be Muslim, increased. The Bush administration discouraged anti-Muslim sentiment.
EXAMPLEWhile commemorating the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush stated, “We respect the faith of Islam, even as we fight those whose actions defile that faith. We fight, not to impose our will, but to defend ourselves and extend the blessings of freedom.”
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detained thousands of young Muslim men. Some of them were held without being charged, even though they had not been involved in terrorism. Because U.S. law prohibits the use of torture, the CIA transferred some of them to other nations, where authorities could use interrogation methods that are not allowed in the United States.
While the CIA operated overseas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) investigated domestic suspects.
EXAMPLEBeginning in 2002, the NSA began a program of warrantless domestic wiretapping known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
These activities had a shaky constitutional basis. Law enforcement activities are limited by the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. These surveillance activities continued despite the fact that they sometimes exceeded Fourth Amendment limits.
Homeland security efforts impacted immigrants, and life along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In 2006, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a law which designated illegal entry and presence in the U.S. as a felony. In addition, the law made it a crime to employ illegal immigrants or to assist them in a number of other ways. As a result, millions of illegal (and legal) immigrants, along with native-born opponents, participated in protest demonstrations.
Some immigrants viewed attempts to limit their movements, or their "path to citizenship", as a civil rights challenge. Political conservatives saw immigrant activism and lenient immigration policy as a homeland security challenge. Congress approved an expansion of the U.S. Border Patrol, which was one of the agencies that had been incorporated in the Department of Homeland Security, and agreed to expedite construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the border with Mexico. The status of the millions of undocumented immigrants who were already in the U.S. remained unresolved.
As immigration was debated, another event indicated the persistance of inequality in the U.S. and led some to ask how the Bush administration defined homeland security.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal communities in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. New Orleans (much of which is situated below sea level) had survived many hurricanes and floods, but suffered historic damage when levees (i.e., embankments) failed to prevent flooding during the storm.
The natural disaster became a social catastrophe. When the levees broke, flooding killed approximately 1,500 people. Tens of thousands more were trapped, unable to evacuate, including many who were elderly, ill, or poor.
City services collapsed during the disaster, requiring the federal government to step in. Although the U.S. Coast Guard rescued more than 35,000 people, the response of other federal agencies in the Department of Homeland Security was less effective.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is charged with assisting state and local governments in times of natural disaster, failed to coordinate relief efforts, and did not use available rescue infrastructure effectively.
Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA’s critics most often blamed Director Michael D. Brown. Brown was a Bush appointee who had no background in emergency management.
Even President Bush’s response was criticized. Photographs of the President viewing New Orleans from the safety of Air Force One, combined with suspicion that he was unaware of the scope of the disaster, led some to conclude that Bush was detached from the problems of everyday people.
Although there was plenty of blame to go around — at the city, state, and national levels — FEMA and the Bush administration received the largest share. FEMA's inability to provide for the elderly, ill, poor, and black residents of New Orleans damaged the reputation of an administration that made homeland security its top priority.
Factors including the President's response to Hurricane Katrina, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, and the belief that his economic policies benefited only the wealthy, combined to lower Bush's job-approval rating. At one point in 2006, only 31 percent of respondents approved of the job he was doing.
As a result, young voters, minorities, and women supported Democratic candidates in the 2006 congressional elections. Democrats gained control of the Senate and the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994.
In addition to their 2006 gains in Congress, Democrats captured the White House with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The first African-American presidential nominee from either major party, Obama gained national attention in 2004 when he delivered a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention while running for his first term in the U.S. Senate. During the Democratic primaries, Obama defeated former First Lady Hillary Clinton to win the nomination for President in 2008.
Obama’s opponent in 2008 was John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and Republican Senator from Arizona. Although McCain sometimes supported bipartisan initiatives in the Senate, he struggled to distinguish himself from President Bush. Many voters associated all Republicans with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, McCain did not seem to grasp the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, which had reached a low point at the time of the election.
Obama offered promises of “hope and change” in domestic and foreign policy. His campaign mobilized supporters through online platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The Obama campaign effectively used social media to raise funds. During his campaign, he received 6.5 million donations, totaling $500 million. The majority of online donations were for less than $100.
Obama’s message, and the extent to which his campaign exploited social media and grassroots enthusiasm for his candidacy, enabled him to win the presidency.
During his first inaugural address in January of 2009, President Obama declared, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”
With this statement, President Obama indicated that he was aware that he had been elected as the result of frustration with a sinking economy and the seemingly-unending War on Terror. He sought to implement a domestic agenda that reflected the programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, instead of those pursued by the Bush administration:
One of the most significant initiatives undertaken during President Obama’s first term was the attempt to enact comprehensive health care reform. This initiative had been part of the Democratic Party’s agenda since the 1990s. Many observers assumed that it would move quickly through Congress since Democrats held majorities in both houses. However, as during President Clinton’s first term, strong opposition to reform was encountered. After months of negotiation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (which came to be known as Obamacare) was passed in March of 2010.
The Act was the first significant overhaul of the American healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Obamacare implemented the following changes:
Efforts to reinvigorate the economy, and to provide all Americans with health insurance, were the results of significant federal legislative activity. However, with respect to foreign policy and the “War on Terror”, some observers had difficulty distinguishing President Obama’s objectives and actions from those of President Bush.
This tutorial curated and/or authored by Matthew Pearce, Ph.D
Source: TSA agent, PD, http://bit.ly/2rcHJ8j, U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, 2007, PD, http://bit.ly/2qonNxY, U.S.-Mexico border fence, PD, http://bit.ly/2pT2Wzm, President George W. Bush’s remarks to the Nation, Sep 11, 2002, 9/11 Memorial and Museum Primary Sources, Ret from http://bit.ly/2rndlFt, Stat about Lower Ninth Ward from The Data Center. Retr from http://bit.ly/2qOckcL, Obama, Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 2009, The Miller Center. Ret from: http://bit.ly/2qsJnzM, Openstax tutorials 32.1, 32.2, & 32.4 http://bit.ly/2rczfhF. Some sections edited.