In July 1952 the Republican Party nominated General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Senator Richard M. Nixon of California as candidates for president and vice president.
The Democrats named Governor Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois and Senator John Sparkman of Alabama.
Eisenhower won easily, and the Republicans captured control of Congress.
Eisenhower’s personal prestige contributed heavily to the Republican victory, as did frustration over the Korean War and fear of communism at home.
The Republicans did well in the suburbs, which were growing rapidly as many young families moved into new homes financed with low-interest mortgages backed by federal agencies.
Eisenhower’s Policies In contrast to Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower believed that the presidency should involve considerable delegation of authority.
Therefore he granted much independence to his cabinet, which was composed largely of business executives.
Despite its conservative outlook, the administration made no effort to repeal New Deal legislation.
Unlike the Democrats, however, Eisenhower endeavored to limit the role of national government, calling for greater local control of governmental affairs.
In addition, he reduced taxes and pressed for drastic reductions in federal spending in order to balance the budget.
Among important actions taken by the new administration were the removal of all wage and price controls, the creation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the expansion of Social Security benefits.
Domestic problems faced by the administration included rising living costs, budget deficits, and falling prices for agricultural commodities.
In its efforts to deal with the budget deficit, the administration attempted to cut back federal spending and submitted a balanced budget. In 1953 a moderate recession began, lasting until 1955.
The recession was brought to an end by the Revenue Act of 1954, which reduced taxes and eased credit. Eisenhower was also forced to increase federal spending through aid to highway and school construction.
Although the economy responded favorably and expanded at a modest rate, the crisis in agriculture worsened as huge surpluses developed despite flexible price-support and soil-conservation programs.
The Witchhunt Hunt for Communists
After the elections of 1952, public attention centered increasingly on the activities of Senator McCarthy.
Eisenhower was reluctant to enter the McCarthy controversy actively, and the senator took advantage of the administration’s silence to augment his own power.
He conducted numerous investigations into alleged Communist infiltration in government agencies, notably the State Department.
Many similar arbitrary investigations were also carried on throughout the nation by local authorities.
When McCarthy extended his inquiries to the U.S. Army, his irresponsible methods and accusations prompted the Senate to censure him in December 1954.
In the meantime the Supreme Court moved to correct some of the worst abuses in civil liberties of the postwar period, and several of its rulings limited public investigations into private beliefs and associations.
The fear instilled in people’s minds by what were called the McCarthy witch-hunts, however, lingered throughout the 1950s.
The Civil Rights Movement
The most urgent domestic issue of the period was the struggle of American blacks to end segregation and secure their full rights as citizens.
Congress had opposed Truman’s moderate civil rights program, and although the Eisenhower administration completed the desegregation of the government and armed forces, it was unwilling to initiate more radical programs. Blacks, led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, increasingly turned to the courts for assistance.
On May 17, 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren unanimously outlawed racial segregation in public schools.
This decision reversed the principle of "separate but equal" that had been the basis of black-white relations since the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.
Subsequent decisions in 1955 and 1956 called on local authorities to submit plans for desegregation and also ended racial segregation in intrastate transportation.
In many southern states, attempts were made to circumvent these rulings. In September 1957 Governor Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas defied the call to integrate when he ordered the National Guard to prevent nine black students from attending Central High School in Little Rock.
On September 23, following attacks by whites on black students and adults, President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to restore order and help black students attend school safely.
Despite advances in the border states, progress in desegregation was slow in the South, and by September 1960 only 765 of the 6676 southern school districts had been desegregated.
Meanwhile, many blacks became increasingly active in the civil rights movement.
In December 1955 clergyman Martin Luther King, Jr. led a highly effective boycott that resulted in desegregation of the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama.
Subsequently, a form of protest later known as the sit-in was widely used throughout the South to desegregate lunch counters and other public facilities.
Many other organizations and individuals actively worked for racial equality, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, and Rosa Parks.
Largely as a result of their activities, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, establishing a Civil Rights Commission to investigate the denial of voting rights or equal protection of the laws.
A subsequent act in 1960 authorized the courts to appoint officials to protect the voting rights of blacks and made the obstruction of court orders by threat of violence a federal offense.
Not withstanding the degree of the success of his policies, Eisenhower remained an immensely popular figure throughout his first administration.
However, he was unable to transfer his personal popularity to the Republican Party in general, and in 1954 it lost control of Congress. In 1956, despite a heart attack, Eisenhower announced that he would run for a second term.
The Democrats renominated Stevenson for the presidency and chose Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee as his running mate.
They campaigned vigorously for a "new America," for an end to the draft, and for the cessation of hydrogen bomb testing.
In the election, Eisenhower carried 41 states. The Democrats, however, retained control of both houses of Congress.
In January 1957 President Eisenhower submitted to Congress the third consecutive balanced budget of his administration.
Early in 1958 a nationwide recession began, and by midyear the downward trend of the economy had assumed major proportions.
The number of unemployed people rose in June to more than 5 million, the highest level since World War II.
The reluctance of the administration to move swiftly to curb the recession, as well as evidence of financial corruption within the administration, led to a major Democratic victory in the congressional elections of 1958.
By the end of 1958 the recession had been brought under control, and the value of U.S. manufactures returned to their prerecession levels.
In international finance, however, the excess of U.S. overseas expenditures in relation to receipts resulted in diminishing U.S. gold reserves, prompting Eisenhower to order overseas military spending reduced.
On January 3, 1959 Alaska was admitted to the Union as the 49th state, and Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state on August 21.
In the conduct of foreign affairs, Eisenhower relied heavily on his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles.
A veteran diplomat, Dulles believed that the "containment policy" was too passive.
He preferred the more dynamic policy of "massive retaliation" to be directed at either Moscow or Beijing in case of further Communist aggression anywhere in the world.
His apparent willingness to go "to the brink of war" to "roll back" Communism and "liberate" Eastern Europe earned his foreign policy the designation of "brinkmanship."
The concept of massive retaliation implied a reduction in conventional military forces, but placed greater emphasis on nuclear armaments and delivery systems.
The so-called arms race, which accompanied the Cold War, assumed formidable dimensions when the United States exploded the first hydrogen bomb in 1952 and the USSR duplicated the feat six months later.
Thereafter, while work continued on nuclear weapons and atomic tests, both sides concentrated on perfecting the means of delivering these bombs.
New long-range aircraft were developed, and by 1957 both nations had workable intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As a result, despite Eisenhower’s desire to reduce federal spending, defense and defense-related expenditures constituted approximately 50 percent of the annual budgets of his administration.
Crises in Southeast Asia
One specific accomplishment in foreign policy achieved by Eisenhower was the arrangement, on July 27, 1953, of an armistice in the Korean War.
In another international matter, the president increased military and economic aid to the French in Indochina, but he rejected suggestions by Dulles for the tactical use of nuclear weapons and for the intervention of U.S. troops in behalf of the French against the Communist-dominated Vietnamese nationalists.
An accord reached in Geneva in 1954 (which the United States refused to sign) resulted in the partition of Indochina and an eventual intensification of conflict in the region.
In 1954, in an attempt to prevent further Communist expansion in Asia, Dulles formed the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which included the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan.
The refusal of other Asian nations to join SEATO weakened the pact and prompted Dulles to condemn the neutralist policies of many developing nations. Nevertheless, Dulles followed a similar strategy in the Middle East, where the Baghdâd Pact (later Central Treaty Organization) was formed in 1955 for the military defense of the region.
A further consequence of the setback in Indochina was the strengthening of U.S. ties with Nationalist China (Taiwan), and in January 1955 Eisenhower obtained congressional approval for the defense of Taiwan and other Chinese islands.
A peace offensive by the USSR followed the death of Stalin in 1953.
One significant result of this movement was an East-West agreement on Austria, which became fully sovereign but neutral through an agreement signed on May 15, 1955.
Soviet and Western occupation forces were then withdrawn in the summer.
A similar Soviet proposal for Germany, however, was rejected by the United States.
In July Eisenhower met with the British, French, and Soviet heads of state at a summit conference in Geneva, but no progress was made on the questions of German reunification, disarmament, and other issues.
In late 1956, following a denunciation of Stalin by the Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev, anti-Soviet uprisings occurred in Poland and Hungary, and Khrushchev dispatched Russian troops to suppress the Hungarian revolt.
The United States condemned this action and admitted many Hungarian refugees into the United States, but made no effort to intervene directly in the crisis.
Also during this period a major crisis developed in the Middle East.
In July 1956 the United States, disturbed by apparent Communist influences on the Egyptian government of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, withdrew an offer to extend financial assistance to Egypt for the construction of a dam at Aswân on the Nile River.
A week later the Egyptian government assumed control of the Suez Canal, which had previously been operated by international authority, and announced that revenues from the operation of the canal would be used to finance construction of the dam.
In October the armed forces of Israel, France, and Britain invaded Egypt in order to restore international control of the canal.
In the UN Security Council, however, the U.S. government moved to censure the invaders and to demand the withdrawal of their troops.
Growing fear of Communism in the Middle East led Congress to adopt a joint resolution in March 1957, providing that U.S. military and economic aid might be supplied to threatened countries in the area that requested help.
The resolution, which was intended to supplement other U.S. defensive arrangements, became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine.
The doctrine was subsequently invoked to assist governments in Jordan and in Lebanon, where two battalions of U.S. Marines were landed near Beirut (Bayrût) on July 15 and 16, 1958, to prevent Communist intervention in a rebellion then in progress in that country.
Space Race: The Cold War Continues
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched an 83-kg (184-lb) earth satellite called Sputnik 1, and a second Soviet satellite carrying a living dog and weighing 507 kg (1120 lb) soon followed.
The launchings won almost universal praise in the United States and the rest of the world as outstanding scientific achievements.
At the same time, U.S. authorities recognized that the Soviet satellites, besides having propaganda value, reflected significant Soviet advances in the design and construction of rocket-propelled ballistic missiles.
The Soviet achievement therefore provoked nationwide debate, and many public figures urged a congressional probe of alleged U.S. backwardness in rocket and missile research and advocated sweeping reforms in the educational system in order to increase scientific personnel.
The U.S. missile program was intensified, and in January 1958 the U.S. Army launched the first U.S. earth satellite, Explorer 1.
China and the USSR
Confrontations with Communist China and the USSR continued throughout 1958. Early in September the Chinese Communists threatened the Nationalist-held islands of Chinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu off mainland China.
After a prolonged bombardment and repeated threats of invasion by the Chinese Communists, Eisenhower stated that the United States was determined to prevent Communist seizure of the islands.
In November Khrushchev demanded that the West negotiate an agreement for the unification of Berlin, proposing that West Berlin be made a "free city" independent of both East and West Germany.
He threatened to relinquish Soviet authority in East Berlin to the East German government if a final settlement were not reached within six months, but the proposal was rejected by the West.
Tensions eased, however, when Vice President Nixon visited Russia and Poland in the summer of 1959, and Khrushchev subsequently toured the United States, agreeing to postpone a settlement of the Berlin question.
On May 1, 1960, an American U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Russia while on a spy mission.
Two weeks later, at the Paris summit conference, Khrushchev demanded that Eisenhower formally apologize for this violation of Soviet air space.
When Eisenhower refused and lied about it, the conference was terminated.
In Latin America, growing resentment against U.S. policies became especially evident in Cuba, where a revolution led by Fidel Castro overthrew the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and resulted in the establishment of a Communist government.
When the United States refused to grant Castro a loan in 1959, he turned to the USSR for economic assistance, and the Eisenhower administration severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961.
In July 1960, the Democrats nominated Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts for president and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas for vice president.
The Republicans nominated Vice President Nixon for president and Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge as his running mate.
Nixon ran on the record of the Republican Eisenhower administration, whereas Kennedy criticized the conservative tendencies of the Republicans and promised a "new frontier."
The presidential campaign was highlighted by a series of television debates between the two candidates.
Kennedy won the election, becoming the first Roman Catholic and, at the age of 43, the youngest person ever to be elected to the presidency (Theodore Roosevelt had been 42 when he succeeded to the office).
In his inaugural address, President Kennedy called for social justice in domestic affairs and for a new era of forceful negotiations in foreign policy.
His first economic proposals were designed to counteract the effects of the recession by providing for increased federal spending and by establishing wage-price guidelines for business and labor.
Other measures furnished aid to economically depressed areas and increased the minimum wage for most workers engaged in interstate commerce.
To remedy the drain on U.S. gold reserves, caused largely by the continuing unfavorable balance of international trade, the administration imposed a restriction on spending by U.S. military personnel abroad and procured agreements by several foreign countries to advance repayment of various obligations owed to the United States.
Stressing the need for a U.S. trade policy to meet the challenge of the rapidly developing European Community (now called the European Union), Kennedy obtained authorization to cut U.S. tariffs on most imports by 50 percent over five years and to abolish tariffs on selected goods.
Many of his domestic programs, however, including proposals for a department of urban affairs and a plan of medical care for the aged, were defeated in Congress.
Seeking to control inflation, Kennedy in April 1962 forced several of the leading steel companies to rescind a price increase.
This action, which included a public denunciation of the increase and a threat of antitrust prosecutions, was considered by some as the cause of a business recession that lasted until 1963.
Among the principal items in Kennedy’s legislative program for that year was a substantial tax cut to stimulate the economy.
Civil rights problems were a major concern during the Kennedy administration. The president’s brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, pressed vigorously for an end to segregation in schools and for protection of minority voting rights.
A major racial incident occurred in the fall of 1962, when the attempt of a black student, James Meredith, to register at the University of Mississippi resulted in a campus riot.
To restore order, Kennedy placed the Mississippi National Guard under federal authority and ordered it to patrol the campus.
Kennedy also sent federal marshals to enforce desegregation at the University of Alabama, despite the active opposition of Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama.
Other racial violence included the murder of the civil rights worker Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, and the killing of four black girls in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Blacks and their white supporters continued demonstrating against violence and discrimination, notably in a gathering of more than 250,000 people in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963.
At this rally the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech. Largely as a result of these events, President Kennedy recommended broad civil rights legislation to outlaw discrimination in voting, education, and most areas of public accommodation and employment.
The measure was delayed in Congress throughout 1963.
On March 26, 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could review claims that state apportionment laws prevented equal weight being given to the votes of all citizens.
This decision brought about a reapportionment of voting districts in the many states where rural districts had held political dominance over more populous urban areas.
Also in 1962 the court ruled against the use of prayers and devotional readings in public schools.
In his foreign policies, Kennedy sought to formulate a new approach toward communism.
With the assistance of his secretary of defense, Robert S. McNamara, the president substituted a policy of "flexible response" for that of "massive retaliation."
He proposed extensive preparation for a limited war, with an expansion of conventional military forces and a further development of U.S. missile systems.
In April 1961 Kennedy authorized what was later known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, an attack on Cuba by anti-Castro Cuban exiles that had been planned under the Eisenhower administration.
The invasion attempt was turned back at the Bay of Pigs on the south coast of the island, and most of the invaders were killed or captured.
Kennedy was subsequently confronted with new Soviet demands regarding Berlin at a meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June.
In the months that followed Khrushchev revived his demand that Berlin be made a free city. In August the construction of a wall separating East Berlin from the West was begun.
The Soviets also resumed nuclear testing. Kennedy responded by placing the U.S. military on the alert and ordering resumption of nuclear testing.
By 1964 the United States had tripled its missile forces.
In Latin America, Kennedy worked to reverse the Truman-Eisenhower policy of military rather than economic aid.
He initiated the Alliance for Progress, a program that offered Latin American nations $20 billion to modernize their economies.
The Peace Corps, created on September 22, 1961, was another attempt to improve the U.S. image in Latin America and other areas of the world.
It sent teams of young Americans to work with people, share their way of life, and assist in development activities such as road building and improvement of farming methods.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
A major confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union began on October 22, 1962, when Kennedy announced that Soviet-supplied offensive missile bases were being built in Cuba and demanded that the USSR dismantle and remove the weapons.
At the same time, he declared that U.S. naval forces would enforce a quarantine of the island, intercepting and inspecting cargo on ships bound for Cuba to determine whether they included offensive weapons.
The OAS nations solidly supported the U.S. stand.
For several days, war seemed possible and at times imminent, but at the end of a week Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the bases and permit the United States on-site inspection in return for a U.S. guarantee not to invade Cuba.
Although Cuba refused to permit the inspection, U.S. aerial reconnaissance revealed that the bases were being disassembled.
In late December prisoners captured during the 1961 invasion attempt were released by Castro in exchange for American food and medical supplies valued at about $53 million.
Atomic Test Ban Treaty
Capitalizing on a Soviet desire to ease world tensions in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis and on the deteriorating relations between the USSR and Communist China, the United States in 1963 renewed negotiations with the latter.
On August 5 of that year the United States, Britain, and the USSR concluded a treaty to ban atomic testing in the atmosphere, in space, and underwater. Underground tests were not banned.
In addition, a "hot line" for communication between Washington, D.C., and Moscow was installed so that U.S. and Soviet government heads could contact each other directly in case of an international emergency.
During the summer Kennedy visited Western Europe to emphasize the interdependence of the United States and Europe and to give notice that the United States would not relinquish its commitments there.
The Vietnam War
While relations with the USSR improved, the situation in Southeast Asia deteriorated. At the Vienna conference in 1961 Kennedy and Khrushchev had agreed on the establishment of a neutralist government in Laos.
In South Vietnam, however, increased pressure by the Communist-dominated nationalists, who were supported by the Communist government of North Vietnam, led Kennedy to expand U.S. military aid for the government of Ngo Dinh Diem.
On November 1, 1963, Diem’s unpopular regime was deposed and Diem was assassinated with tacit U.S. approval. The succeeding military junta received immediate U.S. recognition.
President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
He was succeeded by Vice President Johnson.
The suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested almost immediately.
Before he could be questioned about the crime, Oswald himself was shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner who claimd to be distraught about the president’s assassination.
Because the killing of Oswald and the confusion of reported details about the shooting of the president gave rise to many doubts and rumors of a possible conspiracy, President Johnson appointed a commission headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the assassination.
In a report that has remained controversial, the commission discounted conspiracy theories in concluding that Oswald was the sole assassin..
N1 Legislative Activity
Vice President Johnson, who had been in Texas with President Kennedy, took the presidential oath of office on the plane that subsequently carried Kennedy’s body back to Washington, D.C. On November 27 he delivered his first presidential address before Congress, pledging his support for the established lines of foreign policy and urging speedy enactment of the civil rights and tax bills initiated by Kennedy.
The first months of Johnson’s administration were marked by virtually unparalleled legislative activity. In late February 1964 Congress passed a bill that substantially reduced individual income and corporate taxes over a two-year period. In August the president secured passage of an extensive antipoverty program to provide youth-training projects, aid to farm families, community projects, and other means of easing economic distress. A civil rights law passed on July 2 prohibited discrimination in the use of federal funds and in public accommodations and set up an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent discrimination in the job market. The 24th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on January 23, 1964, prohibited imposition of any poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aided voter registration by blacks. See Poll Tax.
N2 Johnson Elected In 1964 the Democrats nominated Johnson as their candidate for president, with Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota as his running mate. The Republicans nominated Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona and Representative William Miller of New York. In the campaign, Johnson amplified his vision of a "great society" for the United States. Goldwater urged a general reduction in the role of the federal government and advocated a strongly anti-Communist foreign policy. Johnson won the election, and the Democratic majority increased in both the Senate and the House.
In January 1965 Johnson outlined a wide-ranging domestic program. During the year Congress enacted most of his proposals, including aid to education, grants for medical research, housing and urban renewal programs, antipoverty activities, an excise tax cut, federal enforcement of voting rights, and medical care for the aged. In 1966 however, extended debate resulted in the defeat of a major civil rights bill forbidding discrimination in housing and of a bill permitting states to enact right-to-work laws. The Senate also voted, in effect, to annul a provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that required desegregation of hospitals.
In 1966 the Supreme Court decided that the use of the poll tax as a state voting prerequisite was unconstitutional and, in Miranda v. Arizona, declared self-incriminating statements to be inadmissible as evidence if the prisoner had not been warned of his or her rights. The 25th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on February 10, 1967, established procedures for succession of the vice president in cases of presidential disability and for the appointment of a vice president when that office becomes vacant.
N3 Domestic and Foreign Crises
Discontent and impatience among blacks became especially evident in the summer of 1965, when a severe riot occurred in Watts, a predominantly black section of Los Angeles. Disturbances occurred in 1967 in more than 30 cities. The president subsequently appointed a commission, headed by the former governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner, to investigate the causes of these civil disturbances. The report of the commission, issued in 1968, warned of the increasing racial polarization in the United States.
In foreign affairs, the Johnson administration was confronted by a number of crises, beginning in Latin America. A serious dispute arose between the United States and Panama over the control of the Panama Canal, and, after anti-American riots in Panama, a new treaty for the operation of the canal was negotiated. In 1965 the threat of civil war in the Dominican Republic led Johnson to dispatch 22,000 U.S. troops to that country to protect the lives of U.S. citizens living there and to prevent the establishment of a Communist-dominated government. The intervention aroused anti-American sentiment throughout the hemisphere and provoked much criticism within the United States. Another crisis in the Middle East, followed by a war between Israel and several Arab nations in June 1967 (see Six-Day War), set off an intensive round of diplomatic maneuvers that culminated in a meeting in June of President Johnson and Soviet Premier Aleksey N. Kosygin at Glassboro, New Jersey. In response to Soviet aid for the Arab nations and growing Soviet influence in the Mediterranean, the United States increased its military aid to Israel.
N4 The Vietnam Controversy
Johnson’s principal problem in foreign affairs was the Vietnam War. During 1964 he continued Kennedy’s policy of sending military "advisers" to assist the military forces of South Vietnam, but undertook no further escalation of the conflict. In the presidential election of 1964, Senator Goldwater advocated increased U.S. involvement, including the bombing of North Vietnam, and Johnson opposed further escalation of the war. In the same year, however, Johnson reported an attack by the North Vietnamese on U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin, and sent to Congress a resolution authorizing the president to increase U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia. The measure was passed by both houses. By 1967 the United States was bombing virtually the whole of North Vietnam and had committed nearly 500,000 troops to the war. Johnson’s policy of escalation precipitated a great public debate at home, which was intensified in January 1968, during the so-called Tet Offensive, when the North Vietnamese interrupted an unofficial truce with a series of offensive strikes. The U.S. commander, General William C. Westmoreland, thereupon called for an additional 206,000 troops. Johnson, responding to critics of the war within his own administration and throughout the United States, refused the request and subsequently relieved Westmoreland of his command. Another Asian crisis also occurred in January, when the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo was seized by naval forces of North Korea. After lengthy negotiations, the crew was released late in 1968.
The war would continue to exert its divisive influence on every aspect of national life until the end of U.S. involvement in 1973. Reflecting increasing dissatisfaction with Johnson’s conduct of the war, Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota announced his intention to challenge the president for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. In the primary election in New Hampshire in March 1968, McCarthy received 44 percent of the vote against a candidate representing Johnson. McCarthy’s surprisingly strong showing was taken as an indication of the strength of the antiwar movement. The primary was followed by Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s announcement that he, too, would become a presidential candidate.
In a television address on March 31, Johnson announced that he was suspending the bombing of North Vietnam as a means of furthering negotiations for the conclusion of the war. He also declared that he would not be a candidate for the presidency in 1968. His administration was thereafter marked by a series of domestic disorders. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee, precipitated a new wave of riots in Washington, D.C., and several other cities. Severe disturbances by students at Columbia University and other educational institutions aroused considerable controversy over the use of police to control such disturbances. Then on June 5 Robert Kennedy was shot after winning the Democratic primary election in California; he died the next day.
N5 Nixon Elected President At the Republican national convention in August, Richard Nixon was nominated for president, with Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as the vice-presidential candidate. The Democratic convention in Chicago was marked by vehement conflicts and outbursts of violence between supporters and critics of Johnson’s policies. Vice President Humphrey received the presidential nomination, and Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine was selected as the vice-presidential candidate. Nixon campaigned on a platform calling for a restoration of social stability, and he won with some difficulty. A third candidate, the former governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, running largely on regional issues, emerged as the head of the newly formed American Independent Party.
When President Nixon took office in 1969, his approach to domestic affairs was similar to that of President Eisenhower. Calling his program the "new federalism," Nixon sought to limit the power of the federal government and to aid state and local authorities in fulfilling their responsibilities. Accordingly, one of Nixon’s first legislative proposals was a revenue-sharing program by which federal taxes would be partly redistributed to state and local governments to help them cope with their mounting financial problems. The president also recommended a drastic reorganization of welfare programs and proposed the establishment of a minimum federal standard of welfare assistance. To counteract the inflation that had developed during the 1960s, he called for a reduction in government expenditures but for about two years rejected suggestions for wage and price controls.
N6 Supreme Court Appointments Nixon’s interest in law and order was expressed in his appointments to the Supreme Court and in crime legislation. The Court had two vacancies in his first year in office. To replace the retiring Earl Warren, he nominated Warren E. Burger of Minnesota, a judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, who took office as chief justice of the United States in June 1969. His first two nominations for the seat vacated by Associate Justice Abe Fortas were defeated in the Senate, but Harry A. Blackmun of Minnesota, a judge on the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court, was confirmed on May 12, 1970. The resignations of Hugo Black and John M. Harlan in 1971 gave Nixon the unusual opportunity to select another two justices. Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a Virginia lawyer, and William H. Rehnquist of Arizona, an assistant U.S. attorney general, were approved late in the year. The president considered his four appointees "strict constructionists" who would restrict their rulings to the judicial interpretation of the Constitution without attempting to make the Supreme Court an arbiter of the country’s social trends and economic patterns.
N7 Administrative Actions
Government reorganization proceeded at an uneven pace. In 1970 the first postal strike in U.S. history was followed by the organization of the Postal Service to replace the 180-year-old Post Office Department. To meet increasing problems of air and water pollution and of general atmospheric conditions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was established within the Commerce Department in October 1970, and the Environmental Protection Agency was set up in December. The Office of Consumer Affairs was established in February 1971 to coordinate federal programs of consumer protection.
The U.S. program of space exploration was marked by several major accomplishments during the Nixon administration, notably the first landing on the moon, by the crew of Apollo 11, on July 20, 1969, after many years of painstaking preparations.
N8 The Continuing Vietnam War
Early in his administration, the president outlined a foreign policy based on a "low profile" and on reductions in the U.S. role abroad. The Vietnam War, however, continued, and so did inflation, which many blamed on the war. Wages and prices spiraled, although some economists argued that the price increases exceeded the wage increases. The cost of military equipment for allies abroad, in NATO and in Asia, made money short for domestic programs.
The interaction of domestic and foreign affairs influenced the 1970 congressional elections. Despite vigorous personal campaigning, President Nixon and Vice President Agnew were unable to upset the Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and the Republicans also lost 11 gubernatorial elections. The 92nd Congress set its own priorities. Among its attempts to limit the war-making powers of the president was a campaign against the extension of the military draft (see Selective Service).
N8a The Kent State Killings
In the United States, rising civilian dismay with the Vietnamese conflict led to many protests frequently resulting in direct confrontations between the demonstrators, often college students, and National Guard troops. After the U.S. incursion into Cambodia in search of Communist sanctuaries, students at Kent State University in Ohio demonstrated against the war in May 1970, and four of them were killed by National Guard troops. Ultimately, 500 campuses experienced student strikes and were closed for a considerable time. The police throughout the nation faced accusations of brutality; in the few cases in which local authorities instituted investigations, these allegations were seldom proved conclusively. A number of public buildings were bombed, notably the U.S. Capitol in March 1971. Elsewhere, bomb threats and arson were not uncommon occurrences.
President Nixon announced that he intended to "wind down" the war through a policy of "Vietnamization," or replacement of U.S. troops by South Vietnamese forces trained and equipped by the United States. Nixon withdrew more than 350,000 U.S. troops from the war zone; by the end of 1971 fewer than 175,000 remained. The peace talks that had been instituted by President Johnson at Paris were continued, but with no result, and the Communists continued in their refusal to discuss the freeing of U.S. captives. Congress, nevertheless, attempted to make the president move faster. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was withdrawn in November 1970, and Congress tried to limit funds for conduct of the war by various parliamentary means. However, Nixon ordered the resumption of large-scale bombing of North Vietnamese supply trails and antiaircraft defenses late in 1971.
N9 Other Foreign Affairs In the Middle East, the uneasy peace frequently was broken by Arab guerrilla adventures and Israeli counterthrusts in full force. But Egyptian-Israeli confrontations across the Suez Canal reached only minor proportions because the parties largely observed a cease-fire, beginning in August 1970, arranged at the urging of U.S. negotiators. Soviet missiles were added to Egyptian defenses, but the United States did not add substantially to Israeli equipment.
Relations with the USSR improved, at least in the opinion of some political observers. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), begun in 1969, continued into 1972. In May, during President Nixon’s state visit to Moscow, two agreements between the United States and the USSR were signed. One agreement limited antiballistic missile systems, and the other put restrictions on offensive missile launchers.
An agreement for unlimited access through East Germany to West Berlin was negotiated by France, Britain, the United States, and the USSR in the summer of 1971. Meanwhile, in November 1969 the United States signed a treaty calling for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Then on February 11, 1971, the United States signed a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and the testing of them, on the ocean floor.
President Nixon resumed the personal diplomacy of previous presidents. He traveled to Romania and other countries soon after his inauguration. Then he visited Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, and other countries in the fall of 1970, and he met the emperor of Japan in Alaska in September 1971. However, he left his most ambitious efforts for later. In July 1971 Henry A. Kissinger, Nixon’s adviser on national security, went secretly to Beijing to arrange a meeting between the president and the leaders of the People’s Republic of China. President Nixon went to Beijing in February 1972, and parts of his visit were transmitted by television throughout the world. According to the president, "there were no secret deals" but the two countries did agree to "expand cultural, educational and journalistic contacts" and "to begin and broaden trade."
The October 1971 meeting of the United Nations brought a breach in U.S. relations with Asian allies. Until Nixon’s historic meeting, Taiwan had constituted the sole Chinese representation in the UN. Once the Nixon visit to Beijing was announced, the members of the UN no longer felt constrained to keep Communist China from occupying the Security Council seat allotted to China. Thus, the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the UN. Despite an attempt by the United States to keep the Nationalist Chinese representatives in the UN, Taiwan was expelled from all organizations in the UN.
At the end of 1971 a brief war between India and Pakistan over the autonomy of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) damaged U.S. relations with India, as the United States "tilted" toward Pakistan.
N10 The Pentagon Papers
Domestic and foreign relations were again intertwined in the summer of 1971. In June the administration clashed with several major newspapers on its right to enforce "prior restraint," or censorship, on their publication of the so-called Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers were excerpts from a classified Defense Department history of U.S. participation in the Vietnam War. The newspapers, primarily the New York Times and the Washington Post, claimed the protection of the First Amendment and declared it their public duty to publish the information on how decisions concerning U.S. involvement in Vietnam were reached. Government-obtained injunctions were appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices voted 6 to 3 that the government was unable to stop publication of any information, no matter how embarrassing diplomatically, when national security was not involved. Criminal prosecution was started immediately against Daniel Ellsberg, a former civilian employee in the Department of Defense. One of the compilers of the history, Ellsberg was the person who supplied the documents to the newspapers and to several congressional representatives. Ellsberg was charged with violating the Espionage Act and for theft of government property. The trial was called off during jury deliberations because of revelations of unfair practices by the prosecution.
N11 Economic Measures In July 1971, for the first year in the century, it appeared that the United States would import more merchandise than it exported. Consequently it faced a severe deficit in its balance of payments. A federal budget deficit of about $20 billion was projected for fiscal 1971. In August a crisis in world monetary stability was evident, and the value of the dollar was threatened for the second time in a year.
On August 15, President Nixon announced a new economic policy to bolster the country’s economic position at home and abroad. Reversing his previous refusal to impose price and wage controls, he announced a three-month freeze on wages, prices, and rents. He suspended redemption of dollars in gold and imposed a 10-percent surcharge on imported goods. He established a Cost of Living Council to set up guidelines for labor and management and to establish machinery for enforcement.
Abroad, the monetary exchanges were temporarily thrown into confusion, but trading resumed, and revaluations were achieved by "floating" certain currencies, among them the Japanese yen and the West German mark. Finally, after a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and hard bargaining within the so-called Group of Ten (ten major industrial nations), the United States, in December 1971, agreed to raise the price of gold slightly and, for the first time since the 1930s, to devalue the dollar by about 8.6 percent. The import surcharge was rescinded at the time. The dollar was later devalued by another 10 percent in February 1973.
The end of the 90-day freeze in November 1971 was followed by the institution of a program of controlled increases in prices, wages, and rents, called Phase II. A Pay Board and a Price Commission were set up to establish guidelines and oversee compliance to reduce inflation. In January 1973 Phase III of the economic program was begun. Price and wage increases were allowed, but the government retained sufficient power to intercede if increases exceeded prescribed guidelines.
N12 Nixon Reelected Meanwhile, on November 7, 1972, President Nixon won reelection in an overwhelming victory over the Democratic Party candidate, Senator George S. McGovern of South Dakota. The president received 520 electoral votes, McGovern, 17 (those of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia). The 26th Amendment to the Constitution had been passed on June 30, 1971, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote; this marked the first election in which the amendment took effect. As President Nixon’s second term began, a cease-fire agreement was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973, making possible the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. For all practical purposes, the longest and most controversial war in U.S. history was over.
O Watergate and After
Shortly after Nixon’s second inauguration in January 1973, revelations rapidly mounted concerning an illegal wiretap and attempted burglary that had occurred during the presidential campaign on June 17, 1972, at the national headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate building complex in Washington, D.C. Five people working for the Republican Committee for the Re-election of the President were arrested on the scene. The subsequent indictments, trials, and investigations implicated high members of the Nixon administration in the planning of the break-in. The name Watergate became synonymous with a series of illegal, unethical, and irregular acts committed by members of the administration. The United States was faced with a succession of political and economic crises in the next few years. Vice President Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973, after being indicted for bribery and federal income tax evasion. According to the provisions of the 25th Amendment, Nixon appointed Gerald R. Ford, a U.S. congressman from Michigan, to fill Agnew’s position. Ford was sworn in as the 40th vice president on December 6, 1973.
On the economic front, the unabated rise in the cost of living caused serious concern throughout the nation. The government’s wage and price program was revised in June 1973, essentially to reimpose the freeze on prices and wages first established in August 1971. Phase IV, announced on August 13, 1973, relaxed price and wage controls in some industries and imposed controls in others. It expired April 30, 1974, leaving only the petroleum industry controlled.
O1 Détente In foreign affairs, the policy of détente between the United States and the USSR was continued. Leonid Brezhnev and President Nixon exchanged visits in 1973 and 1974. They signed agreements calling for joint cooperation in oceanography, transportation, agriculture, and for expanded cultural exchange programs. Détente suffered a setback during a renewed outbreak of Arab-Israeli hostilities in October 1973, when the Kremlin supported the Arabs and the United States supported Israel (see Arab-Israeli War of 1973). The two superpowers cooperated, however, in bringing about agreements on a cease-fire and disengagement of forces between Israel and Egypt in January 1974, and between Israel and Syria in May. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger played a key role in achieving these settlements.
O2 Nixon’s Resignation
From the fall of 1973 through the summer of 1974, the evidence steadily mounted that President Nixon himself was implicated in the Watergate burglary and its attempted cover-up. Evidence of other lawless acts committed by the administration followed. As a result, by the beginning of August 1974 the president was faced with imminent impeachment. He resigned on August 9, becoming the first president of the United States to do so. Vice President Ford, who succeeded him immediately, became the first person to serve without having been elected either to the vice presidency or the presidency. One of the new president’s first official actions was to pardon his predecessor for any crimes that he might have committed while in office. Against the public outcry that the pardon provoked, Ford contended that it was a means of "putting Watergate behind us." Ford was partly successful in restoring the badly shaken confidence in the presidency, but several months passed before Congress confirmed Nelson A. Rockefeller as the 41st vice president. Rockefeller was sworn in on December 19, 1974.
O3 The Ford Administration Ford was confronted with a number of domestic and international problems. The worldwide recession was deepening, and the United States was experiencing its highest unemployment and inflation rates in decades. As a result of the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had imposed an embargo on oil shipments to the United States and other industrial nations in the winter of 1973 and 1974. Oil prices had quadrupled in a few months, intensifying the international monetary crisis. The impetus toward peace in the Middle East had slowed, and an outbreak of hostilities in Cyprus in 1974 threatened the existence of NATO, as two of its members, Greece and Turkey, were opponents in Cyprus and suspended cooperation with the organization.
Meanwhile, the sudden resurgence of war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the subsequent Communist victory, and the concurrent expulsion of the United States from Southeast Asia in the spring of 1975 weakened confidence in U.S. strength and in its loyalty to its allies.
Contending with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress as a result of the 1974 midterm elections, Ford was unable to win approval for his legislative programs to fight inflation and increase energy resources. He continued to support Secretary of State Kissinger’s "shuttle diplomacy" in the Middle East, but in June 1975 he assumed a new diplomatic initiative of his own. Traveling to Europe, he conferred personally with European heads of state, as well as with President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt.
In 1975 the United States began to emerge from the recession that had begun in 1973. The country’s unemployment rate remained high, however, and many automobile and construction workers were without jobs. Some state and local governments had difficulty balancing their budgets; New York City, for instance, needed federal assistance to remain solvent.
O4 Carter Elected
In July 1976 Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia and a newcomer to national politics, gained the Democratic presidential nomination. In the November elections Carter and his running mate, Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota, narrowly defeated the Republican candidates, President Ford and Senator Robert J. Dole of Kansas. The Democrats maintained their strong majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Following his inauguration in January 1977, Carter drew up a wide-ranging legislative program, much of which received severe criticism in Congress. In April the president offered a package of complicated legislation designed to reduce the nation’s consumption of petroleum by encouraging the use of power sources such as coal and solar energy. The Senate altered much of the package, which was finally passed in November 1978. Carter had some success in his effort to streamline the federal bureaucracy, however, and in October 1977 a new Department of Energy began operations. The national unemployment rate fell, but the rate of inflation increased. As prices increased, so did taxes. California voters responded by passing Proposition 13, a legislative initiative that sharply reduced property taxes in the state, and people in other parts of the nation also called for lower taxes.
O5 The Carter Administration
In foreign affairs, Carter strongly criticized the governments of the USSR and other countries for violating the human rights of their citizens. In September 1977 the president signed treaties giving Panama control of the Panama Canal by the year 2000. After heated debate, the treaties were ratified by the Senate in early 1978. The administration also attempted to mediate a peace settlement in the Middle East. In September 1978 Carter hosted a conference at Camp David, near Washington, D.C., with the leaders of Egypt and Israel. The meeting produced a framework for negotiations that resulted in a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in March 1979. On another front, by January 1979 the United States had established full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
O5a The Hostage Crisis
In November 1979, after Carter had allowed the deposed shah of Iran to enter the United States for medical treatment, a group of Iranian revolutionists stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehrân and held 53 staff members as hostages. When the United States refused the captors’ demand for the shah’s extradition, a stalemate ensued. In April 1980 Carter ordered an airborne rescue attempt that failed. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the rescue mission, subsequently resigned. Meanwhile, in January 1980, the United States had restricted trade with the USSR in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Also in protest, the United States refused to ratify the U.S.-Soviet strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II).
O5b The Economy In 1979 and 1980 the economic situation deteriorated. As U.S. imports continued to exceed exports, the dollar declined. The annual inflation rate rose to more than 10 percent. The automotive industry, for decades a mainstay of the economy, suffered losses due to foreign imports, and the Chrysler Corporation needed federal loan guarantees to forestall bankruptcy.
O6 The 1980 Election President Carter defeated a challenge from Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and won his party’s nomination to run for reelection in 1980. The Republicans nominated a conservative, former screen actor and governor of California Ronald W. Reagan. Republican Congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois ran as an independent. The Democrats, blamed by many for the declining economy and the Iranian hostage crisis—which was not resolved until January 1981—lost in every section of the country. Reagan and his running mate, George Herbert Walker Bush, won 51 percent of the popular vote to 41 percent for Carter and 7 percent for Anderson. The Republicans won control of the Senate for the first time in nearly 30 years, and Jimmy Carter became the first elected president to lose his bid for reelection since Herbert Hoover in 1932.
O7 The Reagan Administration
President Reagan’s announced intentions were to lower taxes, to reduce government spending and regulations, and to strengthen the defense establishment. Reagan recovered fully from a March 1981 assassination attempt, and his program maintained momentum. In the following months, Congress enacted the largest tax cut in U.S. history, reduced spending by sharply curtailing aid to the poor and to state and local governments, and increased the defense budget. At the same time the Federal Reserve Board kept interest rates high in an attempt to reduce the money supply and thus curb inflation. This policy slowed economic activity, which lowered government tax revenues. This lower tax yield, combined with the high interest rates the government itself had to pay to borrow money, frustrated Reagan’s plan to bring spending under control. The federal deficit mounted. The recession of 1981-1982 drove the national unemployment rate above 10 percent for the first time since 1940, and the number of business failures reached its highest level since 1932. The poor economy helped Democrats to gain seats in the 1982 congressional election.
In foreign relations, President Reagan and his secretary of state, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., continued to move away from détente with the USSR. In mid-1982, George P. Shultz replaced Haig. American peacekeeping forces in Lebanon suffered heavy casualties in terrorist bombings in 1983, and Reagan withdrew the marines in February 1984.
Reagan ordered a surprise invasion of the island of Grenada in October 1983. The immediate purpose was the rescue of U.S. medical students from political turmoil, but the administration also cited requests for help from Grenada’s Caribbean neighbors. In Central America, Reagan backed government forces in El Salvador but supported guerrillas against the Nicaraguan government. Relations with the USSR worsened in 1983 after Reagan announced an antiballistic missile defense system against nuclear attack. This Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which became known as "Star Wars," was based on the concept of deterrence through the threat of retaliation. Although many experts believed SDI was impractical, the program would linger and garner financing until 1993.
Economic issues dominated the 1984 presidential campaign. On the Democratic side, former Vice President Mondale won a bruising primary battle. He defeated Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, who had stressed the need for "new ideas," and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the first black to win a party presidential primary. Mondale selected as his vice-presidential running mate Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro, the first woman to run for such high office on a major party ticket. Reagan and Bush captured 59 percent of the vote, carrying 49 states and 525 electoral votes.
Just before the elections, the Soviets had signaled their desire for a new opening on arms control. Two summits were held, in November 1985 and October 1986, between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The U.S. space program suffered a severe setback when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after lift-off on January 28, 1986, killing the seven crew members on board (see Challenger Disaster). In April the United States launched a major air strike against Libya in retaliation for terrorist attacks against Americans elsewhere. In June, Chief Justice Burger announced his retirement, and Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist replaced him in September.
Interim elections in November returned control of the Senate to the Democrats. The Reagan administration was further weakened during 1987 by continued budget and trade deficits and by a congressional investigation into the U.S. sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of profits from the sale to support the Nicaraguan rebels (see Iran-Contra Affair). This affair represented the worst political scandal in the United States since Watergate in the early 1970s. On October 19, 1987, the stock market suffered its worst one-day loss in history, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 508 points, or 22.6 percent (see Black Monday). The nation’s budget and trade deficits continued to exceed $100 billion annually. In December Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty to eliminate the two nations’ medium-range and certain shorter-range missiles. During 1988 Congress ratified the treaty, toughened civil rights laws, and authorized reparations for Japanese Americans interned during World War II.
O8 The 1988 Election
Vice President Bush defeated several challengers, notably Senator Robert Dole, to win the Republican presidential nomination. In the Democratic primary campaign, Governor Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts outlasted civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Bush and his vice-presidential choice, Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, were able to capitalize on the peace-and-prosperity issue. With a popular-vote majority of 54 to 46 percent, Bush became the first incumbent vice president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected president. In the Senate and House, however, the Democrats increased their majorities.
O9 The Bush Administration
Among the challenges facing President Bush when he took office on January 20, 1989, were the federal trade and budget deficits, the insolvent savings and loan system, and the Soviet diplomatic offensive in Europe. One of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history took place on March 24, when the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling nearly 11 million gallons of oil. In June, Jim Wright became the first Speaker of the House to resign because of ethical misconduct charges. A measure to bail out the ailing savings institutions was enacted in August. Responding to rapid political changes in Eastern Europe, Bush offered aid to Poland and Hungary during his visits there in July. In December more than 24,000 troops invaded Panama to oust the regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega, wanted in the United States on drug trafficking charges. During summit meetings in December 1989 and late May and early June 1990, Bush and Gorbachev agreed to end production of chemical weapons and reduce existing stockpiles. In mid-1990 the U.S. economy entered a recession. Bush reneged on his pledge of "no new taxes" in accepting a five-year deficit-reduction package passed by Congress in October. Two new Supreme Court justices, David H. Souter, appointed in 1990, and Clarence Thomas, appointed in 1991, solidified the conservative majority.
In August 1990 Iraq, led by President Saddam Hussein, invaded and annexed Kuwait. During 1990 and 1991, the United States took the lead in ousting Iraq from Kuwait. More than 500,000 U.S. troops served with allied forces during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, suffering remarkably few casualties while crushing Iraqi resistance. In April, U.S. troops intervened in northern Iraq to protect Kurdish refugees from Iraqi government reprisals. U.S. diplomatic activity then centered on a joint effort with the USSR toward peace in the Middle East. After the USSR and Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991-1992, the United States recognized nearly all their former constituent republics.
One of the worst riots in U.S. history erupted in Los Angeles in April 1992 after the acquittal of four white police officers charged with the videotaped beating 13 months earlier of a black suspect, Rodney King. Fifty-eight people died in the rioting, and property damage exceeded $750 million. In a second Rodney King trial (April 17), two of the four police officers were found guilty. In May a 203-year-old measure restricting the power of Congress to raise the salaries of its members became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. A devastating hurricane struck south Florida in August; 41 people died and property damage totaled about $20 billion.
O10 The 1992 and 1996 Elections
In the 1992 presidential race, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas emerged as the Democratic nominee. In the general election campaign, Bush and Vice President Quayle attacked Clinton as untrustworthy and inexperienced, while Clinton and his vice-presidential running mate, Al Gore, accused Bush of mishandling the economy and neglecting other domestic problems. Clinton became the first Democrat to win a presidential election since 1976, garnering a popular-vote plurality of about 43 percent; Bush received 38 percent; and independent candidate H(enry) Ross Perot, running as a fiscal reformer, received 19 percent.
During the 1996 presidential campaign, Clinton ran for reelection against Robert Dole, a longtime senator from Kansas. Clinton campaigned on the need to control the federal budget deficit and reform campaign financing. He also proposed plans for additional environmental programs, tax credits for college tuition, and a capital gains tax cut. Dole, the Republican nominee, ran on the issue of a 15 percent tax cut. In the November 1996 Clinton defeated Dole with 49.2 percent of the popular vote, compared to Dole’s 40.8 percent. Ross Perot ran as a candidate of the Reform Party but only won 8.5 percent of the vote. In the electoral college votes, Clinton received 379 to Dole’s 159.
O11 The Clinton Administrations
O11a Domestic Issues
During President Clinton’s first months in office, he launched many initiatives for domestic change. He sought to end the ban on the rights of homosexuals to serve in the military, but his plan was modified when it met strong opposition in Congress and the Department of Defense. In addition, he appointed First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to head a task force on health care reform. However, the health care package met strong resistance in Congress and did not pass. A few of Clinton’s domestic programs that were enacted during his first term included a family-leave bill for employees and a national service program called Americorps. Americorps provided students with money for college or technical training in return for community service work. A major anticrime bill was also passed in December 1994 that authorized expenditures for law enforcement, prisons, and prevention programs, and banned assault weapons. In addition, Clinton appointed two new Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Amid a decline in popularity for Clinton and Democrats in general, the Republicans recorded a victory in the midterm elections of November 1994. The Republican Party gained control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1954. During the campaign, the Republicans advocated the "Contract with America," a conservative platform that called for tax cuts, welfare reform, term limits for federal legislators, a balanced-budget amendment, and increases in defense spending. As the 104th session of Congress began in 1995, Republican Newt Gingrich of Georgia became Speaker of the House, and Republican Robert Dole of Kansas became majority leader of the Senate.
The Republican congressional majorities and Clinton had difficulty reaching consensus during 1995 and 1996. For example, Clinton and the Republicans in Congress were unable to agree on a 1996 budget for the federal government, and, as a result, government operations were partially shutdown on two occasions. In April 1996 Clinton and Congress agreed on a federal budget that included Republican budget cuts, especially in housing, labor, and arts programs, but preserved some of Clinton’s programs such as Americorps. Two pieces of major legislation that were passed with the support of both Congress and the president were the presidential line-item veto and telecommunications bill. The line-item veto would have allowed the president to veto individual items in appropriations bills but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in June 1998. The telecommunications bill restructured the television and telephone industries by allowing for more competition. The bill also outlawed pornography on the Internet.
In 1996 Clinton and Congress also agreed on the passage of a terrorism bill, after the Clinton administration supported the passage of a bill designed to help law enforcement officials fight terrorism. The bill increased funding for antiterrorism activities and made it easier to deport aliens suspected of terrorism. The bill was passed partly in response to the deadliest terrorist bombing in the history of the United States. In April 1995 a bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, largely destroying the building and causing at least 168 deaths. In June 1997 Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. Army sergeant, was found guilty of the Oklahoma City bombing.
In August 1996 Clinton signed three bills that Congress had approved earlier. The new laws included an increase in the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.15; a measure making it easier for workers to transfer their health insurance between employers; and a controversial welfare bill. Clinton had vetoed two previous welfare bills passed by Congress. The bill that he signed included provisions to limit benefits to five years, require adult recipients to work after two years, and limit some welfare programs and food stamps to legal immigrants.
After the 1996 elections, the Republicans retained their control of both houses of Congress. As a result, Clinton and Congress again disagreed about the federal budget and how to reduce the budget deficit. In May 1997 they reached an agreement on how to balance the federal budget in five years. In August 1997 Clinton signed bipartisan bills to balance the federal budget. The agreement to balance the budget, the first since 1969, held out the possibility that the federal deficit could be eliminated by the year 2002 if the economy continues to perform strongly.
During its first and second terms, the Clinton administration had to contend with multiple investigations of the president, the first lady, cabinet members, and others in the administration. The investigations resulted in seven independent counsels—a nongovernment lawyer appointed to investigate high-level government officials. .
O11b Foreign Affairs Before Clinton took office in January 1993, he supported President Bush’s signing of the START II nuclear disarmament treaty with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Also in 1993, the United States sent troops to Somalia to help protect food and supplies that were intended for starving civilians. However, when U.S. soldiers came under attack from the various factions in the civil war, the U.S. involvement became unpopular among Americans. The troops were withdrawn by March 1994, and the United Nations (UN) took control of the peacekeeping operation. The operation was ended in March 1995 when U.S. troops returned to Somalia to aid in the withdrawal of the remaining UN forces.
Both in the Middle East and the former Yugoslavia, the United States was instrumental in helping negotiate peace agreements. At the White House in September 1993, Clinton hosted the signing of a historic peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat in attendance. He also oversaw the signing of an agreement between Israel and Jordan at the White House in July 1994. In addition, in November 1995 the United States led peace talks between the Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats in Dayton, Ohio, in hopes of resolving the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The talks led to the Dayton peace accord signed by all parties. As part of the agreement, Clinton pledged to send American soldiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help lead the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in providing humanitarian aid and policing a zone between the factions.
In Asia, trade relations between the United States and China became strained during the 1990s because of disagreements over human rights practices and copyright privacy. The United States threatened to suspend China’s most-favored-nation trading status, but it was repeatedly renewed. In November 1997 Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States. Some observers said the visit was the most significant step toward closer U.S.-China relations since 1989 when China’s crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrators cooled relations. In 1994 Clinton announced the end of a 19-year trade embargo against Vietnam, and in July 1995, more than 20 years after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States extended full diplomatic recognition to Vietnam. In May 1997 the United States appointed its first ambassador to Vietnam since 1975.
In Africa, Clinton and the First Lady made a six-nation tour in April 1998. It was the most extensive visit to Africa made by a sitting president, and the first time a U.S. president visited South Africa. Clinton’s journey was intended to showcase African success stories and promote trade and investment.
In the Americas, the United States worked to aid both Haiti and Mexico. In September 1994 the United States was prepared to launch a military invasion of Haiti to restore to power Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted in a military coup in 1991. Military confrontation was averted at the last minute, largely due to the diplomatic efforts of former president Jimmy Carter, who negotiated Aristide’s peaceful return. The UN then assumed control of the situation in Haiti. The United States also came to the support of Mexico when the currency of Mexico, the peso, began to drop in value in early 1995. Clinton created a $20 billion loan package for Mexico to help restore the Mexican economy. In January 1997 Mexico announced that it had completed its loan payments to the United States, three years early.
In contrast to the U.S. support in Mexico and Haiti, relations between the United States and Cuba worsened during the Clinton administration. In February 1996 Cuba shot down two civilian planes from the United States, claiming that they were violating Cuban air space. The United States tightened its sanctions against Cuba through such measures as prohibiting all flights from the United States to Cuba in an effort to hurt Cuba’s tourist industry. The U.S. Congress also passed the Helms-Burton Act, named after its two sponsors, Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Dan Burton. This act allowed American citizens to sue foreign companies investing in properties that had been seized from Americans during the Cuban Revolution. Other countries, including Mexico, Canada, and members of the European Union (EU) protested. As a result, Clinton suspended the right for U.S. citizens to sue.
International trade agreements became important issues during the Clinton administration. Clinton successfully pressed Congress to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The agreement was a plan for tariff cuts and the elimination of other trade barriers between the United States, Mexico, and Canada over 15 years. NAFTA officially took effect on January 1, 1994. Then in December 1994 Congress passed the Uruguay Round provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a global tariff-cutting pact that created the World Trade Organization in 1995. Clinton signed GATT later that month. In November 1997 Congress postponed voting on a bill to restore what was known as "fast-track" negotiating. The bill, which lapsed in 1994, would have restored presidential authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can not alter but can only approve or reject.