Bush's Second Term

As the Iraq war dragged on, Bush's popularity began to shrink. The growing national debt fueled by the war sapped the country's economic strength. The failure to find any weapons of mass destruction undermined the president's support. In addition, Bush's standing was hurt by a scandal at the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib. There, some Iraqi prisoners of war were abused by their American guards.

Election of 2004

All of these setbacks gave the Democrats a chance to mount a serious challenge in the 2004 election. The Democratic Party chose Massachusetts senator John Kerry for president and North Carolina senator John Edwards for vice president. The Republicans renominated President Bush and Vice Presi­dent Cheney.

On domestic issues, the candidates offered the nation a clear choice. Bush pledged to continue to cut taxes while building a strong national defense. Kerry promised to raise taxes on the wealthy to fund wider health­care coverage. Both candidates focused their efforts on a few key states where voters were narrowly divided.

Election Day saw the highest voter turnout since 1968 - nearly 61 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Nationwide, President Bush won a majority of the popular vote. His victory helped increase the Republican hold on Congress.

Security and Civil Liberties

The war on terrorism raised questions about the nation's security and civil liberties. As you will remember, in 2001, Congress passed and the president signed into law the USA Patriot Act. This law gave federal prosecutors and FBI agents new powers to investigate those who plot or carry out acts of terrorism. The law expanded the power of federal agents to tap telephones and track Internet usage in the hunt for terrorists. It also permitted agents to conduct secret searches of a suspect's home or office without giving prior, or earlier, notice to the owner of the property. Many Americans believed that this law violated their Constitutional rights to privacy and unreasonable search and seizure.


Another major issue concerned what to do with captured terrorists. The Bush administration decided to hold them at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Administration officials claimed that the prisoners were ille­gal enemy fighters, not suspects charged with a crime. As such, they did not have the right of appeal to an American court.

The US. Supreme Court disagreed. In 2004 it ruled in Raslil v. Blish that foreign prisoners who claimed they were unlawfully held had the right to appeal to a court. In response, the Bush administration set up special military courts to hear each prisoner's case.

However, in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Court struck down this plan. It argued that President Bush's military courts violated U.S. military law and international laws. Bush then asked Congress to pass legislation setting up courts that met the Supreme Court's guidelines.

After Bush agreed to protect certain prisoner rights, Congress passed a law stating that anyone declared an illegal enemy fighter by a court could be held indefinitely without trial.

In addition to prisoners' rights, the Bush administration faced challenges about citizens' rights. As part of the war on terror, U.S. security officials had secretly expanded their practice of monitoring, or tracking, international calls and e-mails.

In 2005 word leaked out about this program, creating a controversy. Civil rights groups protested that it would be abused and used to violate citizens' constitutional rights. President Bush argued that he needed to expand this activity without legal approval. In this way, the government would be able to deal more quickly with terrorist threats. After a federal judge ruled the program was not constitutional, Bush officials stated in 2007 that they would carry out the program only with court approval.


The Task: Part 6


Supreme Court Appointments

Early in Bush's second term, he had to fill two vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, the president was able to move the Court in a more conservative direction. First, Bush named federal judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Before the Senate could act, how­ever, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, and the president named Roberts to replace him. Roberts easily won Senate confirmation as Chief Justice.

Next, Bush tried to fill the O'Connor court vacancy. After Senate opposition to Bush's first nominee, the president named federal judge Samuel Alito, Jr. Although some Democrats expressed concern about Alito's con­servative views, the Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito.

Hurricane Katrina

A major natural disaster as well as political storms affected Bush's second term. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf of Mexico coast. Storm conditions raged from Florida to Louisiana. The hurricane destroyed buildings, roads, and electrical lines. Thousands of people were left homeless, and at least 1,800 people died.

The city of New Orleans suffered extensive damage. After the hurricane had passed, rising waters broke through the levees, or high walls, that protected the low-lying city. As water flooded neighborhoods, residents who stayed behind during the hurricane were forced to await rescue or to flee. Many waited for days without much food, clean water, or information. Eventually troops and transportation arrived and moved flood survivors to other cities.

News broadcasts of the disaster, however, caused many Americans to wonder why national, state, and local governments were failing to respond more quickly. President Bush fired the head of the federal government's emergency relief agency. He also pledged federal funds to rebuild the city.

The 2006 Midterm Elections

American voters expressed their unhappiness with Bush administration policies in the 2006 mid-term elections. The Democrats won control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1992. House Democrats then elected Nancy Pelosi to be the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The day after the election, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - a chief planner of the Iraq war - resigned. Bush chose Robert Gates to replace Rumsfeld and put a new commander - General David Patraeus - in charge of the forces in Iraq. The president then announced a "surge," or rapid increase, of some 20,000 more troops to Iraq.

Democrats in Congress continue to criticize the president's plan. They want the president to set a definite, or precise, timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Whether or not the surge will work is unclear. However, what is clear is that Americans are divided over the Iraq war and that its outcome remains uncertain.

Video Review

The Task: Part 7