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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
The Task: Part 7