Back To CourseHistory 104: US History II
14 chapters | 111 lessons | 10 flashcard sets
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Adam has a master's degree in history.
Barack Obama's quest to become the President of the United States gained momentum in 2007. Obama began his campaign when he formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination on February 17. His campaign strategy focused on winning the hearts and minds of three groups of people: African Americans, liberals and students.
His message was simple: the United States needed 'Hope and Change.' He relayed his message through previously untapped networks, such as social media. The only real obstacle in Obama's path toward the presidency was his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
The race for the Democratic nomination was heated between Obama and Clinton. At the onset of the competition, many Americans preferred Hillary Clinton's experience in politics over the relative newcomer. However, Obama was able to turn the tide of the race when he highlighted Clinton's voting record. This effort, combined with mounting support from students and liberals, helped Obama capture the nomination on June 7, 2008. His candidacy was made official in August, when Obama was formally recognized by the Democratic National Convention as the party's contender for the presidency.
Obama immediately announced his campaign promises following his victory at the Democratic National Convention. He promised an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an overhaul of the health care industry, massive tax breaks and major investments into renewable energy. The last remaining challenge was to overcome a very formidable opponent in Senator John McCain, the presidential nomination from the Republican Party. Obama and McCain sparred throughout September and October. In the meantime, the American economy continued to sink; this benefited Obama.
Americans became more interested in Obama's campaign promise of 'Hope and Change.' McCain's narrow lead eventually evaporated, and Obama never looked back. On November 4, Obama easily defeated McCain by an electoral margin of 365 to 173. Obama altered the course of history by not only completing his goal of becoming president, but by becoming the first African American to reach the nation's highest office.
Obama immediately focused on stabilizing the American economy. In 2009, he diverted funds from the $700 billion Economic Stabilization Act, enacted under President George W. Bush, to bail out the large American automakers. Obama then proposed a stimulus package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, worth $800 billion, to Congress. This legislation called for tax breaks, new job creation and higher unemployment compensation for jobless Americans. It also recommended appropriating funds for national infrastructural repair.
Another significant undertaking by Obama was his overhaul of the healthcare industry. Obama placed the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA) before Congress in 2009. The foremost goal of the legislation was to provide access to affordable healthcare, but it also mandated that all Americans carry a form of health insurance, whether it was private or federally-funded.
Obama faced significant opposition to the bill from a number of interest groups. The blossoming Tea Party argued that the Affordable Healthcare Act deepened the federal debt. It also maintained that the AHA was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated state and personal rights by forcing Americans to purchase insurance under the threat of paying a significant fine. Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals also challenged the law, citing outrageous costs associated with the change in law. Others were concerned that the AHA would provide healthcare coverage to illegal immigrants.
Nevertheless, Obama rallied enough support following a passionate speech to Congress on September 9, 2009 to ensure that the legislation would at least be voted on. After months of negotiating, the landmark bill was passed on March 23, 2010 without a single vote from the Republican Party.
While domestic concerns were at the forefront of Obama's agenda, he never lost sight of maintaining a credible foreign policy. Obama kept his campaign promises of disengagement in the Middle East, more specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, Obama announced that over 100,000 American combat troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by 2010. The remaining were removed from Iraq in 2011. He created something of a paradox in Afghanistan; he sent more American personnel to begin the withdrawal process. In late 2009, Obama approved of a troop surge into Afghanistan to bolster the struggling government, prevent Al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold and expedite disengagement. He formally began removing troops from Afghanistan in 2011 and set the completion date for 2014.
Many opponents of Obama criticized his escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan after promising to withdraw. However, the heightened level of American personnel resulted in a significant achievement for the Obama Administration: the elimination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Obama had received information several days prior to the event on the possible location of the infamous leader of Al-Qaeda. On May 1, 2011, Obama authorized the United States Navy SEALs, under Operation Neptune Spear, to conduct a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The SEALs successfully located and eliminated bin Laden. Following the confirmation of a successful mission, Obama formally announced the accomplishment to the American public. This event was viewed as one of Obama's most risky, yet significant foreign policy accomplishments.
Another achievement of Obama's foreign policy was his handling of the Libyan Civil War in 2011. Fully understanding that Americans did not want to intervene in another conflict, Obama favored multilateral intervention. He encouraged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations to intervene on behalf of the Libyan rebels, formally known as the National Transitional Council (NTC). A coalition of forces, led by the United States, established no-fly zones, flew sorties over contested territory and provided firepower from warships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. The multilateral assistance allowed the NTC to defeat Muammar Gaddafi and his loyalist forces.
Obama's foreign policy successes were marred by a single incident in September 2012. Following the trailer release of a disparaging film titled Innocence of Muslims, which depicted Muhammad in a negative light, the Muslim world exploded with anti-American sentiment. While Obama blasted the filmmakers and attempted to disassociate the United States from the movie, protests at American embassies ballooned throughout the world. On September 11, militants launched an assault against the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The result was the death of United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens along with several other Americans.
A notable controversy ensued following the event between Obama and Republican Party critics. Many within the party believed that Obama failed to label the assault on the American compound as a terrorist attack, one of which was not associated with the protests over the film. Obama's critics also believed that he attempted to cover up the disaster. The Obama Administration attempted to tie the attack to the release of the anti-Muslim video. Notwithstanding, Congress, along with many intelligence agencies, concluded that the event was a premeditated terrorist attack and was not linked to the anti-American protests associated with the Innocence of Muslims film. The Obama Administration's handling of the crisis was an unmitigated disaster.
President Barack Obama began his mission to become the first African American leader of the White House in 2007. His campaign slogan of 'Hope and Change' inspired a new culture of voters, including liberals, African Americans and students. Obama successfully defeated Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and then handily defeated Republican candidate John McCain in the Presidential Election of 2008.
Obama entered office in 2009 in the midst of a major economic crisis. He immediately authorized an $800 billion bailout program, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to save the American economy. Simultaneously, he sought the largest overhaul of the healthcare system since 1965. He successfully navigated the Affordable Healthcare Act through Congress in 2010, which required all Americans to carry a form of health insurance.
In the international arena, Obama began the simultaneous withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He authorized the capture and execution of Osama bin Laden. He also provided assistance to the National Transitional Council in Libya in the form of a coalition effort. Obama's strong foreign policy achievements were marred by a singular event in Benghazi, Libya when a militant group executed United States Ambassador Christopher Stevens in what has been classified as a terrorist attack. Regardless, it is safe to say that Obama had a monumental impact on the United States during his first term.
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Back To CourseHistory 104: US History II
14 chapters | 111 lessons | 10 flashcard sets