American History Timeline: 1981-2001

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    Presidency of Ronald Reagan

    Due to economic difficulties and the unpopularity of incumbent President Jimmy Carter, Republican Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 by a wide margin. After a rough start, Reagan eventually turned around the economy, won re-election by a crushing landslide in 1984, and carried out skilled diplomacy with the Soviet Union. His efforts helped lead to the end of the Cold War.
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    Presidency of George H. W. Bush

    Riding the coattails of Reagan's popularity, Vice President George H. W. Bush was elected in 1988, defeated Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. Bush reached unprecedented heights of popularity following the Gulf War, but rapidly lost popularity and was defeated for reelection due to economic difficulties later in his term.
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    Gulf War

    In response to Iraqi leader Sadaam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, an American-led coalition launched a counter-invasion to liberate Kuwait in January 1991. Iraqi forces were decisively defeated and driven out of Kuwait in just over a month.
  • End of the Cold War

    After two years of secessionist movements and democratic uprisings within the Soviet Union's constituent and satellite states, the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev dissolved itself on December 25, 1991, bringing an end to the world's largest Communist state and the Cold War.
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    Presidency of Bill Clinton

    Democratic Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992 following a three-way race, defeating incumbent George H. W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. He was reelected comfortably in 1996. Clinton's time in office was largely peaceful on the economic and foreign policy fronts, but involved much political drama with a Republican Congress and various scandals, most notably the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which led to his impeachment (but not removal) in 1998.
  • Impeachment of Bill Clinton

    Plagued by sex scandals involving Paula Jones and White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, becoming only the second president in American history (after Andrew Johnson in 1868) to be impeached. However, the Senate acquitted Clinton and he remained in office.
  • Presidential Election of 2000

    In an extremely tight and controversial result, Republican Texas Governor George W. Bush, son of former president George H. W. Bush, won the Electoral College (and therefore the presidency) despite losing the national popular vote to Vice President Al Gore. Vote counting disputes in the decisive and razor-thin state of Florida were only settled by a Supreme Court decision in Bush's favor.
  • September 11 Attacks

    On the morning of September 11, 2001, commercial airliners hijacked by Muslim Al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, as well as the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. With nearly 3,000 deaths, September 11 was the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941, and led to the ultimately controversial "War on Terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan.