When terrorists exploded bombs at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, Clinton launched cruise missiles against factories in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation. But those strikes have been viewed as ineffective.
Clinton also has been criticized for taking minimal action when the World Trade Center was first attacked in February 1993 and when American soldiers were killed in an attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 in Yemen. All three terrorist attacks have been linked to Osama bin Laden.
"Had the first attack on the World Trade Center succeeded in the way the second attack did, it seems to me the Clinton administration would have been much more aggressive," said Christopher Twomey, political science professor at Harvard University.
But some say there are still significant differences between Bush and Clinton.
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University professor of international politics, said the Clinton administration's actions after terrorist attacks didn't match its rhetoric.
Twomey said that although the Clinton administration did react less aggressively than the Bush administration is now, the amount of action matched the severity of the attacks. He also said the nation viewed the fight against terrorism differently. "We sort of look at Clinton now as being vastly soft," Twomey said. "However, before the (Sept. 11 attacks) the dominant paradigm of how we viewed terrorism was a law enforcement strategy, not a military one."
Bacevich also said there was little change in America's fight against terrorism when Bush took office. "The Bush administration wasn't waging a war on terrorism before September 11, much like Clinton," he said.
Others say conservative ideology has something to do with Bush's stance.
"Bush comes from a long tradition of conservatives that feel there are inherently evil people and, no matter how they became that way, the solution is to hunt them down and kill them or put them in jail," said Ivan Arregu