George W. Bush

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George W. Bush in 2007

George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946), a Republican, was the 43rd president of the United States. He was inaugurated on January 20, 2001 after defeating Al Gore in a controversial election. Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard (Dick) Cheney won reelection over John Kerry and John Edwards in 2004. Before becoming president, he was in the energy business, managed the Texas Rangers baseball team, and was governor of Texas (1994-2001). He is the son of President George H.W. Bush.

Important events during his administration included the 9-11 terrorist attack, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the expansion of NATO to the Russian border, the midterm election gain of seats in the House of Representatives and governorships by Republicans in 2002, the midterm losses of electoral majorities in both houses of Congress and a number of governorships in the 2006 election, improved relations with India, the passage of the PATRIOT Act, the No Child Left Behind education act, repeated large-scale tax cuts, the economic recovery, the boom (and later correction) in real estate, the debate on illegal immigration, the handling of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, the U.S. Attorneys dismissal controversy, the creation of the Vision for Space Exploration and the appointments of conservatives to the Supreme Court and Federal Reserve chairmanship. Intense controversy in 2007 focused on the war in Iraq.

In 2008 he led the federal response to a widespread financial crisis.

Bush was ineligible for the presidential election in 2008 due to a two-term limit in the United States Constitution, and has been succeeded by the winner of the 2008 presidential election, Senator Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Early Life and Education

He was born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Barbara and George H.W. Bush, who later became the 41st President of the United States. In 1948, the family moved to Texas, where President Bush grew up in Midland and Houston. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1968, where his father, grandfather Prescott Bush, and two prior generations had matriculated. Most were members of Skull and Bones.

President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975.

Military service

F-102 Delta Dagger

He served as an F-102 interceptor pilot in the Texas Air National Guard. There have been questions about how well he served, and if he carried out responsibilities. [1] In 2004, it became a campaign issue that John Kerry had actually served in the Vietnam War that Bush supported and Kerry criticized, but, in fairness, flying a fighter anywhere is dangerous and demanding.

Private sector

Following graduation from Harvard, he moved back to Midland and began a career in the energy business. After working on his father’s successful 1988 Presidential campaign, President Bush assembled a group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989.

Governor of Texas

On November 8, 1994, George W. Bush was elected the 46th Governor of Texas. He became the first Governor in Texas history to be elected to consecutive 4-year terms when he was re-elected on November 3, 1998. According to his White House biography, "he earned a reputation for his bipartisan governing approach and his compassionate conservative philosophy, which was based on limited government, personal responsibility, strong families, and local control."

U.S. President (First Term)

2000 Election

For more information, see: Bush v. Gore.

Bush was elected over Democrat Al Gore, who was Vice President under outgoing President Bill Clinton, in a controversial election in 2000. As election night wound down, it became apparent that the results in Florida would be enough to tip the Electoral College toward either candidate. The vote count showed Bush ahead by a margin so narrow that Gore requested a hand recount in four Democratic counties. The Bush campaign objected to this strategy and sued to stop the recount. On December 8, 2000, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that under Florida state law, a statewide manual recount was required of all ballots that did not register a vote for president. The Supreme Court of the United States issued an injunction, halting the recount process until the case of Bush v. Gore could be heard before the court on December 11, 2009.

The following day, seven justices on the Court (Rehnquist, Breyer, Kennedy, O’Connor, Scalia, Souter, and Thomas) ruled that the Florida recount could not continue because the state of Florida had failed to set equal standards across the state, granting Bush’s claim that this was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. More importantly, the five more conservative justices also ruled that December 12, the day of the decision, was the ultimate deadline under Florida law for reporting election results.[2] As a result, the court ended the Florida recount and the 2000 election, permitting Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to certify the election results, which decided the election in favor of Bush. Bush won the presidency with 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.[3] The Florida recount remained highly controversial since later unofficial recounts undertaken by several newspapers showed that Bush would have won the Florida election under the rules set in place at the time of the latest recount, though Gore could have won under different rules.[4]

Bush also became only the fourth president elected while receiving fewer popular votes than his opponent, joining the company of John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison.

September 11th and the War on Terror

For more information, see: 9-11 Attack.

On September 11, 2001, a team of 19 hijackers carried out multiple concurrent suicide attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon Building, causing 3,000 deaths in the worst terrorist attack in American history. The al-Qaeda terrorist organization, headed by Osama bin Laden, then among the FBI's most wanted for 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

See also: Intelligence interrogation, U.S., George W. Bush Administration
See also: Extraordinary rendition, U.S., George W. Bush Administration
See also: War on terror

Bush responded by instituting a U.S.-led "war on terror". He pushed for broader governmental surveillance powers, including those enabled in the PATRIOT Act, and also for expanded powers of extrajudicial detention.

See also: Afghanistan War (2001-)}

He ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the ruling Taliban party, which had allowed bin Laden use the country as his organization's base of operations.

On February 7, 2002, Bush proclaimed
"I determined.... that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war." [5]


Linkage with terrorism was one of the major justifications for the invasion of Iraq.

2002 Elections

Invasion of Iraq

For more information, see: Iraq War.
Bush meeting the new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2006, after the new regime was established following the invasion

Bush and various members of his cabinet cited impending threats from Iraq's government as justification for the invasion; Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the UN Security Council to present intelligence purporting to expose Iraq's active development of weapons of mass destruction in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 689; Powell later regretted presenting material he found to be inaccurate. Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly mentioned links between al-Qaeda and Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, although he subsequently disavowed them.[6] Citing the need for preemptive attack to prevent the usage of weapons of mass destruction, as described in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (2002), the invasion began on March 20, 2003.

Bush stated three goals in launching the invasion: overthrowing the cruel and dangerous regime of Saddam Hussein, establishing a model democracy in Iraq, and leaving after stability was assured. There was no question about the human rights violations committed by Hussein's regime within Iraq, but his dangers to the U.S. appeared exaggerated when no weapons of mass destruction or operational links to the 9/11 Attacks were discovered. Francis Fukuyama argued said that the US could have gone to war, but had a better political endstate, if it had focused on the infeasibility of continuing to maintain the no-fly zones, and not argued a direct WMD threat to the US, but had cast its actions in terms of global counterproliferation. By overemphasizing the 9/11 aspect, it supported suspicions of those who would believe the real reasons were oil or Israel.[7]

According to his Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, Bush himself changed his own explanation of the war, beginning in late 2003. Starting in September 2002, before the invasion, he focused on Saddam's record and threats. From September 2003 onwards, however, he changed the focus to emphasize the opportunity to create democracy in Iraq. In that prewar period, his statements averaged 14 paragraphs on the threat and 3 on democracy. In the second period, the emphasis switched, from one on the threat and 11 on democracy. Feith notes these were not discussed in the National Security Council or in the Deputies Committee, and apparently were a public relations decision. They allowed, however, the President's opponents to attack the prewar intelligence and decisions, without fear of response.[8]


Social policy

During his presidency, Bush favored a conservative social policy. He opposed same-sex marriage and supported the Defense of Marriage Act and a constitutional amendment to ban it, but the amendment was not formally proposed in Congress. He supported the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act which prohibits a specific form of late-term abortion.

While conservative social policy unquestionably appealed to the Republican "base", and helped win individual elections, it is less clear that it either contributed to the effectiveness of governing or to building a national coalition. While Governor, Bush had been much more liberal on social issuea; he met, admittedly with tension on both sides, with gay Log Cabin Republicans. [9]

There was no agreement, but not the sort of hostility that came at the national level. As President, according to conservative columnist and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, Bush listened to Karl Rove's advice as far as the priority being winning elections. [10] Frum's argument is that by 2006, the general electorate was more concerned with general governance, and had more votes than the base.

U.S. President (Second Term)

2004 Election

Bush was at the peak of his popularity when he was reelected in 2004. In 2005-6 his approval rating fell dramatically, with growing discontent from left, right and center. He tried in 2005 to use what he called his "political capital" to make significant long-term changes in the Social Security system. That system has been called the "third rail" of American politics because politicians who touch it get a severe jolt; that happened to Bush and his proposals went nowhere and gave the Democrats talking points.

2006 Election

The Democrats "nationalized" the 2006 election, making national issues, especially Iraq, the center of their attacks. They won seven[11] of the most heavily contested Senate seats and took control of the Senate, and gained 30 seats to take control of the House. Both Houses were in Democratic hands for the first time since the 1992 elections, but the Democrats lacked enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Response to domestic emergencies

The Bush administration response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster (hurricane and flooding in New Orleans region) was widely criticized and the Democrats alleged that the response showed administrative incompetence.

While there was abundant blame to be shared, Bush had first appointed, to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), his campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Michael Brown had been legal counsel to Allbaugh, and was named head of FEMA when Allbaugh left in 2003. Prior to working for Allbaugh, Brown had been stewards and judges commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, and had no particular emergency experience. Brown was generally seen as ineffectual in the response,[12] and resigned soon afterwards.

As a result of the Katrina experience, where the performance of FEMA was much criticized. Bush signed the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act, which reorganized FEMA, and gave it more resources and responsibilities, becoming effective on December 31, 2007.[13]

War in Iraq

The Iraq war dragged on, with mounting death tolls for American soldiers. The escalation of violent insurgency in Iraq was a major issue for the Democrats in the 2006 elections, as the Democrats united in calling for a withdrawal of American forces. By 2007, leading Republican Senators started to distance themselves from Bush, and the polls indicate Iraq was the single most negative factor in his declining popularity.

By 2005, with US supervision and cooperation, Iraq had formed a new government, enacted a constitution, and held elections. It is not clear, however, how significant these were to the U.S. electorate.

(CC) Photo: Eric Draper
President George W. Bush with the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, Lee Hamilton (left) and James Baker (right)
Even after the installation of Iraq's new government, parts of the country were wracked by violent insurgencies various groups variously vied for power and fought what some regarded as occupiers, resulting in heavy casualties. Over 2,000 American soldiers had been killed by mid 2007.

In 2006, Bush agreed to the formation of a bipartisan committee of public figures to analyze the situation in Iraq and present policy options, the Iraq Study Group. By that time, many Democratic leaders of Congress were starting to demand a fixed timetable for troop withdrawal. The Iraq Study Group presented its report in December of 2006, claiming that the situation in Iraq was unwinnable. The committee recommended gradual withdrawal and a number of military and intelligence reforms, and diplomatic initiatives to minimize the damage in Iraq and the Middle East in general.

Bush rejected the report and instead chose a highly controversial strategy of increased troop levels (referred to as "the Surge") in hopes of stamping out the insurgency. A compromise was reached with critics of the Surge in summer 2007 whereby a major report would be issued by mid-September evaluating how well the Iraqis had achieved the goals set by the White House. The exact degree to which the troop surge was successful remains debatable. Suicide killings and political chaos remain common in the country. However, levels of violence have undoubtedly dropped considerably since implementation of the surge.

Immigration

See also: U.S. immigration policy
See also: U.S. border security

In 2007 Bush put his prestige on the line in collaborating with Democrats for a major reform of the immigration system, which would have opened a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants (most of them from Central America and Mexico). Polling showed that many Americans think that US immigration policies and laws need to be reformed and some business community and religious groups supported President Bush's proposed legislation.[14] The conservative grass roots, activated by talk-radio hosts who had long been pro-Bush, turned against him, denounced his plan as "amnesty" (that is, a reward for the illegal behavior in crossing the border), and defeated the plan. [15] Public opinion overcame the actions of politicians supportive of the legislation, and it was defeated in June 2007. [16]

Courts and Justice

Alberto Gonzales, Bush's controversial Attorney General resigned in September 2007

Bush nudged the U.S. Supreme Court to the right with his successful nominations of John Roberts as Chief Justice and Samuel Alito as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 2005, replacing justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O' Connor, respectively. Democrats opposed these nominees as being too conservative, but both were overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate. Bush's nomination of three judges to the federal circuit courts were threatened with filibuster from Senatorial Democrats, but a bipartisan coalition (calling itself the "Gang of 14") reached a compromise and these judges were also confirmed.

In 2007, some alleged that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired a group of district attorneys for political reasons, and many politicians demanded the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. After numerous hearings held by the Congress and facing immense pressure, Gonzales announced his resignation on August 27, 2007.[17] Bush replaced Gonzales with Michael Mukasey, a judicial figure from New York.

See also: Extrajudicial detention, U.S., George W. Bush Administration

Some cases, such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld challenged the proper legal status of prisoners from the Mideast conflict held in CIA prisons and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The Court did not support Administration positions, resulting, in part, in legislative correction through the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Bush has asserted executive privilege several times over the course of his presidency, instructing aides not to appear before Congress and the Justice Department not to enforce Congressional subpoenas. He is not the first President to do this. The Administration also made extensive use of the state secrets privilege, more extensively than other presidencies, often moving to stop a trial rather than to suppress sensitive and privileged evidence.

Economy

For more information, see: Crash of 2008.

The economy continued to grow, which Bush credited to his series of tax cuts, but the home mortgage and housing industries collapsed in mid-2007, leading to a worldwide financial crisis that is still underway. To respond to the economic crisis, Bush's Secretary of Treasury, Henry Paulson, proposed a 700 billion package to salvage the banking industry, which led to critics denouncing it as a "bailout" plan for banks. Collapsing companies receiving federal intervention include Bear-Stearns, American Insurance Group, CitiGroup, and Fannie and Freddie mortgage conglomerate.

Controversies

By mid 2007 Bush was on the defensive in a series of 'scandals' that hurt the administration.

Valerie Plame Wilson Affair and Scooter Libby

For more information, see: Valerie Plame Affair.

In July 2003, the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA officer, was revealed by columnist Robert Novak in an article in the Washington Post.[18] Mrs. Wilson was married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV who had recently been sent by the Bush administration to Niger to investigate intelligence claims that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was trying to buy plutonium there. After his trip Wilson published an article in the New York Times on July 6, 2003 in which he dismisses the allegation as untrue.[19] After his wife's covert status was revealed, Mr. Wilson accused the Bush administration of intentionally leaking her identity in retaliation for his unfavorable report and newspaper article, a criminal offense.

The affair led to several investigations and a civil trial. No intentional wrongdoing by the Bush White House was ever proven, and the identity leak turned out to originate with Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State not a White House insider. However, the senior aide to Vice President Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of perjury and lying to federal officers. Later, Bush commuted his prison sentence, though conservatives complained that Libby should have been pardoned outright because of the absence of an underlying crime.

Opinions on handling terrorist suspects

Before the Obama Administration took office, the Justice Department rescinded a number of the main legal opinions written by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding intelligence interrogation and extrajudicial detention.[20]

Firing of U.S. Attorneys and Resignation of Alberto Gonzales

More damage came from the Justice Department, where Bush tried to fire nine Republican US attorneys for unexplained reasons. Although the U.S. Constitution allows the president to fire federal officers without declaring any reasons­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­—since they serve at the president's pleasure—Democrats accused Bush of using the Justice department for partisan political goals and that he fired the attorneys who did not play along. A series of senior Justice and White House officials were forced to resign as a result, as all the Democrats and most of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee demanded the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales. Gonzales testified repeatedly that he could not remember any of the meetings that he attended regarding the firings, and refused to resign initially, though finally he did announce his resignation in August of 2007. Investigations in 2009 by the House Judiciary Committee revealed that Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser, was involved in the firing of the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico. Committee chairman John Conyers (D) said:

After all the delay and despite all the obfuscation, lies, and spin, this basic truth can no longer be denied: Karl Rove and his cohorts at the Bush White House were the driving force behind several of these firings, which were done for improper reasons.[21]

Republicans continue to insist that the actions by Bush and his staff did not exceed the boundaries of appropriate behavior. Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, rejected the notion promoted by Conyers and other Democrats that Rove's involvement in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys amounted to ethics violations or illegal acts.[22]

Science and Government

(PD) Photo: U.S. President's Council on Fitness and Sports
Richard Carmona, Bush's former Surgeon General

The Bush administration frequently came under fire for interfering with the academic freedom of government-employed scientists. Critics complained that scientific research was being steered towards politically desirable conclusions or suppressed if it clashed with predetermined policies.

In 2004, Vinton Cerf, one of the pioneers of the Internet, joined Scientists and Engineers for Change, said:

I'm a registered Republican, but I'm so concerned about the treatment of science in this administration, that I've joined the Scientists and Engineers for Change in the hope that we bring debate in science and technology into the political debate so that the electorate understands the importance that it has in our society.[23]

Cerf received the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom for his scientific work from Bush, but endorsed John Kerry in the 2004 election and Barack Obama in 2008.

Richard Carmona, the Surgeon General, resigned, telling Congress he had been pressured by Bush's political aides to suppress scientific information. Two other former Surgeons General testified with him, comparing and contrasting experiences in other Administrations. [24]

2008 election

For the 2008 presidential election, Bush endorsed fellow Republican John McCain, a U.S. Senator from Arizona, in the White House. McCain lost to Barack Obama, another U.S. Senator, from the state of Illinois.

References

  1. Michael Dobbs and Thomas B. Edsall (9 September 2004), Records Say Bush Balked at Order; National Guard Commander Suspended Him From Flying, Papers Show
  2. 531 U.S. 98 (2000). Per Curiam - George W. Bush et al. v. Albert Gore Jr., argued December 11, 2000, decided December 12, 2000, by vote of 5 to 4.
  3. Gillman, Howard. The Votes that Counted: How the Courts Decided the 2000 Presidential Election. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ASIN B001NI62AA; Toobin, Jeffrey. Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election. Random House, 2002. ISBN 978-0375761072; Toobin, Jeffrey. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. New York: Anchor Books, repr. 2008 (original edition 2007). ISBN 978-1400096794.
  4. Cauchon, Dennis. Newspapers' Recount Shows Bush Prevailed, USA TODAY, May 15, 2001. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
  5. George W. Bush (July 20, 2007), Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Order 13440
  6. "Cheney: No link between Saddam Hussein, 9/11", CNN, June 1, 2009
  7. Francis Fukuyama (2006), America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300113994, pp. 77-81
  8. Douglas J. Feith (2008), War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, Harper, ISBN 9780060899738, pp. 475-477
  9. Alison Mitchell (14 April 2000), The 2000 Campaign; the Texas Governor; Bush Talks to Gays and Calls It Beneficial
  10. David Frum (14 August 2007), "OpEd: Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule", Time
  11. Virginia, Montana, Missouri, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey.
  12. "'Can I quit now?' FEMA chief wrote as Katrina raged: E-mails give insight into Brown's leadership, attitude", Cable News Network, November 4, 2005
  13. Department of Homeland Security, Implementation of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act And Other Organizational Changes
  14. "The Washington Post - ABC News Poll: Immigration Reform", Washington Post, June 04, 2007
  15. "Just 22% Favor Stalled Immigration Bill", Rasmussen Reports, June 25, 2007
  16. "Immigration Bill Failure Proves Rasmussen’s First Law of Politics", Rasmussen Reports, June 28, 2007
  17. Massimo Calabresi (Aug. 27, 2007), "Why Gonzales Finally Caved", Time
  18. Robert Novak (July 14, 2003), "Mission to Niger", Washington Post. Retrieved on August 1, 2009
  19. Joseph C. Wilson IV (July 6, 2003), "What I Didn't Find in Africa", New York Times. Retrieved on August 1, 2009
  20. Memorandum Regarding Status of Certain OLC Opinions Issued in the Aftermath of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. Department of Justice, January 15, 2009
  21. John Bresnahan (August 12, 2009). Rove key to New Mexico attorney firing, Politico. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  22. Associated Press (August 12, 2009). White House E-Mails Show Rove Deeply Involved in U.S. Attorney Firings, FOX News. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  23. Scientists and Engineers for Change Launch Teleconference, 27 September 2004
  24. Melissa Block (10 July 2007), "Ex-Surgeon General Says Administration Interfered", All Things Considered, National Public Radio


Preceded By
Bill Clinton
Years in Office
2001-2009
Succeeded By
Barack Obama