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|Top > Society > History > By Region > North America > United States > Presidents > George W. Bush|
President George W. Bush thanks search and rescue personnel at the Pentagon during a visit on Sept. 12, 2001
Among his cabinet appointees have been: Colin Powell, Secretary of State; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense; Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Energy; Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior; and Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services. His controversial appointee for the US Attorney General post is John Ashcroft. Condoleeza Rice is his National Security Advisor.
Bush comes from a heavily politically-involved family. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, served as senator from Connecticut; his father George Bush was the 41st President of the United States, and his brother, Jeb Bush is the governor of Florida.
Personal Life and Education
Bush was born in Connecticut and grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas. He has four younger siblings: Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. A younger sister, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953, at the age of three.
He followed his father and grandfather in education at Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received a bachelor's degree in (1968) and where he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon and the Skull and Bones Society. He then received a master's of business administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. He is the first president with an MBA degree.
He was drafted as an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Controversy exists over whether he broke the law by going Absent Without Leave (AWOL). Bush insists that he did serve as a pilot during his entire tour of duty. However, no documents confirming this have been made available.
He had serious problems with alcohol for years after college, including a drunk driving arrest in Maine.
Bush married Laura Welch in 1977 and in 1986, he forswore alchol and became a born-again Christian, converting from Episcopalian Christianity to his wife's religion, Methodist Christianity. They have twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
Business and Political Career
Bush began his career in the oil and gas business in 1975 when he formed the oil and gas exploration company Arbusto and continued working in the energy industry until 1986. His forays into the industry were disastrous, losing millions of dollars.
In 1978 Bush ran for U.S. House of Representatives and was defeated by the Democratic State Senator Kent Hance.
After working on his father's successful 1988 presidential campaign, he assembled a group of partners from his father's close friends and purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989.
Bush was involved in controversial stock trades while serving on the board of directors of Harken Energy Corp. in 1990. Bush has claimed that he sold Harken stock on the assumption of a positive corporate outlook. However, on April 20 of that year, company President Mikel D. Faulkner told the directors that the company was facing grave financial problems, including a serious cash crisis that was exasperated by pressure from lenders, as well as a slumping oil market. After receiving this dire news, in June Bush sold 212,140 shares of Harken stock. Shortly thereafter, on August 20, Harken reported a a $23.2 million quarterly loss. Bush waited 36 weeks to file an SEC form about his sale. An SEC investigation, conducted while Bush's father was President of the United States, cleared Bush of wrongdoing.
The sale of Harken stock helped pay off a loan for his purchase of a partial interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team. He served as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers until he was elected Governor of Texas on November 8, 1994 over incumbent Ann Richards. When the team was sold in 1998, Bush had earned $15,000,000.
He went on to become the first Texas governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms. His tenure in office featured many achievements and, despite a reputation for bipartisan leadership, some controversy, even international controversy; for example, during Bush's tenure, Texas saw a sharp rise in capital punishment.
His career is remarkable for his rapid political ascent; for example, both the previous president, Bill Clinton, and Bush's opponent, Al Gore, had spent their entire adult lives in politics.
Public Image and Personality
In both America and Britain, Bush is commonly referred to as "Dubya", in imitation of his pronunciation of the middle initial of his name. As the elder Bush child, "Junior" is a more common nickname with close associates. Bush himself bestows nicknames on nearly everyone he meets.
Criticism of Bush the candidate centered less around policy than on the perception that he was not intelligent. This perception was based on his dissipated youth, his verbal gaffes, his lack of interest in policy details, and also on his embrace of Texan culture. See Internet humor/George W. Bush lexicon for an example of the association of Bush with stereotypes of Texans.
This especially became an issue during the 2000 election. Critics often portrayed Bush as intellectually inferior to Gore. Some have attempted to compare their respective intellectual capacities by going back to their academic achievements. According to that criterion, Bush's academic record and background was by and large comparable to Gore's. For example, Bush's verbal SAT score was 566, Al Gore's was 625. However, the correlation between SAT verbal scores and academic excellence can be questioned, given that Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley's was a low 485. In addition, Gore received lower grades in his sophomore year at Harvard than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript from Yale.
Following the September 11 attacks, President Bush enjoyed the highest approval ratings in history. High approval ratings are historically common for war time Presidents. Bush maintained his high approval ratings a year later, and as of November, 2002, had the highest approval rating of any President during a mid-term election, since Dwight Eisenhower. However, one poll showed that only a minority of the electorate would vote to reelect him, thus suggesting that the support may be more for his office as commander-in-chief than for him as a leader. That same poll showed that "nearly half either say they'll likely back a Democrat, or that their choice 'depends' on Bush's rival." Democratic and Republican pollsters believe that his campaign for reelection would be as competitive as the 2000 race was. Some polls, on the other hand, show Bush winning easily against likely Democratic rivals such as senator John Kerry, former first lady Hillary Clinton, and his 2000 opponent, former Vice President Al Gore.
Some also suggested that Republican Party's historic victory in the 2002 mid-term elections were due to Bush's presumed popularity. Historically, the party in the White House loses seats. But in 2002, during what was expected to be an extremely tight election, the Republicans ended up gaining seats in both houses, and retaking control of the Senate in the process. The party in control of the White House had not gained seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in a mid-term election for 100 years. However, others have argued that the Democrats lost the election because of their timidity in criticizing Bush as a "wartime" President.
Bush's original platform, before the 2001 recession, the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, and the War on Terrorism (though domestic policy has not changed significantly):
Economy: His slogan was, "Whoever pays taxes gets a tax break". The rich pay the most taxes, and the current system weighs the income tax against the upper income brackets; Bush's proposed tax plan reduces the taxes on the top income brackets by a greater percentage than middle-income brackets. Bush also supported raising the Earned Income Tax Credit, which would primarily affect the lower brackets of income-tax-affected citizens.
Education: policy named No Child Left Behind, includes mandatory national testing and some support for school vouchers.
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other domestic fields is claimed to decrease dependence on oil imports, particularly from the Middle East. However, many environmentalists hold that it will produce such small amounts of petroleum as to be effectively useless and will certainly do far greater harm to irreplaceable and finite resources of the planet than good. Opponents of such drilling recommend alternate courses of action such as to complete research on and implement as a matter of urgency alternative, safe and renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and tidal power - but not nuclear. Although perhaps requiring greater initial investment, in the long run these are now accepted by many informed environmentalists and scientists as being the most viable alternative to what they see as the vigorously anti-environmental approaches of the Bush administration.
Redesign of military with emphasis on supermodern hardware, flexible tactics, speed, less international deployment, fewer troops. This includes developing a system to defend against ballistic missile attacks, despite strong objections both domestically and internationally.
Foreign policyBush's most significant foreign policy platform before coming to office involved support of a stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, in particular Mexico, and a reduction in involvement in "nation-building" and other small-scale military engagements.
Bush's withdrawal from global initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol have convinced many that he (and his administration) are evading international responsibilities. Many governments have expressed their concern and dismay at what they see as a failure to ratify what they consider to be a key international environmental treaty and many nations (including the composite national grouping, the EU) are actively considering imposing sanctions against the US.
In July, 2002, Bush cut off $34 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This funding had been allocated by Congress the previous December. Bush claimed that the UNFPA supported forced abortions and sterilizations in China. His justification came from a bipartisan group of antiabortion members of Congress and an antiabortion organization called The Population Research Institute, which claimed to have obtained first-hand video taped evidence from victims of forced abortion and forced sterilization in county where the UNFPA operates in China. The decision was praised by many in pro-life movement, including the United States' largest public policy womens organization, Concerned Women For America.
A change of focus immediately followed the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. His foreign (and domestic, to a lesser degree) policy was subsequently defined, above all, by the "War on Terrorism". This policy is marked by a move away from U.N. led efforts and thus, towards a coercive unilateralism.
Americans on the political left as well as citizens and leaders of a number of other countries, particularly in Western Europe, complain that Bush has tended to act without first consulting them. Key objections include rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, and threatening to invade countries such as Iraq with or without UN support.
On October 16, 2002 Bush signed a congressional resolution which allows him to start war with Iraq without further permission from Congress. Critics argue that this has given him far too much power and some people argue: "What we really need is not a regime change in Iraq, but rather one in the USA."
On November 8, 2002 the UN Council voted unanimously in favor of the administration's resolution forbidding Iraq from producing or using weapons of mass destruction. The resolution, which says that Iraq will face tough consequences if it fails to disarm, had support from a larger number of countries than the 1991 Gulf War Resolution.
George and Barbara Bush with their first born child George W. Bush, while the elder Bush was a student at Yale, ca. 1947 (National Archives)
President Bush walks up the South Lawn towards the Oval Office with his son, George W. Bush, 04/29/1992 (National Archives)
Crowd watching George Walker Bush being sworn in as President on January 20, 2001 (Library of Congress)
President George W. Bush addresses the media at the Pentagon on Sept. 17, 2001
President George W. Bush (left) and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld walk to a meeting in the Pentagon on Sept. 17, 2001 (National Archives)
Rank: 43rd (2001-2009) Predecessor: Bill Clinton Date of Birth: July 6, 1946 Place of Birth: New Haven, Connecticut First Lady: Laura Welch Pierce Profession: businessman Political Party: Republican Vice President: Richard Cheney
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