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George Walker Bush

Don't forget to have your say

The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents by By William A. DeGregorio

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George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the forty-third and current President of the United States of America. He served as the forty-sixth Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and is the eldest son of former American President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush. He was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001 and his current term is scheduled to end on January 20, 2009.[4]

After graduating from college, Bush worked in his family's oil businesses. He made an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives in 1978. He co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before defeating Ann Richards to become Governor of Texas in 1994. In a close and controversial election, Bush was elected to the Presidency in 2000 as the Republican candidate, receiving a majority of the electoral vote, but losing the popular vote.

Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut program in 2001.[5] After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan and in October 2001 announced a global War on Terrorism in order to overthrow the Taliban, destroy Al-Qaeda, and to capture Osama bin Laden. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. In March 2003, Bush and the Congress asserted Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and ordered the invasion of Iraq.[6] Aboard the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, Bush gave the Mission Accomplished speech, proclaiming, "in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."[7]

Bush ran for re-election against the Democratic Party's nominee, Senator John Kerry in 2004. Kerry debated Bush's handling of the Iraq War and domestic issues.[8] Bush was re-elected on November 2, 2004 garnering 50.7% of the popular vote to his opponent's 48.3%.[9]

After his re-election, Bush received increasingly heated criticism and began losing support from his Republican base largely due to his stance on illegal immigration and government spending.[10][11][12] During his two terms he has had both the highest and the lowest domestic Gallup poll approval ratings of American Presidents, ranging from around 90% immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, to 28% in June 2008.[13][14] Worldwide opinions of Bush are widely less favorable[15] with the exception of the sub-saharan region of Africa.[16]

George.W.Bush President of the United States


George.W.Bush President of the United States

Childhood to mid-life

Born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 6, 1946, Bush was the first child of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush (born Pierce). He was raised in Midland and Houston, Texas, with his four siblings, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died from leukaemia at the age of three in 1953.[17] Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and his father served as U.S. President from 1989 to 1993.

During his 2000 presidential campaign, Vanity Fair magazine and The New York Times reported that Bush, as a child, was not accepted for admission by St. John's School in Houston, Texas, a prestigious private school.[18] In the two years following, Bush attended The Kinkaid School, the private school from which St. John's had broken away.[18] Ironically, Bush, then the Governor of Texas, served as the commencement speaker at St. John's Academy in 1995.[19]

Bush attended the all-boys school Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and during his senior year was the head cheerleader.[20] Following in his father's footsteps, Bush attended Yale University, where he received a Bachelor's degree in history in 1968.[21] As a college senior, Bush became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones society, although, by his own characterization, he was an average student.[22]

Texas Air National Guard

At the height of the Vietnam War, Bush was accepted into the Texas Air National Guard in May 1968, despite scoring the lowest acceptable passing grade on the pilot's written aptitude test.[23][24][25] This was at a time when more than ten thousand Air National Guard personnel, many fighter pilots, were called to active duty to serve in Vietnam.[26] After training, he was assigned to duty in Houston, flying Convair F-102s out of Ellington Air Force Base.[27] Critics allege Bush was favorably treated because of his father's political standing, citing his lack of combat service and his irregular attendance.[28] The United States Department of Defense released all the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, which remain in its official archives.[24] Though not accepted to the University of Texas School of Law in 1970,[29] he accepted a transfer to the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972 to work on a Republican senate campaign, and in October 1973 he was discharged from the Texas Air National Guard, almost eight months early without being called to active duty to serve in Vietnam, to attend Harvard Business School.' While at Harvard, Bush completed his six-year service obligation in the inactive reserve.[30]

During this time Bush had multiple accounts of substance abuse.[31] In one instance, Bush was arrested near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol at the age of thirty on September 4, 1976. He pled guilty, was fined US$150, and had his Maine driver's license suspended until 1978.[32] Bush then attended Harvard University, where he earned his MBA,[33] and entered the oil industry in Texas not long afterward.

Marriage and family

In 1977, he was introduced by friends at a backyard barbecue to Laura Welch, a schoolteacher and librarian. Bush proposed to her after a three-month courtship and they were married on November 5 of that year.[34] The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's United Methodist Church.[2] In 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara;[34] they graduated from high school in 2000 and from the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University, respectively, in 2004.

Bush gave up alcohol in 1986 and credits his wife with convincing him to stop drinking.' She is also credited with possessing a stabilizing effect on his private life.[34] While Governor of Texas, Bush said of his wife, "I saw an elegant beautiful woman who turned out not only to be elegant and beautiful, but very smart and willing to put up with my rough edges, and I must confess has smoothed them off over time."[34]

Early career

In 1978, Bush ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 19th Congressional District of Texas. His opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as being out of touch with rural Texans; Bush lost the election by 6,000 votes.[35] He returned to the oil industry, becoming a senior partner, or chief executive officer, of several ventures, such as Arbusto Energy,[36] Spectrum 7, and, later, Harken Energy.[37] These ventures suffered from the general decline of oil prices in the 1980s that had affected the industry and the regional economy. Additionally, questions of possible insider trading involving Harken have arisen, though the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) investigation of Bush concluded that he did not have enough insider information before his stock sale to warrant a case.[38]

To work on his father's campaign for the U.S. presidency Bush moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1988.[39] Returning to Texas after the successful campaign, he purchased a share in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in April 1989, where he served as managing general partner for five years.[40] He actively led the team's projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans.[41] The sale of Bush's shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over US$15 million from his initial US$800,000 investment.[42]

Elected positions

Governor of Texas

As Bush's brother Jeb sought the governorship of Florida, Bush declared his candidacy for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. Winning the Republican primary easily, Bush faced popular Democrat incumbent Governor Ann Richards.

Bush's campaign advisers were Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, and Karl Rove.

Richards vetoed a bill allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Bush pledged to sign it (after he won the election, did so.)[43] Following his debates with Richards, his popularity grew; he won the general election with 52 percent against Richards' 47 percent.[44]

Bush used a budget surplus to push through Texas's largest ever tax-cut of two billion dollars.[44]

Bush extended government funding for organizations providing education, alcohol and drug use and abuse prevention, and reduction of domestic violence, so long as those organizations are religious. He proclaimed June 10, 2000 to be Jesus Day in Texas, a day on which he "urge[d] all Texans to answer the call to serve those in need."[45]

In 1998, Bush won re-election with nearly 69 percent of the vote.[46] Within a year, he had decided to seek the Republican nomination for the presidency.

2000 Presidential candidacy

In 2000, Bush sought his own bid for President of the United States while still Governor of Texas.


With no incumbent running, Bush entered a large field of candidates for the Republican Party presidential nomination including Elizabeth Dole, John McCain, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, and others.

Although Bush won the Iowa caucuses and was heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary, traditionally the first primary held, he trailed John McCain by 19% of the voters in the primary.[47]

However, the Bush campaign regained momentum and, according to political observers, effectively became the front runner after the South Carolina primary, an early primary.[48] The South Carolina campaign was controversial for the use of telephone poll questions phrased negatively toward McCain. [49]

General election

On July 25, 2000, Bush surprised some observers by asking the Halliburton corporation's chief executive officer Dick Cheney, a former White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative, and Secretary of Defense, to be his Vice Presidential running mate. Cheney was then serving as head of Bush's Vice-Presidential search committee.

While stressing his successful record as governor of Texas, Bush's campaign criticized[50] the Democratic nominee, incumbent Vice President Al Gore, over gun control and taxation.

Bush controversially won the 2000 election. The closeness of the outcome, as well as reports of votes being miscounted, led to a recount in Florida. Two initial counts went to Bush, but that outcome was tied up in courts for a month until reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 9, in the Bush v. Gore case, the Court reversed a Florida Supreme Court ruling ordering a third count, and stopped an ordered statewide hand recount based on the argument that the use of different standards among Florida's counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The machine recount stated that Bush had won the Florida vote by a margin of 537 votes out of six million cast.[51] The famous episode pushed terms such as "hanging chad" into the popular lexicon.

Bush received 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266.[52] However, he lost the popular vote by more than half a million votes,[51] making him one of a handful of presidents elected without at least a plurality of the popular vote.

2004 Presidential candidacy

Bush commanded broad support in the Republican Party and did not encounter a primary challenge. Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a liberal Republican who later refused to vote for Bush in 2004, considered challenging Bush for renomination in the New Hampshire primary on an anti-war platform. In his autobiography, Against the Tide (2007), Chafee states that 'In the fall of 2003, part of me thought it was cowardly to oppose the president on so many issues and then not oppose him head-on as he sought renomination.' However, he decided not to run after the capture of Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003. [53] Bush otherwise won every primary without serious opposition.

He appointed Kenneth Mehlman as campaign manager, with a political strategy devised by Rove.[54] Bush outlined an agenda that included a strong commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act, making earlier tax cuts permanent, cutting the budget deficit in half, promoting education, as well as reform in tort law, reforming Social Security, and creation of an ownership society.

The Bush campaign advertised across the U.S. against Democratic candidates, including Bush's emerging opponent, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kerry and other Democrats attacked Bush on the war in Iraq, perceived excesses of the USA PATRIOT Act and for allegedly failing to stimulate the economy and job growth. The Bush campaign portrayed Kerry as a staunch liberal who would raise taxes and increase the size of government. The Bush campaign continuously criticized Kerry's seemingly contradictory statements on the war in Iraq, and claimed Kerry lacked the decisiveness and vision necessary for success in the war on terrorism. Bush carried 31 of 50 states for a total of 286 Electoral College votes.

Bush won the popular vote with 50.7% of the vote to his opponent's 48.3%.[55] The last president to win an absolute majority(>50%) (as opposed to a plurality, meaning "the most votes" but under 50%) of the popular vote had been Bush's father in the 1988 election prior the 2004 contest. In addition, it was the first time since Herbert Hoover's election in 1928 that a Republican president was elected alongside re-elected Republican congressional majorities in both houses. Bush's 2.5% margin of victory was the narrowest for a victorious incumbent President up for re-election since Woodrow Wilson's 3.1% margin of victory against Charles Evans Hughes in the 1916 contest.


Economic policy

Facing opposition in the Congress, Bush held town hall-style public meetings across the U.S. in 2001 to increase public support for his plan for a US$1.35 trillion tax cut program — one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history. Bush and his economic advisers argued that unspent government funds should be returned to taxpayers. With reports of the threat of recession from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Bush argued that such a tax cut would stimulate the economy and create jobs.[56] Others, including the Treasury Secretary at the time Paul O'Neill, were opposed to some of the tax cuts on the basis that they would contribute to budget deficits and undermine Social Security.[57]

Under the Bush Administration, real GDP has grown at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent,[58] considerably below the average for business cycles from 1949 to 2000.[59][60] The Dow Jones Industrial Average has grown by about 30 percent since January 2001.[61] Unemployment originally rose from 4.2 percent in January 2001 to 6.3 percent in June 2003, but subsequently dropped to 4.5 percent in July 2007.[62] Inflation-adjusted median household income has been flat while the nation's poverty rate has increased.[63] By August 2007, the national debt had risen to US$8.98 trillion dollars, an increase of over 70% from the start of the year 2000 when the debt was 5.6 trillion dollars. [64][65]

A survey done by the American Research Group showed that as of April 2008, 22% of Americans approved of President Bush's effect on the economy. The perception of President Bush's effect on the economy, however, is significantly affected by partisanship with 67% of Republicans and 1% of Democrats approving of his performance.[66]

Another significant part of the Bush economic plan was the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

Education and health

Since entering office, President Bush has undertaken a number of educational priorities. He increased funding for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health in his first years of office, and created education programs to strengthen the grounding in science and mathematics for American high school students. Funding for the NIH was cut in 2006, the first such cut in 36 years, due to rising inflation.[67]

One of the administration's early major initiatives was the "No Child Left Behind Act", which aimed to measure and close the gap between rich and poor student performance, provide options to parents with students in low-performing schools, and target more federal funding to low-income schools. This landmark education initiative was signed into law by President Bush in early 2002.[68] Many contend that the initiative has been successful, as cited by the fact that students in the U.S. have performed significantly better on state reading and math tests since Bush signed "No Child Left Behind" into law.[69] Critics argue that it is underfunded[70] and that NCLBA's focus on "high stakes testing" and quantitative outcomes is counterproductive.[71]

In 2007, Bush opposed and vetoed State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation which was added by the Democrats onto a war funding bill and passed by Congress. The SCHIP legislation would have significantly expanded federally-funded health care benefits and plans to children of some low-income families from about 6 million to 10 million children. It was to be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax.[72] Bush viewed the legislation as a move toward the liberal platform of socialized health care, and claimed that the program could benefit families making as much as US$83,000 per year who would not have otherwise needed the help.[73]

Social services and Social Security

Bush promoted increased deregulation and investment options in social services, leading Republican efforts to pass the Medicare Act of 2003, which added prescription drug coverage to Medicare and created Health Savings Accounts, which would permit people to set aside a portion of their Medicare tax to build a "nest egg". The retired persons lobby group AARP worked with the Bush Administration on the program and gave their endorsement. Bush said the law, estimated to cost US$400 billion over the first 10 years, would give the elderly "better choices and more control over their health care".[74]

Bush began his second term by outlining a major initiative to reform Social Security, which was facing record deficit projections beginning in 2005. Bush made it the centrepiece of his agenda despite contrary beliefs in the media and in the U.S. Congress, which saw the program as the "third rail of politics," with the American public being suspicious of any attempt to change it. It was also widely believed to be the province of the Democratic Party, with Republicans in the past having been accused of efforts to dismantle or privatize it. In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Bush discussed the allegedly impending bankruptcy of the program and attacked political inertia against reform. He proposed options to permit Americans to divert a portion of their Social Security tax (FICA) into secured investments, creating a "nest egg" that he claimed would enjoy steady growth. Despite emphasizing safeguards and remaining open to other plans, Bush's proposal was criticized for its high cost, and Democrats attacked it as an effort to partially privatize the system, and for leaving Americans open to the whims of the market. Bush embarked on a 60-day national tour, campaigning vigorously for his initiative in media events ("Conversations on Social Security") in a largely unsuccessful attempt to gain support from the general public.[75] Despite energetic campaign by Bush to promote his Social Security reform plan, by May 2005 the public support for the Bush proposal declined substantially[76] and the House GOP leadership decided not to put Social Security reform on the priority list for the remainder of their 2005 legislative agenda.[77] The proposal's legislative prospects were further diminished by the political fallout from the Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005.[78] In the run-up to the 2006 congressional elections, the Republican leadership in Congress put the hot-button issue of the Social Security reform on the back burner. No substantive legislative action was taken on this issue in 2006. After the Democrats gained control of both houses of the Congress as a result of the 2006 mid-term elections, the prospects of any further congressional action on the Bush proposal appeared to be dead for the remainder of his term in office.

Environmental policy

Upon arriving in office in 2001, Bush did not support the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change which seeks to impose mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bush asserted he would not support it because the treaty exempted 80 percent of the world's population[79] would have cost tens of billions of dollars per year,[80] and was based on his personal opinion regarding the uncertainty of the science of climate change.[81] He also cited that the Senate had voted 95–0 in 1997 on a resolution expressing its disapproval of the protocol.

In 2002, Bush announced the Clear Skies Initiative,[82] aimed at amending the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution through the use of emissions trading programs. It was argued, however, that this legislation would have weakened the original legislation by allowing higher levels of pollutants than were permitted at that time.[83] The initiative was introduced to Congress, but failed to make it out of committee.

President Bush believes that global warming is real[84] and has said that he has consistently noted that global warming is a serious problem, but he asserted there is a "debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused".[85] In his 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush renewed his pledge to work toward diminished reliance on foreign oil by reducing fossil fuel consumption and increasing alternative fuel production.[86] During his 2008 State of the Union Address, he announced that the U.S. would commit US$2 billion over the next three years towards a new international fund to promote clean energy technologies and fight climate change, saying, "along with contributions from other countries, this fund will increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies in developing nations like India and China, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive." He has also announced plans to reaffirm the United States' commitment to work with major economies and through the United Nations to complete an international agreement that will slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases; he stated, "this agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride."[87]

The Bush Administration's stance on global warming has remained controversial in the scientific and environmental communities. Many accusations have been made against the administration, such as those by the Director of NASA's Goddard Institute James Hansen,[88] and former United States Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, for misinforming the public and having not done enough to reduce carbon emissions and deter global warming.[89]

In 2006 Bush declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument, creating the largest marine reserve to date. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument comprises 84 million acres (340,000 km²) and is home to 7,000 species of fish, birds and other marine animals, many of which are specific to only those islands.[90] The move was hailed by conservationists for "its foresight and leadership in protecting this incredible area."[91]

Stem cell research and first use of veto power

Federal funding for medical research involving the creation or destruction of human embryos through the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health has been forbidden by law since the Republican Revolution of 1995.[92] Bush has said that he supports stem cell research, but only to the extent that human embryos are not destroyed in order to harvest additional cells.[93] On August 9, 2001, Bush signed an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for the 71 existing "lines" of stem cells,[94] but the ability of these existing lines to provide an adequate medium for testing has been questioned. Testing can only be done on twelve of the original lines, and all of the approved lines have been cultured in contact with mouse cells, which makes it unlikely the FDA would approve them for administration to humans.[95] On July 19, 2006, Bush used his veto power for the first time in his presidency to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The bill would have repealed the Dickey Amendment, thereby permitting federal money to be used for research where stem cells are derived from the destruction of an embryo.[96]


In 2006, going beyond calls from conservatives to secure the border, Bush demanded that Congress allow more than twelve million illegal immigrants to work in the United States with the creation of a "temporary guest-worker program." The president does not support amnesty for illegal immigrants,[97] but argues that the lack of legal status denies the protections of U.S. laws to millions of people who face dangers of poverty and exploitation, and penalizes employers despite a demand for immigrant labor.

The president urged Congress to provide additional funds for border security, and committed to deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to the United States-Mexico border.[98] In May-June 2007 Bush strongly supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 which was written by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators with the active participation of the Bush administration.[99] The bill envisioned a legalization program for undocumented immigrants, with an eventual path to citizenship; establishing a guest worker program; a series of border and work site enforcement measures; a reform of the green card application process and the introduction of a point-based "merit" system for green cards; elimination of "chain migration" and of the diversity Green Card Lottery; and other measures. Bush contended that the proposed bill did not amount to amnesty.[100]

A heated public debate followed, which resulted in a substantial rift within the Republican Party; the majority of the conservative base opposed it because of its legalization or amnesty provisions.[101] The bill was eventually defeated in the Senate on June 28, 2007, when a cloture motion failed on a 46-53 vote.[102] President Bush expressed disappointment upon the defeat of one of his signature domestic initiatives.[103] The Bush administration later proposed a series of immigration enforcement measures that do not require a change in law.[104]

Civil liberties and terrorist detainees

Following the events of September 11, Bush issued an executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor communications between suspected terrorists outside the U.S. and parties within the U.S. without obtaining a warrant pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,[105] maintaining that the warrant requirements of FISA were implicitly superseded by the subsequent passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.[106] The program proved to be controversial, as critics of the administration, as well as organizations such as the American Bar Association, claimed it was illegal.[107] In August 2006, a U.S. district court judge ruled that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was unconstitutional,[108] but the decision was later reversed.[109] On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed U.S. Senate leaders that the program would not be reauthorized by the president, but would be subjected to judicial oversight.[110]

On October 17, 2006 Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006,[111] a bill passed in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld,[112] which allows the U.S. government the ability to prosecute unlawful enemy combatants by military commission rather than the standard trial. The bill also denies them access to habeas corpus and, while barring torture of detainees, allows the president to determine what constitutes torture.[111]

On March 8, 2008, Bush vetoed H.R. 2082, a bill that would have expanded Congressional oversight over the intelligence community and banned the use of waterboarding as well as other forms of enhanced interrogation techniques, saying that "[t]he bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror."[113]

President Bush has consistently stated that the United States does not torture. Bush can authorize the CIA to use the simulated-drowning method under extraordinary circumstances.[114] The CIA once considered certain enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, legally permissible.[115] The CIA has exercised the technique on certain key terrorist suspects and were given permission to do so from a memo from the Attorney General. While the Army Field Manual argues "that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information",[115] the Bush administration states that these enhanced interrogations have "provided critical information" to preserve American lives.[116][117]

Hurricane Katrina

One of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina, struck early in Bush’s second term. Katrina formed in late August during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and devastated much of the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States, particularly New Orleans.[118]

Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on August 27,[119] and in Mississippi and Alabama the following day;[120] he authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to manage the disaster, but his announcement failed to spur these agencies to action.[121] The eye of the hurricane made landfall on August 29, and New Orleans began to flood due to levee breaches; later that day, Bush declared that a major disaster existed in Louisiana,[122] officially authorizing FEMA to start using federal funds to assist in the recovery effort. On August 30, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declared it "an incident of national significance,"[123] triggering the first use of the newly created National Response Plan. Three days later, on September 2, National Guard troops first entered the city of New Orleans.[124] The same day, Bush toured parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and declared that the success of the recovery effort up to that point was "not enough."[125]

As the disaster in New Orleans intensified, critics claimed that the president was misrepresenting his administration's role in what they saw as a flawed response. Leaders attacked the president for having appointed perceived incompetent leaders to positions of power at FEMA, notably Michael D. Brown;[126] it was also argued that the federal response was limited as a result of the Iraq War[127] and President Bush himself did not act upon warnings of floods.[128][129][130] Bush responded to mounting criticism by accepting full responsibility for the federal government's failures in its handling of the emergency.[124]

Midterm dismissal of U.S. attorneys

During Bush's second term, a controversy arose over the Justice Department's midterm dismissal of seven United States Attorneys.[131] The White House maintains the U.S. attorneys were fired for poor performance.[132] Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would later resign over the issue, along with other senior members of the Justice Department.[133][134] The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas for advisors Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten to testify regarding this matter, but Bush directed Miers and Bolten to not comply with those subpoenas, invoking his right of Executive Privilege; Bush has maintained that all of his advisers are protected under a broad Executive Privilege protection to receive candid advice. The Justice Department has determined that the president's order was legal.[135] In November 2007, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (VT-D), stated that the Executive Privilege claim was strange considering "the President had no involvement in these firings."

Although Congressional investigations have focused on whether the Department of Justice and the White House were using the U.S. Attorney positions for political advantage, no official findings have been released. On March 10, 2008, the Congress filed a federal lawsuit to enforce their issued subpoenas.[136]

Public views and perception

Bush began his presidency with approval ratings near 50%.[137] Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush gained an approval rating of greater than 85%, maintaining 80–90% approval for four months after the attacks. Since then, his approval ratings and approval of his handling of domestic and foreign policy issues have steadily dropped. Bush has received heavy criticism for his handling of the Iraq War, his response to Hurricane Katrina, and to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, NSA warrantless surveillance of terrorists or individuals suspected of involvement with terrorist groups, Scooter Libby/Plamegate, and Guantanamo Bay detainment camp controversies.[138] Additionally, critics have decried his frequent use of signing statements, contending that they are unconstitutional.[139]

The minority of Americans currently support Bush, citing his steadfast support for the Iraq War'. A March 13, 2008 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that 53% of Americans — a slim majority — believe that "the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals" in Iraq.[140] That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007 and the highest it has been since 2006.[140]

In the 2004 elections, 95–98% of the Republican electorate approved of him. This support has since somewhat waned, however, due mostly to a minority of Republicans' frustration with him on issues of spending, illegal immigration, and Middle Eastern affairs.[141]

Bush's approval rating has been below the 50% mark in AP-Ipsos polling since December 2004.[142] Polls conducted in 2006 showed an average of 37% approval ratings for Bush;[143] the lowest for any second term president in this point of term since Harry S. Truman in March 1951, when his approval rating was 28%,[142][144] which contributed to what Bush called the "thumping" of the Republican Party in the 2006 mid-term elections.[145] Throughout 2007, Bush's approval rating hindered in the mid-thirties percentile,[146] although in a Reuters poll of October 17, 2007, Bush received a lower approval rating of 24%,[147] the lowest point of his presidency.[148] In response to the numbers, during a February 10, 2008 interview on Fox News Sunday Bush stated, "I frankly don't give a damn about the polls".[149] By April 2008, Bush's disapproval ratings were the highest ever recorded in the 70-year history of the Gallop poll for any president, with 69% of those polled disapproving of the job Bush was doing as president and 28% approving.[150]

Many professional historians have regarded Bush's presidency as below average, according to several surveys. A 2006 Siena College poll found that 744 professors of history judged Bush's presidency as follows: Great: 2%; Near Great: 5%; Average: 11%; Below Average: 24%; Failure: 58%;[151] other polls conducted by the History News Network (HNN) resulted in similar outcomes. The historian who organized the HNN polls caveated the results: "It is in no sense a scientific sample of historians. The participants are self-selected, although participation was open to all historians. Among those who responded are several of the nation’s most respected historians, including Pulitzer and Bancroft Prize winners."[152] In response to the "worst president" accusations,[153][154] Bush said, "to assume that historians can figure out the effect of the Bush administration before the Bush administration has ended is... in my mind... not an accurate reflection upon how history works."[149]

Calls for Bush's impeachment have been made by various groups and individuals, with their reasons usually centering on the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy,[155] the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq,[156] and alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions.[157] Most polls have shown a plurality of Americans do not support impeachment.[158] Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Ohio, introduced articles of impeachment on the floor of Congress against President Bush on June 9, 2008.[159][dead links] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, however, that impeachment is "off the table".[159]

Bush's intellectual capacity has been satirized by the media,[160] comedians, and other politicians.[161] Detractors tended to cite linguistic errors made by Bush during his public speeches, which are colloquially termed as Bushisms.[162]

In 2000 and again in 2004, Time magazine named George W. Bush as its Person of the Year, a title awarded to someone who the editors believe "for better or for worse, … has done the most to influence the events of the year."[163]

Within the United States Military, the president was strongly supported at one time.[164] In the 2004 elections, 73% of military personnel said that they would vote for Bush with 18% for Kerry.[164] According to Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who has studied the political leanings of the U.S. military, members of the armed services supported Bush because they found him more likely to prosecute the War in Iraq than Kerry.[164]

Foreign policy

During his campaign for election as president, Bush's foreign policy platform included support for a stronger economic and political relationship with Latin America, especially Mexico, and a reduction of involvement in "nation building" and other small-scale military engagements. The administration pursued a national missile defense.[165] Bush was president on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked passenger aircraft and flew them into the World Trade Center, killing roughly 3,000 people. In response, Bush launched the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan and later Iraq.

Bush began his second term with an emphasis on improving strained relations with European nations. He appointed long-time adviser Karen Hughes to oversee a global public relations campaign. Bush lauded the pro-democracy struggles in Georgia and Ukraine. In March 2006, he visited India, leading to renewed ties between the two countries, particularly in areas of nuclear energy and counter-terrorism cooperation.[166] Midway through Bush's second term, it was questioned whether Bush was retreating from his freedom and democracy agenda, highlighted in policy changes toward some oil-rich former Soviet republics in central Asia.[167]

September 11, 2001

The September 11 terrorist attacks were a major turning point in Bush's presidency. That evening, he addressed the nation from the Oval Office, promising a strong response to the attacks but emphasizing the need for the nation to come together and comfort the families of the victims. On September 14, he visited Ground Zero, meeting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and firefighters, police officers, and volunteers. Bush addressed the gathering via a megaphone while standing on a heap of rubble:

"I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."[168]

In a September 20, 2001 speech, Bush condemned Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and issued an ultimatum to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was operating, to "hand over the terrorists, or… share in their fate."[169]

War on Terrorism

After September 11, Bush announced a global War on Terrorism. The Afghan Taliban regime was not forthcoming with Osama bin Laden, so Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime.[170] In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, he asserted that an "axis of evil" consisting of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq was "arming to threaten the peace of the world" and "pose[d] a grave and growing danger".[171] The Bush Administration proceeded to assert a right and intention to engage in preemptive war, also called preventive war, in response to perceived threats.[172] This would form a basis for what became known as the Bush Doctrine. The broader "War on Terror", allegations of an "axis of evil", and, in particular, the doctrine of preemptive war, began to weaken the unprecedented levels of international and domestic support for Bush and United States action against al Qaeda following the September 11 attacks.[173]

Some national leaders alleged abuse by U.S. troops and called for the U.S. to shut down detention centers in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Dissent from, and criticism of, Bush's leadership in the War on Terror increased as the war in Iraq expanded.[174][175][176] In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate expressed the combined opinion of the United States' own intelligence agencies, concluding that the Iraq War had become the "cause celebre for jihadists" and that jihad movement was growing.[177][178]


On October 7, 2001, U.S. and Australian forces initiated bombing campaigns that led to the arrival on November 13 of Northern Alliance troops in Kabul. The main goals of the war were to defeat the Taliban, drive al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and capture key al Qaeda leaders. In December 2001, the Pentagon reported that the Taliban had been defeated[179] but cautioned that the war would go on to continue weakening Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.[179] Later that month the UN had installed the Afghan Interim Authority chaired by Hamid Karzai.[180][181]

Efforts to kill or capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden failed as he escaped a battle in December 2001 in the mountainous region of Tora Bora, which the Bush Administration later acknowledged to have resulted from a failure to commit enough U.S. ground troops.[182] Bin Laden and al Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as the leader of the Taliban, Mohammed Omar, remain at large.

Despite the initial success in driving the Taliban from power in Kabul, by early 2003 the Taliban was regrouping, amassing new funds and recruits.[183] In 2006 the Taliban insurgency appeared larger, fiercer, and better organized than expected, with large-scale allied offensives such as Operation Mountain Thrust attaining limited success.[184][185][186] As a result, President Bush commissioned 3,500 additional troops to the country in March 2007.[187]


Beginning with his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, Bush began publicly focusing attention on Iraq, which he labeled as part of an "axis of evil" allied with terrorists and posing "a grave and growing danger" to U.S. interests through possession of weapons of mass destruction.[171][188] Claims that the Bush Administration manipulated or exaggerated the threat and evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities would eventually become a major point of criticism for the president.[189][190]

In late 2002 and early 2003, Bush urged the United Nations to enforce Iraqi disarmament mandates, precipitating a diplomatic crisis. In November 2002, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei led UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, but were forced to depart the country four days prior to the U.S. invasion, despite their requests for more time to complete their tasks.[191] The U.S. initially sought a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of military force but dropped the bid for UN approval due to vigorous opposition from several countries.[192]

The war effort was joined by more than 20 other nations (most notably the United Kingdom), designated the "coalition of the willing".[193] The invasion of Iraq commenced on March 20, 2003 and the Iraqi military was quickly defeated. The capital, Baghdad, fell on April 9, 2003. On May 1, Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The initial success of U.S. operations increased his popularity, but the U.S. and allied forces faced a growing insurgency led by sectarian groups; Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech would later be criticized as premature.[194]

From 2004 through 2007, the situation in Iraq deteriorated further, with some observers arguing that the country was engaged in a full scale civil war.[195] Bush's policies met with criticism, including demands domestically to set a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq. The 2006 report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by James Baker, concluded that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating". While Bush admitted that there were strategic mistakes made in regards to the stability of Iraq,[196] he maintained he would not change the overall Iraq strategy.[197][198]

In January 2005, free, democratic elections were held in Iraq for the first time in fifty years.[199] According to Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie, "This is the greatest day in the history of this country."[199] Bush praised the event as well, saying that the Iraqis "have taken rightful control of their country's destiny."[199] This led to the election of Jalal Talabani as President and Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister of Iraq. A referendum to approve a constitution in Iraq were held in October 2005, supported by the majority Shiites and many Kurds.[200]

On January 10, 2007 Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office regarding the situation in Iraq. In his speech he announced a surge of 21,500 more troops for Iraq, as well as a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and US$1.2 billion for these programs.[201] On May 1, 2007, Bush used his veto for only the second time in his presidency, rejecting a congressional bill setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.[202] Five years after the invasion, Bush called the debate over the conflict "understandable" but insisted that a continued U.S. presence there is crucial.[203]

In March 2008 Bush praised the Iraqi government's "bold decision" to launch the Battle of Basra against the Mahdi Army, calling it "a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq".[204] He said he will carefully weigh recommendations from his commanders General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about how to proceed after the military buildup ends in the summer of 2008. He also praised the Iraqis' legislative achievements, including a pension law, a revised de-Baathification law, a new budget, an amnesty law and a provincial powers measure that, he said, sets the stage for the Iraqi governorate elections, 2008.[205]

In June 2008 the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report stating that President Bush and other top officials incorrectly stated the reasons for invading Iraq.[206]

North Korea

Bush publicly condemned Kim Jong-il of North Korea, naming North Korea one of three states in an "axis of evil," and saying that "[t]he United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."[171] Within months, "both countries had walked away from their respective commitments under the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework of October 1994."[207] North Korea's October 9, 2006 detonation of a nuclear device further complicated Bush's foreign policy, which centered for both terms of his presidency on "[preventing] the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world."[171] Bush condemned North Korea's claims, reaffirmed his commitment to "a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," and stated that "transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States," for which North Korea would be held accountable.[208] On May 7, 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear reactors immediately pending the release of frozen funds held in a foreign bank account. This was a result of a series of three-way talks initiated by the United States and including China.[209] On September 2, 2007, North Korea agreed to disclose and dismantle all of its nuclear programs by the end of 2007.[210]


President Bush has been supportive of expanding economic sanctions on Syria.[211] In early 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department, acting on a June 2005 executive order, froze American bank accounts of Syria's Higher Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Electronics Institute, and National Standards and Calibration Laboratory. Bush's order prohibits Americans from doing business with these institutions suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction[212] and being supportive of terrorism.[213] Under separate executive orders signed by Bush in 2004 and later 2007, the Treasury Depertment froze the assets of two Lebanese and two Syrians, accusing them of activities to "undermine the legitimate political process in Lebanon" in November 2007. Those designated included: Assaad Halim Hardan, a member of Lebanon's parliament and chief of the Syrian Socialist National Party central political bureau; Wi'am Wahhab, a former member of Lebanon's parliament; Hafiz Makhluf, a colonel and senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; and Muhammad Nasif Khayrbik, identified as a close adviser to Assad.[214]

Foreign perceptions

President Bush has been criticized internationally and targeted by the global anti-war and anti-globalization campaigns, particularly for his administration's foreign policy.[215][216] Views of him within the international community are more negative than previous American presidents, with France[217] largely opposed to what he advocates and public opinion in Britain, an American ally since World War II, largely against him.

Bush was described as having especially close personal relationships with Tony Blair and Vicente Fox, although formal relations were sometimes strained.[218][219][220] Both Bush and Tony Blair were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prizes in 2002[221][222] and in 2004,[223] although neither won the award. Other leaders, such as Afghan president Hamid Karzai,[224] Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni,[225] Spanish president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,[226] and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez,[227] have openly criticized the president. Later in Bush's presidency, tensions arose between himself and Vladimir Putin, which has led to a cooling of their relationship.[228]

During the Bush presidency, attitudes towards the United States and the American people have become less favorable around the world.[229] In 2006, a majority of respondents in 18 of 21 countries surveyed around the world were found to hold an unfavorable opinion of Bush. Respondents indicated that they judged his administration as negative for world security.[230][231]

A March 2007 survey of Arab opinion conducted by Zogby International and the University of Maryland found that Bush is the most disliked leader in the Arab world. More than three times as many respondents registered their dislike for Bush as for the second most unpopular leader, Ariel Sharon.[232]

The Pew Research Center's 2007 Global Attitudes poll found that out of 47 countries, a majority of respondents expressed "a lot of confidence" or "some confidence" in Bush in only nine countries: Israel, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, and Uganda.[233]

During a June 2007 visit to Albania Bush was greeted enthusiastically. The mostly Islamic Eastern European nation with a population of 3.6 million has troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the country's government is highly supportive of American foreign policy.[234] A huge image of the President now hangs in the middle of the capital city of Tirana flanked by Albanian and American flags.[235] The Bush administration's support for the independence of Albanian-majority Kosovo, while endearing him to the Albanians, has troubled U.S. relations with Serbia, leading to the February 2008 torching of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade.[236]

Assassination attempt

On May 10, 2005, in Tbilisi, Georgia, Vladimir Arutyunian threw a live hand grenade toward the podium where Bush was giving a speech at Freedom Square. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was seated nearby. It landed in the crowd about 65 feet (20 m) from the podium after hitting a girl, but it did not detonate. Arutyunian was arrested in July 2005, confessed, and was convicted and given a life sentence in January 2006.[237]

Other matters

The Bush administration withdrew U.S. support for several international agreements, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) with Russia. Bush emphasized a careful approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; he denounced Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat for alleged support of violence, but sponsored dialogs between prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas. Bush supported Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and lauded the democratic elections held in Palestine after Arafat's death.

Bush also expressed U.S. support for the defense of Taiwan following the stand-off in April 2001 with the People's Republic of China over the Hainan Island incident, when an EP-3E spy plane collided with a Chinese Air Force jet, leading to the detention of U.S. personnel. In 2003–2004, Bush authorized U.S. military intervention in Haiti and Liberia to protect U.S. interests.

In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, Bush outlined a five-year strategy for global emergency AIDS relief, the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. Bush announced US$15 billion for this effort—US$3 billion per year for five years—but requested less in annual budgets.[238]

Bush condemned the attacks by militia forces on the people of Darfur, and denounced the killings in Sudan as genocide.[239] Bush said that an international peacekeeping presence was critical in Darfur, but opposed referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

On June 10, 2007, he met with Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and became the first president to visit Albania.[240] Bush has voiced his support for the independence of Kosovo.[241][dead links]

Supreme Court appointments

George W. Bush appointed John G. Roberts as Chief Justice in 2005 and Samuel Alito as an Associate Justice in 2006. Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He was confirmed by the Senate on September 29, 2005. Following the announcement of the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to succeed O'Connor on October 3, 2005. However, Miers withdrew her nomination on October 27 after facing significant opposition. After Miers's withdrawal, Bush nominated another federal appellate judge, Samuel Alito, as his new choice to replace O'Connor. Alito was confirmed as the 110th Supreme Court Justice on [[January 31, 2006.

Political offices
Governor of Texas
1995 – 2000
President of the United States
2001 – present
Chair of the G8
Party political offices
Republican Party presidential candidate
2000, 2004
Order of precedence in the United States of America
United States order of precedence
President of the United States

2001 – present

References and Notes

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