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George W. Bush

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George W. Bush
Order: 43rd President
Term of Office: January 20, 2001 - present
Predecessor: Bill Clinton
Date of Birth: Saturday, July 6, 1946
Place of Birth: New Haven, Connecticut
First Lady: Laura Welch Bush
Profession: Businessman
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Richard B. Cheney

George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) became the 43rd and current President of the United States of America in 2001. Immediately prior to attaining the office, he was Governor of the State of Texas. Bush was the winner of one of the closest elections in American history, defeating one of the other candidates, Democratic Vice President Albert Gore, by only 5 electoral votes in an election where less than 50% of the electorate went out to vote. (See U.S. presidential election, 2000.) The election results were hotly contested for several weeks until December 12, 2000 when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush in the case Bush v. Gore. Bush took his oath of office and was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001. His father, George H. W. Bush, was the 41st President of the United States.

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 Attorney General was John Ashcroft. Condoleeza Rice is his National Security Advisor.

Bush is the second U.S. President to be the son of a President; John Quincy Adams was the first. In fact, Bush comes from a family with a long history of success in politics. Aside from being the son of the 41st President, his grandfather Prescott Bush served as a US Senator from Connecticut his brother Jeb Bush is the current Governor of Florida. However, his younger brother Neil Bush was on the board of directors of Silverado Savings and Loan[?] during the Savings and Loans scandals[?] of the 1980s.

As the eldest son of George H. W. Bush, G. W. Bush's nickname with his family and close friends is "Junior". Well known for his like of nicknames and habit of bestowing others with them, Bush also goes by the nicknames "W", "GW", or "Dubya". Both "Junior" and "Dubya" are used affectionately by friends and supporters and mockingly by critics.

Table of contents

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 Phillips 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 of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School. He is the first president with an MBA degree.

Bush enrolled in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War and served as an F-102 pilot for a period until he was grounded after failing to appear for a mandatory physical exam and drug test. 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 in 1976.

Bush married Laura Welch in 1977 and in 1986, he foreswore alcohol and became a born-again Christian, converting from Episcopalian Christianity to his wife's religion, Methodism. They have twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.

Business and Political Career Bush began his career in the oil industry[?] in 1975 when he formed the oil and gas exploration company Arbusto Energy 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 the 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 exacerbated 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 $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, declared "the investigation has been terminated as to the conduct of Mr. Bush, and that, at this time, no enforcement action is contemplated with respect to him." but the investigation's termination "must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result." As President, Bush has refused to authorize the SEC to release its full report on the investigation. When reporters asked Bush about his Harken activities, he told them that they "need to look back on the director's minutes", although this would in fact be impossible because Harken has declined to release its board records ever since questions were first raised concerning Bush's activities there.

The sale of Harken stock helped pay off a loan for his purchase of a partial interest in the Texas Rangers. He served as managing general partner of the 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 a reputation for bipartisan leadership, and some controversy, even international controversy. 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, e.g. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada, longest-serving leader of the G8 with three and a half decades of experience in the Canadian cabinet, is reputedly "Dino" (short for "Dinosaur"). This flippancy sometimes infects others and can backfire either on Bush or on them. In 2000, Bush was overheard privately referring to New York Times reporter Adam Clymer[?] as a "major league asshole". While opinion is mixed as to whether Clymer is in fact an "asshole", he had previously published editorial comment which directly insulted Mr. Bush. In another famous incident in 2002, Jean Chretien's press secretary, exasperated after a Bush speech at NATO in Europe, was heard to say "what a moron". The reputed lack of intellect of Mr. Bush has caused this word to be used often by his opponents - it was repeated in fact over and over during press coverage of the moron incident, especially on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the US Cable News Network. The Canadian Global News[?] even went so far as to dissect the dictionary meaning of "moron" with a panel on the air, to decide whether Bush met the criteria. The panel was split along predictable political lines.

As these incidents suggest, criticism of Bush the candidate and Bush the President have sometimes centered less around policy than on the perception that he was not intelligent. This perception was based on his dissipated youth, his constant verbal gaffes, his lack of interest in policy details, and also on his embrace of Texan culture.

Questions about Bush's intelligence also became an issue during the 2000 election. Some supporters of Bush's chief opponent in that campaign, Al Gore, often portrayed Bush as intellectually inferior to Gore. Some have attempted to compare their current respective intellectual capacities by going decades 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. In addition, Gore received lower grades in his second year at Harvard University than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript from Yale, and Gore earned no degrees higher than a Bachelor of Arts in Government (Gore having flunked out of graduate school twice), while Bush earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. However, neither the correlation between SAT verbal scores and academic excellence, nor between academic excellence and intelligence, can be established; for example, Rhodes Scholar Bill Bradley[?]'s verbal SAT was a low 485, and an academic record does not take into account the difficulty of the classes taken or other factors that might impinge on a college record.

Popularity Following the September 11 attacks, President Bush enjoyed the highest approval ratings in history. High approval ratings are historically common for war time Presidents, but Bush was able to maintain 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 could 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, and other prominent Democrats such as former first lady Hillary Clinton, and his 2000 opponent, former Vice President Al Gore. Both Clinton and Gore have announced that they do not intend to run for President in 2004.

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. A New York Times poll taken a month after the midterm elections showed 37% of voters pleased with the outcome, as opposed to nearly 50% who had been pleased with the outcome 1994 midterm election. The poll also found that voters disagreed with Bush's positions on a number of important issues, including the environment.[1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/26/politics/26POLL)

A graphical summary of the trend of Bush's poll numbers can be seen at [2] (http://www.dailykos.com/images/poll_4-15)

Platform 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.
His 2003 tax proposal offers a sweeping package of tax cuts and incentives that would eliminate all federal taxes on stock dividends, quick tax relief for married couples and a $400-per-child increase in the tax credit for families with children. Economists are divided on the effectiveness of Bush's proposals for helping the economy. John Leonard, the chief of North American equities for UBS Global Asset Management, said eliminating the dividends tax would spur the economy by sending more money into the economy; on the other hand, other economists, including Allen Sinai of Decision Economics and Andrew F. Brimmer, a former Federal Reserve Board member who heads a consulting firm, argued that the dividends tax cut would be largely ineffective [3] (http://msnbc.com/news/855356.asp?0bl=-0&cp1=1) . The administration's proposal would also lower taxes for small business owners by expanding the amount of equipment purchases they can write off as deductions from the current $25,000 to $75,000. Opponents argue that this tax proposal would primarily benefit the rich. According to a New York Times analysis published on January 21, 2003, $364 billion out of the $674 billion "economic stimulus" plan is devoted towards eliminating the tax on dividends; however, the poorest fifth of Americans have an average of $25 in dividend income, while the richest fifth have $1,188. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center produced the following table describing the impact of Bush's plan on average taxpayers:
Income Group (thousands of dollars) Average Savings (dollars)
0-105
10-2063
20-30204
30-40351
40-50500
50-75820
75-1001,776
100-2002,710
200-5005,527
500-100017,605
1000+88,873

  • Education: policy named No Child Left Behind[?], includes mandatory national testing and some support for school vouchers. It also makes high school academic records available to military recruiters, who can target students least likely to succeed and convince them to join the armed forces.

  • Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) 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.

Supporters of drilling in ANWR argue that the Administration has agreed to a number of measures to minimize the impact of drilling on the Arctic environment. For example, roadways would be constructed of ice that would melt in the spring, when activity on the roads would cease. Also, supporters say that the total surface disturbance due to drilling would be limited to not more 2,000 acres. This is in a total area for ANWR of 19,600,000 acres.

Critics argue that, of the 19,600,000 acres, however, the oil industry is specifically interested in drilling in the coastal plain, a crucial biological habitat, which constitutes 1,500,000 acres, approximately the size of Delaware. Critics point out that the referenced 2,000 acres are not isolated to a single, contiguous block of land, but in fact will stretch out in a vast web across a large expanse of land and will affect much more of the ecosystem than in just those 2,000 acres. Additionally, the full length of the oil pipeline is not included as part of that 2,000 acres, and the roads that are used to support the drilling activity may also be excluded from that total. Despite the proclaimed restriction to 2,000 acres, much of the decision as to how much of the 1,500,000 acres will actually be drilled are ultimately up to the Interior Department.

  • 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. Many commentators were amazed when, in his very first policy statement after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush reiterated his intent to place missile attack intervention highest on his list of priorities (despite the fact that no such system could have prevented the type of sneak attack the country had really, not theoretically, experienced). However, other commentators have endorsed Bush's position, noting, for example, the continuing development of long-range missile technology by North Korea, along with that country's threats to resume its nuclear weapons program.

Foreign policy

Bush'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 decision to impose a tariff[?] on imported steel, and to withdrawal from global initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol, ABM Treaty, an international land mine treaty and other multinational efforts, have convinced many that he (and his administration) has a policy of acting unilaterally, thus evading international responsibilities. Bush has justified these policies by arguing that these actions are in America's best interest. He has asserted, for example, that the Kyoto Protocol is "unfair and ineffective" because it would exempt 80 percent of the world and "cause serious harm to the U.S. economy."

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. However, blaming Bush for a failure to ratify may be rather off the mark. In 1997, the US Senate voted 95-0 that the United States should not become a party to the Kyoto Protocol unless developing nations are subject to scheduled limits or reductions of greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol does not meet those criteria.

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 was first described in a special "Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People" on September 20, 2001 in which Bush announced that America was fighting a war on terrorism.

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 mainland 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 the PRC. The decision was praised by many in pro-life movement, including the United States' largest public policy women's organization, Concerned Women For America[?].

Pro-choice critics criticize the decision and point out that the PRI refused to release information that would allow the team to locate the women, and thus no independent verification of PRI's claims was possible. Nor was it possible to confirm that UNFPA funding was actually behind the abortion and forced sterilizations alleged in the video. However, he sent a fact finding team to the PRC to investigate the situation there, and the team reported that UNFPA funding did not go towards forced abortions or sterilizations. Bush thus disregarded the findings of his own investigatory mission on this matter. See [4] (http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/4170956.htm) for more information on the PRI.

The Bush presidency has also been marked by diplomatic tensions with the People's Republic of China and North Korea, the latter of which admitted in 2003 to possessing nuclear weapons and threatened to use them if provoked by the US.

Bush has also maintained a desire to resume the peace proces in Israel, and openly proclaimed his desire for a Palestinian state to be created before 2005. He outlined a "roadmap for peace" that featuring compromises that had to be made by both sides before Palestinian statehood could become a reality. One paticular proposal was his instance for new Palestinian leadership; a stance that saw the appointment of the first ever Palestinian Prime Minister on April 29, 2003.

Military Campaigns

Once the source of the September 11 terrorist attacks was traced to Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network operating out of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Bush launched a military campaign against the country. Though the original intent of the strikes was to destroy terrorist infastructures and training camps, it soon became clear that Afghanistan's Taliban government was deeply connected to Bin Laden's terrorist organization. On November 13, 2001 American troops seized control of the capital city of Kabul, and overthrew the Taliban government. Exiled President Burhanuddin Rabbani was returned to office, and was soon followed by a special interim government headed by former Afghani territorial governor Hamid Karzai. Diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and the United States resumed, and Karzai became a close ally of Washington in the continued fight against terrorism.

The experiences encountered in dealing with the Taliban government inspired a new attitude in Bush Administration's attitude towards foreign policy. Bush believed that in America's continuing war against terror, the United States should not differentiate between terrorist groups, and the governments that support them. This view was highlighted in Bush's second State of the Union Address, in which he specifically singled out the nations of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as paticularly distressing examples of states that sponsor terrorism, dubbing them an Axis of Evil.

By early 2002 Bush began actively pressing for regime change in the nation of Iraq, indicating that his government had reason to that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had ties to terrorist groups and was developing weapons of mass destruction. This proposal was controversial with much of the world, and significant portions of the American public. Upon the advice of Secretary of State Colin Powell Bush agreed to persue the "UN route" to disarming Iraq. On November 8, 2002 a US-proposed United Nations Security Council was unanimously passed, condeming the Iraqi regime and re-instating a team of UN weapons inspectors. The inspectors failed to make any significant finds, but the Bush administration claimed they were being manipulated and deceived by the Iraqi regime. Powell made an appeal to the Security Council, showing photographs and conversations which the administration believed presented proof that Saddam's government was engaging in widespread deception.

On March 20, 2003 Bush gave the go ahead for a full-scale military invasion of Iraq to overthrow the Saddam regime. He did so using powers that had been granted to him by congress on October 16 of the previous year. After a few weeks of fighting, Saddam's government was successfully overthrown on April 9, 2003 and US forces occupied the Iraqi capital. The military effort has now switched to maintaining Iraqi security, strengthing the nation's infastructure, and preparing to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Throughout the course of the Iraqi war Bush was often the target of harsh criticism. Both in America and abroad there were numerous anti war protests, many of which specifically labled Bush as a "warmonger," or an oil-hungry "imperialist". European leaders were also critical of the President, especially French President Jacques Chirac who soon became the leading international voice of opposition to the Bush plan of Iraqi regime change.

Domestic Security

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks the Bush administration implemented a series of precautionary measures to ensure safety of the American homeland from future acts of terrorism. These included a wide variety of surveillance programs, some of which came under heavy fire from Civil Libertarians who criticized the Bush administration of scaling back civil liberties.

Some of the Bush security initiatives included:

  • The creation of a Homeland Security Department, a cabinet level agency designed to streamline and co-ordinate the various agents of federal government bureaucracy charged with protecting the American homeland from foreign attacks.

  • A Total Information Awareness program that will collect information on every American into a large database. All sorts of personal data--magazine subscriptions, college transcripts, credit card purchases, and other information--will be collected on every American and used for "data mining" purposes.

  • The USA PATRIOT Act Which expands the government's powers of surveillance and arrest. It includes provisions for detainment without a trial, and search without a warrant. It is said to be followed up by

  • "Project Lookout[?]", which distributes "watch lists" of people alleged to be suspicious, or have ties to terrorist groups to a variety of different organizations and institutions. These included specific "No-fly" lists[?] of American residents who should not be allowed to board any airport into or out of the United States.

  • "Operation TIPS", which would have created a vast network of amateur spies, in which Americans would spy on one another. This proposal was rejected after an initial outcry.

As mentioned, many of these actions were very controversial. Some accused the Bush administration of using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to clamp down on political dissent; indeed, many of Bush's critics were quick to allege that they were being unfairly targeted by the new security measures. Other accused the administration of over-reacting to the threat of terrorism, and participating in Big Brother style tactics with little justification.

Currently, a major controversy in the United States Congress is the deabate over wheter or not to expand the Patriot Act into a new Act known as Patriot Act II. This proposal would increase government spying on Americans and reduce judicial oversight over surveillance; authorize secret trials; and give the Justice Department the authority to revoke the American citizenship of anyone who belonged to an organization that the government deemed subversive. [5] (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/02/08/MN206260.DTL)

The Environment

The Bush administration has undertaken many controversial measures with respect to the environment. See Environmentalism and George W. Bush for more information.

Cabinet

Legislation signed Partial list:

Related articles

External Links

Preceded by:
Bill Clinton
Presidents of the United States



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