George W. Bush
|2001-2008||Republican||July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut||Bush and his wife Laura live in Texas.|
|Vice President||First Lady||Previous Occupations||States in Union|
|Richard B. Cheney||Laura Welch Bush (Wife)||Businessman, Public Official||50|
Bush’s parents are George H. W. and Barbara Pierce Bush. His father was the 41st president. Bush married Laura Welch in 1977. They have twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
George W. Bush won the presidency in an extremely controversial race against the Democratic candidate Al Gore. In fact, at the end of the day on November 7, 2000, the votes were so close that no winner could be declared. A recount of Florida’s hotly contested votes ended after the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on December 13 to stop the count. In the end Gore had won the popular vote, but Bush had won the Electoral College, making Bush the president.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Bush had promised to cut taxes. Upon taking office, he quickly ushered through a series of significant tax cuts and tax breaks. The measure exempted millions of Americans from paying any taxes, created a new lower bracket for the working poor, and also lowered the top three brackets. Bush also worked successfully to gain bipartisan support of comprehensive education reforms via the No Child Left Behind Act. Though many remain skeptical about the long-term effects of No Child Left Behind, the legislation broke new ground by introducing accountability measures to ensure continued improvements in reading and math proficiency.
Despite this initial focus on domestic policy initiatives, Bush’s presidency was taken in a dramatically different direction by an unexpected and devastating blow on the morning of September 11, 2001. On that date––what we now remember as 9/11––the U.S. fell victim to the worst terrorist attack in our history. The Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger airliners and used them to execute a coordinated series of suicide attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. Over 3,000 people from over 90 different countries lost their lives. Bush quickly rallied the American people and accepted sincere condolences from leaders and people around the globe. Bush also declared an international “War on Terror” to prevent future atrocities. Immediate goals of the War on Terror were to overthrow the Taliban, destroy al-Qaeda, and to capture Osama bin Laden.
The War on Terror has progressed as military action that began in Afghanistan in October 2001. The U.S. military and its allies successfully removed the Taliban from control of the country and drove most elements of al-Qaeda into hiding in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bush then turned his attention toward Iraq. In October 2002, he presented Congress with a resolution authorizing him to invade Iraq if Saddam Hussein did not surrender its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Although United Nations inspectors did not find such weapons, Bush argued that Iraq presented a threat to the U.S. because such weapons did exist, and because of the connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The U.S. launched a preemptive invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and accomplished its initial military objectives within the first six weeks. In subsequent months and years, however, an insurgency formed in Iraq that proved difficult and costly to counter. The insurgency caused thousands of deaths among American soldiers and many more deaths among Iraqi civilians.
The War on Terror and the Iraq War dominated the Bush presidential agenda following 9/11. Many existing federal government agencies were combined into the new Department of Homeland Security, a single federal department created with the primary mission to protect the homeland against terrorist threats. Bush has also secured passage of such legislation as the USA Patriot Act, which strengthened the abilities of law enforcement to prevent, investigate, and prosecute acts of terror.
After the invasion of Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction were found, and eventually the Iraq – al-Qaeda connection was discounted. For these reasons, as well as because of the mounting American deaths caused by the insurgency, the Iraq War caused controversy for the rest of Bush’s two terms in office. The controversy featured prominently in both the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Bush ran for re-election against the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry, in 2004. Even though many Americans disagreed with Bush’s handling of the war, many also were uncomfortable electing a new president in wartime. Bush was therefore re-elected to a second term. Shortly after his reelection, Bush launched new domestic policy initiatives, such as Social Security and immigration reform, but without success. During his two terms Bush has had both the highest and the lowest domestic Gallup poll approval ratings of any American president, ranging from around 90% immediately after the September 11 attacks to a low of 28% in April 2008.
“I kind of figure life is going to work its way out somehow.” (2000)
“Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.” (Inaugural Address; January 20, 2001)
In the wake of September 11, Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and the American people at the U.S. Capitol: “We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers––in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own. My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union––and it is strong.” (September 20, 2001)
Bush addressed the world regarding the invasion of Iraq: “We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others, and we will prevail.” (March 19, 2003)
At This Time
2001: On June 7 Bush signs into law tax cuts estimated at $1.3 trillion to $1.4 trillion to be phased in over 10 years • On September 11, terrorists perpetrate the worst attack in U.S. history when they highjack four commercial airliners and attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon; the U.S. declares that international terrorist Osama bin Laden is the most probable suspect behind the attacks • October 7- the U.S. begins air attacks against Al Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan • Operation Active Endeavour (a NATO naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea designed to prevent terrorist activity) begins October 16 • An additional wave of terrorism sweeps the U.S. and ultimately kills five people after they receive or handle mail that contains the bacteria that causes Anthrax • Microsoft announces its new Windows XP operating system • Scientists at the bio-technology company ACT announce that they have cloned a human embryo • Music becomes widely available on the Internet • 2002: In May Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin sign the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions which reduces nuclear warheads by nearly two-thirds • On October 11 Bush is authorized by Congress to invade Iraq if it does not turn over its presumed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction • North Korea admits that it has been developing nuclear weapons for years; the admission stresses relations between the U.S. and North Korea • The UN reports that more than 800 million people around the globe are starving and that 40 million people are infected with the HIV AIDS virus • 2003: March 19 – Bush informs the world that the U.S. will invade Iraq • On March 20 the Iraq War begins as “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and the American and Allied forces gain control of Baghdad within six weeks • On May 1 Bush reports that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” • However, an insurgency develops in Saudi Arabia in May • The UN determines that no weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq • The International Human Genome Project completes the recording of 99.99% of the human genome and publishes a database • 2004: The European Union experiences its largest expansion ever, adding ten new states • Controversy begins over the reasons behind the Iraq War; by year’s end, over 1,000 soldiers have been killed • The U.S. and its allies transfer limited power to the Iraqi transitional government • Two NASA space probes land on Mars and relay images back to earth, including evidence of water • 2005: Amid widespread violence, Iraqis cast ballots in their first ever free election • In August Israel officially begins its historic pullout from Gaza, ending 38 years of occupation • On August 29 Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest storms ever, makes landfall east of New Orleans; over 1,300 people in four states lose their lives • The year surpasses the record of 21 hurricanes set in 1933 when 27 storms are named • The U.S. death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000 by October 26 • 2006: Twelve coal miners are trapped and die in the Sago Mine in West Virginia • In June al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is killed when U.S. warplanes drop bombs on the house where he is staying • U.S., British, and Pakistani intelligence authorities prevent a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up as many as 10 jets leaving Britain for the U.S. in August • North Korea reports that it has successfully completed an underground nuclear test; the UN Security Council imposes sanctions as punishment • Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is executed December 30 in Iraq after being convicted for his role in killing 148 Shiites in the 1980s • 2007: In February North Korea agrees to close its nuclear facilities and allow inspectors to verify their closure in exchange for a $400 million aid package from the U.S., China, Russia, and South Korea • At a military hearing at the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (former top aid to al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden) confesses to planning the September 11 terrorist attacks, as well as many others attacks but his reliability is disputed • On April 16, the 23-year-old college senior Seung-Hui Cho kills 32 people on the campus of Virginia Tech University in the deadliest school shooting in American history • Apple Computer releases its innovative, internet-enabled iPhone • The final Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released July 10 with an initial printing of 12 million copies in the U.S. • General David Petraeus, America’s top commander in Iraq, reports that the “surge” campaign, which deployed an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq in addition to the 130,000 already stationed there, had dramatically reduced sectarian killings in Baghdad and across Iraq • 2008: The price of petroleum hits $100 per barrel for the first time • Fidel Castro resigns as President of Cuba as of February 24 • In April surgeons in London implant bionic eyes in two blind patients • Bush sends to Congress legislation that implements the U.S.’s free trade agreement with Colombia • Severe problems in the housing and mortgage markets develop during the spring months and cause several large American financial institutions to collapse, resulting in a series of forced mergers, bankruptcies, and government bail-outs • The U.S. Treasury Department begins sending economic stimulus checks to about 130 million American households to help prevent recession • In May Bush signs and sends to Congress the U.S.-Russian Agreement for Cooperation in the field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy • An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale devastates central China and kills over 69,000 people • In August American swimmer Michael Phelps wins a record number of eight gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing, surpassing swimmer Mark Spitz’s win of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics • Democrat Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to be officially nominated for president by a major political party, and Sarah Palin becomes the first woman to be selected as a Republican vice-presidential candidate • The economic problems escalate throughout the summer and trigger a global credit crisis in September that forces many banks to fail around the world • The U.S. stock markets lose roughly a quarter of their value in September and October, and global stock markets decline steeply as well. Trying to prevent an economic disaster, the U.S. government passes the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, a federal bailout bill aimed at rescuing the financial sector from the escalating credit crisis by providing $700 billion to purchase and assist struggling financial institutions • In November Democrat Barack Obama is elected to serve as the 44th president of the United States • The economic credit crisis reverberates throughout most industries; retail sales drop dramatically and unemployment rises • Coordinated terrorist attacks kill 195 people in Mumbai, India • In December the National Bureau of Economic Research officially declares that the U.S. economy entered recession in December 2007 • Governor Milorad “Rod” Blagojevich of Illinois is arrested for conspiring to “sell” the Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama • The U.S. government announces plans to give $17.4 billion in loans to help automobile makers Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford avoid bankruptcy • The year ends with an American unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, which is higher than January’s 4.9 percent.
Did You Know?
Bush grew up with a passion for sports, but baseball was always his favorite. As a young Little League player, Bush particularly admired the superstar Willy Mays. When his family moved to Houston, his parents built a baseball diamond in the backyard for Bush and his siblings to play with friends. In high school Bush played on both the junior varsity basketball and baseball teams, but he usually spent more time on the bench than on the court and field. Later in high school he became a cheerleader and enjoyed leading the squad at football and baseball games. After his college years, Bush bought a partial share of the Texas Rangers baseball team and worked as the managing general partner for five years. As an owner, he was privileged to attend practices, talk to the players, and sit by the dugout at games. His Texas friend Dr. Charles Younger has remarked about Bush’s baseball management experience, “George loves people and baseball, so he traveled to all 254 counties in Texas, promoting the Texas Rangers. I think owning the Texas Rangers was his happiest time in life. And going to all those counties was good preparation for his future political career.”
Biographical information, essays, and access to Bush’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
Field Trips for George W. Bush
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Southern Methodist University
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum “serves as a resource for the study of the life and career of George W. Bush, while also promoting a better understanding of the Presidency, American history, and important issues of public policy. The Library and Museum accomplishes its mission by preserving and providing access to Presidential records and other donated collections, hosting public programs, creating educational initiatives, preserving artifacts, and producing innovative museum exhibits.”