|George W. Bush|
George Walker Bush was the 43rd president of the United States, elected in 2000 and serving from 2001 to 2008. His presidency began and remained in controversy, from the issues surrounding the 2000 election to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The oldest son of President George H. W. Bush, Bush was raised in Texas where his father had moved to start his Zapata Oil corporation, and like other men in his family, attended Yale University where he earned a degree in history and was a member of the Skull and Bones society. While his father and grandfather had served in the navy during wartime, he served in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Bush has described this period of his life as irresponsible and informed by bad choices, characterized by excessive drinking. After a failed congressional bid, he spent most of the 1980s working in the oil industry before purchasing a share of the Texas Rangers baseball team, of which he served as general manager from 1989 to 1994.
He ran for governor of Texas in 1994, the same year his younger brother Jeb ran for governor of Florida; Jeb lost, but was elected in 1998, the same year George won his reelection by a landslide. As governor of Texas, Bush was a noted conservative.
State executions rose to higher levels than any other state in modern American history, and the line between church and state was worn thin when Bush declared June 10, 2000, to be “Jesus Day,” a state holiday in memory of Jesus and encouraging reaching out to those in need.
At the time, Bush was running for president; in an early debate preceding the Republican primaries, he named Jesus (identifying him only by the religious title “Christ”) as the political philosopher he most identified with. He won the Republican nomination, picking Dick Cheney—his father’s secretary of defense—as his running mate.
Voting irregularities in Florida, where Jeb was still governor, made it difficult to determine whether Bush or Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, had won the state, and the electoral vote in the rest of the country was close enough that the Florida votes would be the tiebreakers.
Less than one-tenth of 1 percent separated the two candidates, requiring a series of recounts both by hand and machine, and precipitating a national controversy over reports of vote tampering, problematic ballot designs and the handling of overseas ballots, and the coincidence of a Bush governing the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that with no time remaining to require a thorough and uniform recount, the state’s then-official count—in favor of Bush—would be upheld. Gore conceded the election rather than fight the matter further.
More than any other president in recent memory, even in light of Ronald Reagan’s cold war rhetoric and its resemblance to “fire and brimstone” sermons, Bush has worn his faith on his sleeve, making frequent reference to God and Christian matters in his speeches.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush declared a “war on terrorism,” and shortly identified an “axis of evil” (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) as those states most guilty of sponsoring terrorist activity. Both terms of his presidency have been defined by this initiative.
While foreign policy led to war with Afghanistan and a protracted war in Iraq, domestic policy was affected by the USA Patriot Act and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The Office of Strategic Influence was created in secret to develop psychological means of furthering the war on terrorism, changing its name once the public discovered its existence.
Bush and his administration have come under constant criticism. He has positioned himself as his father’s successor, staffing his cabinet with several men associated with the elder Bush and repeatedly referring to an Iraqi assassination attempt (“they tried to kill my dad”) as part of his justification for the war in Iraq.
His approval rating has dipped as low as 28 percent, among the lowest presidential approval ratings in history, and several prominent movements have called for his impeachment, usually in response to the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s warrant-less surveillance. His slow response to the failure of the levees in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 has also come under fire, particularly given his support of the clearly ineffective Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).