George W Bush
The airborne terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the thwarted flight against the White House or Capitol on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed, transformed George W Bush into a wartime president. The attacks put on hold many of Bush’s hopes and plans, and Bush’s father, George Bush, the 41st president, declared that his son “faced the greatest challenge of any president since Abraham Lincoln.”
In response, George W Bush formed a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, sent American forces into Afghanistan to break up the Taliban, a movement under Osama bin Laden that trained financed and exported terrorist teams. The Taliban was successfully disrupted but Bin Laden was not captured and was still on the loose as Bush began his second term. Following the attacks, the president also recast the nation’s intelligence gathering and analysis services, and ordered reform of the military forces to meet the new enemy. At the same time he delivered major tax cuts which had been a campaign pledge. His most controversial act was the invasion of Iraq on the belief that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein posed a grave threat to the United States. Saddam was captured, but the disruption of Iraq and the killing of American servicemen and friendly Iraqis by insurgents became the challenge of Bush’s government as he began his second term. President Bush pledged during his 2005 State of the Union Address that the United States would help the Iraqi people establish a fully democratic government because the victory of freedom in Iraq would strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, bring hope to a troubled region, and lift a threat from the lives of future generations.
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Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law.
In his domestic agenda, Bush’s emphasized familiar themes of increased responsibility for performance from his days as Texas governor, and he lobbied hard for the adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act, with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy as chief sponsor. The legislation had four main objectives: first, it aimed to close the achievement gap between white and minority students; second, it required measurement of student performance; third, it provided options to parents with students in low-performing schools; and, fourth, it provided more federal funding to low-income schools. NCLBA has been a source of ongoing controversy. Critics argue that Bush has underfunded his own program, and Kennedy himself has claimed: “The tragedy is that these long overdue reforms are finally in place, but the funds are not.” Many educational experts are critical of the reforms in question, claiming that NCLB allows some students to flee failing public schools instead of improving those schools.Others contend that NCLBA’s focus on “high stakes testing” and quantitative outcomes is counterproductive.
Bush 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. However, funding for NIH failed to keep up with inflation in 2004 and 2005, and was actually cut in 2006, the first such cut in 36 years. Bush appointed First Lady Laura Bush to oversee an initiative to improve opportunities and education for inner-city boys.
Social Services and Social Security Bush promoted increased de-regulation and investment options in social services and led 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.” AARP, a lobbying group for senior citizens, worked with the Bush Administration on the program and gave its endorsement. Bush said that the law, estimated to cost US$400 billion over the first ten years, would give the elderly “better choices and more control over their health care”.
President 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 centerpiece of his agenda despite contrary beliefs in the media and in the U.S. Congress, both of whom saw the program as the “third rail of politics,” due to the American public’s history of 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. According to at least one poll, Bush failed to convince the public that the Social Security program was in crisis.
Immigration In 2006, under political pressure from members of the Republican party, Bush put his support behind immediate and comprehensive immigration reform. Going beyond calls from Republicans and conservatives to secure the border, Bush demanded that Congress create a “temporary guest-worker program” to allow more than 12 million illegal immigrants to obtain legal status. Bush continued to argue 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. On May 15, 2006, Bush proposed expanding “Basic Pilot,” an online system to allow employers to easily confirm the eligibility of new hires; creating a new identification card for all foreign workers; and increasing penalties for businesses that violate immigration laws. Bush urged Congress to provide additional funding for border security, and committed to deploying 6000 National Guard troops to the United States-Mexico border.
Hurricane Katrina One of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history, Hurricane Katrina, struck early in Bush’s second term. Katrina was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the third-strongest land-falling U.S. hurricane on record. 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.
President Bush declared a state of emergency in Louisiana on August 27, and in Mississippi and Alabama on August 28. The eye of the hurricane made landfall on August 29. After the hurricane reached ground, Bush mobilized the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard to help rescue the approximately 60,000 people stranded in New Orleans.
Both local and federal governments were vehemently criticized for their response to Katrina, which was considered insufficient and disorganized. Criticisms of Bush focused on three main issues. First, leaders from both parties attacked the president for having appointed incompetent leaders to positions of power at FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, most notably Michael D. Brown. Second, many people argued that the inadequacy of the federal response was the result of the Iraq War and the demands it placed on the armed forces and the federal budget. Third, in the days immediately following the disaster, President Bush denied having received warnings about the possibility of floodwaters breaching the levees protecting New Orleans. However, the presidential video conference briefing of Aug. 28 shows Max Mayfield warning the President that overflowing the levees was “obviously a very, very grave concern.” Critics claimed that the President was misrepresenting his administration’s role in what they saw as a flawed response.
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George W Bush: First Presidential Term: 2001-2005
Bush’s first term in the White House was dominated by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against America, in which nearly 3,000 people were killed, and their aftermath. The following month, in response to the attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to overthrow the Taliban government, which was suspected of harboring Osama Bin Laden (1957-2011), leader of Al-Qaeda, the organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban regime was quickly toppled; however, Bin Laden was not captured for another decade.
With the goal of protecting the United States from future terrorist attacks, George W. Bush also signed the Patriot Act into law created the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, which was officially established in November 2002. Then, in the spring of 2003, the United States invaded Iraq in order to overthrow leader Sadaam Hussein (1937-2006), whose regime was accused of supporting international terrorist groups and possessing large caches of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In December 2003, U.S. forces captured Hussein (who was later executed by Iraqi officials); however, no WMDs were ever discovered.
Also in his first term, George W Bush won Congressional approval of widespread tax-cut bills and the Medicare prescription drug coverage program for seniors; signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law; allocated billions of dollars to fight HIV/AIDS around the world; created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and withdrew America’s support of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was signed by President Bill Clinton and was intended to combat worldwide global warming (Bush said he was concerned that the international agreement’s requirements would hurt the U.S. economy).
Bush ran for re-election in 2004 and defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry (1943), a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, by a margin of 286-251 electoral votes and with 50.7 percent of the popular vote to Kerry’s 48.3 percent
George W Bush: Second Presidential Term: 2005-2009
Bush enjoyed strong public approval ratings throughout much of his first term; however, during his second term his popularity plummeted. Critics said Bush had used misleading claims about Iraq’s WMDs as a justification for the invasion of that Middle Eastern nation. Additionally, after Hurricane Katrina devastated America’s Gulf Coast region in August 2005, resulting in some 1,800 deaths and billions of dollars in damages, the Bush administration was widely criticized for its slow response to the disaster.
A troubled economy also contributed to Americans’ dissatisfaction with George W. Bush. He began his presidency with a federal budget surplus; however, factors such as the enormous cost of fighting two wars and the broad tax cuts led to annual budget deficits starting in 2002. Then, in 2008, with America experiencing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Congress passed a series of controversial Bush administration-sponsored plans to bail out the financial industry with hundreds of billions in federal funds. Bush also lobbied unsuccessfully for a plan to replace Social Security with private retirement savings accounts.
Throughout his terms, Bush rarely wavered from his stance as a social conservative. He made two nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, both in 2005: Chief Justice John Roberts (1955) and Samuel Alito (1950), both regarded as judicial conservatives.
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In response to the September 11th terrorist attacks, President Bush declared a War on Terror, which became a wide-ranging assault on terrorists and those entities that support terrorism around the globe. As part of this effort, the War in Afghanistan began in October 2001 and the War in Iraq in March 2003. President Bush initiated a reorganization of the federal government, established the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Homeland Security Council, and created the position of Director of National Intelligence. The USA Freedom Corps, also created following September 11th, aimed to inspire American citizens to serve humanitarian causes greater than themselves.
In the 2004 election, President George W. Bush faced Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. President Bush was re-elected for a second term, and inaugurated January 20, 2005. Iraq also held its elections – the first free elections in the country – in January 2005.
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Life After the White House
George W. Bush left office in January, 2009, leaving behind much unfinished business and low approval ratings. The country remained politically divided. Critics laid much of the country’s misfortunes at his feet, while supporters defended him for his strong leadership during one of the country’s most dangerous periods. Bush and his wife settled in Dallas, Texas, where he participated in the building of his presidential library and wrote his memoir “Decision Points.” At the request of President Barack Obama, Bush and former president Bill Clinton led private fundraising efforts in the United States for disaster relief, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
After years of leading a relatively quiet life in Texas, Bush returned to the media spotlight in 2013. He was on hand for the opening of the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the grounds of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The other living former presidents, including Bill Clinton and Bush’s own father, attended the event as did President Barack Obama. Bush joked that “There was a time in my life when I wasn’t likely to be found at a library, much less found one,” according to Fox News. Speaking on a more serious note, Bush seemed to defend his time as president. “When people come to this library and research this administration, they’re going to find out we stayed true to our convictions,” he said.
George W. Bush played up to his Texas roots through most of his political life. For both his supporters and detractors, it provided reasons for their support and criticism. For some, his folksy image and manner suggested he was “not ready for prime time,” politically adept, but not a statesman at a time when the country need one. For others, he was perceived as a president of big ideas who eagerly embraced large visions and the risks involved. His supporters credit him with re-establishing America’s place as the world’s uncontested leader. Internationally, he has been maligned for his “cowboy diplomacy” in foreign affairs. Like many presidents before him, the George W. Bush presidency will find its place in history balanced against his successes and failures.
In July 2013, George W Bush made history when he joined President Barack Obama in Africa in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s first attack on the United States—marking the first meeting on foreign soil to commemorate an act of terrorism between two U.S. presidents.
Bush ran into some health problems later that summer. On August 6, he underwent surgery to insert a stent in his heart to open a blockage in one of his arteries. The blockage discovered during his annual physical. Through a spokesperson, Bush expressed his gratitude to “the skilled medical professionals who have cared for him,” according to the Associated Press. Bush also thanked “his family, friends, and fellow citizens for their prayers and well wishes. And he encourages us all to get our regular check-ups.”
That October, it was revealed that Bush’s heart condition was more serious than originally described. He had a 95% blockage in that artery before his surgery, according to CNN.com. If he had not been treated, Bush would have been at risk of having a heart attack.
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