President George W. Bush

The story of George W. Bush’s presidency was always going to be an interesting one because of his family. We had already had a Bush in the White House – one that divided opinion. So, there was concern and curiosity over how George Bush Jr would handle the role.

Bush Jr ran in 2000, following time as Governor of Texas. The election was just as controversial as the one in 2020, with calls for recounts in Florida and questions over the true margin of votes. It was also a presidency full of challenges and opportunities as he dealt with war, the rise of terrorism, natural disasters, and other domestic issues.

Some of these were handled far better than others. All were there for the media to capture.

George W. Bush and the press and media

Public image is essential for any president and there are many examples of how media attention shaped the way that we perceived the man behind the presidency with Bush. Bush Jr always came across as an awkward person, especially on foreign trips, although this was often in a more endearing way than some other presidents managed. He was made fun of for his “Bushisms”, where he would muddle his phrasing and words, or when he froze after reaching a door that wouldn’t open. He was the ideal candidate for satire and parody.

But, he was generally liked during the first half of his presidency. The jibes were generally good-natured and he was even praised for how he dodged the shoe thrown at him. Some would say that Bush Jr was the president you would want to go for a beer with at the end of the day – even though he doesn’t drink. There was a sense of likeability and relatability to him that people were drawn to.

However, there were occasions where the media caught him during important events and created moments that are still debated to this day. A good example is when he was sat in a classroom in Florida and learned of the terror attack on the World Trade Center. Footage shows the Chief of Staff whispering in Bush’s ear and the President’s expression changing. He then remained and listened to the children finish their story.

Critics say this wasn’t presidential and that he should have made his excuses and left to deal with the emergency. Supporters say that it was better to stay calm in front of the children rather than cause panic.

George W. Bush and the handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Critics of George W. Bush’s time in power cite the Hurricane Katrina situation as a turning point for his downfall. The president was on vacation at the time that the Hurricane hit. It is reported that his staff did not want to inform him of the situation, and only did so once the devastation became clear. On seeing it, Bush decided to return to Washington.

On the return journey, a photo was taken of him flying over one of the areas hit, looking as though he was above it all and heading away from the scene. This would not play well with the public. To make matters worse, he would then delay his visit to the area. His response was that he didn’t want to be in the way and cause disruption. But, it further emphasized the distance between the president and the poor communities affected.

George W. Bush and the War on Terrorism.

While it is easy to remember Bush Jr from the small snippet of news footage – good or bad – we also have to consider the policies and legislation that he brought into place during his presidency. When we do this, we uncover the darker side of the era that could easily get swept away by modern-day perceptions.

War on Terrorism

The ongoing decisions and actions during the War on Terrorism are the perfect example. There is a good chance that much of what happened came from advisors rather than personal beliefs. But, there is still the fact Bush ended up with accusations of war crimes and threats of impeachment.

The Iraq War.

Across the early part of the 21st century, the US would engage in a new war in the Middle East to defeat terrorism.

The original target of all this was the Afghan Taliban regime in an attempt to get to Osama Bin Laden. Bush also spoke of the axis of evil growing in North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.

In 2002, the focus shifted to Iraq, with a cited belief that there was evidence that Saddam Hussein was building a weapons program with biological and chemical weapons. “Weapons of mass destruction” became the key phrase.

The US would invade with the support of the UK and the war would not officially end until 2011. It would later be revealed that the reasons for going to war and threats of WMDs may have been exaggerated.

Bush increased domestic security and brought in new laws to fight terrorism.

Following the attacks on September 11th, there were strong calls to strengthen defenses at home and to protect the nation from further attack. This meant providing new powers for the collection of information and the detention of potential terror suspects. The Patriot Act came into force, as did the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

He would also authorize the torture of detainees.

This became the most controversial of all the decisions and one that stands out when questioning the character and choices of Bush and his administration. Bush would authorize the use of extreme measures for gaining information from those detained under terrorism offenses. The term “enhanced interrogation techniques” is used a lot, but waterboarding is known to be one of them.

At the time, the CIA considered it legal based on the fact that terror suspects were not protected by the Geneva Convention. However, critics would consider it to be torture and Barack Obama would condemn the practice.

Across this period, there were 35 articles of impeachment produced by one Democratic Representative alone. There were arguments that Bush should be impeached because of concerns over the legality and reasoning for the war in Iraq, the potential violations of the Geneva Conventions, and the NSA surveillance issues. However, none were ever brought forward and there wasn’t much public support for the process.

George W. Bush’s other achievements during his presidency.

The War in Iraq and ongoing issues with the War on Terrorism will overshadow anything else that Bush was able to achieve during his time in the White House. But, it is important to stay balanced and remember some of the positive changes and ideas brought forward in this time.

No Child Left Behind.

No Child Left Behind was an act of 2001 to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The idea was that no child in the US should have fewer opportunities for good education based on their socio-economic status. However, it was up to each state to determine its standards. Therefore, there was no nationalization of standards and no guaranteed fairness for every child in each state.

National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.

Another interesting development of the Bush Administration was the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza. This plan has even greater significance since the outbreak of the Covid Pandemic and the way that the Trump administration handled the situation.

The documents were designed to guide the country in preparing a response and halting the spread of any pandemic, in turn limiting the risk of a higher death toll.

On January 21st, 2021, President Biden would create something similar with his National Strategy For The COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

Environmental protection and the Kyoto Protocol.

There are mixed views on the actions taken during the Bush administration regarding environmental issues. On the one hand, there was the decision to oppose the Kyoto Protocol. This protocol stated mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, Bush felt that this was unfair in how it targeted countries and cited costs of billions of dollars per year.

On the other hand, Bush created a larger marine reserve by declaring the Northwestern Hawaiian Island as a national monument. There was also the announcement of the Clear Skies Act of 2003 to work on emissions and pollutants.

Another lesser-known story from the Bush Jr presidency is the assassination attempt in Georgia.

This is another example of how media footage and small clips of events stay in the mind and shape our memories of presidents. Many of us can remember the footage of the incident where an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference in 2008. This was a massive sign of disrespect and Bush was able to duck the shoes at the podium. The image went viral and is still all over YouTube.

However, there was a much dangerous incident in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2005. The president was speaking in Freedom square when an audience member threw a grenade towards the podium. Thankfully, it did not detonate after landing in the crowd.

The controversy of how George W. Bush got into power in the first place.

We can’t talk about the presidency of Bush Jr and everything that happened without talking about how he got to the position in the first place. There are still those that claim that the result was unfair and the election was won illegally. It all revolves around the results of the count in Florida.

Bush had won 29 states and claimed Florida. But, there was a recount and a court ruling to determine the result. The court reversed a call for a third recount due to arguments over the counting machine. The recount showed a margin of just 537 votes in six million in the state. The Electoral College results ended up as 271 to 266. Furthermore, Gore won the popular vote by 543,895. With all this in mind, it isn’t hard to see why Democratic supporters feel cheated by the results.

The 2004 Election.

The 2004 election went in a much more decisive direction than the 2000 election. Bush’s approval ratings were strong at the time, although this wouldn’t last.

Approval ratings were around 50% at the start of his presidency, they rose to 90% after 9/11, and then stayed back around 50% for most of the first term. However, it declined to 19% in the second term. The 2004 election saw Bush win 31 of 50 states, two more than before, with 286 Electoral College votes. There was also a clear swing in the popular vote, with 50.7% compared to Kerry’s 48.3%.

Perceptions of George W. Bush post-presidency.

There is no doubt that the public perception of George Bush Jr could not have been much worse when he left office. There was hatred over the handling of the war – which would be left to Obama to finish – as well as many other issues. Those strongly opposed hate the fact that the public has softened on him in recent years. It may have also helped that Bush spoke out against the Capitol riot and happily attended subsequent inaugurations.

A lot of this may come down to his relationship with the Obama family. By continuing a strong friendship with them, and gaining their support, there is the sense that perhaps he was a nice guy under all the policies.

The Bushes joined Obama at the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero. Then there are more of those helpful little news clips of Bush handing mints to Michelle Obama, both at the funeral of McCain and George Bush Sr.

How will George W. Bush be remembered in 10 years?

There was a time when there were concerns that Bush Jr might be one of the worst presidents of the modern era. Today, historians are revising those rankings based on recent events. It is hard to tell how he will go on to be ranked in the future. For now, his approval ratings may finally be heading in the right direction again.

close

We would like to send you an update when we post extra content to our blog.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leaving a comment is the best way to voice your opinion about the constitution or other matters. ConstitutionUS.com is happy to hear all views and discussions. All comments are moderated, although are not refused based on standpoint. We try to take an unbiased stance.

Leaving a comment is also the best way to reach the management team of ConstitutionUS.com . If it is a private message, then it won’t be published.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *