Early in his
presidency, Mr. Bush was able to build bipartisan coalitions around
many issues, including some education reform proposals. But as
differences opened up over tax polices and further education reform,
partisan splits formed between the president and Congress.
the Senate, the president faced yet another challenge. In addition
to his narrow and contested election, Mr. Bush faced an upper
house split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with the
new vice president, Dick Cheney, the tie-breaking vote.
As a heated
debate over the president's massive $1.35 trillion tax cut proposal
came to a close in May 2001, news came down that Republican Sen.
Jim Jeffords of Vermont would leave the party and become an independent.
The move gave control of the Senate to the Democrats. During that
period, tensions flared more periodically, but following the 2002
elections, Democrats suffered a series of losses in Georgia and
Missouri that gave control of the body back to the GOP.
shifts in the Senate, the narrow margin of control has forced
the president to build coalitions around major issues, such as
tax reform and later military action in Iraq.
the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the president saw a huge surge in
public and political support. With the nation unified, measures
like the authorization for war against the Taliban in Afghanistan
and the more controversial USA Patriot Act flew through Congress
with little opposition.
As time passed
and Mr. Bush and his national security team turned its attention
to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, opposition in Congress and on the street
began to grow. But many who watched and advised the president
said he took the single-minded approach that Iraq could not be
allowed to continue its refusal to abide by decade-old U.N. resolutions
and that something had to be done.
As he urged
Congress to approve a resolution authorizing the use of force
in Iraq, the president repeatedly tied the threat posed by Iraq
to the new dangers made so apparent on Sept. 11, 2001.
the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of
the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and
we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring,"
President Bush said during a speech ahead of the congressional
It was a theme
that the president stuck with even after the United Nations debate
bogged down over authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Those
who spoke with the president said Mr. Bush viewed Saddam Hussein
as an imminent threat that needed to be dealt with before Iraq
either developed or distributed weapons of mass destruction.
On the night
military action opened, President Bush reiterated his determination
to see through the conflict in Iraq.
citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome.
We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work
of peace. We will defend out freedom. We will bring freedom to
others. And we will prevail," he told the nation.
It was the
post-9/11 president in full action, determined to defend the United
States and willing to do it with the backing of Britain, Spain
and others, but without the support of the United Nations or other
to dominate the president's agenda as the swift military action
toppled the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, but the U.S. military
occupation of the war-torn nation stretched on.
Even as the
Democrats ramped up the campaign to defeat President Bush, Mr.
Bush pledged to stay the course in Iraq, declaring it the new
front in the ongoing war against terrorism.
-- By Lee Banville, Online NewsHour