43rd President

Terms: 2001-2009
Political Party: Republican
First Lady: Laura Welch Bush
Vice President: Richard B. "Dick" Cheney

Overview

Born July 6, 1946 in New Haven CT… Prior to winning the presidency, George W. Bush served as Governor of Texas. His father, George H.W. Bush, was the 41st president, and "W," as he was nicknamed, was only the second American president to follow his father into the White House. His self-described political philosophy was compassionate conservatism -- he gained popularity for his bipartisanship and basing much of his policy on the principles of limited government and local control, strong families, and personal responsibility. George W. Bush took on reforms in education, federal taxes, Medicare and conservation. However, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cast a shadow over his two-term presidency.

The Era

  • Al-Qaeda terrorists attack the United States (2001)
  • Letters laced with Anthrax kill five Americans and sicken 17 (2001)
  • First iPod debuts (2001)
  • Columbia Shuttle explodes during re-entry (2003)
  • Iraq war begins (2003)
  • A 9.3-scale Earthquake in the Indian Ocean sets off a tsunami, devastating coastal regions in the South Pacific (2004)
  • Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike hit the U.S., causing widespread devastation (2005, 2008)
  • Pluto is demoted to a Dwarf Planet (2006)
  • Fidel Castro resigns as leader of Cuba (2008)
  • The U.S. housing bubble bursts, leading to a global financial crisis and recession (2008)
  • Energy Crisis sparks a rise in gas prices globally. U.S. prices reach as high as $4.12 (2008)

Domestic Politics

Bush followed economic policies that aligned with the Republican Party while also promoting reforms and programs to benefit the underprivileged. After cutting the federal income tax rate, he faced criticism from Democrats for favoring the wealthy. Bush addressed widespread domestic issues, including education and medical coverage -- he signed the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act. On September 11, 2001 Islamist terrorists hijacked four American commercial airliners and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, ultimately killing some 3,000 people. The crisis transformed his presidency, sending his approval ratings soaring, and refocusing his domestic agenda on national security with the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act. In 2005, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Bush faced public and political criticism for the delay in his administration's response.

Foreign Affairs

In the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil Bush declared a War on Terrorism and began a military campaign against the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In 2002, the Bush administration announced it would act "preemptively" against states that threatened its security. The following year, President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq and the removal of dictator Saddam Hussein, based on evidence of weapons of mass destruction. George W. Bush, and multiple members of his administration would come under fire in the coming years, by officials, the media and the public, for allegedly misleading the United States into war. Public support for “Operation Iraqi Freedom” would drop as the war and U.S. occupation of Iraq continued (38% in 2008) and the death toll mounted (4,000 U.S. soldiers in early 2008).

Presidential Politics

The election that brought George W. Bush to the White House in 2000 was one of the closest and most controversial elections in United States history. Bush narrowly won enough electoral votes to take office but lost the popular vote to his opponent, Vice President Al Gore -- appeal for a manual vote recount in Florida went to the Supreme Court. The controversial vote led to reform in voting practices and technology and continued to be a point of contention throughout Bush’s presidency.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH