REPUBLICAN George Herbert Walker Bush took the oath of office as the forty-first president of the United States on 20 January 1989, after serving eight years as Ronald Reagan's vice president and comfortably defeating Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. Two years later, after leading a coalition of nations in a swift and decisive war to turn back the aggression of Iraq against Kuwait and negotiating the end of the Cold War with Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev, President Bush's approval rating in public opinion polls was near 90 percent. He appeared to be unbeatable as a candidate for a second term.
But less than two years after that, in the election of 1992, Bush received only 37 percent of the popular vote and lost to Democrat William J. ("Bill") Clinton, governor of Arkansas and a man with no experience in Washington whatsoever. The history of the Bush presidency pivots on that remarkable and rapid reversal. Why had he risen to such heights of popularity and fallen so fast? How could defeat have been snatched so quickly from the jaws of victory? The answers tell us something of the strengths and weaknesses of Bush's leadership, but even more about the post-Cold War shift in American political priorities from foreign policy to domestic issues.
The Bush years were extraordinarily eventful from a foreign policy standpoint—the Cold War ended, Germany was reunified, the Soviet Union collapsed, relations with China were strained following the lethal suppression of student protest in Beijing, American troops intervened in Panama to overthrow a criminal dictator and in Somalia to save people from starvation, and the United States led a coalition to victory in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq. In domestic affairs, on the other hand, few new programs were launched, there was more gridlock than cooperation between the president and Congress, the economy went into recession, and unemployment increased along with the federal deficit. By 1992 the president was widely perceived as having failed to lead at home while his victories abroad did not translate into votes.
New England, Texas, Washington, D.C.
George Bush was a New England patrician partially transplanted to Texas, where he entered politics after almost two decades in the oil business. He was born on 12 June 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts, and grew up in the affluent New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut. His father, Prescott Bush, was a successful investment banker, a friend of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's, and a Republican senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. His mother, Dorothy Walker, was from a prominent family that had migrated in the nineteenth century from New England to St. Louis, Missouri. George Herbert Walker, George's grandfather, established the Walker Cup competition between American and British amateur golfers. George Bush spent summers at Walker's Point, the family's spacious oceanfront compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Later, Bush would use the residence as his presidential retreat.
In 1942, six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bush graduated from Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts, a boarding school with a reputation for preparing boys for future leadership. He rejected the advice of commencement speaker Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war and former secretary of state, to continue his education before rushing off to war. On his eighteenth birthday he joined the navy and soon earned his wings as the country's youngest combat aviation officer. Bush flew fifty-eight combat missions in the Pacific as a torpedo bomber pilot based on the carrier San Jacinto. After being shot down by the Japanese in 1944 and rescued by an American submarine (his two crew members died), Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In December 1941 George, age seventeen, met Barbara Pierce, age sixteen, at a country club dance. She was the daughter of a magazine publisher and lived in Rye, New York. In 1943, on the eve of George's combat tour in the Pacific, they became secretly engaged. Barbara briefly attended Smith College but dropped out in her sophomore year. She and George were married in January 1945 and in the next decade and a half had six children: George (elected president of the United States in 2000), Jeb (elected governor of Florida in 1998), Neil, Marvin, Dorothy, and Robin (who died of leukemia before her fourth birthday). Barbara Bush devoted her life to nurturing the close-knit family and to helping her husband's career. As First Lady she chose to avoid the limelight, unlike Eleanor Roosevelt and her successor Hillary Rodham Clinton. She was proud and unapologetic about embracing a traditional lifestyle as helpmate to her husband. In a much publicized address to the women graduating from Wellesley College in 1990 she said: "As important as your obligations as a doctor, a lawyer, a business leader will be, you are a human being first, and those human connections with spouses, with children, and with friends are the most important investment you will ever make."
When World War II ended George Bush followed the tradition of both sides of his family by going to Yale. He graduated in less than three years, in 1948, with a degree in economics, a Phi Beta Kappa key, and membership in the fashionable Delta Kappa Epsilon ("Deke") fraternity and Skull and Bones, the most famous of Yale's secret societies. Tall, gangly, and nicknamed Poppy, he was first baseman (considered a good fielder and a mediocre hitter) and captain of the team that twice went to the finals of the national collegiate baseball championship. He also played soccer. As president he was an avid fisherman, boater, tennis and golf player, and pitcher of horseshoes.
After Yale, Bush turned down a chance for a comfortable career in New York investment banking and moved with his growing family to Texas and an apprenticeship with Dresser Industries, a large oil firm on whose board of directors his father served. Soon he and a partner formed an independent oil exploration company, Bush-Overbey. He and additional partners in 1953 formed Zapata Petroleum and in 1954 Zapata Off-Shore for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Bush followed his father's example in switching from financial success in business to politics. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas in 1964 and 1970, losing to Democrats Ralph Yarborough and Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., respectively. Bush was elected to the House of Representatives in 1966 and again in 1968. Although in 1964 he had followed GOP presidential candidate Barry M. Goldwater in denouncing President Lyndon B. Johnson's civil rights program, in 1968 he voted for open, nondiscriminatory federal housing—thereby alienating conservatives. This was not the first time Bush would be confronted with a contradiction between his own moderate inclinations on social issues and the need for support on the far right.
After losing the race for the Senate in 1970, Bush was appointed by Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford to a succession of important positions: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, 1971–1973; chairman of the Republican National Committee, 1973–1974; liaison (equivalent of ambassador) to the People's Republic of China, 1974–1975; and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 1976–1977. At the United Nations he dueled verbally with the tough old Soviet diplomat Jacob Malik on many issues, but was sad to observe the expulsion, in October 1971, of the Republic of China (Taiwan) as a UN member and the seating of the People's Republic (Beijing) in its place.
His stint as chairman of the Republican National Committee coincided with the Watergate scandal and President Nixon's August 1974 resignation in the face of certain impeachment. The scandal originated with a 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters by people working for Nixon's personal campaign, the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CREEP). Neither Bush nor the Republican National Committee had any involvement in Watergate. Bush could only watch, lament, and in the end add his voice to those urging Nixon to resign.
Vice President Gerald Ford became president upon Nixon's resignation on 9 August 1974. Under the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution it was Ford's responsibility to nominate a new vice president for confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of Congress. Bush hoped he would be selected and was disappointed when Ford picked Nelson A. Rockefeller. As a consolation, Ford offered Bush his choice of diplomatic assignments. Bush chose China.
A quarter century of mutual hostility and isolation between the United States and the Communist People's Republic of China had ended two years before with President Nixon's trip to Beijing, but relations were awkward and not yet "normalized" by the establishment of full-fledged embassies. Bush's assignment was to head the U.S. Liaison Office. During his thirteen months in Beijing he tried to break through the formidable barriers to communication with a regime not yet ready for major reforms, listened to lectures from Chinese officials about the Soviet threat, and created a minor sensation by bicycling around the city with his wife. The position provided more frustration than influence. As he commented afterward, "It was a submarine environment, very restricted. We were engaged in people-watching, watching changing political relationships, analyzing visits, analyzing toasts and the order of protocol, asking other ambassadors what they thought."
Next, President Ford asked Bush to head the Central Intelligence Agency, an institution demoralized by congressional investigations of assassination plots and other dubious practices. The Senate confirmed Bush's nomination by a vote of 64 to 27. The opposition argued that an ambitious politician should not head the nonpartisan intelligence agency. President Ford answered the critics by declaring he would not consider Bush as his vice presidential running mate in 1976. Again Bush was disappointed.
As head of the CIA, Bush was skeptical of optimistic assessments of the Soviet Union. He commissioned the famous Team B report of hard-line anti-Soviet analysts from outside the CIA. Team B warned that Soviet leaders still sought world domination and that under certain circumstances were prepared to wage nuclear war. In January 1977 Bush resigned as head of the CIA so that incoming Democratic president Jimmy Carter, victor over Ford in the 1976 election, could nominate his own choice.
Bush returned to Texas, decided that Carter would be a one-term president, and in 1978 began campaigning for the job himself, with a formal announcement in 1979. He lost the nomination to the more glamorous and conservative Ronald Reagan. Bush's comment that Reagan's proposal to increase federal revenue by lowering taxes was "voodoo economics" earned headlines and years later came back to haunt him.
Reagan, however, picked Bush to be the vice presidential candidate in a traditional gesture of political unity between wings of the Republican party. The Reagan-Bush ticket easily defeated Carter and running mate Walter F. Mondale in the 1980 election and won even more easily in 1984 against Mondale and vice presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro. When President Reagan was shot and seriously wounded by John Hinckley, Jr., in March 1981, Vice President Bush performed the duties of the president with dignity and quiet competence until the president recovered. With a staff of sixty-eight, he kept informed on international issues, maintained his political friendships, and prepared for 1988, when he would again seek the presidency. He headed a task force on the interdiction of the illegal drug trade and another on simplifying and reducing federal regulations. Neither was very successful. Bush also traveled tirelessly at home and abroad, sometimes on substantive missions, more often as a ceremonial representative. He set an attendance record at the funerals of foreign leaders—including three Soviet chiefs of state: Leonid Brezhnev (1982), Yuri Andropov (1984), and Konstantin Chernenko (1985). At Chernenko's funeral Bush met the new, youthful, and energetic leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Vice President Bush attended many high-level policy meetings in the White House, including those of the National Security Council, of which he was a member. The degree of his knowledge of the illegal sale of arms to Iran and the funding (via profits made from this sale) of rebel soldiers fighting a Marxist government in Nicaragua, in violation of congressional restrictions—the linked scandals known as the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s—remains a matter of dispute. But since he was not a policy maker he suffered no personal political harm from the scandals.
Bush in 1988 was a youthful sixty-four-year-old eastern aristocrat—soft-spoken, courteous, conscientious, considerate (famous for his thank-you letters), cautious, hardworking, better on details than on the big picture, and rather bland. But with Texas as his home base and a need to appeal to anti-eastern elements in the Republican party he affected a fondness for slang and country food. Experience was his strong suit. Ideas were not. His name was associated with no particular program or blueprint for the future. He was first to admit that he was not much for "the vision thing."
The 1988 Campaign
Vice President Bush's most formidable rival for the 1988 Republican nomination was Senator Robert J. ("Bob") Dole of Kansas. The race was close in the beginning, but well before the nominating convention the vice president had accumulated a winning majority of delegates. At the convention in August he sought to conciliate the Republican right wing by selecting James Danforth ("Dan") Quayle, a young, conservative, and relatively unknown senator from Indiana, as his vice presidential running mate. Democrats and critics in the press ridiculed Quayle as an intellectual lightweight, but over the next four years the vice president emerged as an effective, sharp-tongued battler for conservative causes. The Democrats nominated Michael Dukakis, liberal governor of Massachusetts, and conservative senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas as the vice presidential candidate.
Bush appealed to moderates by promising a "kinder, gentler nation"—an implicit criticism of the abrasive social policies of the Reagan years. He was helped by the apparently healthy state of the economy and the warm afterglow of President Reagan's personal popularity. The broad message of the campaign was, in effect, "If you liked the last eight years, you'll love the next four." The most important theme was Bush's oft-repeated promise: "Read my lips: no new taxes."
A negative theme was the accusation that Governor Dukakis was an extreme liberal ("a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union") and soft on criminals because he supported furloughs from prison for convicts. In a television blitz organized by political adviser Lee Atwater, the Bush campaign focused on the case of Willie Horton, a convicted murderer who raped a woman while on a weekend pass from prison in Dukakis' Massachusetts. Horton's picture appeared again and again on television with the implication that Dukakis as president would unleash an army of Willie Hortons on a defenseless public. A third theme was the claim that Bush had the experience to handle foreign policy and threats to national security, an area in which Dukakis was a novice. Dukakis made an unsuccessful attempt to overcome this charge by having himself photographed riding around in a tank.
Bush won the election by the wide margin of 426 to 112 in the electoral college, and 53 percent to 46 percent in the popular vote. He was the first sitting vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836. But Democrats made small gains in Congress, resulting in majorities of 55–45 in the Senate and 260–175 in the House. For his entire term President Bush was faced with Democratic control of both houses of Congress. At the same time, he was constrained from seeking common ground with the Democrats because of his dependence on the growing conservative wing of his own Republican party. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Bush refrained from dramatic appeals to the people against Congress, and chose instead to veto many congressional bills and implement others according to his own interpretation. The result in domestic affairs was four years of acrimony between Congress and the White House and a relatively thin record of legislative achievement.
President Bush's inaugural address called for the United States "to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world." He subtly rebuked the materialism of the Reagan years by saying "we are not the sum of our possessions.. . . We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it." He called for a partnership between the government and lauded the "thousand points of light . . . all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the nation, doing good." The address, however, lacked any specific agenda for domestic affairs.
In foreign affairs Bush rejoiced that "a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn," but emphasized the importance of maintaining the nation's alliances and military strength. He spoke cautiously about the Soviet Union. "Our new relationship in part reflects the triumph of hope and strength over experience. But hope is good. And so is strength. And vigilance."
The Bush Team
President Bush filled his cabinet and senior White House staff with middle-aged men, many of whom were trusted friends. The only women among his original high-level appointments were Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole, wife of Senator Dole, and Special Trade Representative Carla A. Hills. Most of the appointees had previous experience in the Reagan or Nixon and Ford administrations. His closest political friend and campaign manager in 1980 and 1988, James A. Baker III, became secretary of state. Although Baker had relatively little experience with foreign affairs, he had been chief of staff for President Reagan (1981–1985) and secretary of the treasury (1985–1988). Baker, a lawyer, had a reputation for negotiating skills and excellent political judgment. As secretary of state he was criticized for ignoring the career foreign service professionals, but he worked closely and effectively with his most important client, the president, especially on relations with the Soviet Union. In August 1992 Baker left the State Department to become Bush's chief of staff in an effort to save the faltering campaign for reelection. Lawrence S. Eagleburger, an experienced foreign policy professional, served as secretary of state for the closing months of the administration.
The only cabinet choice by the president not to be confirmed by the Senate was former Texas senator John G. Tower to be secretary of defense. Tower was rejected because of his reputation for drinking to excess and inappropriate behavior with women. The president's second choice for secretary of defense, former congressman Richard B. ("Dick") Cheney of Wyoming, was easily confirmed. Cheney was a believer in a strong military establishment, doubted that the Cold War was really over, and questioned the supposedly peaceful transformation of the Soviet Union. He was tough, laconic, somewhat humorless, and a strong administrator. Secretary of the Treasury Nicholas F. Brady, a personal friend of Bush's, was a holdover from the Reagan cabinet who did not require reconfirmation. Attorney General Richard ("Dick") Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania, was another holdover from the Reagan cabinet, having been appointed with Bush's approval just before the 1988 election.
Bush inherited Reagan's final director of the CIA, William H. Webster, a former federal judge and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). When Webster retired in 1991 Bush nominated Robert M. Gates, once deputy to the controversial Reagan-era CIA director William J. ("Bill") Casey. In 1987 Gates had been blocked from succeeding Casey because of his connections with the Iran-Contra affair. In 1991 he still faced considerable opposition but not enough to prevent confirmation. Gates was another Cold War hardliner who doubted that the Soviet Union could be trusted.
President Bush's most important military nomination was that of General Colin L. Powell to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). In October 1989 Powell became the youngest officer and the first African American to hold the nation's highest professional military position, as well as the first chairman to have entered the military from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). Powell was the first JCS chairman to operate for his full term under new legislation (the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986) giving him the power to advise the president directly and not merely pass on a consensus of the heads of the military services. Powell, a Vietnam combat veteran, was an experienced Washington military insider with previous tours in the White House and Defense Department. He had served in 1988 as Ronald Reagan's last national security adviser, bringing needed order to the National Security Council staff system in the wake of the Iran-Contra debacle.
Powell would be a central player in every foreign policy question involving the actual or potential use of force. In common with most officers of his generation he had been scarred by the experience of the Vietnam War and condemned the leadership of that time for sending Americans to die for unclear objectives and without public support. Powell believed, and so advised Bush, that the nation should use military force only when the objectives were clear, the means fully sufficient, and Congress and the people understood and supported the cause. Sometimes these ideas were called the Powell doctrine. Powell in 1989 stood apart from most high military officers in believing that the Soviet threat was gone. "The Soviet system is bankrupt, and Gorbachev is the trustee.. . . Our bear is now benign," he said.
Two other important Bush appointments were William K. Reilly as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and William J. Bennett as director of the National Drug Control Policy. Reilly, a professional environmentalist, worked for effective environmental regulation but often clashed with conservatives in the administration. Bennett, an articulate writer and speaker, garnered considerable press attention for the war on drugs and for himself.
In the modern presidency the senior staff in the White House have more power and influence than most cabinet officers. They do not require approval by the Senate, and they have direct, daily access to the president. In the Bush administration four men were in this category. John H. Sununu, former conservative governor of New Hampshire, became chief of staff and principal domestic adviser. Sununu was sharp-tongued, combative, and often rude—the opposite in manner of Bush. Sununu's job was to manage domestic political affairs, control access to the president, and say no to people asking unacceptable favors of President Bush. Sununu was the president's pit bull. He resigned in December 1991 after being criticized for using government airplanes for personal travel. He was replaced by the less colorful Samuel K. Skinner for eight months and then by James Baker for the final months of the administration.
Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general with a Ph.D. in international relations and fluency in Russian, became the national security adviser, the same post he had held under President Ford. Scowcroft, a skeptic about the Soviet Union, was fond of saying that a potential adversary should be treated on the basis of his capabilities rather than on his intentions, since intentions could change. Unlike National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger with Nixon or Zbigniew Brzezinski with Carter, Scowcroft shunned publicity and did not set himself up as a rival to the secretary of state.
Two key domestic policy aides were Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel. Darman, who had previously held high positions in the Commerce and Treasury Departments, was the administration's financial watchdog. At first he vigorously defended Bush's promise of no new taxes. But in 1990 he advocated a compromise with Congress—some new taxes in return for budget cuts. He then became the favorite target of criticism from low-tax conservatives. Gray had worked for Vice President Bush in the commission on deregulation. As the president's chief lawyer he crafted strategy for limiting congressional power.
One of a president's most important constitutional and political responsibilities is to appoint judges for the federal courts and justices for the Supreme Court, subject to confirmation by the Senate. During his four years President Bush filled one quarter of the judgeships in the lower courts and two positions on the Supreme Court. He continued Reagan's policy of naming men and women who believe that the powers granted to government under the Constitution are limited and that previous court decisions had granted excessive rights to individuals, especially in criminal proceedings. Bush appointed a record number of women to the federal courts, but gave few appointments to blacks and Hispanics.
During the Bush presidency two liberal justices of the Supreme Court retired: William J. Brennan, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall. To replace Brennan, the president in 1990 nominated a reclusive judicial intellectual, David H. Souter of New Hampshire. Souter refused to indicate in advance how he would decide on specific issues such as a woman's right to an abortion. He was easily confirmed, and once on the bench proved to be less conservative than the president may have expected.
The nomination in 1991 to replace Marshall, hero of the civil rights movement and the first African American to serve on the Court, became a political firestorm. Clarence Thomas, a young federal judge of little experience, was also black. He held the ultraconservative view that the Constitution provided scant authority for federal legislation designed to bring about social change. Political liberals and moderates had legitimate reason to vote against Thomas' confirmation on the basis of his judicial philosophy. But the televised hearings on the nomination before the Senate Judiciary Committee were quickly converted into a seminar on sexual harassment. Anita Hill, a black law professor who had worked for Thomas in two federal agencies, accused him of making improper sexual advances toward her. Thomas denied the charges and described himself as the target of a political lynch mob. The final vote of 52–48 in favor of confirmation reflected divisions in the Senate and the country over which person was telling the truth—Hill or Thomas.
The End of the Cold War
Bush lacked a consuming interest in the domestic policy side of the presidency, but in January 1989 all seemed to be well on the home front. His easy victory as successor to the enormously popular Reagan indicated that most of the American people were happy with the government. The economy, growing spectacularly after a severe recession in the early Reagan years, was still strong. Employment was high, the stock market was up, people with money were making more. It appeared that if Bush simply maintained the domestic status quo he could concentrate on foreign policy, the area of his greatest interest.
Bush occupied the White House during two major events of the twentieth century: the end of the Cold War and the unanticipated collapse of the Soviet Union. Both had deep historical roots. In the 1960s and early 1970s there had been brief thaws in the Cold War and one could argue that the self-destruction of the Soviet Union was inherent in the nature of the Communist system beginning with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Accelerated change, however, began only after Gorbachev became the Soviet leader in 1985.
Between 1985 and 1988, Reagan and Gorbachev, along with U.S. secretary of state George P. Shultz and Soviet foreign minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, began the transformation of Soviet-American relations. They agreed on the first major cuts in long-range nuclear weapons since the beginning of the arms race in the 1940s, eliminated intermediate-range nuclear weapons from Europe, and consented to close inspections of each other's arsenals in order to ensure compliance with agreements. The two superpowers also began tentatively to cooperate in reducing conflicts in the Third World.
Gorbachev was convinced that the survival of the Soviet Union depended on drastic internal economic reform and relief from the crippling burden of military expenditures. Reagan's cooperative posture convinced Gorbachev that he could safely reduce Soviet military strength without tempting the United States to press an advantage. In December 1988 at the United Nations, Gorbachev renounced the Leninist theory of inevitable international conflict between capitalism and socialism, called on all nations to work together to solve universal human problems, and unilaterally announced the withdrawal of half a million troops and thousands of heavy conventional weapons from Eastern Europe.
Did that mean the Cold War was over? When Bush took office as president in January 1989 the answer was not clear. American skeptics in the press and among his advisers warned that it all might be a trick designed to lull the free world. Bush, a staunch Cold Warrior throughout his career, decided to slow the pace of Soviet-American negotiations. He did not believe, as had Reagan, that nuclear weapons could be abolished. He wanted to maintain a strong American nuclear arsenal and was wary of agreements that might give the Soviets an advantage. He was not convinced that the Soviets had abandoned their disruptive behavior in the Third World.
On the other hand, Bush did not rule out the possibility that Gorbachev might really be sincere and trustworthy. As vice president in December 1987 Bush told Gorbachev to ignore his public hard-line remarks, necessary if he was to win the nomination and election. His goal as president, Bush said, would be to improve Soviet-American relations. Gorbachev afterward said this was the most important talk he ever had with Bush.
The president's prudence (a favorite word) led him to underestimate the rapid deterioration of Soviet military and economic power and Gorbachev's desperate determination to jettison military burdens in order to prevent the complete collapse of Soviet society. Bush did not realize at first that nuclear arms control agreements were no longer the major issue or that Gorbachev would agree to almost anything. The real issue was whether Gorbachev would survive as a leader and whether after Gorbachev there would be chaos.
It was not until July 1989 that Bush told Gorbachev that he would consider a meeting—"without thousands of assistants hovering over our shoulders." Meanwhile, Secretary of State Baker and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze met several times and formed a close relationship. Baker was astounded at how frank Shevardnadze was about the Soviet Union's problems. In the autumn of 1989, while Bush watched and waited, Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe began to topple and Gorbachev publicly renounced the "Brezhnev doctrine," which the Soviet Union had previously invoked to justify armed intervention against freedom movements in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The message to Communist leaders in 1989 was that they could no longer count on Soviet tanks to keep them in power. With the Soviet Union deliberately standing back, the Berlin Wall came down in November, and soon non-Communist governments were replacing the old regime throughout the former Soviet satellite empire. There were also mounting demands for national independence within the USSR, most notably from the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
This was the situation when Bush and Gorbachev met for their first summit—on ships in a storm-tossed harbor of the island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean. The most important outcome of Malta was a secret exchange of assurances. Gorbachev would do what he could to avoid violence in dealing with the problem of Baltic secessionism and the discontent of other nationalities. Bush in turn would avoid public criticism of Gorbachev on this issue.
Bush came away from Malta with a better appreciation of how precarious was Gorbachev's political situation in the Soviet Union. If Gorbachev pressed too hard for economic reforms, made too many concessions to separatist movements, and agreed too easily with the United States, hard-line opponents would charge him with weakness. But if he did not introduce reforms and reduce the economic burden of a Cold War military establishment, the system would collapse.
By 1990 Bush decided that the essential goal of American policy toward the Soviet Union must be to keep Gorbachev in power and to favor the preservation rather than disintegration of the Soviet Union. The alternative was chaos. Sound, mutually advantageous agreements with Gorbachev on arms reduction could be negotiated. Without Gorbachev they might be impossible.
Meanwhile, the Communist government of East Germany collapsed and Germans on both sides of the former Iron Curtain called for reunification. Secretary of State Baker, assuming that Gorbachev would not accept a unified Germany within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in February 1990 initiated some complicated diplomatic negotiations involving the two Germanies plus the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—the "two plus four" formula. Baker's assumption had been wrong. In July 1990 Gorbachev made his greatest concession. He astonished German chancellor Helmut Kohl by announcing that the Soviet Union would withdraw all its troops from eastern Germany and accept NATO membership for a reunified Germany. Kohl, in return, promised to pay the cost of relocating Soviet troops and provide other economic aid. The line was now dissolving between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the Moscow-dominated military alliance of Communist governments. The Warsaw Pact was officially disbanded in 1991.
Meanwhile, arms control experts on the Soviet and American sides were making great strides. The most important achievement was the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty of November 1990, signed by Bush and Gorbachev in Paris. Among other things, it committed the Soviet Union to reduce by 70 percent its tanks and heavy weapons stationed west of the Ural Mountains. A treaty reducing long-range strategic arms took a little longer. Signed by Bush and Gorbachev in Moscow on 31 July 1991, the START treaty reduced nuclear warheads on both sides to 6,000—a 30-percent reduction. The dangerous category of missiles with multiple independently targeted warheads (MIRVs) was reduced by half. Because of the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was not approved by the U.S. Senate until November 1992.
The more the two sides reduced nuclear weapons, the less important arms control became in the relationship. The more pressing issues were cooperation in meeting the challenge of Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the very survival of the Soviet Union. Bush refrained from criticizing the occasional use of force by the Soviets against independence movements and even warned, in a speech in Ukraine in August 1991, that "Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based on ethnic hatred."
By this time, however, there was nothing Gorbachev or the United States could do to stem the Soviet Union's fall. On 18 August 1991 a group of Communist hard-liners put Gorbachev under house arrest and attempted to take over the country. They were miserably inept. Faced with strong opposition by Boris N. Yeltsin, head of the Russian Federation, and lacking the full support of the Red Army, the coup failed in three days. Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, the most senior of the old military establishment, committed suicide after the coup. He left a note saying that everything he had worked for—the Soviet Union, the Red Army, and the Communist party—was being destroyed. Akhromeyev was right.
Gorbachev returned to the Kremlin as president of the Soviet Union, but he was presiding over an empty husk. On 25 December 1991 Gorbachev resigned. The hammer and sickle flag came down from the Kremlin for the last time. The Soviet Union was no more. All the former dependent republics within the old USSR proclaimed their independence, secured international recognition, and were admitted to the United Nations. The real leader in Moscow now was Yeltsin, president of Russia, a man previously belittled by the Bush administration as a crude self-promoter.
Bush's preference for sustaining a single central government had been overtaken by events. The United States opened embassies in the newly independent states but still concentrated its efforts on Moscow and Yeltsin as the democratically elected leader of the new Russia. The two sides continued to negotiate on nuclear arms and in January 1993, just before Bush left office, agreed to the START II treaty eliminating MIRVs altogether and reducing strategic warheads to 3,500 on the U.S. side and 3,000 on the Russian. This was a 50-percent reduction in the levels set by the START I treaty approved only weeks before by the Senate. Meanwhile, the former Soviet republics in which nuclear weapons were still located—Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan—agreed in principle that they would be nonnuclear states with the weapons to be dismantled or shipped to Russia.
Yeltsin's political position at home, like Gorbachev's before him, was precarious in large part because of the chaotic state of the Russian economy. Yeltsin begged for massive U.S. economic aid. Bush was generous with words. "If this democratic revolution is defeated," he said, "it could plunge us into a world more dangerous in some respects than the dark years of the Cold War." But the president's inherent caution and the reluctance of Congress meant that aid would be limited to relatively small amounts for humanitarian assistance and help with the dismantling of nuclear weapons. The uncertain future of the Russian economic system made Americans wary of "throwing money down a rathole," and with the United States facing huge deficits itself, public opinion did not support a bailout of Russia.
The only former Communist country undergoing a more chaotic dissolution than the Soviet Union was Yugoslavia. In 1991 the political leaders of the different republics within Yugoslavia could not agree on how to keep the country together. As ethnic violence broke out, the federal Yugoslav army based in Serbia attacked Croatia. The Bush administration applied economic sanctions against Serbia, but was dismayed by the disintegration of a small country into even smaller parts. The United States went along reluctantly in 1992 when Slovenia, Croatia, and BosniaHerzegovina were admitted to the United Nations as independent nations. In 1992 the fighting in Croatia subsided, but shifted to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Bosnian Serbs launched a war of "ethnic cleansing" against the Bosnian Muslim population. The European Community and the United States tried to broker a political settlement while UN peacekeepers watched helplessly. Bush and the United States were criticized by some commentators for not using military force to punish the Serbs and protect the Bosnian Muslims. But his advisers, including General Powell, believed that the ethnic hatreds in the region were so fierce that outside military intervention would be doomed to failure. Furthermore, no vital security interest of the United States was at stake. Thus, the United States stood back while the Bosnian Serbs continued their attacks, especially on the besieged city of Sarajevo. Not until September 1995, more than halfway through the presidency of Bill Clinton, did the United States and its NATO partners finally use heavy airpower to deter Bosnian Serb attacks on Muslims in an effort to force a peace settlement.
The Persian Gulf War
Bush's close involvement with Gorbachev and the Soviet Union overlapped the biggest headline event of his presidency—the Persian Gulf War waged by an international coalition under American leadership to compel Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein to end his country's aggression against Kuwait. The February 1991 victory in that war brought Bush the highest public opinion approval ratings of his presidency, overshadowing for a moment the controversial question of whether policy mistakes by the United States were partially responsible for the war in the first place.
Throughout the 1980s it was American policy to overlook the brutal aspects of the Saddam Hussein regime and to support Iraq in its long (1980–1988) and bloody war against Iran. The United States was following the old principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend—and Iran was an enemy, notwithstanding the Reagan administration's misconceived 1986 effort to curry favor through the secret sale of arms, an aspect of the Iran-Contra scandal. The Bush administration continued to favor Iraq in spite of Saddam Hussein's threats against Israel, overwhelming evidence that he was developing chemical, biological, and perhaps nuclear weapons, and his lethal suppression of the Kurdish minority in Iran (including use of poison gas). The administration believed that Iraq was an essential element in a Persian Gulf balance of power against a resurgent Iran and that the United States could persuade Saddam Hussein to moderate the unattractive features of his regime.
The administration's policy was spelled out in secret National Security Directive 26 in October 1989. It declared: "Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability both in the Gulf and the Middle East. The United States should propose economic and political incentives for Iraq to moderate its behavior and to increase our influence." These incentives included massive food exports to Iraq on favorable terms, a boon to American farmers, and the encouragement of trade in high-tech but nonlethal items. The administration resisted demands from human rights activists in Congress to impose sanctions against Iraq and dismissed Saddam Hussein's public threat to destroy half of Israel with chemical warfare as mere bravado. Washington also failed to note that illegal loans to Iraq from an Italian-owned bank in the United States were being used to develop weapons of mass destruction.
In spite of the helpful intentions of the Bush administration, Iraq was in a difficult economic condition. There was widespread unemployment. Oil prices, and hence national revenue, were down. The costs of repairing the damage of the long war with Iran were heavy and the country was deeply in debt to other Arab states. In mid-1990 Saddam Hussein claimed that neighboring Kuwait was draining Iraqi oil from an oil field astride the border. He said the entire field rightfully belonged to Iraq and indicated he might use force to take it. In July 1990 Iraqi armed forces began to move toward Kuwait.
The Bush administration's response was to try conciliation and hope for the best. April Glaspie, the American ambassador in Baghdad, was instructed to tell Saddam that the United States had no position on bilateral differences between Arab states, such as Iraq's dispute with Kuwait, although the use of force would, of course, be contrary to the UN Charter. This statement and the absence of any significant American military preparations probably contributed to Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Kuwait on 2 August.
Kuwait, smaller than the state of New Jersey and with a native population of less than a million (plus a million non-Kuwaiti guest workers from around the Middle East and southern Asia), could not stop the invasion. Within hours Iraqi troops occupied the country. The news reached President Bush while he was on vacation in Maine. He denounced Iraq for "naked aggression," froze Iraqi and Kuwaiti financial assets in the United States, and cut off trade, but said the use of American military force was not under consideration. After talking with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at a previously scheduled meeting in Aspen, Colorado, however, Bush took a stronger line. Thatcher, whose reputation for courage flowed from her leadership in Britain's 1982 war against Argentina's aggression in the Falkland Islands, compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler. Bush returned to Washington determined that, as he soon declaimed, the aggression against Kuwait would not stand.
The immediate problem, however, was to ensure that Iraqi forces did not press on a few miles and seize the major oil fields of Saudi Arabia—thereby acquiring control of approximately 40 percent of the world's oil reserves. The question of how and when Iraq could be persuaded or forced to retreat from Kuwait came next. The administration moved quickly to secure international support in the United Nations Security Council where, thanks to post-Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and China, American proposals did not face a certain veto. A resolution condemning the Iraqi invasion (2 August) was followed by another imposing mandatory economic sanctions on Iraq (6 August). The protection of Saudi Arabia began with a successful trip by Secretary of Defense Cheney to Riyadh to persuade King Fahd to invite the stationing of American troops on his soil. On 6 August President Bush ordered the first forces of Operation Desert Shield to Saudi Arabia. The commander was General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Bush now operated at his best, "working the telephone" with leaders in a dozen different countries, lining up support for the opposition to Saddam Hussein, winning commitments to vote for crucial resolutions in the UN Security Council. His most difficult and sensitive task was to persuade the Soviet Union to be a partner in the enterprise. Bush had to be careful not to undermine Gorbachev's leadership at home; some of the Soviet leader's enemies within the USSR were accusing him of betraying an ally, Iraq, in order to become the lapdog of the United States. In the end Gorbachev provided full support for the coalition in the United Nations, but refused to send any Soviet military forces to participate in the campaign.
U.S. relations with Britain and France on the Iraqi question were good. Both supplied significant military forces and leadership. Relations with two other allies, Germany and Japan, were tricky. Both governments claimed that their constitutions prevented the use of armed forces outside their territory. The United States in these cases sought nonmilitary support. Japan ultimately contributed $14 billion and Germany $11 billion. Along with $16 billion each from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, a large part of American costs were defrayed. More than forty countries eventually contributed in some way to the effort to expel Iraq from Kuwait.
By October, Desert Shield was providing reliable protection to Saudi Arabia, but economic sanctions had not induced Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait. Bush decided that Iraq would respond only to military force. He ordered a sharp increase in the number of U.S. troops in the Gulf, thereby creating an offensive capability, but he waited until after the 6 November congressional elections to announce his decision.
At the end of November the United States went to the UN Security Council for authorization for the next stage: the forcible expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. On 29 November the Security Council passed Resolution 678, giving Saddam Hussein until 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait, after which UN members were to employ "all necessary means" to liberate the country. "All necessary means," of course, meant war. The vote was twelve in favor, with Cuba and Yemen opposed and China abstaining.
As the confrontation moved toward probable war, President Bush at first refused to give Congress a role in deciding policy. Critics noted that the U.S. Constitution assigned the responsibility for declaring war to Congress. They conceded that a president, as commander in chief, did have the power to use military force without prior congressional approval when the United States was attacked or in other clear emergencies. But this confrontation was proceeding in slow motion. Bush said that he had the authority to act without Congress—especially in carrying out UN Security Council resolutions.
Critics also called for more time to let the economic sanctions work and warned that a war would be long and very bloody, an impression Saddam Hussein did his best to encourage with his bluster about the approaching "mother of all battles." Bush faced a dilemma. If a war waged without congressional authorization proved long and bloody (some said it could be another Vietnam), the resulting crisis could destroy his presidency. But if he asked for authorization and Congress said no, Saddam Hussein would be the winner. In January 1991 Bush concluded that he had enough votes to secure authorization. He asked for congressional support. Congress debated intensely for two days. A resolution to continue the use of sanctions rather than go to war failed narrowly. On 12 January the Senate by a vote of 52 to 47 and the House by 250 to 183 gave the president authority to use force—although Bush still claimed congressional action was really not necessary. The war—named Operation Desert Storm—began 16 January with a heavy bombing and missile campaign against Baghdad and Iraqi positions in Kuwait.
Iraq responded by firing intermediate-range Scud missiles, with conventional explosive war-heads, against Israel. At the time of the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had suggested that a settlement of the Kuwait question should be linked to Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The United States denounced the idea as a device for rewarding aggression and said there could be no "linkage." Now Iraq sought to create linkage by provoking a counterattack from Israel and thereby weakening the resolve of Arab nations to fight over Kuwait. The ploy failed. The government of Israel accepted the U.S. offer to provide Patriot antimissile defenses, manned by Americans, and refrained from retaliatory attacks on Iraq.
Intense air attacks on Iraq continued for more than a month. On the diplomatic front the Soviet government sent a high-level negotiator to Baghdad in an effort to distance itself from the United States. Fortunately, from Washington's point of view, nothing came of the Soviet effort. On 22 February, Bush gave Iraq a twenty-four-hour deadline: withdraw from Kuwait or face an invasion. Iraq responded by setting massive fires in Kuwait's oil fields and hurling verbal defiance. The land war began on 23 February and lasted for one hundred hours. The vaunted battle-hardened Iraqi forces were no match for American and coalition air power. With their communications cut off, without airpower, unable to follow the movement of coalition forces, they were helpless. Thousands were killed, tens of thousands surrendered or fled north toward Baghdad.
Bush, with the full support of General Powell, declared on 27 February that Kuwait had been liberated and Iraq defeated. Offensive operations would end at 8:00 a.m. the following morning, Gulf time. Iraq accepted the cease-fire and agreed to abide by all UN resolutions concerned with its invasion. Did Bush end the war too soon? General Schwarzkopf soon made that charge. Saddam Hussein was still in power and much of his army was intact. But the president had good reasons for the decision. The war had been fought to liberate Kuwait—a clear, single objective. To continue to fight for other reasons would have cost American lives and killed many thousands of Iraqis. The coalition in support of liberating Kuwait would break apart on the question of a larger war. Furthermore, the conquest of Iraq might saddle the United States with long responsibility as an occupying power. And finally, the elimination of Iraq would upset the balance of power in the Gulf to the advantage of Iran.
Victory in the Gulf War was the high point of the Bush presidency. Bush spoke expansively of a "new world order" in which all nations, large and small, would be protected from aggression, and the United Nations, freed from the obstructive use of the veto by antagonistic great powers, would function as originally intended. He also said that the United States had "licked the Vietnam syndrome"—meaning that the country was no longer paralyzed by even the thought of using military power, for fear of becoming embroiled in a quagmire.
There were other consequences. Although the United States had rejected Iraq's effort to link Kuwait and Israel, linkage in the Middle East was a reality. Secretary of State Baker worked after the war to bring the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the other Arab countries to a peace table for discussions. The first round of talks was held in Madrid, Spain, in October. Bush also brought pressure on Israel to restrict the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the territories occupied after the 1967 war. Specifically, in September 1992 he persuaded Congress not to consider Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees for new housing for emigrants from the Soviet Union. Congress complied, but Bush was strongly criticized by many American supporters of Israel. The pressure worked. In 1992 a new government in Israel agreed to restrict the settlements and the loan guarantee was extended.
The consequences of the Gulf War were less positive in Iraq. Two groups of the Iraqi population—Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south—used Saddam Hussein's defeat as an opportunity to assert their rights against an oppressive central government. Saddam responded with military force. The United States was in a delicate position. The Kurds and Shiites had legitimate grievances and were victims of Baghdad's brutality. But to support them might lead to the breakup of Iraq, instability in the region, and entangling commitments. The compromise was to provide protection for the Kurds in a safe-haven area and to prohibit Iraq from using air-power against either the Kurds or the Shiites. The United States enforced two no-fly zones for this purpose.
Trade and Foreign Policy in Asia
After the end of the Cold War and victory over Iraq the focus of administration foreign policy changed from maintaining a military-strategic position to expanding trade on favorable terms. Bush worked hard for that objective, concentrating on China and Japan.
Bush's first foreign visit, in February 1989, a month after his inauguration, was to China. He met with Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping and Premier Li Peng. But the visit was marred when the Chinese blocked dissident Fang Lizhi, a distinguished scientist, from accepting President Bush's invitation to a banquet. The incident was a portent of trouble to come. Throughout the spring of 1989 ever-larger crowds of students in Beijing demonstrated against the government. In May, Premier Li Peng declared martial law. A half a million protesters marched in Shanghai while students in Beijing erected a "Goddess of Democracy" modeled on the American Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square. The bloody climax came on 3 and 4 June when the Chinese government responded with the clank of tanks and the rattle of gunfire—while television carried the scene around the world. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters were killed and wounded.
In public, President Bush joined the American people in condemning the Chinese government's actions. He suspended military sales to China and agreed to provide asylum for Fang Lizhi and his wife in the American embassy. The State Department advised Americans to leave Beijing, evacuated the dependents of diplomatic personnel, and recommended that international financial organizations postpone consideration of loan applications from China. The Bush administration suspended all high-level contacts between American and Chinese officials. Secretly, however, Bush dispatched National Security Adviser Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Eagleburger to Beijing to say that the United States remained interested in good relations. The implicit message was that the Chinese leadership should realize that the administration's measures in response to the Tiananmen events were temporary and connected with American politics.
A crucial question in Chinese-American relations was the continuation or suspension of China's unfettered right to export to the United States. The term for this right, "most favored nation" status (MFN), is somewhat misleading in that it does not confer any special privileges, but only distinguishes states with which the United States has good commercial relations. The withdrawal of MFN was favored by human rights activists and a majority in Congress as a means of punishing China for the human rights violations so vividly symbolized by the Tiananmen massacre. Bush disagreed and fought off congressional pressure to restrict trade, twice vetoing punitive measures. He argued that the best way to encourage reform in China was to have a thriving trade, and that cutting off trade would hurt both the American economy and Chinese men and women who were not responsible for human rights violations.
United States relations with Japan were plagued during the Bush presidency by the perennial problem of unbalanced trade. Japan sold far more to the United States than it purchased and, from the American point of view, used unfair tactics to exclude American products from the Japanese market. The Bush administration continued a twenty-year-old ritual of complaint and negotiation after which the Japanese would appear to make small concessions. The trade imbalance grew worse. Bush made the trade issue the first topic of discussion on a trip to Japan in January 1992, during which he was accompanied by a bevy of American automobile executives. Alas, he caught a stomach virus and vomited on the Japanese prime minister at an official dinner. That embarrassing incident got more headlines than the substance of the discussions.
Not all policy in Asia involved trade. The issue in the Philippines, an American colony from 1899 to 1946 and ally after that, was the future of the huge U.S. naval and air bases at Subic Bay and Clark Field. Washington had long considered the bases essential for the projection of American power in Asia and had used them heavily during the Vietnam War. Successive Philippine governments valued the rent and economic stimulus the bases provided, although many Filipinos considered the American presence de-meaning and culturally damaging. While negotiations were in progress in June 1991 the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano severely damaged the bases. In July the negotiators agreed on the terms of a ten-year renewal, but the Philippine senate rejected the agreement. With the Cold War over and the damage from the volcano to confront, the United States no longer considered the bases essential. No effort was made to persuade the Philippine senate to reconsider. On 24 November 1992 the bases were turned over to the Philippine government, ending a near century of American presence.
Bush moved cautiously toward improved relations with Communist Vietnam. Even though American combat in Vietnam ended in 1973, the war left a bitter legacy, especially among those who believed that the Hanoi government was not providing all possible information on American soldiers missing in action (MIA) during the war. The political intensity of the MIA lobby deterred Bush from lifting the prohibition on trade with Hanoi and establishing diplomatic relations. He did authorize the beginning of discussions. Trade and full diplomatic relations were opened by the Clinton administration in 1994–1995.
Backyard Foreign Policy
The Latin American policy of the Bush administration departed sharply from the Cold War concerns of the Reagan years. The Soviet Union gradually withdrew its aid for Cuba, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, and the leftist insurgents in El Salvador—both because Gorbachev did not want to irritate the United States on an issue of no strategic importance to Moscow and because the USSR had run out of money. The Bush administration, in turn, abandoned the Reaganite military approach to the political problems of Central America and encouraged regional diplomatic solutions and a role for the United Nations. The result was the free election victory in Nicaragua of an anti-Sandinista coalition led by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in February 1990 and a UNbrokered end to the civil war in El Salvador in late 1991.
Some American liberals urged the administration to open a dialogue with Fidel Castro of Cuba, looking toward a possible lifting of the embargo on trade and the normalization of relations now that the Cold War was over. But on that question Bush held fast to the old policy of tough economic sanctions and verbal denunciation of Castro's totalitarian regime. Castro was no longer a threat to anyone outside of Cuba, but a tough anti-Castro policy was good domestic politics, especially with the well-organized Cuban-American community in Florida.
Elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America, President Bush dealt with new objectives and problems. The most dramatic episode was the December 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama to oust dictator Manuel Noriega and bring him to trial for his involvement in the illegal drug trade. Noriega's power was based largely on murder and intimidation. He had been on the payroll of the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency in the 1980s for assistance in the covert war against the Sandinistas and to help interdict the flow of narcotics into the United States. In fact, he was up to his armpits in the drug trade and money laundering. Finally in 1988 Noriega was indicted on drug charges by a federal grand jury in Florida. The Reagan administration floated the idea, opposed by Vice President Bush, of dropping the indictment if Noriega would give up his power and leave Panama. Noriega was not interested in the deal.
But in May 1989 Noriega, under U.S. pressure, permitted a presidential election in Panama. The democratic opposition, headed by Guillermo Endara, won 68 percent of the vote. Noriega annulled the election. His loyal political roughnecks attacked and severely wounded Endara and other opposition leaders. Noriega was now a bone in Bush's throat. Bush ordered more troops sent to the American base alongside the Panama Canal and tightened economic sanctions. In October 1989 a young Panamanian military officer asked for U.S. help in overthrowing Noriega. The United States hesitated in providing support. Noriega executed the leaders of the attempted coup.
In December, Noriega's puppet National Assembly declared a state of war with the United States. Noriega's army provoked a U.S. response by killing an off-duty marine officer and harassing other Americans. Just after midnight on 20 December, American forces attacked Noriega's headquarters and military installations. Endara, the legally elected president, took office under American protection and declared the Panamanian army disbanded. Armed resistance to the intervention faded quickly, and the great majority of the people of Panama rejoiced in their liberation from a brutal dictator. Noriega took refuge in the residence of the papal envoy to Panama. He soon surrendered and was transported to Florida for trial, conviction, and a long jail sentence. Twenty-five thousand Americans served in the operation, of whom 39 were killed, along with 139 Panamanian troops and about 400 civilians. The Organization of American States condemned the U.S. invasion by a vote of 20 to 1, but Bush, the U.S. Congress, and most Americans, according to public opinion polls, believed the right thing had been done.
Haiti was another nearby problem with no connection to old Cold War issues. The densely populated, impoverished island country had long suffered under corrupt and despotic rule. In December 1990, however, the first reasonably free elections in Haitian history were won by a charismatic hero of the poor, the Reverend Jean-Bertrand Aristide. President Aristide's radical philosophy threatened the army and the wealthy oligarchy. He was overthrown in a military coup on 30 September 1991.
One of the coup leaders, General Raoul Cedras, took over as Haiti's leader. Aristide fled to Venezuela and then to Washington, where he continued to be recognized as the rightful head of government. The United States applied increasing economic pressure against Cedras and supported the futile efforts of the United Nations and the Organization of American States to negotiate Aristide's return. Meanwhile, thousands of poor Haitians tried to escape to the United States in pitifully unseaworthy wooden boats. Many were lost at sea while thousands of others were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Bush administration denied the refugees admission to the United States and instead established a temporary camp for them at Guantánamo Bay, the American naval base in Cuba. In 1993 the Clinton administration inherited a standoff with Cedras and in 1994 negotiated Cedras' departure and sent in American troops to prevent violence and permit Aristide's return.
Bush's major economic initiative in Latin America, negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), had large domestic economic and political implications. The agreement brought Mexico into the existing free-trade arrangement between the United States and Canada. It called for the elimination of tariffs (taxes charged on imports) for most trade among the three countries. The Mexican government embraced NAFTA as a boon to manufacturing, and American corporations favored it as a means of lowering the cost of production by using low-wage Mexican workers. Organized American labor, on the other hand, denounced it as a threat to employment in the United States, and environmentalists said it would be a way for American companies to escape U.S. environmental regulations. Ross Perot, an independent candidate in the 1992 election, made opposition a centerpiece of his campaign and warned of the "giant sucking sound" of American jobs flowing down below the border. Bill Clinton was a lukewarm supporter. The agreement was signed by Bush, Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney on 17 December 1992. It was approved by Congress in late 1993 and went into effect 1 January 1994.
Battling with Congress
The political failure of the Bush presidency, defined by Bush's loss in the 1992 election, was entirely in the realm of domestic affairs and may well have been beyond Bush's power to prevent. There had been a sharp recession at the beginning of the Reagan years, with almost 10 percent of the workforce unemployed. But since 1983 the nation's economy had enjoyed extraordinary growth. A cyclical correction was overdue. Growth slowed in 1989 and 1990 and then stopped in 1991. Unemployment rose from 5.3 percent in 1989 to 7.4 percent in 1992. The start of a recovery in late 1992 was not vigorous enough to reduce unemployment and came too late to help Bush at the polls.
Against this economic background, Bush had the political problem of facing a Congress controlled, in both Senate and House, by the opposition party throughout his four years. Other recent presidents—Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan—faced a similar problem but encountered less difficulty than Bush. One tactic, used successfully by Truman and Reagan, was to build such popular support for a clear program that members of Congress either cooperated or faced a loss at the next election. Another tactic, mastered by Nixon, was to win support across party lines with a subtle combination of punishments and rewards.
Bush tried neither. He had no compelling program on which to build popular support, and he lacked the taste or talent for bargaining and mutual accommodation. Again, Bush was above all a foreign policy president. His friends and critics agreed on his lack of passion and leadership in domestic affairs. Although he had run for the Senate and served four years in the House, he had few close friends in the legislature. His key advisers on domestic affairs saw Congress as an obstacle, not a difficult partner with whom it was necessary to reach an understanding. Instead, as one analyst of his presidency has written, Bush tried to govern without Congress.
Bush's principal tool was the veto. Under the Constitution the president must sign bills passed by Congress to make them into law. If he disapproves of the legislation, he may refuse to sign it and send Congress a veto. Both houses of Congress need a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto. Bush wielded the veto successfully forty-three out of forty-four times. The only veto to be overridden, on 5 October 1992, was legislation to regulate the cable television industry. Bush said the law would increase rather than reduce the cost of cable TV to the consumer.
Most of the important successful vetoes reflected Bush's opposition to expanded government regulations and were favorable to business. For example, his first veto, on 13 June 1989, blocked a congressional effort to raise the minimum wage from $3.35 (where it had stood since 1981) to $4.55. Congress offered a compromise at $4.25, which Bush then signed. Bush also vetoed, on 21 June 1990, a bill to require most employers to permit employees to have up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for newborn, recently adopted, or ill children, without risking their job security. Bush said such matters were best left to negotiation between workers and management and that the bill would create "rigid, federally imposed requirements." In October 1991, with unemployment rising, Bush vetoed a bill to extend federal unemployment benefits, saying it would add to the budget deficit.
His most conspicuous veto was exercised against the civil rights legislation of 1990. Recent Supreme Court decisions had narrowed the ability of employees to win redress from employers for discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, and national origin. The Democratic Congress proceeded to strengthen the legislation. Bush's veto message argued that the proposed law would force employers to set quotas in hiring in order to protect themselves from lawsuits. The president said he was all for affirmative action, but vehemently against quotas. He also twice vetoed, as noted above, congressional efforts to deny MFN status to China and a message to restrict textile imports.
Another technique used by Bush to work around Congress was to restrict or eliminate federal regulations on environmental and occupational safety matters deemed burdensome to business, and generally to interpret the will of Congress in the narrowest possible way. A key adviser in this effort was White House counsel Boyden Gray, a lawyer adept at finding ways to reshape the meaning of laws. Another technique was the vigorous use of the Council on Competitiveness headed by Vice President Quayle. The mandate of the Quayle council was to review all federal regulations affecting business and strike down regulations whose cost to business was deemed to exceed the benefits derived. Business interests were invited to appeal directly to Quayle for help.
Bush did work with Congress in passing two major pieces of legislation, both in 1990: the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act. The first required businesses, schools, and public institutions to install facilities providing full access to people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities.
In supporting the Clean Air Act, Bush was acting, to use his own words, as an "environmental president." President Reagan, showing little anxiety over alleged threats to the environment, had for eight years blocked any strengthening of 1977 clean air legislation. The quality of the nation's air had improved little, if at all. Acid rain, caused by smokestack emissions and urban smog from automobiles, was harmful to plants and human beings. Bush agreed something had to be done. He did not accept the sweeping proposals of some members of Congress, but settled for new pollution controls on automobile exhausts and required industry to meet deadlines for the reduction of damaging emissions. The implementation of environmental regulations, however, involved a constant struggle between William Reilly, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and more conservative, business-oriented members of the administration like Chief of Staff Sununu and Vice President Quayle.
It was not easy for Bush to be simultaneously an environmental president and the protector of business from federal regulations. For example, at first he came out against attending the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, popularly called the Earth Summit, scheduled for June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. "I am not going to the Rio Conference and . . . sign an agreement that does not protect the environment and economy of this country," he said. In the face of an environmentalist outcry Bush did attend the conference, though the United States refused at Rio to support the Biodiversity Treaty to protect endangered species, because Bush believed it would place undue burdens on American business.
Bush's biggest problem with Congress was the deficit in the federal budget, the gap between revenue and expenditures. The deficit in 1980, Jimmy Carter's last year as president, had been $73.8 billion. By Reagan's last year, 1988, it had doubled to $155 billion. Deficits must be met by borrowing, and borrowing produces a national debt. The debt under Carter was $914 billion. By 1988 it had tripled—requiring more than $200 billion per year just to pay the interest. Bush agreed with his budget director Richard Darman that the deficit and the debt were a serious drag on the American economy, depressing productive investment, costing jobs, weakening the nation's ability to compete for world markets.
But what to do? A deficit can be closed only by reducing expenditures or increasing revenue (taxes), or some combination of the two. Bush had a quadruple problem. First, he had pledged "no new taxes" during the 1988 campaign, and most Republicans were determined to hold him to the pledge. Second, expenditures were rising rapidly because of interest payments, a commitment made in the Reagan administration to bail out failed savings and loan institutions, and the escalating cost of payments under Social Security, Medicare, and other government "entitlement" programs. Third, the Democratic Congress was loath to cut entitlements but welcomed the opportunity to embarrass Bush with new taxes. And fourth, the economy as a whole went into mild recession in 1990 and 1991. Unemployment rose and wages stagnated. A popular anti-Bush bumper sticker in the spring of 1991 read "Saddam Hussein has a job. Have you?" Bush's dilemma was that he believed the long-term health of the economy required a reduction in federal spending—a measure that in the short term could mean higher unemployment.
Bush kept his pledge on no new taxes in 1989. The budget agreement reached that year kept things as they were: rising expenditures, rising debt, no new taxes. But in 1990 Bush decided to abandon his pledge as part of a comprehensive deal with Congress. He and his staff engaged Congress in prolonged negotiation aimed toward a mix of higher taxes and a substantial cut in expenditures. Representative Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the principal negotiator for Congress. Conservative commentators and some disillusioned members of his own staff believed that Bush was taken to the cleaners by Congress. Under the 1990 budget act taxes went up slightly, but cuts in spending were largely promises for the future. As a result, expenditures continued to grow faster than revenue, the deficit remained high (reaching $290 billion in 1992), and the national debt at the end of Bush's term exceeded $4 trillion.
Bush failed to persuade Congress to enact his favorite economic measure: a reduction in the capital gains tax, the tax incurred when stocks or other assets are sold for more than what they were purchased for. The president argued that a high capital gains tax prevented investors from taking the kind of risk necessary for economic growth and from redirecting funds from old investments to new, more productive ones. He also claimed that a lower capital gains tax would actually mean more government revenue because investors would be more likely to sell stocks when their tax on profits was low, rather than hold onto them and not pay any tax at all. The Democratic-controlled Congress blocked a capital gains tax cut and called it a measure to benefit only the rich—since poor people had no investments and thus no hope of capital gains.
Bush alienated some conservatives by agreeing to new taxes, but he leaned their way on a cluster of noneconomic issues, such as abortion. After the Supreme Court in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989) extended the power of a state government to restrict abortions, those who believed in a woman's right to choose ("pro-choice") mobilized. The Democratic Congress, with pro-choice majorities, then attempted to strike down existing bans on the use of federal funds for abortions or abortion-related activities. Four times Bush vetoed bills with pro-choice provisions.
Another controversial issue was gun control. Here Bush took a middle-of-the-road position. He declared his strong conviction that Americans had a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms and his belief that legislation could do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Better, he said, to deal with crime through longer, tougher prison sentences. On the other hand, he supported restrictions on the importation of certain kinds of automatic weapons unsuitable for sporting purposes.
Defeat in 1992
President Bush always intended to run for a second term and in 1992 faced only one challenger for the nomination—the ultraconservative political commentator and onetime Nixon and Reagan aide, Patrick ("Pat") Buchanan. Although Buchanan gave Bush a scare in the early New Hampshire primary by winning 37.4 percent of the vote, he soon faded. By April 1992 Bush's renomination was locked up. The press did speculate about whether Quayle would be "dumped" from the ticket but Bush stood by his vice president both out of loyalty and as a gesture toward conservative Republicans. Buchanan, however, regained national attention with a ferocious speech at the Republican convention in August, a virtual declaration of war against political and cultural liberals and moderates. Bush's apparent acceptance of Buchanan's extremism may have cost him votes in the November election.
Meanwhile, the Democrats picked Bill Clinton, the youthful governor of Arkansas, and the equally young Albert ("Al") Gore, Jr., senator from Tennessee, as his vice presidential running mate. Businessman Ross Perot, the wealthy and idiosyncratic independent candidate, inspired an enthusiastic band of followers with his call for a simpler, smaller government. Perot never had a chance of winning the election but he received 19 percent of the vote, more at the expense of Bush than Clinton. Had Perot not been running, the contest would have been close, but Clinton would probably still have won.
Clinton's advantage and Bush's liability was the sluggish state of the economy and the perception among disaffected voters, especially traditional Democrats who had voted for Reagan, that Bush did not have a clue about how to stem the deficit and create new jobs. Clinton strategist James Carville defined the key issue of the campaign as "the economy, stupid." Public opinion polling confirmed Carville's analysis. When asked what was the most important issue, most people said the economy and unemployment or the cost of health care; only 6 percent said foreign policy. Bush's championing of NAFTA lost support among workers fearing for their jobs (many of whom probably voted for Perot) and his enthusiasm for a cut in the capital gains tax made him vulnerable among middle- and lower-income voters to the charge that he was the candidate of the rich.
Bush suffered other liabilities. Ironically, the success in foreign policy deprived him of an asset. No longer could he, as in 1988, win votes by pointing to his long experience in foreign and national security affairs. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yeltsin's Russia in disarray and the United States avoiding involvement in the civil war in Bosnia, Clinton's foreign policy inexperience did not help Bush the way the inexperience of Dukakis had in 1988. Also, Bush's embrace of a conservative social agenda alienated voters who believed that a woman's right to a legal abortion must be protected.
The election results were devastating. Bush received only 37.4 percent of the vote against 43 percent for Clinton. In the electoral college it was 370 (thirty-two states) for Clinton and 168 (eighteen states) for Bush. Perot received no electoral votes. Democrats retained control of both houses of Congress. Bush was deeply hurt politically, but he pressed on in office, showing a remarkable burst of energy in the "lame-duck" eleven weeks before Clinton's inauguration in January 1993.
On 4 December 1992 Bush ordered the second largest military operation of his presidency, the humanitarian intervention in Somalia to end mass starvation. Drought-plagued Somalia, located on the northeast coast of Africa, was in a state of anarchy as disorganized armed groups terrorized the population, looted relief supplies, and endangered the lives of civilian relief workers. Worldwide television carried excruciating pictures of the suffering. Bush acted. He sent 28,000 American troops to protect the relief efforts and bring food to the starving. President-elect Clinton, Congress, and the American people agreed it was the right thing to do.
Also during his final weeks Bush joined Russian president Yeltsin in proposing additional major reductions in strategic nuclear arms. And on Christmas Eve 1992 he pardoned six Reagan administration officials charged with misleading Congress during the Iran-Contra affair. They were former secretary of defense Caspar W. Weinberger, former assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs Elliott Abrams, former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, and three officials of the Central Intelligence Agency.
George and Barbara Bush returned to Houston, Texas, the day of Clinton's inauguration. Bush chose to be a low-profile ex-president, refusing numerous speaking engagements and making few public pronouncements. The conservative wing of the Republican party blamed him for Clinton's victory and did not invite him to play a prominent role in party affairs. When the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, something they had been unable to do while Bush was president, Bush's name was never mentioned as having contributed to the victory. No one urged him to seek the 1996 Republican nomination and none of the contenders sought his endorsement. Like Gorbachev in Russia, George Bush was no longer a player in high politics.
There is not yet a detailed biography of George Bush or a comprehensive study of his administration. His autobiography, Looking Forward (Garden City, N.Y., 1987), written with Victor Gold, is light and easy reading, written in anticipation of his 1988 campaign for the presidency. See also Fitzhugh Green, George Bush: An Intimate Portrait (New York, 1989), which ends with the 1988 election. Barbara Bush: A Memoir (New York, 1994) presents the social side of life as seen by the president's wife. Vice President Dan Quayle's Standing Firm: A Vice Presidential Memoir (New York, 1994) stresses Quayle's conservative credentials.
Michael R. Beschloss and Strobe Talbott, At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War (Boston, 1993), is the best account of the interaction of Bush and Secretary of State Baker with Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze. Three excellent books on the background and conduct of the Persian Gulf War are Bruce W. Jentleson, With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush, and Saddam, 1982–1990 (New York, 1994); Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990–1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton, N.J., 1993); and Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, The General's War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Boston, 1995). Kevin Buckley, Panama: The Whole Story (New York, 1991), is good on the 1989 intervention to topple Manuel Noriega.
Most books on the domestic policies of the Bush administration are highly critical. On the conservative side see Charles Kolb, White House Daze: The Unmaking of Domestic Policy in the Bush Years (New York, 1994). The title of Michael Duffy and Dan Goodgame's book, Marching in Place: The Status-Quo Presidency of George Bush (New York, 1992), is self-explanatory. The same is true of the highly critical and detailed study by Charles Tiefer, The Semi-Sovereign Presidency: The Bush Administration's Strategy for Governing Without Congress (Boulder, Colo., 1994). The best reference work, a rich mine of information, is the 1,300-page compendium by the Congressional Quarterly, Congress and the Nation, vol. 8, 1989–1992 (Washington, 1993). See also the 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992 special "America and the World" issues of the journal Foreign Affairs.
Recent works include George Bush, Brent Scow-croft, A World Transformed (New York, 1998), by the former president and his national security adviser, which discusses foreign affairs during the first two years of the administration; George Bush, All The Best, George Bush (New York, 1999) is a compilation of letters and correspondence from the former president to his family, associates, and others over the course of his life.
Bush, George W.
George W. Bush
Nicholas D. Kristof
GEORGE W. BUSH was charming the second graders in a classroom in Sarasota, Florida, when the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., walked over to the president and whispered into his right ear. It was 9:05 a.m. on 11 September 2001, and Bush abruptly tensed and his smile vanished. While arriving at the school thirty minutes earlier, he had been given a muddled account of an airplane striking the World Trade Center, but that initial report made it sound like an accident involving a small private plane. Now Card told the president that a second plane had struck both World Trade Center towers, that both were large commercial jets, and that the United States was under attack.
Demonstrating remarkable acting skills, Bush stayed in the classroom, calm and focused on the children. He listened to them read and arched his eyebrows in mock surprise. "Really good readers," he told them warmly. "This must be sixth grade!" After seven more minutes, he finally excused himself and retreated, grim faced, to take over a changed presidency.
The terrorist attacks had a transformative effect on the United States as a whole—indeed, on most of the world—and certainly on the Bush administration. A presidency that had been generally popular but that had seemed, in the words of some aides, "small," suddenly had an enormous embrace. Within weeks, Bush was leading a war in Afghanistan, forming an international coalition against terrorism, pushing for a military tribunal to judge terrorist cases, redirecting national resources to combat germ warfare and build up the armed forces, and enjoying extraordinary popularity across America. He had found a new mission for the presidency: to protect the West from terrorist threats. Ever since the British invasion during the War of 1812, the continental United States had remained impenetrable to hostile incursions from outside its borders, and it seemed that the nation was truly vulnerable only to one such threat—Soviet missiles—but now there were new fears: anthrax, smallpox, nuclear weapons, poisoned reservoirs, hijacked planes, and other threats stemming from foreign terrorists on American soil. In leading the West to fight such dangers, Bush reassured America and revitalized his own administration.
In early 2002, it was still far too soon to cast judgment on his presidency. But what is clear—and what historians will have to tangle with—is that in assessing George W. Bush, one encounters countless paradoxes.
He assumed the presidency in an extraordinary way, with a minority of the popular vote and the outcome in the electoral college determined in effect by a close and controversial decision of the Supreme Court. Many pundits thought that he was acquiring a poisoned chalice, that the doubts about his legitimacy would tie Washington in knots and undermine his hopes of creating a meaningful legacy. Yet a year after that disputed election, Bush enjoyed 85 percent approval ratings, the highest of any modern president.
President Bush came into office remarkably un-informed about international affairs, provoking amusement, for example, with his references to Greeks as "Grecians." There were jokes about his vice president, Dick Cheney, being the real decision-maker behind the scenes. But after a year, those jokes had largely vanished: no one doubted that Bush was in control, and his most impressive achievements were in international affairs.
He is a man who sometimes tortures the English language, puzzling audiences with references to the "vile" (instead of "vital") hemisphere and tailpipe "admissions" (instead of "emissions"), and mystifying a group of New Hampshire schoolchildren celebrating "Perseverance Month" in January 2000 when he earnestly counseled them, "You've got to preserve," as if they should all rush out to can tomatoes. Yet he has a dazzling charm, tremendous social skills, a bold self-confidence, and growing political savvy. Most who have worked with Bush, Democrats as well as Republicans, say that contrary to the jokes that prevailed during the campaign about his intellectual shortcomings, he is smart, shrewd, and a quick study.
Early in his presidency, he scored significant accomplishments, including passage of a far-reaching tax bill that cut rates more than at any time since the Reagan tax cut twenty years earlier. He also set the national agenda on education, bolstered military spending, and successfully resolved his first international crisis, the seizure of a military surveillance plane and its crew by China. Yet Bush was also bedeviled by missteps, including—mystifyingly, for a leader who had emphasized how he was going to work well with Congress—perceived disrespectful treatment of a Vermont senator, James Jeffords, a veteran Republican who responded by quitting the party in May 2001, and in the process turning control of the Senate to the Democrats. Bush also worried many American allies, who feared that he planned to establish a unilateralist course and abandon international cooperation on everything from the Balkans, a region plagued by civil war since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, to global warming. And at home, Bush's close association with the energy industry left many middle-of-the-road voters worried that he would pillage the environment in pursuit of oil. His greatest domestic success, the tax cuts, also led to a plunge in the federal budget surplus within months—and to accusations from Democrats that he was endangering the Social Security system with tax breaks for the wealthy.
The paradoxes go on. He is the law-and-order man, the preacher of traditional moral values, and yet he avoided military service in Vietnam, abused alcohol until middle age, and dances around questions about whether he ever used illegal drugs. His administration, at least initially, steered a decidedly conservative path, and yet his speeches often show concern for traditionally liberal audiences: the poor, immigrants, single mothers, and so on. At times he comes across as profoundly ideological, a deeply-rooted conservative whose political values were shaped by the self-reliance and can-do spirit of the Texas oil business. At other times, Bush seems to lack not only an ideology but even a deep interest in public affairs; he can be surprisingly uninformed about the details of public policy and quite flexible about fundamental issues.
When George W. Bush ran for governor of Texas in 1994, his own parents expected him to lose. It was his younger brother Jeb who held the family's confidence and aspirations, who had diligently prepared for his bid to become governor of Florida that same year. George W., in contrast, had come to his ambitions haphazardly, and his mother, Barbara, flatly tried to discourage his seemingly quixotic resolve. Friends and family members remember that the elder Bushes worried that young George would be forced to bow again, as he had repeatedly in his life, to failure.
But that story had a surprise ending: while Jeb lost, George won. And in the process, George Walker Bush launched himself, without any grand plan or intricate forethought, on a most unusual path to the White House. Looking at the trajectory of his life, he comes across—far more than his predecessors—as an almost accidental president, a cocky and cheerful fellow who drifted through much of his life and who was largely unknown in the United States until he assumed his first political office just six years before becoming president.
He is casual and unpretentious, sometimes goofy. Once, before mealtime on a flight during the 2000 presidential campaign, the flight attendant handed him a piping-hot towel, and he did what passengers typically do, rubbing his fingers and mouth. But then he draped the towel over his face and leaned toward the person next to him as if playing peekaboo. Hiding under a square of terry cloth, he pursued an office that embodies gravitas and dignity. Bush has always been quick to lampoon bigwigs, and he used to entertain friends with splendidly cruel impressions of some of his father's more haughty cabinet members. And then this man who delights in deflating important people found himself the most important person in the world.
The fourth-grade classroom in Midland, Texas, erupted in titters as George W. Bush, one of the class clowns, turned around and faced his friends. He had quietly used a blue ink pen to draw long Elvis Presley–style sideburns down his cheeks.
Frances Childress, the fourth-grade teacher, was a strong disciplinarian who believed that children should be seen but not bearded. She grabbed George by the arm, yanked him out of class, and marched him down the long outside corridor to the principal's office near the main entrance to Sam Houston Elementary School. "Just look at him," Childress told the principal, John Bizilo. "He's been making a disturbance in class." The next step was pretty obvious for anyone in the 1950s version of the West Texas oil town of Midland: Bizilo told George to bend over and then reached for his paddle, a long wooden device the thickness of a Ping-Pong paddle but narrower and twice as long. George got a standard three whacks, and his shrieks filled the office. "When I hit him, he cried," Bizilo later recalled. "Oh, did he cry! He yelled as if he'd been shot. But he learned his lesson."
So he did.
Many of the roots of Bush's policy and political philosophy as president—including his belief in "tough love" for juvenile offenders—seem to go back to his childhood. George W. Bush was born on 6 July 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, while his father was an overachieving student at Yale, but the family moved to Texas just two years later, in 1948, settling in Midland in 1950. And while George W. packed an impressive family tree (he is a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth and a relation of President Franklin Pierce on his mother's side, as well as, of course, the son of the forty-first president of the United States, George H. W. Bush), none of this seems to have mattered much in Midland. His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a senator from Connecticut, but neighbors were only hazily aware of that.
Midland, a conservative, up-from-the-bootstraps town that has grown from 25,000 when he was a boy to almost 100,000 today, mirrors Bush's optimism and his skepticism about government. While playing Little League baseball, or even sobbing in the principal's office, Bush absorbed values that many old friends say are central to understanding who he is today. "I think his political philosophy comes completely from the philosophy of the independent oilman," said Joe O'Neill, a fellow rapscallion in childhood. "His homage to his parents, his respect for his elders, his respect for tradition, his belief in religion, his opposition to abortion—that's the philosophy he grew up with here."
Even in the 1960s, people raised in Midland generally stood with the establishment rather than rejecting it. Very few seem to have been active in the civil rights or anti-war movements, and the generation gap was much smaller in Midland than in American cities. Midland also seems to have bred an optimism about and a faith in capitalism, in part because it rewarded so many people—like the Bushes—with wealth for hard work. For many young people, the moral of childhood was that anybody who struggled in the baking desert of West Texas had a good chance of striking oil, and that capitalism worked. Government was disdained, and churches and civic groups like the Community Chest looked after local needs. Business was what helped people, while government was usually reviled as something in the way.
"What's important for George W. and where he is today is that he was in an isolated environment where there was almost an anti-government streak running through the region," said Bill Minutaglio, a Texan who authored a 1999 biography of Bush. "He felt that people succeeded because they worked hard, they punched holes in the ground and won the lottery. The lesson lasted with George W. for years, and I think he truly believes that people can win the lottery if they work hard, that if they put their nose to the grindstone it'll all work out without government help or intrusion." The values of Midland sometimes seem to emerge in Bush's talk of "compassionate conservatism" and "faith-based initiatives"—that is what his childhood was all about.
Bush has often said that "the biggest difference between me and my father is that he went to Greenwich Country Day and I went to San Jacinto Junior High (in Midland)." That is an exaggeration of the younger Bush's populist credentials, because he is also a product of Andover, Yale, and Harvard. But there is still something to it. The father, chauffeured to and from the private school in Connecticut, suffered politically because of the perception that he was a blue blood who could not relate to ordinary people and their ordinary lives; a famous 1992 news story related Bush's perceived surprise at encountering a supermarket scanner. The younger Bush had a much more ordinary childhood, biking around in jeans and a white T-shirt, and it left him with a common touch that is one of his greatest assets as a politician.
Midland is not the kind of place, though, that generates a lot of postcards. Even its residents, searching for a kind analogy, think of "moonscape." Oil made it a boomtown, attracting ambitious businessmen like the elder Bush and many other out-ofstaters as well. Midland had a large proportion of geologists, engineers, lawyers, and accountants, and Ivy League college graduates were everywhere at the country club. George W. recalls it in Norman Rockwell pastels, and so do many other citizens. Kids bicycled everywhere on their own, crime was almost nonexistent, and if anyone suspicious—say, someone with a beard—showed up in town, then Sheriff Ed Darnell (known as Big Ed) would stop him, escort him to the edge of town, and tell him to get out.
Midland was also rigidly segregated in those days. The town was mostly white, but black children went to their own school rather than to Sam Houston Elementary. The bus station and train station had separate waiting rooms for blacks and whites, and there were different drinking fountains marked "colored" at the stations and at the courthouse. Racial slurs were routine, and Bush picked up the habit of using them as a boy. Once when he was about seven years old he let one slip in his living room in front of his mother, Barbara. She grabbed George by the ear, pulled him into the bathroom, and washed his mouth out with soap as he spluttered indignantly. "His family was probably the only one around that didn't use racial slurs," said Michael Proctor, who lived across the street. "I probably didn't realize it was wrong until I saw that."
By all accounts, life was idyllic, although there was one terrible interruption: in 1953, when George was seven, his younger sister Robin died of leukemia. The loss staggered the elder Bushes, and some writers have described the episode as a crucial turning point that profoundly shaped young George's personality, forcing him to be funny and goofy to help his family get over the grief. It is an interesting and plausible theory, but childhood friends do not remember it that way. They say that Bush recovered relatively quickly, seemed little changed, and in the long run was emotionally unscathed. He has spoken only rarely to friends about his sister's death.
In the summer after Bush finished the seventh grade, the Bush family moved from Midland to Houston, a wrenching transfer for young George. From the nurturing cocoon of rustic Midland, George found himself in the much more competitive world of urban Houston. Things started off poorly when George was rejected by St. John's, the best private school in the city. (During the 2000 presidential campaign, an older acquaintance recalled the rejection, but in an interview, then-Governor Bush said he knew nothing of this. Later, after checking with his parents, he went out of his way to confirm—without any apparent embarrassment—that he had indeed been rejected.) Instead, George W. attended the Kinkaid School, another top-flight private school, for the eighth and ninth grades.
Andover and Yale
Houston seemed to touch his soul much less than Midland had, and in any case, it was understood in the family that George would be attending Phillips Academy in Andover, the Massachusetts prep school where his father had compiled a splendid record a generation earlier. Andover was far more competitive than St. John's, however, and a magazine article from that time says that 80 percent of Andover applicants were then being turned down. It seems unlikely that George would have been admitted to Andover entirely on his own merits.
But he did not need to be. It was at this juncture that he first got a helping hand from the kind of affirmative action that, particularly in those days, helped many wealthy blue-blood offspring. The Andover admissions process calculated a numeric score for each applicant, ranging from 4 to 20, and then gave a three-point bonus to any son of an Andover graduate. This may diminish young George's achievement in getting into Andover, but it does not take it away entirely. Even among sons of Andover graduates, fewer than half were admitted at that time. Bush says he has no recollection of his grades at Kinkaid, but a friend from that time says he was an A student, and it was those grades and his activities as a class officer and athlete that, along with the fact that he was George Bush's son, put him over the top at Andover.
The adjustment to Andover in the tenth grade was a rough one for young George. At Andover, George's first grade on an essay (about his sister's death from leukemia) was a zero, boldly written in red ink along with the teacher's scrawled comment: "disgraceful." Clay Johnson, a fellow Texan in the class of '64, recalled of Andover: "It was a shocking experience. It was far away from home and rigorous, and scary and demanding. The buildings looked different, and the days were shorter. We went from being at the top of our classes academically to struggling to catch up. We were so much less prepared than kids coming from Massachusetts or New York."
Yet despite the pressure, young George seems to have remained remarkably sunny. Classmates remember him as cheerful and exuberant. When snow began falling in October of his first year, he bounded outside in excitement to catch the snowflakes and try to gather enough for a snowball. "My memory of living with George was that it was probably the funniest year of my life," recalled Donald E. Vermeil, a roommate. Andover was rife with cliques, and George fell into the jock crowd, which was disproportionately made up of boys from beyond the Northeast. Those who played basketball, baseball, or football remember George as moderately talented but scrappy—sometimes excessively so. Once the coach had to pull him out of a basketball game when he became angered at a referee's call and hurled the ball at an opposing player. Yet there was one important area where young George did excel: people skills. It was in high school that he first seemed to cultivate them and exhibit them, using wisecracking showmanship to carve out an identity for himself, an identity that is more subdued today but otherwise intact.
Bush in his stump speeches today comes across not as a policy maven or intellectual but as motivated rather by somewhat hazy ideals, optimism and a yearning to "lift the spirit of America," as he puts it. In all this, there is perhaps an echo of the boy at Andover who long ago finally found his niche by building coalitions across cliques and lifting the spirits of his school. In an institution that respected brains and brawn—excellence in the classroom and on the athletic field—George overflowed with neither. He was a mediocre student and no more than a decent athlete, and he paled in comparison to his father and namesake, who had been excellent at everything he did. Yet in the end, George found alternative ways to claim the stage and become popular. Against the odds, he emerged by force of personality as a signifi-cant figure on campus. No one thought of George W. Bush as a future politician, and he seemed oblivious to the civil rights struggle and other issues of the day. But he worked hard to remember everybody's name and managed to worm his way into the limelight. Very early on, he demonstrated one of the most fundamental political skills: the ability to make people feel good. "You can definitely see the germination of leadership there, even though the activity was not anything you would call political," Randall Roden, a childhood friend of George who also attended Andover, told The New York Times. "He was learning those skills, or perfecting them, at Andover."
George was chosen head cheerleader, which gave him a chance to ham it up in front of crowds. More than cheerleading, though, George's claim to fame at Andover was organizing an intramural stick-ball program. At the weekly assembly in April of his senior year, George stood up and announced the formation of a new stickball league. He was wearing a top hat like a circus showman, and instead of a brief announcement, he offered a twenty-minute speech that had much of the audience in stitches. As his time at Andover wound to a close, George fretted among friends about the pressure to get into Yale, which his father and grandfather had attended, and he hit the books largely with that goal in mind. The dean looked over George's transcript and college boards and then suggested in a kindly way that he apply to some less competitive colleges in addition to Yale. So George applied to the University of Texas as his "safe school," but in the end Yale accepted him.
Yale, like Andover, gave a helping hand to alumni sons in the admission process—far more than now—and it seems unlikely that Bush would have been admitted into Yale otherwise. There were no class rankings at Andover, but George never made honor roll even one term, unlike 110 boys in his class. His SAT scores were 566 for the verbal part and 640 for math. Those were far below the median scores for students admitted to his class at Yale: 668 verbal and 718 math. As he graduated from Andover, George was not a finalist in voting for "most likely to succeed," "most respected," "politico," or any of the other main categories. But, in a reflection of his people skills, he did come in second for "big man on campus."
At Yale, George W. Bush distinguished himself primarily as a hard partier, and he managed to be detained by police twice during his university years: once for stealing a Christmas wreath as a fraternity prank and once for trying to tear down the goalposts during a football game at Princeton. Those episodes underscored Bush's approach to rebellion in the 1960s: At a time when university students denounced police as "pigs," Bush stood with the establishment (yet still got himself arrested for pranks). Pressed at Yale to take sides in the great battles then unfolding over politics, civil rights, drugs, and music, Bush mostly was a noncombatant in those great upheavals, but when forced to choose he ultimately retreated to the values and ideals established by his parents' generation. In short, while some students took to the barricades, Bush took to the bar.
Unlike others of his generation including Bill Clinton, Bush never wore his hair long, agonized over Vietnam, wrestled with existentialism, or cranked up Rolling Stones songs to annoy his parents (instead of hard rock music, he listened to soul). Many young people of privilege who came of age during the 1960s began to question the system and their own values; Bush seems to have grasped his more tightly than ever. He may have broken the law, but he never questioned it. And today, much of his underlying political philosophy rests on the belief that the nation still needs to reverse the psychology of permissiveness and liberalism that began to take root in the country in the late 1960s.
Bush's transcript at Yale shows that he was a solid C student. Although a history major, he sampled widely in the social sciences and did poorly in political science and economics while achieving some of his best grades (the equivalent of a B+) in philosophy and anthropology. The transcript indicates that in Bush's freshman year, the only year for which rankings were available, he was in the twenty-first percentile of his class—meaning that four-fifths of the students were above him. Yet at the same time that he was earning Cs at Yale, Bush displayed a formidable intelligence in another way. At his induction into the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity, he and others were asked to name all fifty-four pledges in the room. Most were were able to name only five or six. When it was Bush's turn, he named every single one. Later he rose to become president of DKE, and he was also tapped into Skull and Bones, an elite secret society to which his father had also belonged.
Back to Texas
After graduating from Yale in 1968, Bush moved back to Texas and joined the Air National Guard. Bush has said that he wanted to learn how to fly, and the position had another merit: it kept him away from the war in Vietnam. There are many murky aspects to Bush's service in the Air National Guard, and critics believe that his family pulled strings to get him the position and that once in he did not complete his requirements. He denies the charges and insists that he applied for a program that could have sent him to Vietnam as a pilot; in fact, his plane was being phased out, and there was almost no chance that his application would be accepted.
What followed were what Bush has called his "nomadic years," when he partied hard, held a series of jobs, showed little ambition, drank too much, and worried his parents. In one incident, he drank before driving and—when reproached by his father—challenged the elder Bush to a fight. He applied to law school at the University of Texas and was rejected, but Harvard Business School accepted him. And so in the fall of 1973 he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and buckled down to study. This seems to have been a turning point, for afterward he seemed to settle down to some degree and worked reasonably hard in his studies.
After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1975—he is the first president with an MBA—Bush moved back to his childhood stomping ground in Midland, Texas, and entered the oil business. He worked hard, impressed people, and lived so frugally that, according to his friends,his bed was held together with an old necktie. Friends set him up with a young woman whom he had been dimly acquainted with in the seventh grade, Laura Welch, and after a whirlwind courtship, they were married on 5 November 1977. Instead of a honeymoon, they set off together on Bush's next project, to run for an open congressional seat.
Bush campaigned hard and did well in winning the Republican nomination against a prominent local man who had run two years earlier. But in the general election, Bush found himself matched against a popular state senator, Kent Hance, who was from the more northern populous part of the district and who portrayed Bush as an alien from Yankee country. At candidates' forums, Hance would tell the following yarn: As he was working in a field along a rural road, Hance saw Bush driving along in a Mercedes. Bush rolled down the window and asked for directions to a certain ranch. Hance gave Bush directions, telling him to turn right after the cattle guard (a metal grate, ubiquitous on rural Texas roads, that keeps livestock from straying). The yarn ends with Bush asking: "What color uniform is that cattle guard wearing?"
In retrospect, Bush ran an energetic but deeply flawed campaign. He chose a race that may have been unwinnable from the start, and then he muffed up and allowed himself to be portrayed to many voters as an overeducated phony out of touch with ordinary voters—ironically, a bit the way Bush supporters perceived Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign. For example, there was the television commercial Bush dreamed up to show how energetic he was: it showed him jogging on a track. In those days, joggers were about as common in West Texas as Martians, and the commercial reinforced the perception of Bush as an affable alien. "The only time folks around here go running," Hance told audiences, "is when somebody's chasing 'em."
The audio text of one of Hance's most effective radio spots is as follows: "In 1961, when Kent Hance graduated from Dimmitt High School in the Nineteenth Congressional District, his opponent George W. Bush was attending Andover Academy in Massachusetts. In 1965, when Kent Hance graduated from Texas Tech, his opponent was at Yale University. And while Kent Hance graduated from University of Texas Law School, his opponent"—the announcer's voice plunged—"get this, folks, was attending Harvard. We don't need someone from the Northeast telling us what our problems are."
When the election came, Hance defeated Bush by a solid 53 percent to 47 percent. The defeat seemed to cause Bush to lose interest in public service, but many years later when he returned to politics he remembered a lesson from that election. As Hance put it in an interview with The New York Times: "He wasn't going to be out-Christianed or out-good-old-boyed again. He's going to be the good old boy next door."
After the electoral defeat, Bush threw himself into the oil business. At first he called his company Arbusto (arbusto is Spanish for "bush"), but when times grew difficult there were too many jokes about the company going ar-BUST-o. So he renamed the enterprise Bush Exploration. Any assessment of his time in the oil business would be mixed: he proved effective at recruiting investors, but had difficulty running a company profitably. Then as now, he was a brilliant fund-raiser, and through his family and father's friends he raised millions of dollars to drill for oil. But he never found much petroleum, and oil prices virtually collapsed, so that his investors—like many others—did poorly. Bush raised $4.67 million from his limited partners, but his company returned only $1.55 million in distributions (plus hefty tax write-offs). Meanwhile, Bush structured the deals in part to give himself certain financial advantages: His longtime friend and accountant, Robert A. McCleskey, says that his net worth rose from $50,000 in 1975 to more than $1 million by 1988.
But those were tough years for the oil business, and the strains showed in Bush's private behavior. He drank too much, and he often came across as more offensive than amusing. The "bombastic Bush-kin," as friends called him, sometimes seemed out of control. While visiting the family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, he was cited for drunken driving, and he also managed to insult an old friend of his parents, a prim, well-dressed matron who had recently turned fifty. He wobbled up to her at a cocktail party and, according to a relative, asked her by way of conversation: "So, what's sex like after fifty, anyway?"
It was a vintage Bush moment, the kind that made Bush's friends laugh and cringe at the same time. He could be hilarious company, but also often outrageous and childish. Some acquaintances were offended by what they saw as Bush's arrogance and immaturity, by his penchant for drinking too much and thinking too little. Even Laura wanted him to grow up, old friends say, and by some accounts she signaled that she was so sick of his boorish behavior that she might leave him and take his twin daughters with her. Bush himself has said that he does not know whether he was an alcoholic, and old acquaintances generally concur that he was a borderline case. But he did get drunk regularly, and while he was not a mean drunk, he could be loud and obnoxious.
These pressures, instead of breaking Bush, changed him. There is no neat one-sentence explanation for how he came to terms with himself. It was a gradual process, stretching from his arrival at Harvard Business School in 1973 until after his fortieth birthday in 1986. One turning point, by Bush's own recollection, came in the summer of 1985 when he met with the evangelical religious leader Billy Graham in Kennebunkport. Bush was inspired to begin reading the Bible daily, and back in Midland he began attending a Bible study class. Ever since then, Bush's Methodist faith has been a pillar of his life. Then in July 1986, the Bushes went with a half-dozen friends to celebrate their collective fortieth birthdays at the luxurious Broadmoor Hotel resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On one evening, they all stayed up late, drinking a bit too merrily. The next morning, Bush woke up feeling befuddled—and quietly resolved that he would never touch alcohol again. As far as anybody knows, he never did. After that, Bush worked harder and mellowed a bit, so that while he remained mischievous he was less likely to offend people. He did better at controlling his temper. He became a better father. He grew up.
Learning About National Politics
When George H. W. Bush announced his candidacy for president in the 1988 campaign, George W. set aside his oil business and moved to Washington, D.C., to work for his father. It was his first real taste of national politics, and he both enjoyed and demonstrated a talent for it. He also learned from a master strategist, Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater, how to woo baby boomers and how to undercut opponents. Yet one paradox stands out: Bush managed to be immersed back then in national politics while remaining largely oblivious to its substance, the policy issues. Some people get into politics because they feel passionately about certain issues; Bush joined the 1988 campaign because he felt passionately about his father. He did not push any particular agenda, and no one seems to recall instances when he of his own volition pressed for one policy or another. Likewise, as revealed by the correspondence between father and son during the elder Bush's presidency, George W. often asked his father to send autographs to Texas friends, and occasionally to consider particular people for federal jobs—but in virtually none of the letters does he suggest that his father take a particular position on an issue.
"He'd come in to a meeting with a cup"—his spittoon—"and stick out his hand with a big smile and say, 'Hi, I'm George Bush, and thanks for what you're doing for my dad,"' Richard Bond told The New York Times. Bond was then the national political director for the campaign. Bush won over doubters on the campaign in part by poking fun at his own role, sometimes calling himself "Maureen," because Maureen Reagan was then notorious in her father's White House for forever telling staff members what to do. He also sometimes mocked those he regarded as the more pretentious associates of his father, like Nicholas Brady, the future Treasury secretary. Bush was also deployed in the field to make speeches and press the flesh, and he impressed campaign officials with his willingness to slog through Iowa and Michigan snow to meet with groups of voters.
Bush gave the impression that he did not much like Washington, D.C. The 1988 election ended in victory for the Bushes, of course, but George almost immediately moved back to Texas. Still, he visited the White House periodically and became a troubleshooter. "He had a good sense of what wasn't going right," Alan Simpson, a longtime family friend who was then a senator from Wyoming, told The New York Times, "and when things weren't going right, George would suddenly be on the front porch." In particular, Bush became disenchanted with the White House chief of staff, John Sununu, and played a role in firing him.
With his father ensconced in the White House, a new opportunity came to George: running a baseball club. An old family friend, Eddie Chiles, was preparing to sell the Texas Rangers and wanted to sell to Bush—if the latter could raise the money. Bush helped put together an investor group, including an old friend from Yale, Roland Betts, and became the general partner responsible for managing the investment. As a baseball owner, Bush proved himself an outstanding manager, still remembered fondly by the players who batted for him, the fans he courted, and even by the executives he fired. Bush helped turn the Rangers into a greatly improved team, and he presided over the complex arrangements for a new ballpark, one of the finest in major-league baseball. He became a multimillionaire in the process, setting himself up financially for his run for the presidency. In one blow, he acquired not only wealth but also the resume he would need to triumph in politics.
Yet the investment was immensely profitable in part because he and his co-owners were shrewd bargainers who charmed and bullied the city of Arlington into giving them a great deal, with the local taxpayers picking up most of the cost—including more than $135 million to help build the Rangers a stadium. Bush and his fellow owners even got the local government to seize the property of landowners for a new stadium and, in effect, hand it over to the Texas Rangers so that they could make a profit on it. In such business dealings Bush displayed both savvy and vision, but critics complain that his actions at the time are hard to reconcile with his later speeches about limited government and private property rights.
Bush's path to becoming a baseball owner was remarkable, because initially he did not put up a cent of his own money. Instead, he borrowed $500,000 from United Bank of Midland, a Texas bank of which he had previously been a director, and used those funds to buy a stake in the Rangers. Bush eventually raised his investment in two stages to an eventual total of $606,000, or 1.8 percent of the team. In 1988 he and his fellow owners sold the Rangers for $250 million. It was a good deal for all the principals, but Bush did particularly well: his cut was $14.9 million.
A Popular Governor
Bush's role with the Rangers was as its public spokesman and cheerleader, and he used the position to give speeches around Texas and win friends. It was in some sense a political role, shorn of policy, and he was very good at it. Increasingly, he also began to think of using it as a springboard to statewide office. His mother had discouraged him from running while his father was still in the White House, but as the 1994 governor's race approached, that was no longer an issue. Rather, the main concern was whether Bush had any chance to win. Ann Richards, the incumbent Democratic governor, was a national figure and media star with high popularity ratings. Yet Bush, against the advice of friends and family, took her on and ran an artful race.
Richards, who knew that Bush had had problems with his temper, tried to aggravate her opponent into self-destruction by needling him and belittling him as a dull-witted Daddy's boy who never accomplished anything on his own. But Bush simply grinned when Richards goaded him as a "shrub" and a "jerk." One of Bush's insights was that while Texans liked Richards as a person, they often did not agree with her. And so he ran an exceptionally focused, tightly disciplined campaign that hammered home his themes day after day: a tougher juvenile justice system to reduce crime, better schools, tighter restrictions on welfare, and new limits on tort suits.
In the heat of the campaign, Bush went dove hunting, with some thirty reporters in tow. A bird flew up, he blasted away with his shotgun, and proudly held up the prize for the news photographers. The reporters pointed out that he had shot not a dove, but a protected songbird known as the killdee. Bush promptly confessed, paid a $130 fine, and began his news conference that afternoon by saying: "Thank goodness it wasn't deer season. I might have shot a cow." The humor and discipline of the campaign worked: Bush defeated Richards with a healthy 54 percent of the vote. Almost immediately, as the Republican governor of a major state, as a man with a formidable war chest and superb political connections, he was regarded as a national figure.
Bush went out of his way in Texas to work with Democrats and to build bridges with groups that he had offended in his gubernatorial run. During the campaign, Bush had told a reporter of his own belief that the path to Heaven comes from acceptance of Jesus as one's personal savior. Some non-Christians, particularly Jews, were upset that Bush was effectively consigning them to hell. One of the first things he did after becoming governor was to meet a group of Jewish leaders in Houston and soothe the ruffled feelings. Likewise, from the beginning Bush worked exceptionally closely with the Democratic kingmaker of Texas, Bob Bullock, who was nearing the end of his career and came to look on Bush as a protégé and close friend. This spirit of bipartisan cooperation was one of the most striking features of Bush's years as governor, and it maximized his effectiveness.
Bush did not appear to put in long hours as governor—he typically went home at 5:00 p.m. and allocated only fifteen minutes to review death penalty cases and decide whether or not to grant a stay of execution, according to detailed schedules of the governor's time obtained by The New York Times under the Texas freedom of information law. But he dominated the legislative agenda, won an education reform package, and attempted unsuccessfully to pass an even more far-reaching tax-restructuring proposal. He also became steadily more popular, and by 1996 he was being mentioned as a potential presidential contender for 2000. In the summer of 1997, one of his aides, Karen Hughes, informed him that there had been an opinion poll of potential Republican candidates for the 2000 race. "You're leading," she told him.
The prospect of a presidential race depended on Bush winning reelection as governor in 1998, and this he did by a landslide. He won 68 percent of the vote and became the first Texas governor reelected to a second consecutive four-year term. Once he was reelected, Bush turned to the question of the presidency and began grappling with what friends say were his two main concerns: his family and his past. Associates say that his wife Laura and his twin girls, who were in high school when he was governor, were not exactly opposed to him running, but that they worried about what the race would mean for their privacy. The girls, the more studious Barbara and the more outgoing Jenna, already were sensitive to the impact on their lives of having a prominent politician as a father.
Bush was also reluctant to face the scrutiny of his past that is the fate of any presidential candidate. Already, he was facing persistent questioning about drug use—he declined to say whether he had used illegal drugs, but his circumlocutions seemed to suggest that he had—and he had never disclosed his arrest for drunken driving in Maine.
Yet in the end Bush did run, and from the beginning he was the overwhelming favorite, both in polls and in fund-raising. His strength extinguished some candidacies in their infancy—like those of Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, and Lamar Alexander—and so his main rivals in the Republican primaries were Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes, and John McCain. Of these, McCain was the only one who had a chance, appealing to a mix of liberals and conservatives alike with his background as a war hero and his calls for campaign finance reform. In contrast to McCain's dynamism, Bush initially ran a hesitant campaign in which he was perceived by voters as aloof and somewhat arrogant. The result was a crushing defeat in the New Hampshire primary on 1 February 2000, with Bush getting just 31 percent to McCain's 49 percent.
After New Hampshire, Bush refurbished his campaign, seizing the reformer label from McCain and becoming far more energetic. He went out of his way to cultivate reporters, whom he had previously seemed to disdain, and he charged into the fray and recovered his footing. Steadily Bush gained states in his column for the Republican nomination, including a decisive win in South Carolina on 19 February and again in nine more states on Super Tuesday, 7 March. By then Bush was effectively the Republican nominee, but the animosity between his staff and McCain's took months to ease.
Bush had asked Dick Cheney, his father's secretary of defense, to lead the effort to find a running mate, but in the end Bush chose Cheney himself to be the vice presidential candidate. It was politically an odd choice, for Cheney was, like Bush, a Texas oilman and did not bring new geographic support to the ticket, but Cheney did bring solidity and experience to the ticket.
The Republican convention in Philadelphia, 31 July to 3 August, was a milestone for the Bush campaign. It sought to reassure the nation that Bush was a centrist, rather than the hard-line conservative depicted by the Democrats, and inclusiveness was a constant theme. Some speeches were given in Spanish, and the large number of African Americans who appeared on the podium led some comedians to joke that the event looked like a Black Entertainment Network broadcast. At the end, Bush gave perhaps the finest speech of his career until that point, a warm and visionary talk that praised President Clinton's talents but suggested that they had been used for no great purpose. Bush managed to raise issues of moral leadership without sounding shrill, and he called for cooperation with Democrats to address traditional Democratic issues like poverty and education. Republicans, he said, are "not the party of repose, but the party of reform." He declared: "We will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country: to every man and woman, a chance to succeed; to every child, a chance to learn; and to every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope."
The campaign against then-Vice President Al Gore unfolded largely as expected and was tight all the way. Gore's political strength was that he was an incumbent of sorts at a time when the United States was enjoying the longest economic boom in its history, but he also came across as wooden and, to some, as shifty and untrustworthy. Bush was far less knowledgeable about policy issues (he famously mixed up Slovakia and Slovenia, among other lapses), but he impressed many voters as honest and amiable. In a series of campaign debates that perhaps made the difference, he came across to many voters as more knowledgeable than they had expected, while Gore did poorly.
The Bush Presidency
The result was an election that in effect was a tie. Gore won the popular vote but was one vote short in the electoral college of the majority he needed. And with all the other states decided, it was clear that the outcome of the presidential election would depend on Florida, where Bush had the slenderest of leads. After furious rounds of recounting, haggling in the courts and in the media, Florida's secretary of state certified that Bush had won the state. There were indications, though, that more people had tried to vote for Gore in Florida than had tried to vote for Bush, but that enough of their votes were set aside for mistakes (such as punching the wrong hole, or double punching) that Bush had a slight edge. As the battle over whether to recount entered the courts, the dispute was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, which on 12 December 2000 decided—by a 5 to 4 vote on the key issue—that further counting would be impractical and unfair. In effect, the White House was Bush's.
Gore conceded the next day, and Bush accepted the presidency in a speech on 13 December in the Texas House of Representatives—chosen, he said, as a symbol of bipartisan cooperation. "After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens," he declared. "I am optimistic that we can change the tone in Washington, D.C. I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past."
That did not happen, at least not immediately. Many Democrats were outraged, feeling that the election had been stolen from them. But Bush continued to reach out, and in his inaugural address he sounded again the theme of inclusiveness: "While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it." And Bush, always much more welcoming to immigrants than other elements in the Republican Party, added that every immigrant "makes our country more, not less, American."
Upon taking office, Bush selected aides who were generally respected for their experience and competence and who in some cases came from the corporate world: Paul O'Neill, who had been chairman and CEO of the world's largest aluminum manufacturer, Alcoa, was chosen treasury secretary. Politically, the cabinet ranged from John Ashcroft, the conservative attorney general who survived a bitter fight over his nomination, to Norman Mineta, a Democrat, as transportation secretary. Many key figures in the government were recycled from the earlier Bush administration, although there was no evidence that the first President Bush himself played a crucial role in policy formation. Colin Powell, as secretary of state, and Donald Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, both came across as surprisingly weak until the terror attacks of 11 September—after which they assumed enormous importance. George Tenet, the CIA director, became a close adviser, briefing the president in person for twenty to thirty minutes each morning (he had given Clinton, by contrast, a written daily briefing). But the crucial adviser, in many cases, was Karl Rove, Bush's longtime political strategist. When opposition grew to U.S. military bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, for example, the Pentagon opposed conciliation, for fear of losing an important site for target practice. But with Hispanics an increasingly important constituency, Bush sided with Rove and announced that the bombing would eventually be halted.
Bush's early focus of attention was the tax cut, and he was successful in getting a landmark cut through Congress. This lowered the top personal rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, and started the country on a path toward eventual elimination of the estate tax, a tax on assets held by an individual at the time of death (though this of course could be changed by future Congresses). He also pushed for "faith-based" programs to administer social services, and helped put the issue on the national agenda. Bush was unable to get Congress to institute a system of educational vouchers, in which as an alternative to keeping their children in failing public schools, parents could redeem vouchers to help pay for private or parochial school tuition. As part of his plan for educational reform, however, Bush was able to push through legislation requiring mandatory yearly testing of students in grades three through eight, as a way of making schools accountable for their children's proficiency in reading, math, and science.
One of the toughest issues he faced in his first summer was whether to approve federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. Proponents urged that stem cells offered immense promise in treating a broad range of diseases, while critics—many of them on the Right—noted that extraction of stem cells destroyed the embryo and a potential human life. Bush discussed the issue widely with aides and outsiders and ultimately came down in the middle. He declared that federal funding of stem cell research would continue, but only for existing stem cells—extracted for the purpose of in vitro fertilization and stored in labs—that otherwise would be destroyed. It was a nuanced position that, while attacked by some on both sides of the issue, seemed to win respect among many in the middle of the road.
Rather less successfully, Bush pushed for a sweeping new energy policy that would put emphasis on increasing production. His assumption of office coincided with a series of power shortages in California, and he argued that the only way to address the power crunch was to increase drilling. In particular, he called for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. But these proposals made little headway, and polls found voters deeply suspicious that Bush was too close to big oil and too prepared to destroy the environment. After Enron, a multi-billion dollar energy company headquartered in Houston, collapsed into bankruptcy at the end of 2001, the Bush administration was also embarrassed by the close ties between the company and senior Bush aides, and between the president and Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of Enron.
Foreign relations were initially a mixed bag, reflecting Bush's lack of confidence in foreign affairs. After initial missteps, he generally was credited with sound handling of his first crisis, the collision in April 2001 of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off the southern coast of China. The American plane made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan, but eventually the Bush administration won the return of both the crew and the plane. Bush was given high marks by political analysts for his first overseas trip, to Europe in June, but he benefited from the fact that expectations had been low. He charmed some audiences, but also left many allies infuriated by his insistence on two points: abandoning the Kyoto Protocol to curb global warming, and continuation with America's national missile defense system even if it meant U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had been signed with the Soviet Union in 1972. The Bush administration gave further evidence of its doubts about multilateralism by opposing a treaty establishing an International Criminal Court, by threatening to withdraw from a July 2001 United Nations conference that sought to devise a treaty on small arms trafficking, by rejecting enforcement measures for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, and by declining to send a senior delegation to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The Economist of London, which generally took a pro-Bush stance, asked in its pages on 28 July 2001: "Has George Bush ever met a treaty that he liked?"
In his approach to the presidency, Bush closely followed the Clinton model of constantly campaigning. While he left details of his first budget to others, Bush traveled frequently around the country, making campaign-style appearances to promote his policies. He devoted less attention to states like California and New York that would probably be unwinnable in 2004 and focused on crucial states that might go either way in a reelection fight. Yet for all the energy he showed as a campaigner for his policies, he was not nearly as intricately involved in policy development as Clinton had been, and Bush often took off on Friday afternoons to head for Camp David or his beloved ranch near Waco, Texas. Bush made some inroads with Congress, but his policy there failed catastrophically in one sense, when control of the Senate passed to the Democratic Party due to Senator Jeffords' abandonment of the Republicans.
One of Bush's first challenges was an economic slowdown, and ultimately his reelection prospects may depend on his handling of it. He presented the sagging economy as a problem that he inherited, and in large part he was right: the extraordinary high-tech bubble, which left markets and the real economy buoyant, peaked in the spring of 2000 and steadily deflated after that. Bush sold his tax cut partly as an antidote to the economic weakness, and many economists approved of the tax rebates (up to $600 for a couple) that were sent out in the summer and fall of 2001 and that offered a fiscal stimulus. At the same time, the markets were unnerved by the prospect that America's tremendous progress on reducing the federal debt might be coming apart.
Bush insisted that the tax cut would not threaten the Social Security part of the budget surplus. But he had to tweak accounting rules and come up with very optimistic projections to avoid delving into those retirement funds. In contrast, the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, projected that substantial amounts would have to come out of the Social Security surplus between 2001 and 2004. Bush presented the tumbling budget surpluses as desirable—a straitjacket that would prevent Congress from squandering taxpayer money—but they also meant less money available for his priorities, such as education and military spending. And if the United States slips off its sound fiscal track of the mid- to late-1990s, that would be a far-reaching legacy that would force fundamental rethinking within the Bush administration about its priorities.
Six months after taking office, Bush had an approval rating in a Gallup Poll of 57 percent. That was better than the comparable Clinton figure of 41 percent and impressive considering the tumultuous, controversial way in which he had assumed office. But it was well behind the figures for predecessors including his father, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy (who had the highest six-month approval rating, 75 percent).
Responding to Terrorism
Bush's initial response to the attacks on the World Trade Center was inauspicious. He seemed shaken and halting in his first statement, at 9:30 a.m., shortly after stepping out of the classroom in Sarasota. He described the incidents as "an apparent terrorist attack" and vowed "to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act." The Secret Service then rushed Bush onto Air Force One, and the presidential jet roared off into the sky without delay, headed for Washington.
Once on the plane, according to the Washington Post, Bush told aides: "That's what we're paid for, boys. When we find out who did this, they are not going to like me as president. Somebody is going to pay."
Meanwhile, Washington was in chaos. When the Secret Service learned that an airplane was barreling toward the White House, agents burst into the vice president's office, grabbing him by the arms and belt and rushing him downstairs into an underground bunker built to withstand a nuclear blast. Staff were evacuated from key government buildings, with women in the White House and Eisenhower Executive Office Building told to take off their high heels and run for their lives to Lafayette Park. Aides were told to remove the security badges from around their necks, in case snipers were posted to shoot them. Top aides were in the bunker, but it was poorly prepared and at first the audio did not work on the televisions.
The plane that had been thought headed for the White House ultimately crashed into the Pentagon, but now another airplane was detected heading for Washington. Bush, traveling on Air Force One, and Cheney briefly discussed what to do, and Bush gave the order for the Air Force to shoot down passenger planes if necessary. Soon afterward, the second plane heading for Washington, United Flight 93, went down in Pennsylvania. Bush asked, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash?" According to a lengthy reconstruction of 11 September and its aftermath by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz in the Washington Post, no one could answer him. (Eventually, it turned out that passengers had fought with the hijackers, causing the plane to crash).
False and exaggerated reports added to the alarm. There were accounts of explosions at the Capitol and State Department, of many more planes hijacked and headed for Washington. Transportation Secretary Mineta ordered all airplanes across the United States down at once, but that took hours to implement. Meanwhile, a phone threat came in to the White House against Air Force One, and because of a mistake in relaying the message it was believed erroneously that the caller had used the plane's code word, "Angel." The term gave the threat credibility, suggesting some knowledge of security procedures, and the Pentagon scrambled fighters to escort Air Force One.
Cheney and Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, both urged the president not to return to Washington, citing continuing security concerns. Air Force One eventually landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, where it was immediately surrounded by U.S. troops carrying machine guns. Reporters on the plane were prohibited from describing the location. Bush made a brief television appearance shortly before 1:00 p.m., reading a two-minute statement and taking no questions. His eyes were red-rimmed, he mispronounced words, and the tape of the appearance was jumpy and grainy. "The resolve of our great nation is being tested," he declared.
Soon afterward, Bush was in flight on Air Force One again, this time headed for Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, which had an underground bunker and first-rate communications capabilities. While en route, he called his father; on finding out that the former president was in Milwaukee, George W. asked: "What are you doing in Milwaukee?"
"You grounded my plane," his father replied.
Once at Offutt, President Bush convened a tele-conference meeting of the National Security Council and then insisted on returning to Washington. There had been a growing chorus of grumbling by politicians, even some Republicans, at the fact that the president was fleeing west when the East Coast was under attack, at his failure to offer a constant reassuring presence to the American public. The Secret Service resisted Bush's desire to return to Washington, but his political aides strongly agreed that he needed to address the nation from the Oval Office. On the evening of 11 September Bush flew back to Washington, arriving at the White House at 7:00 p.m. and addressing the nation live at 8:30.
"None of us will ever forget this day," he declared, "yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world." He then outlined what came to be regarded as the Bush doctrine: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." Even Bush's advisers acknowledged that the speech fell flat, out of tune with the historic nature of the day. But Bush at least conveyed that he was back at the White House, back in command. And from then on, he seemed to regain his footing and sound the right notes in reassuring the nation and responding to the terrorist challenge.
Evidence immediately accumulated that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida ("The Base"), a radical Isla-mist terrorist organization, were responsible for the attacks. For years the United States had pursued bin Laden for suspected involvement in terrorist activities; the wealthy Saudi exile had found refuge in Taliban-run Afghanistan. That evening, President Bush and his National Security Council decided to apply all possible pressure on Afghanistan—and its backer, Pakistan—to hand over bin Laden. Otherwise, the United States would use its armed forces to go into Afghanistan itself.
On the morning of 12 September, when Bush and his aides met in the White House Situation Room, Tenet presented the outlines of what would become the strategy in Afghanistan: bomb Taliban positions heavily, send in CIA officers and special forces to bolster the Northern Alliance that had feebly been battling the Taliban, and arm and organize the Alliance so that it could function as a proxy ground force. Also that morning, Bush read a statement that escalated the stakes. "The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror," he declared. "They were acts of war.... This will be a monumental struggle between good and evil. But good will prevail."
The speech was much more effective than his previous public appearances, and Bush followed it up with meetings with the congressional leadership and with phone calls with foreign leaders. He asked for and received support from heads of state the world over. Even Russia and China, which normally were anxious about American military deployments near their borders, gave Bush surprisingly strong backings. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin used 9/11 to cement a warmer, more cooperative relationship with the United States, one that was remarkably little disturbed even when Bush announced that he would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Likewise, the Bush administration—which had its share of hard-liners who saw China as the major long-term threat to the United States—ended up working closely with Chinese leaders and ushering in a period of civility between Washington and Beijing.
The days and weeks following 11 September were wrenching for American citizens, and Bush—who has a deep emotional streak—was no exception. A reporter asked him in front of television cameras on 13 September about his prayers and thoughts, and he struggled to collect himself as he answered: "Well, I don't think about myself right now. I think about the families, the children." His eyes flooded with tears, and he paused. "I am a loving guy, and I am also someone, however, who has got a job to do, and I intend to do it." Bush later said: "Presidents don't particularly like to cry in front of the American public, particularly in the Oval Office, but nevertheless I did." He added, quite rightly, that his "mood reflected the country in many ways."
On the following day, Bush presided over a prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., with three former presidents, much of the Congress, and many other leaders in attendance. At Bush's insistence, a Muslim cleric had also been invited to speak, to underscore that this was not to be a war against Islam. Bush delivered a speech prepared by his most poetic speechwriter, Michael Gerson, and for the first time he hit all the notes perfectly. "We are here in the middle hour of our grief," he began, and he tried to comfort and console the nation. But, although the setting was a house of worship, he also delivered what was close to a declaration of war: "This conflict was begun on the
timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at a time, of our choosing."
On 20 September, Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress to outline his plans. Fighter aircraft circled overhead to defend the Capitol, and some 80 million Americans watched on television. An exhibition professional hockey game in Philadelphia was suspended so that fans could watch the speech on the stadium's screens. Bush delivered a powerful speech that won overwhelming support. He urged Americans to "hug your children" and touched all the emotional bases, but he also outlined a new kind of struggle against global terrorism as a whole, not just against Al Qaida. "Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success." He also gave a pledge: "I will not yield. I will not rest. I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people."
When the Taliban did not respond to Bush's ultimatum—give up bin Laden and end support for Al Qaida—the United States moved quickly to bolster the Northern Alliance and begin bombing targets. At first the fighting was anemic, and for a time there were ominous articles in the American press about an emerging "quagmire." But then supplies worked their way to the forces on the ground and, most helpfully, American Special Forces arrived in Afghanistan to guide the bombing. The result was that the Taliban began to crumble and retreat from northern cities. And once they began to retreat they kept going. There was never a battle in the contested capital city of Kabul; the Taliban fled in the middle of the night.
European and Arab grumbling about the bombing subsided to some degree with the victory in Afghanistan, partly because of scenes of elated Afghans celebrating their newfound freedoms. And the victory itself was a remarkable achievement for the Pentagon. While small numbers of American troops died in friendly fire and in accidents during the liberation of Afghanistan from Taliban control, only a few soldiers were killed by enemy fire (along with one CIA officer). The United States quickly oversaw the installation of a new interim government, led by Hamid Karzai, handpicked by Washington.
The first few months in the war on terrorism had gone remarkably well. But then the picture grew more complex. Osama bin Laden remained at large, along with the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and Bush administration officials grew increasingly frustrated at the inability to track them down. There was also no immediate success in finding and prosecuting the perpetrator of a series of mailed anthrax attacks in Washington, New York, and Florida, although the FBI came to conclude that the person was probably an American rather than a foreigner. Another attempted attack on a U.S. airliner, in December 2001 by a man with a bomb of plastic explosives built into his shoe, was foiled but reminded Americans of their vulnerability.
There was also a vigorous debate about how to deal with Taliban and Al Qaida prisoners from Afghanistan. President Bush proposed the creation of military tribunals, and he also oversaw the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where they could be interrogated without the protections that would apply if they were on American soil. The administration initially asserted that the Third Geneva Convention, on prisoners of war, would not apply to them, but after an uproar in Europe—and a lesser one in the Pentagon, which did not want precedents that could harm Americans taken prisoner—the White House said that the conventions would apply, but that in any case none of the captured were prisoners of war.
Coverage of the war on terror also became more skeptical. Reporters in Afghanistan began writing about cases in which Americans apparently bombed the wrong targets, killing civilians. After Pentagon officials boasted that they had killed a man whose height made it possible that he was the six-foot-four-inch bin Laden, reporters confirmed that the man was not bin Laden but an impoverished Afghan trying to make ends meet collecting scrap metal. Another raid, initially described by the Pentagon as successful, turned out to have killed anti-Taliban fighters and to have seized guns that had already been confiscated and stockpiled. Afghanistan began to show the strains of rivalries, and there was growing pressure on Washington to provide troops for an international security force in the major cities.
The United States expanded the war on terror by sending troops to the southern Philippines, ostensibly to train Filipino soldiers in counterterrorism techniques. In practice, there were some signs that the Americans intended mainly to pursue the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, a criminal gang that had kidnapped two Americans but that had few ties to Al Qaida. Doubts began to be raised about the Philippine venture.
By far the most controversial step was the discussion of taking on Iraq. Within a few days of 11 September, there was a push within the administration—led by Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, to begin planning the overthrow of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a longtime adversary of the United States—especially during the 1991 Gulf War—who was known to be trying to accumulate weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon and National Security staffs generally approved, while the State Department was alarmed at the idea. And those in the world opposed to American unilateralism watched with dismay as the Bush administration began to talk more openly about invading Iraq.
When President Bush addressed these themes in his State of the Union address in January 2002, two paradoxes were striking. First, for a man who took office often denigrated as bumbling and inarticulate, he has often been remarkably eloquent in his prepared speeches. That was evident in the first words of the address: "As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our Union has never been stronger."
Second, for a president who initially seemed relatively uninformed and uninterested in international affairs, his presidency has come to focus on matters abroad. Indeed, the most striking aspect of Bush's speech was its hawkish tone—it owed much more to the Pentagon than to the State Department—as it described an "axis of evil" consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. And, although officials said they had no plans to go after Iran or North Korea militarily, it caused jitters in Europe for what foreigners saw as its jingoism. Bush in effect expanded the list of adversaries from states that support terrorism to those that pursue covert nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs: "Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since 11 September. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom. Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.... States like these, and their terrorist allies... [are] arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
Bush's budget proposal included the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, allowing a push toward new kinds of weaponry and platforms in the coming decades. Other elements of government spending were tightly restrained, creating a measure of dissatisfaction. Early proposals to revise Social Security spending, by allowing workers to put their money into investment accounts, also lost momentum, because of the difficulty in winning consensus on any specific proposal. The administration's economic stimulus package also encountered difficulties, partly because of signs that the economy was recovering in the spring of 2002 on its own and partly because the dramatic decline in the fiscal picture made further tax cuts seem questionable. From an outlook of huge surpluses as far as the eye could see, allowing the complete retirement of America's debt within a dozen years, the picture changed to one of continued deficits. That was partly because of the Bush tax cuts, and partly because of the recession, but it amounted to one of the challenges for the administration in the remainder of its time in office.
This essay takes the reader only up to the State of the Union address in early 2002, and at this writing it is far too early to offer a firm assessment of President Bush. Only the most tentative summation is appropriate: He grew in the job, particularly in his handling of the events of 11 September and overseas terrorism; his public speaking improved dramatically, as a onetime bumbler gave ringing speeches that touched the nation and elevated his own standing; he was immensely popular in the aftermath of 11 September but by early 2002 there was a growing willingness at least among Democrats to criticize administration policies at home and abroad; one of his greatest achievements was an enormous tax cut, but critics charged that it would erode American economic strength and undermine his legacy. Ultimately, the Bush presidency continues to revolve around a series of paradoxes that it is too soon to resolve.
Bill Minutaglio's biography, First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty (New York, 1999), is excellent and objective, and covers Bush through his years as governor. Elizabeth Mitchell's biography, W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty (New York, Hyperion, 2000), is also very good, particularly on the early years. Frank Bruni has written a fine, engaging and evenhanded account of Bush, focusing on the campaign: Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush (New York, 2002). Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose authored an entertaining book focusing on Bush's years as governor. It is fiercely critical and makes no attempt to be balanced, but it is generally intelligent and factual: Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (New York, 2000).
Bush's campaign biography purports to be an autobiography but was actually written by Karen Hughes, his key aide. It is very bland but still an important source. George W. Bush, A Charge to Keep (New York, 1999). Occasional family letters involving George W. appear in his father's collection of letters: George Bush, All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings (New York, 1999). Sections on early family life also appear in a campaign book about the father that the son helped to write. It is George Bush with Doug Wead, Man of Integrity (Eugene, Ore., 1988).
Information about the Bush administration's reaction to the events of 11 September 2001 comes in a monumental series by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, "Ten Days in September," Washington Post, running each day on the front page from 27 January to 3 February 2002. The immediate aftermath is also well covered in an article by David E. Sanger and Don Van Natta Jr., "In Four Days, a National Crisis Changes Bush's Presidency," New York Times, 16 September 2001. Quotations and information in this essay about Bush's handling of the terror attacks came from these articles.
In 2000, the author wrote a series of eleven biographical articles about Bush, covering the period from his childhood through his decision to run for the White House, and they appeared at intervals in The New York Times from 21 May through 29 October 2000. Many of the quotations and information in this essay first appeared in those articles.
George W. Bush
15 George W. Bush
Remarks on a New Vision for Space Exploration Program
Presented on January 14, 2004
The U.S. space program began in 1958 with the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At that time the United States and the former Soviet Union had been engaged in a period of hostile relations known as the Cold War (1945–91) for more than a decade, since the end of World War II (1939–45). Not only were the two superpowers involved in an arms race for military superiority, they were also competing for dominance in space. In 1957 the Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik 1 satellite to study the atmosphere of Earth, sending shock waves through American society. Sputnik was a sign that the Soviet Union was moving ahead in the Cold War. The United States responded by creating NASA, which integrated U.S. space research agencies and established a manned space program.
The first stage of the program was Project Mercury, which developed the basic technology for manned space flight and investigated a human's ability to survive and perform in space. On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard (1923–1998) flew a Mercury capsule for fifteen minutes in Earth orbit over the Atlantic Ocean, becoming the first American in space. Shepard was not the first human to perform this achievement, however: Less than a month earlier, on April 12, Soviet cosmonaut (astronaut) Yuri Gagarin (1934–1968) had made a nearly complete orbit of Earth. Americans saw Gagarin's flight as a potentially fatal blow to the prestige of the United States.
Immediately confronting the Soviet challenge, in May 1961 U.S. president John F. Kennedy (1917–63; served 1961–63; see entry) made a speech before a joint session of Congress. He announced that the United States would put a man on the Moon within the next ten years. In 1962 astronaut John Glenn (1921–) made three orbits of Earth aboard the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7. Two years later NASA initiated Project Gemini, which provided astronauts with experience in returning to Earth from space as well as practice in successfully linking space vehicles and "walking" in space. Gemini also involved the launching of a series of unmanned satellites, with the goal of gaining information about the Moon and its surface to determine whether humans could survive there. Gemini was the transition between Mercury's short flights and Project Apollo, which would safely land a human on the Moon.
The first Apollo mission ended tragically in January 1967, when three astronauts died in a launchpad fire in their module. The next Apollo missions were unmanned flights that tested the safety of the equipment. The first manned flight was Apollo 7 in 1968, and the last was Apollo 17 in 1972. The most famous was Apollo 11, which successfully landed astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930–) and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (1930–) on the Moon in 1969 (see Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. entry). After Apollo 17 the United States did not undertake any other moon flights.
Interest in further moon exploration steadily waned in the early 1970s, so NASA concentrated its efforts on the Large Space Telescope (LST) project. Initiated in 1969, the LST was an observatory (a structure housing a telescope, a device that observes celestial objects) that would continuously orbit Earth. An immediate result of the LST project was the introduction of the space shuttle, a reusable vehicle that would launch the LST into orbit. Technical issues and lack of funding caused a series of delays before the LST was finally approved by Congress in 1977. Collaborating with the European Space Agency, NASA began building the telescope, which was first renamed the Space Telescope and then the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The HST was assembled and ready for launch in 1985, but the midair explosion of the Challenger forced the temporary grounding of all space shuttles. The HST was finally lifted into space in 1990. Over the next several years the observatory's powerful camera took spectacular pictures of the universe, enabling scientists to make many astronomical advances and discoveries.
At the turn of the twenty-first century NASA was still operating the HST, but it had been designed to have a life span of only fifteen years. Astronauts made periodic visits to the orbiting telescope to do maintenance work and install new equipment. Three service missions had been completed by 2003, and the fourth and final mission was scheduled for 2006. It was canceled after the accident of the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart over the western United States on February 1, 2003 (see Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster entry). All seven crew members were killed. The day after the accident NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe (1956–) organized the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). In August 2003 the CAIB issued a final report, stating that the most immediate cause of the crash was a piece of insulating foam that had separated from the shuttle's left wing during takeoff. The missing foam left a hole through which leaking gas was ignited by intense heat from the rocket that propelled the Columbia. The board concluded that shuttle flights were becoming increasingly dangerous and that a minimum number of shuttles should be flown only when necessary. The report further cited deficiencies within NASA and a lack of government over-sight of the space agency.
Although the HST has been considered a great success, NASA's primary project is the International Space Station (ISS). The largest international scientific collaboration in history, the ISS represented the future of space exploration when construction began in 1998. Often described as an orbiting "house" or "hotel," a space station is a craft in which people can live for extended periods of time while conducting research and scientific experiments. Astronauts travel to and from the station on space shuttles. The ISS involves the efforts of seventeen countries: the United States, the eleven member nations of the European Space Agency, Canada, Japan, Russia, and Brazil. The ISS was scheduled to be completed in 2006, when astronauts will have assembled a total of one hundred separate parts during forty-five missions—while the station is orbiting 240 miles (384 kilometers) above Earth. By 2004 eight crews had stayed on the ISS for months at a time. The previous year, however, the space station met the same fate as the HST, when further ISS construction was halted after the crash of Columbia.
By 2004 the U.S. manned space program had reached a turning point: NASA had not conducted exploration of the Moon for nearly thirty-two years, space shuttles were grounded, and the future was uncertain for both the HST and the ISS. Scientists, politicians, and the American public began to question the future of NASA itself. On January 14, 2004, in a speech at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush (1946–; served 2001–) announced plans for a major revitalization of the U.S. space program.
Things to remember while reading President Bush's Remarks on a New Vision for Space Exploration Program:
- The president commits the nation to exploration of the solar system, both by humans and robots (electronic devices programmed to perform human activities), beginning with a return to the Moon. The program will eventually be expanded to include trips to Mars and to other destinations in space.
- Bush outlines new objectives for NASA, stressing a commitment to affordable, sustainable, and safe manned space flight. He also announces that construction of the ISS will be completed and that the space shuttle will be replaced by a new Crew Exploration Vehicle.
- The president mentions "Commander Mike Foale's introduction." British-born NASA astronaut Michael Foale (1957–) was the commander of the Expedition-8 crew who was living aboard the ISS at the time of Bush's speech. ("Expedition-8" was the eighth crew to live on the ISS for an extended period of time.) Foale introduced the president to the NASA audience via a video link from the ISS. After a six-month stay on the space station—from October 2003 until April 2004—Foale set a new U.S. record for the length of time spent in space: 374 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes.
President Bush's Remarks on a New Vision for Space Exploration Program
Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm honored to be with the men and women of NASA. I thank those of you who have come in person. I welcome those who are listening by video. This agency, and the dedicated professionals who serve it, have always reflected the finest values of our country—daring, discipline,ingenuity , and unity in the pursuit of great goals.
America is proud of our space program. The risk takers andvisionaries of this agency have expanded human knowledge, have revolutionized our understanding of the universe, and produced technological advances that have benefited all of humanity.
Inspired by all that has come before, and guided by clear objectives, today we set a new course for America's space program. We will give NASA a new focus and vision for future exploration. We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own.
I am comfortable in delegating these new goals to NASA, under the leadership of [NASA administrator] Sean O'Keefe. He's doing an excellent job. I appreciateCommander Mike Foale's introduction —I'm sorry I couldn't shake his hand. Perhaps, Commissioner, you'll bring him by—Administrator, you'll bring him by the Oval Office when he returns, so I can thank him in person.
I also know he is in space with his colleague, Alexander Kaleri [1956–], who happens to be a Russian cosmonaut. I appreciate the joint efforts of the Russians with our country to explore. I want to thank the astronauts who are with us, the courageous spacial entrepreneurs who set such a wonderful example for the young of our country.
And we've got some veterans with us today. I appreciate the astronauts of yesterday who are with us, as well, who inspired the astronauts of today to serve our country. I appreciate so very much the members of Congress being here. [Texas Congressman] Tom DeLay [1947–] is here, leading a House delegation. Senator [Bill] Nelson [1942–] [of Florida] is here from the Senate. I am honored that you all have come. I appreciate you're interested in the subject—it is a subject that's important to this administration, it's a subject that's mighty important to the country and to the world.
Two centuries ago, Meriwether Lewis [1774–1809] and William Clark [1770–1838] left St. Louis to explore the new lands acquired in theLouisiana Purchase. They made that journey in the spirit of discovery, to learn the potential of vast new territory, and to chart a way for others to follow.
America has ventured forth into space for the same reasons. We have undertaken space travel because the desire to explore and understand is part of our character. And that quest has broughttangible benefits that improve our lives in countless ways. The
exploration of space has led to advances in weather forecasting, in communications, in computing, search and rescue technology, robotics, and electronics. Our investment in space exploration helped to create our satellite telecommunications network and theGlobal Positioning System. Medical technologies that help prolong life—such as the imaging processing used inCAT scanners andMRI machines —trace their origins to technology engineered for the use in space.
Our current programs and vehicles for exploring space have brought us far and they have served us well. The Space Shuttle has flown more than a hundred missions. It has been used to conduct important research and to increase the sum of human knowledge. Shuttle crews, and the scientists and engineers who support them, have helped to build the International Space Station.
Telescopes—including those in space—have revealed more than one hundred planets in the last decade alone.Probes have shown us stunning images of the rings of Saturn and the outer planets of our solar system. Robotic explorers have found evidence of water—a key ingredient for life—on Mars and on the moons of Jupiter. At this very hour, theMars Exploration Rover Spirit is searching for evidence of life beyond the Earth.
Yet for all these successes, much remains for us to explore and to learn. In the past thirty years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther upward into space than 386 miles—roughly the distance from Washington, D.C., to Boston, Massachusetts. America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter century. It is time for America to take the next steps.
Today I announce a new plan to explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system. We will begin the effort quickly, using existing programs and personnel. We'll make steady progress—one mission, one voyage, one landing at a time.
Our first goal is to complete the International Space Station by 2010. We will finish what we have started, we will meet our obligations to our fifteen international partners on this project. We will focus our future research aboard the station on the long-term effects of space travel on human biology. The environment of space is hostile to human beings. Radiation and weightlessness pose dangers to human health, and we have much to learn about their long-term effects before human crews can venture through the vast voids of space for months at a time. Research on board the station and here on Earth will help us better understand and overcome the obstacles that limit exploration. Through these efforts we will develop the skills and techniques necessary to sustain further space exploration.
To meet this goal, we will return the Space Shuttle to flight as soon as possible, consistent with safety concerns and the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. The Shuttle's chief purpose over the next several years will be to help finish assembly of the International Space Station. In 2010, the Space Shuttle—after nearly 30 years of duty—will be retired from service.
Our second goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. The Crew Exploration Vehicle will be capable of ferrying astronauts and scientists to the Space Station after the shuttle is retired. But the main purpose of this spacecraft will beto carry astronauts beyond our orbit to other worlds. This will be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module.
Our third goal is to return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond. Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods.Eugene Cernan, who is with us today—the last man to set foot on the lunar surface—said this as he left "We leave as we came, and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind." America will make those words come true.
Returning to the moon is an important step for our space program. Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the costs of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost. Also, the moon is home to abundant resources. Its soil contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. We can use our time on the moon to develop and test new approaches and technologies and systems that will allow us to function in other, more challenging environments. The moon is a logical step toward further progress and achievement.
With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration; human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond. Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers—the advanced guard to the unknown. Probes,landers and other vehicles of this kind continue to prove their worth, sending spectacular images and vast amounts of data back to Earth. Yet the human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures, or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.
As our knowledge improves, we'll develop new power generation,propulsion, life support, and other systems that can support more distant travels. We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos.
And along this journey we'll make many technological breakthroughs. We don't know yet what those breakthroughs will be, but we can be certain they'll come, and that our efforts will be repaid many times over. We may discover resources on the moon or Mars that will boggle the imagination, that will test our limits to dream.
And the fascination generated by further exploration will inspire our young people to study math, and science, and engineering and create a new generation of innovators and pioneers.
This will be a great and unifying mission for NASA, and we know that you'll achieve it. I have directed Administrator O'Keefe to review all of NASA's current space flight and exploration activities and direct them toward the goals I have outlined. I will also form a commission of private and public sector experts to advise on implementing the vision that I've outlined today. This commission will report to me within four months of its first meeting. I'm today naming former Secretary of the Air Force, Pete Aldridge [1938–], to be the Chair of the Commission. Thank you for being here today, Pete. He has tremendous experience in the Department of Defense andthe aerospace industry. He is going to begin this important work right away.
We'll invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery. The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.
Achieving these goals requires a long-term commitment. NASA's current five-year budget is $86 billion. Most of the funding we need for the new endeavors will come from reallocating $11 billion within that budget. We need some new resources, however. I will call upon Congress to increase NASA's budget by roughly a billion dollars, spread out over the next five years. This increase, along with refocusing of our space agency, is a solid beginning to meet the challenges and the goals we set today. It's only a beginning. Future funding decisions will be guided by the progress we make in achieving our goals.
We begin this venture knowing that space travel brings great risks. The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia was less than one year ago. Since the beginning of our space program, America has lost twenty-three astronauts, andone astronaut from an allied nation —men and women who believed in their mission and accepted the dangers. As one family member said, "The legacy of Columbia must carry on—for the benefit of our children and yours." The Columbia's crew did not turn away from the challenge, and neither will we.
Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey.
May God bless.
What happened next …
Although service missions to the HST had been canceled, the telescope continued to send spectacular images back to Earth. Its life span was originally expected to end in 2005, but it was extended until 2010. Without servicing and repair, however, the components of the observatory will eventually wear out. Since the HST was built to dock with a space shuttle, a spacecraft other than the shuttle could not be used for a service mission. The HST had become so popular with scientists and the American public that by early 2004 there was an outpouring of concern about the fate of the observatory. In response, NASA administrator O'Keefe asked the National Academy of Science (NAS) to study possible ways to prolong its life. NAS then appointed a committee of former astronauts, professors, scientists, and engineers to explore alternatives to the space shuttle.
In April 2004, NASA astronaut Edward Michael Fincke (1967–) and Russian cosmonaut Gennady I. Padalka (1958–) arrived at the ISS for a six-month repair mission, the first such visit since the grounding of U.S. space shuttles. Flying to the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft (Russian space shuttle), the two men made up a smaller crew than the usual minimum number of three. Occupancy of the ISS was limited to two people until NASA shuttles began flying again and delivering spare parts and supplies. (As an international effort, the ISS requires specific tasks and duties of each participating nation. These tasks and duties cannot easily be assumed by another nation.) The absence of a third crew member meant that Fincke and Padalka would have to leave the space station vacant when they worked outside. Usually the third crew member stays onboard to tend the station and to be available in the event of an emergency.
On June 24 Fincke and Padalka attempted to conduct a spacewalk to repair an electrical circuit board that provides power to one of four gyroscopes (spinning wheels that orient and stabilize the station). The spacewalk was aborted (stopped before completion) because of oxygen-supply problems on Fincke's spacesuit. On July 1, with both wearing Russian spacesuits, Fincke and Padalka successfully completed the space-walk. They encountered little difficulty as they made the necessary repairs to the circuit board while remaining in constant contact with ground controllers. They even had extra time to install handrails on the exterior of the ISS, for use on future spacewalks.
On June 24, the same day Fincke and Padalka aborted their spacewalk, O'Keefe announced a major reorganization of the U.S. space agency. Acting on recommendations from the commission appointed by President Bush, O'Keefe proposed the merging of the existing seven NASA centers into four directorates: Exploration Systems (human and robotic space research), Space Operations (human spaceflight, rocket launching, and space communications), Aeronautics Operations (aviation technology), and the Science Directorate (space science and earth science). Under its new structure NASA would also encourage involvement of private companies in space exploration. The first step in this direction had already been made the previous day, on June 23, when test pilot Mike Melvill (1941–) successfully flew the privately built Space-Ship One 62.5 miles (100 kilometers) over the Mojave Desert in California (see box on this page).
A First Private Manned Space Flight
On June 23, 2004, American test pilot Mike Melvill successfully flew the rocket plane SpaceShipOne 62.5 miles (100 kilometers) over the Mojave Desert in California. This was an important event in the history of space exploration because Melvill was a private citizen and SpaceShipOne was built by Scaled Composites, a private company. Prior to this time, space explorers had been employed by national space agencies and spacecraft had been designed and constructed with government funds.
SpaceShipOne was carried to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) by a jet called White Knight, then the rocket plane glided for a few seconds until Melvill ignited its engines. SpaceShipOne rose to Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound. Once the craft had reached weightlessness, Melvill released some M&M candy pieces into the cockpit and watched them float for three minutes. Although his flight was successful, Melvill later reported that he had to cut it short. As SpaceShipOne ascended into space, it twice rolled 90 degrees and went twenty miles off course within only a few seconds. Melvill was forced to switch to a backup system in order to keep the rocket plane under control. His achievement with SpaceShipOne was hailed as a significant milestone toward more extensive privately funded space exploration.
Did you know …
- Scientists have been experimenting with robots that could replace humans on repair missions to the HST.
- The ISS is being assembled in three phases, which involve shuttle missions with specific goals, such as delivering and assembling parts, transporting crews, delivering cargo and supplies, and maintaining and servicing the station. When the shuttle fleet was grounded in 2004, twenty-eight missions had been completed and construction was in the third phase.
- President Bush's plans for the space program, as well as for certain aspects of the NASA reorganization, must be approved by the U.S. Congress. By mid-2004 the approval process was being stalled by such issues as funding problems related to a federal government budget deficit, financing of the war in Iraq, and increased expenditures for a new Medicare health insurance program. Scientists were also questioning whether the NASA Science Directorate would receive adequate attention from both the government and NASA.
Consider the following …
- Politicians and scientists are debating the future of the HST. One side argues that NASA should not attempt to extend the life span of the orbiting telescope because it drains funds from more vital NASA projects such as the ISS and future Moon and Mars missions. The other side argues that the HST is NASA's most reliable and successful endeavor, so every effort should be made to keep it in space. What do you think? Support your position with research on each side of the issue.
- Politicians and scientists are also debating the value of the ISS. One side says the space station is a waste of scarce U.S. taxpayer funds, which could be more effectively used for the new NASA goals envisioned by President Bush. The other side, stressing the need for global cooperation, believes that the ISS provides an opportunity for the United States to continue working with other nations. What is your position on this issue? Support your view with evidence from each side.
- Mike Melvill's privately sponsored flight on SpaceShipOne has been hailed as the future of space exploration. What is your opinion of private space endeavors? Explore the question through further reading, then take a stand.
For More Information
Bond, Peter. The Continuing Story of the International Space Station. New York: Springer-Verlag, 2002.
Goodwin, Simon. Hubble's Universe: A Portrait of Our Cosmos. New York: Viking Penguin, 1997.
"Hubble's Gifts." Kids Discover (May 2004): pp. 10–11.
Reichhardt, Tony. "NASA Seeks Robotic Rescuers to Give Hubble Extra Lease on Life." Nature (March 25, 2004): p. 353.
Sietzen, Frank Jr. "A New Vision for Space." Astronomy (May 2004): pp. 48+.
Coren, Michael. "Private Craft Soars in Space, History." CNN.com.http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/06/21/suborbital.test/ (accessed on August 9, 2004).
"The Hubble Project." NASA.http://hubble.nasa.gov (accessed on August 9, 2004).
"ISS Spacewalk a Success." Spacetoday.net.http://www.spacetoday.net/Summary/2442 (accessed on August 9, 2004).
"President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program." The White House.http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/20040114-3.html (accessed on August 9, 2004).
"Where Is the International Space Station?" NASA.http://science.nasa.gov/temp/StationLoc.html (accessed on August 9, 2004).
Ingenuity: Inventiveness, cleverness.
Visionaries: People who have imaginative ideas of what could be.
Commander Mike Foale's introduction: British-born NASA astronaut Michael Foale (1957–), commander of the Expedition-8 crew who was living aboard the ISS at the time of Bush's speech, introduced the president.
Tangible: Real, substantial.
Global Positioning System (GPS): A system used to determine a position on Earth's surface by comparing radio signals from several satellites.
CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scanners: Medical devices consisting of X-ray and computer equipment that produce three-dimensional images.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines: Devices that use nuclear protons to take pictures of the interior of the body.
Probes: Devices that send information from outer space to Earth.
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit: A remote-controlled, six-wheeled robot that was placed on Mars in January 2004 and programmed to explore the surface of the planet.
Eugene Cernan (1934–): Commander of Apollo 17, the last U.S. manned mission to the Moon (December 6–19, 1972).
Landers: Space vehicles designed to land on celestial bodies.
Propulsion: Forward motion; driving force.
One astronaut from an allied nation: Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon (1954–2003), one of seven crew members who died in the Columbia crash.
Bush, George W.
George W. Bush
Address to a Joint Session of Congress
Delivered on September 20, 2001
"Tonight, we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."
N ine days after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush (1946–) declared a war on terrorism. Appearing before a joint session of Congress, the president vowed revenge on the organizers of the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history.
It was without a doubt one of the most important speeches the president would ever make, coming as his first fully considered response to the four simultaneous hijackings just over a week earlier. Just as September 11, 2001, reminded Americans of the surprise Japanese military attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, so President Bush's speech invited comparisons to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's declaration of war on Japan and his famous description of the "day that will live in infamy."
In the case of President Bush, though, there was no obvious national enemy against which to declare war. Instead, he declared war on terrorism—which could take in an enormous range of enemies with nothing in common except a set of tactics.
Things to remember while reading Address to a Joint Session of Congress:
- President Bush had many different audiences for his speech. He addressed the American people, who wanted to hear how their leader would respond to the attack; foreign governments, whom President Bush wanted to recruit to help fight the war on terrorism; Muslims (followers of the religion Islam) worldwide, who heard President Bush distinguish between Osama bin Laden's views and other forms of Islam (bin Laden [c. 1957–] and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda, were held responsible for the attacks); and members of Congress, whom the Bush administration soon would ask to pass laws and authorize spending money to respond to the attacks.
- In some respects, President Bush's speech was like a stew—a bit of something for everyone. For example, at one point the president told Americans the hijackers on September 11 were attacking the idea of a democratic government. In the very next paragraph, he mentioned they also were going after governments in the Muslim world such as Saudi Arabia, a monarchy (kingdom) which has no hint of democratic government but is a U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Address to a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, Members of Congress, and fellow Americans:
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this Chamber to report on the state of the Union. Tonight, no such report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American people.
We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground, passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer. And would you please help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
We have seen the State of our Union in the endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of prayers in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people who have made the grief of strangers their own.
My fellow citizens, for the last 9 days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union, and it is strong.
Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger toresolution . Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.
I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important time. All of America was touched, on the evening of the tragedy, to see Republicans and Democrats joined together on the steps of this Capitol, singing "God Bless America." And you did more than sing, you acted, by delivering 40 billion dollars to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Gephardt, Majority Leader Daschle, and Senator Lott, I thank you for your friendship, for your leadership, and for your service to our country.
And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring of support. America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our Embassy in Seoul, orthe prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own: dozens of Pakistanis; more than 130 Israelis; more than 250 citizens of India; men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico, and Japan; and hundreds of British citizens. America has no truer friend than Great Britain. Once again, we are joined together in a great cause—so honored the British Prime Minister [Tony Blair] has crossed an ocean to show his unity with America. Thank you for coming, friend.
On September 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars, but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war, but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.
Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking, who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known asAl Qaida . They are some of the murderersindicted for bombing American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole. Al Qaida is to terror what the Mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money. Its goal is remaking the world and imposing itsradical beliefs on people everywhere.
Al Qaida: (also spelled Al Qaeda) Terrorist network throughout the world masterminded by Osamabin Laden.
Indicted: Legally charged with crimes.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected byMuslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslimclerics , a fringe movement thatperverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists' directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children.
Muslim: Adherent of Islam; in Arabic, Muslim means "one who surrenders to God."
Perverts: Overturns; confuses.
This group and its leader, a person named Osama bin Laden, are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.
The leadership of Al Qaida has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see Al Qaida's vision for the world. Afghanistan's people have been brutalized. Many are starving, and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of Afghanistan—after all, we are currently its largest source ofhumanitarian aid —but we condemn the Taliban regime. It is not onlyrepressing its own people; it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder.
Humanitarian aid: Charitable contributions of money, food, medicine, clothing, etc.
Repressing: Holding back forcefully.
And tonight, the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban: Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of Al Qaida who hide in your land. Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in your country. Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, and hand over every terrorist and every person in their support structure to appropriate authorities. Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating. These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name ofAllah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.
Allah: The supreme being of Islam.
Blaspheme: To speak with disrespect toward God.
Our war on terror begins with Al Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this Chamber, a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms—our freedom
of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives but to disrupt and end a way of life. With everyatrocity , they hope that America grows fearful,retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.
Atrocity: Violent act.
We are not deceived by theirpretenses topiety . We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderousideologies of the twentieth century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path offascism andNazism andtotalitarianism . And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends, in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
Pretenses: Claims not supported by facts.
Piety: Adherence to religious teaching.
Ideology: A set of beliefs.
Fascism: A system of centralized dictatorship, social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opponents.
Nazism: A system of fascist government in Germany brought about by the rise of Adolf Hitler.
Totalitarianism: System of government based on subordination of the individual to the state, controlled by force.
Americans are asking, how will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war, to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like thewar against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war aboveKosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
War Against Iraq: The Persian Gulf War (1990–91), in which Iraq invaded Kuwait but was then driven out of the country by allied forces led by the United States military.
Kosovo: A province in Yugoslavia that was the scene of mass executions.
Our response involves far more than instantretaliation andisolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
Retaliation: Response by a government after an attack.
Isolated: Concentrated in one place.
Our Nation has been put on notice: We are notimmune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans. Today dozens of Federal departments and agencies, as well as State and local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security. These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level.
Immune: Protected from.
So tonight I announce the creation of aCabinet -level position reporting directly to me, the Office of Homeland Security. And tonight I also announce a distinguished American to lead this effort to strengthen American security, a military veteran, an effective Governor, a true patriot, a trusted friend, Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge. He will
Cabinet: Group of advisers to the President of the United States.
lead, oversee, and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard our country against terrorism and respond to any attacks that may come.
These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. Many will be involved in this effort, fromFBI agents tointelligence operatives to the reservists we have called to active duty. All deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And tonight, a few miles from the damagedPentagon , I have a message for our military: Be ready. I've called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.
FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation; federal agency responsible for law enforcement.
Intelligence operatives: Government investigators.
Pentagon: Five-sided fortress outside of Washington, D.C., that serves as the headquarters of the United States defense organization.
This is not, however, just America's fight, and what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress andpluralism , tolerance and freedom.
Pluralism: Society in which different groups maintain their social values and customs within a common civilization.
We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded, with sympathy and with support, nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps theNATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all.
NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; formed in 1949 as an alliance of twelve nations pledged to defend one another from attack, designed to repel Communist-bloc nations in the Cold War.
The civilized world is rallying to America's side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what? We're not going to allow it.
Americans are asking, what is expected of us? I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.
I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.
I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions. Those who want to give can go to a central sourceof information, libertyunites.org, to find the names of groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it.
I ask for your patience with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security and for your patience in what will be a long struggle.
I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work and creativity andenterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today.
Enterprise: Business action involving risk-taking.
And finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their families, for those in uniform, and for our great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead.
Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for what you have already done and for what you will do. And ladies and gentlemen of the Congress, I thank you, their representatives, for what you have already done and for what we will do together.
Tonight we face new and sudden national challenges. We will come together to improve air safety, to dramatically expand the number of air marshals ondomestic flights, and take new measures to prevent hijacking. We will come together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying, with direct assistance during this emergency.
Domestic: Within the nation.
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it needs to track down terror here at home. We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, to know the plans of terrorists before they act and find them before they strike. We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America's economy and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome two leaders who embody the extraordinary spirit of all New Yorkers, Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. As a symbol of America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress and these two leaders to show the world that we will rebuild New York City.
After all that has just passed, all the lives taken and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them, it is natural to wonder if America's future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know thereare struggles ahead and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.
Cast of Characters
- Ultraconservative fundamentalist Muslims who were in power in Afghanistan on September 11, 2001.
- Osama bin Laden:
- Saudi Arabian millionaire and Islamic extremist dedicated to establishing fundamentalist Muslim governments and to removing U.S. military forces from his native Saudi Arabia.
- Al Qaeda:
- (pronounced al-KY-duh and also spelled Al Qaida) The Islamic organization led by bin Laden that organized the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.
- Tom Daschle:
- (pronounced DASH-ul) One of South Dakota's two senators and the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate when President Bush made his speech.
- Trent Lott:
- one of Mississippi's two senators and leader of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate when President Bush made his speech.
- Dennis Hastert:
- a Republican U.S. representative from Illinois and Speaker of the House of Representatives when President Bush made his speech.
- Richard Gephardt:
- a Democratic U.S. representative from Missouri and leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives when President Bush made his speech.
- Tom Ridge:
- the governor of Pennsylvania who resigned his office to become President Bush's Director of Homeland Security, a new position which was announced in the President's speech.
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance that includes the United States and the countries of Western Europe.
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger, we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation—this generation—will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rallythe world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day and to whom it happened. We'll remember the moment the news came, where we were, and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this: It is the police shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son. It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end. I will not forget this wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.
The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.
Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.
What happened next …
The Taliban authorities in Afghanistan refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States. In early October, the American military led a coordinated campaign of air strikes and ground attacks carried out by Afghans friendly towards the United States. These efforts resulted in the overthrow and expulsion of the Taliban government that had protected bin Laden. But bin Laden himself evaded capture.
Most of America's European allies made good on their early promises of assistance. Some allies sent soldiers to Afghanistan. Virtually all U.S. allies voiced strong support for the American retaliation for the attacks of September 11.
In the United States, public approval of President Bush soared to over 80 percent, one of the highest levels ever recorded for any president, and about twice Bush's approval rating before September 11. Most Americans supported the president's response to the attacks.
Did you know …
- Presidents seldom write their own speeches. They hire professional speechwriters to draft each address; political advisers then review the speech to make sure the words do not offend anyone. They also make sure the speech specifically mentions people the president wants to please. But the president always has the last word on what he will say.
For More Information
Ahmad, Aijaz. "A Task That Never Ends." Canadian Dimension, November–December, 2001, p. 33.
Bruni, Frank. Ambling into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
Bush, George W. "Address to a Joint Session of Congress," September 20, 2001. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.htm (accessed October 14, 2002).
Edwards, Lee. "A Red, White, and Blue Nation." World and I, November 2001, p. 66.
Gilbert, Allison, Phil Hirschkorn, and others, editors. Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11. Chicago, IL: Bonus Books, 2002
Halliday, Fred. Two Hours That Shook the World: September 11, 2001: Causes and Consequences. London: Saqi, 2002.
Harris, Bill. The World Trade Center: A Tribute. Philadelphia, PA: Courage Books, 2001.
Hirsh, Michael and Michael Isikoff. "What Went Wrong: The Inside Story of the Missed Signals and Intelligence Failures That Raise a Chilling Question: Did September 11 Have to Happen?" Newsweek, May 27, 2002, p. 28.
Talbott, Strobe, and Nayan Chanda, editors. The Age of Terror: America and the World after September 11. New York: Basic Books/Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, 2001.
Born June 12, 1924
U.S. president, vice president,
and CIA director
G eorge Bush was president of the United States as the Cold War came to an end. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from 1945 to 1991. In the final years of the Cold War, the world was dramatically changing. Eastern European countries were throwing out their Soviet-controlled communist governments. The Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Berlin, came down, and East and West Germany became one united country. And, stunningly, the Soviet empire collapsed. New independent nations and governments appeared.
Education and war
George Herbert Walker Bush was born to Prescott Bush and Dorothy Walker on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. His father was a prominent Wall Street investment banker and served as U.S. senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. His mother was the daughter of a leading Wall Street banker located in St. Louis, Missouri. George grew up in affluent Greenwich, Connecticut, and attended the top private schools, including the Phillips Academy preparatory school in Andover, Massachusetts.
Bush graduated from Phillips in 1942, while World War II (1939–45) was still raging. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserve on his eighteenth birthday and became the youngest naval pilot at the time to complete his training. Bush was a torpedo bomber pilot on aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean from 1943 to 1945. He flew fifty-eight combat missions and was shot down twice by the Japanese; once, he was rescued by a U.S. submarine. For bravery in action, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Upon returning from the war, Bush entered Yale University, where he excelled as a student and was captain of the baseball team. While he was still a student, he married Barbara Pierce in January 1945. They would have six children, but one died at the age of three from leukemia. Bush graduated with honors with a degree in economics in 1948.
Texas oil and politics
Rather than following in his father's footsteps, Bush and his family moved to Odessa in west Texas. There, he entered the oil industry business with the help of a family friend. In 1951, Bush established his own company, the Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company; then he founded the Zapata Petroleum Corporation in 1953 and the Zapata Off-Shore Company in 1954.
In 1958, Bush shifted his company's corporate headquarters to the city of Houston, where he became active in the Republican Party. In 1964, he ran for a U.S. Senate seat as part of the newly forming conservative right led by the Republican presidential candidate at the time, Barry Goldwater (1909–1998). This part of the Republican Party opposed civil rights legislation and domestic spending on social programs; it supported U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations (UN) and major cuts in foreign aid. Like Goldwater, Bush was soundly defeated. In 1966, he entered the race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; this time he won. Bush swayed back and forth between conservative and moderate positions on social and economic issues. Then in 1970, he left his seat to run for the Senate again, only to lose once more. He would not run for public office again until 1980.
During the 1970s, Bush served in various government positions. In February 1971, U.S. president Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74; see entry) appointed Bush to serve as U.S. ambassador to the UN, where Bush became a highly respected representative. In December 1972, Bush left the UN post to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. By early 1973, Nixon and members of his administration became engulfed in the Watergate scandal, which involved the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices and a coverup that followed. During this time, Bush sought to minimize the effect of the scandal on the Republican Party. He supported Nixon until August 1974, when he joined others who were calling for Nixon to resign. Nixon resigned on August 9. Vice President Gerald R. Ford (1913–; served 1974–77) was sworn in as the new president. Bush hoped to be selected as Ford's vice president, but Ford chose former New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908–1979) instead. Ford then appointed Bush as head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Communist China. There Bush served as the top U.S. representative to China for the next two years.
Bush returned to the United States in 1976 to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He was only in that position for a short time before Democrat Jimmy Carter (1924–; served 1977–81; see entry) became the next president in January 1977. Bush resigned from the CIA and returned briefly to a private life in Texas as chairman of the First National Bank of Houston.
To Washington, D.C.
In 1979, Bush announced he would seek the Republican nomination for president the following year. However, he was unable to match the popularity of Ronald Reagan (1911–; served 1981–89; see entry). When Reagan won the party's nomination in the summer of 1980, he chose Bush as his vice presidential running mate. Reagan handily defeated the incumbent, or current office holder, Jimmy Carter, in the national election that fall, and easily won reelection in 1984. Bush served as vice president for the full eight years of Reagan's presidency.
As vice president, Bush traveled over one million miles to represent the United States at various functions. During his second term of office, a major scandal known as the Iran-Contra Affair erupted. Members of the Reagan administration were illegally selling weapons to Iran in exchange for U.S. hostages held by pro-Iranian rebels in Lebanon. Reagan's representatives were using part of the money from the illegal arms sales to illegally fund contra rebels fighting to overthrow the procommunist Nicaraguan government in Latin America. The United States under Reagan and Bush provided funds to an anticommunist group in Nicaragua known as the contras (short for the Spanish word meaning "counterrevolutionaries"). Bush and Reagan both denied knowledge of these covert, or secret, activities. Several officials were charged and convicted.
In 1988, Bush succeeded in gaining the Republican Party's presidential nomination and won the national election over the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis (1933–). The national economy was doing well at the time, so President Bush was able to pursue foreign affairs, his preferred focus, rather than dealing as closely with domestic issues.
Cold War ends
By 1989, when Bush took office as U.S. president, the Soviet empire was crumbling. Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–; see entry) had become leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. Inheriting a nation in economic disarray, Gorbachev introduced major reforms (perestroika) and greater freedom of expression (glasnost). To achieve sufficient economic stability, Gorbachev had to significantly cut Soviet defense spending. This meant ending the Cold War arms race. Between 1985 and 1988, Gorbachev and President Reagan worked together to dramatically change U.S.-Soviet relations. The two leaders agreed to major cuts in long-range nuclear weapons and eliminated intermediate-range nuclear weapons from Europe.
In December 1988, only a month after Bush won the presidential election, Gorbachev gave a historic speech at the UN. He announced that it was possible for the two superpowers to peacefully coexist and that the Soviets would withdraw five hundred thousand troops and thousands of heavy conventional weapons from Eastern Europe. The announcement stunned the world. A memorable photograph was taken of Reagan, Gorbachev, and President-elect Bush with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
When Bush took office in January 1989, he was hesitant to cooperate as fully with Gorbachev as Reagan had been. He believed Reagan had gone too far too fast in his talks with the Soviet leader. Bush decided to slow down arms control negotiations. In early 1989, however, Bush's secretary of state, James Baker (1930–), established a close working relationship with Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze (1928–; see entry) through a series of meetings. Soon, events would show Bush that the speed in the changes that were occurring was legitimate.
By the fall of 1989, various Eastern European countries that had been under Soviet communist domination since the end of World War II threw out their communist governments and adopted noncommunist government systems. For the first time, the Soviets did not militarily intervene to save the communist governments. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall—the most striking image of the Cold War—was dismantled and came tumbling down. The stark concrete-and-barbed-wire wall had been built in 1961 between East and West Berlin to keep East Germans living under communist rule from fleeing into West Berlin, which was controlled by the democratic Western powers.
In 1990, the Soviet republics began demanding independence. The Baltic States—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—were the first to break from the Soviet Union. Bush by now had concluded that it was in the best interests of the United States to support Gorbachev in his reforms; otherwise, Gorbachev might lose power, and communist hard-liners could retake the Soviet government. Bush and Gorbachev met on a ship near the European island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea to discuss how to deal with the collapsing Soviet Union; their goal was to avoid political chaos and bloodshed during the transitional time.
In July 1990, Gorbachev agreed to allow Germany to reunify and join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if it desired to. NATO had been a peacetime alliance of the United States and eleven other nations, and a key factor in the attempt to contain communism. Gorbachev also announced that all Soviet troops would be withdrawn from East Germany. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930–; see entry) agreed to pay the cost of Soviet troop withdrawal and provide some economic aid to the Soviets. Germany had been split into communist East Germany and democratic West Germany since the end of World War II. By early October 1990, Germany was reunified. In November 1990, Bush met with Gorbachev in Paris, France, to sign a mutual nonaggression pact reducing conventional forces in Europe. This agreement marked the end of the Cold War. In July 1991, they met again, this time in Moscow, where they signed arms control treaties significantly reducing the number of long-range nuclear weapons that the two nations had stockpiled through the years; they also agreed to reduce the number of weapons with multiple nuclear warheads.
In August 1991, Bush traveled to the Ukraine and announced his support for Gorbachev's reforms. He cautioned the Ukrainian people against violent confrontations with the Soviets. Nevertheless, that same month, a group of communist hard-liners attempted to overthrow Gorbachev and reverse his reforms. However, Boris Yeltsin (1931–), president of the new Russian Federation, blocked this attempt, with much public support. Though Gorbachev continued in office, it was now clear he had little power left. The Soviet Union was at an end. Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Gorbachev turned control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, or collection of weapons, over to Yeltsin. Yeltsin was now the most powerful leader in the region.
Bush opened U.S. embassies in the newly independent countries that were no longer part of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin pleaded for U.S. economic aid to help rebuild the Russian economy and introduce a free market system, or economic conditions dictated by open competition. However, the United States was facing huge budget deficits, so there was little public support for Bush to assist the struggling Russian state. The United States did provide some aid, but it was
primarily for humanitarian needs and to help dismantle the nuclear weapons the Soviets had agreed to give up.
Panama and the Persian Gulf War
President Bush also became involved in foreign matters outside Europe and the Soviet Union. In 1989, he ordered a military invasion of Panama to overthrow the corrupt regime of General Manuel Noriega (1934–). Noriega had gained a reputation for brutality and was known to support illegal drug trade; the Bush administration believed Noriega threatened the security of the Panama Canal. The canal was built in 1903 by the United States to improve transportation between the east and west coasts of the United States. At the time, the United States still retained control over the canal and an area surrounding it known as the Canal Zone, though a treaty signed in 1977 by President Carter would give Panama control over the zone beginning on December 31, 1999. The U.S. invasion of Panama led to four days of fighting and hundreds of deaths. The Organization of American States, an alliance of Latin American and North American countries dedicated to peacefully resolving conflicts, denounced Bush for the invasion, as did the United Nations General Assembly.
In August 1990, the Middle Eastern country of Iraq invaded and occupied the neighboring nation of Kuwait. Bush first imposed UN-approved trade restrictions on Iraq to force its withdrawal from Kuwait. Bush also sent U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia to protect that nation from possible invasion. When Iraq refused to pull back from Kuwait, Bush pulled together a broad coalition of forces from Western Europe and some Arab states to launch a military campaign against Iraq. The number of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region grew to five hundred thousand. The United States launched an air attack on Iraq in January 1991, which was followed by an Allied ground assault, known as Desert Storm, in late February. Iraq's armies were destroyed, and Kuwait was liberated. Bush's approval rating soared to over 90 percent.
A steep decline in popularity
On the domestic front, the U.S. economy had entered a recession, or reduced economic activity, in late 1990, and the economic lull continued into the 1992 election year. Bush's popularity began to slide as he failed to publicly address economic issues. In addition, shortly before the election, a new investigation was released indicating that Bush and Reagan had known more about the Iran-Contra Affair than they had previously admitted. In the fall of 1992, Bush's Democratic challenger, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001), defeated Bush in his reelection bid.
Controversy continued to plague the Bush administration in its final weeks after the election. During this time, Bush sent U.S. troops to Somalia on a mission to feed starving citizens caught in a civil war. However, the marines were caught between the fighting factions, and eighteen U.S. soldiers died. Bush also issued pardons to six former Reagan administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (1917–), who were facing charges in the Iran-Contra Affair.
A quiet retirement
After leaving office in January 1993, Bush returned to Houston, Texas. He maintained little involvement in the Republican Party. Two of his sons carried on the family tradition of public service. His oldest son, George W. Bush (1946–), won election as governor of Texas in 1994 and served for nearly two terms. Another son, Jeb Bush (1953–), became governor of Florida in 1998. In 2000, George W. Bush defeated his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore (1948–), in an exceptionally close presidential election. The Bush family was once again in the White House.
The senior George Bush published an autobiography in 1987 titled Looking Forward. In 1998, he coauthored another book, A World Transformed, describing world changes through his presidency and afterwards. His wife, Barbara Bush (1925–), published her own memoirs in 1994. In honor of the elder George Bush, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated in November 1997. It is located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, near Houston.
For More Information
Beschloss, Michael R., and Strobe Talbott. At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.
Bush, Barbara. Barbara Bush: A Memoir. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1994.
Bush, George. Looking Forward. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.
Bush, George, and Brent Scowcroft. A World Transformed. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Greene, John R. The Presidency of George Bush. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.
Hurst, Steven. The Foreign Policy of the Bush Administration: In Search of a New World Order. New York: Cassell, 1999.
Parmet, Herbert S. George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee. New York: Scribner, 1997.
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu (accessed on August 22, 2003).
Bush, George W.
Bush, George W.
Excerpt from his speech announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq
Delivered from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003
On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush made a historic speech in which he announced that major combat operations in Iraq were over after forty-three days of fighting. The president chose to make the announcement in a dramatic fashion from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The ship had been stationed in the Persian Gulf earlier, but it was sailing off the coast of California at the time of the speech. Bush was flown to the ship in the copilot's seat of a U.S. Navy S-3B Viking jet. He wore a flight suit that indicated his military rank as commander in chief. The bridge of the ship was decorated with a large banner reading "Mission Accomplished."
In his "aircraft carrier" speech, Bush praised the performance of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. He congratulated the members of the military for bringing freedom to the Iraqi people while also acknowledging that the coalition forces still had work to do in order to capture leaders of the former regime, locate hidden weapons, and reconstruct Iraq. But he claimed that the successful war effort was an important step in the war against terrorism.
Things to remember while reading the excerpt from President Bush's "aircraft carrier" speech:
- Bush reserves special praise for several aspects of the U.S. military performance in Iraq. For example, he mentions the ground forces' rapid advance to Baghdad, which he calls "one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history." The president also mentions the coalition's extensive use of precision-guided weapons. These weapons allowed the coalition forces to strike at Saddam Hussein's regime while minimizing civilian casualties and damage to Iraq's infrastructure.
- Bush accuses Hussein of building palaces for himself instead of hospitals and schools for the Iraqi people. By the time the 2003 war ended, coalition troops had found evidence that the regime used illegal oil sales to enrich itself in the decade following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. For example, several of Hussein's seventy-eight ornate palaces were built or rebuilt during this period, while millions of ordinary Iraqis were suffering hardships under United Nations economic sanctions (trade restrictions intended to punish a country for breaking international law).
- Bush calls the successful war in Iraq a victory in the global war against terrorism. But many listeners questioned this remark. They pointed out that there was no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists responsible for the attacks that struck the United States on September 11, 2001. As time passed, it also appeared unlikely that Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction that could have fallen into terrorist hands. Finally, some experts claimed that anger over the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq actually increased support for terrorist groups in the Arab world.
Excerpt from President Bush's speech announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq
Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies haveprevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing andreconstructing the country.
In this battle, we have fought for the cause ofliberty and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment, yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other made this day possible. Because of you our nation is more secure. Because of you thetyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division or strike a singlebunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American armed forces.
This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all of the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country. And tonight, I have a special word forSecretary Rumsfeld, forGeneral Franks, and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done.
Prevailed: Succeeded or won.
Reconstructing: Rebuilding a country's infrastructure, government, and economy following a war.
Tyrant: Extremely cruel or brutal ruler.
Bunker: A fortified underground structure.
Secretary Rumsfeld: Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Iraq War.
General Franks: Tommy Franks, the U.S. Army general who led coalition forces during the Iraq War.
Normandy: A region on the Atlantic coast of France that was the site of a U.S.-led Allied invasion during World War II (1939–45).
Commander in chief
Commander in chief: Highest-ranking member of a military force; in the United States, the president is commander in chief of the military.
The character of our military through history, the daring ofNormandy, the fierce courage ofIwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies is fully present in this generation. When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our service men and women, they saw strength and kindness and good will. When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country and I am honored to be yourcommander in chief.
In the images offallen statues we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflictcasualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeatingNazi Germany andImperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end aregime by breaking a nation. Today we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime.
With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence againstcivilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war, yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.
In the images of celebrating Iraqis we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies andintimidation could not make the Iraqi people love theiroppressors or desire their ownenslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices, and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.
We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where thedictator built palaces for himself instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men, the shock troops of a hatefulideology, gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the beginning of the end of America.
Fallen statues: For example, the statue of Saddam Hussein that was torn down in Baghdad's Firdos Square on April 9, 2003, symbolizing the fall of the Iraqi regime.
Culminating: Resulting or ending.
Casualties: People killed or wounded in a war.
Nazi Germany: Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, which the United States helped defeat during World War II.
Imperial Japan: The Japanese empire during World War II, which the United States helped defeat.
Allied: A group of nations that opposed Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy (known as the Axis Powers) during World War II.
Regime: Government or rule.
Civilians: People who are not part of a military force, including women and children.
Intimidation: Forcing people to obey out of fear.
Oppressors: Those who exert control through abuse of power.
Enslavement: The condition of slavery; being forced to work as slaves.
Dictator: A person who rules with absolute power.
Ideology: System of beliefs.
By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve and force our retreat from the world. They have failed....
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally ofAl Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more....
Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all. Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country and a target of American justice. Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, orharbors terrorists iscomplicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world and will be confronted. And anyone in the world, including theArab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America....
The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values and American interests lead in the same direction. We stand for human liberty.
The United States upholds these principles of security and freedom in many ways: with all the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement,intelligence, andfinance. We are working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat and our shared responsibility to meet it. The use of force has been and remains our last resort. Yet all can know, friend andfoe alike, that our nation has a mission: We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace....
The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, oralter their fate. Their cause is lost; free nations will press on to victory.
Al Qaeda: A radical Islamic terrorist group responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.
Harbors: Provides shelter or refuge to.
Complicit: Closely associated with or responsible for.
Arab world: The region of North Africa and the Middle East where the majority of people speak the Arabic language.
Intelligence: Information gathered through spying activities.
Finance: Monetary payments or assistance.
What happened next...
Bush's twenty-three-minute speech received an enthusiastic response on board the Lincoln. In fact, the president was interrupted twenty-four times by cheering, and he received several standing ovations. Many Americans who watched on television appreciated Bush's message and found his speech stirring. But the "aircraft carrier" speech did not receive universal praise.
Some critics suggested that Bush staged the speech in order to increase his own popularity and political power. They pointed out that the Lincoln, which was on its way home after ten months in the Persian Gulf, had been turned around and sent back out to sea so that the U.S. coastline would not be visible to TV cameras. Critics also complained about Bush's decision to be flown to the ship on a fighter jet. Although it provided dramatic news footage, the flight created a security risk for Bush and also cost the American taxpayers a considerable amount of money. It also was not necessary, since the Lincoln was only 30 miles from the U.S. Naval Base in San Diego, California, well within helicopter range.
Political opponents suggested that Bush's dramatic gesture was intended to distract people's attention from domestic problems such as high unemployment rates. "The president's going out to an aircraft carrier to give a speech far out at sea," said Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate for president, "while countless Americans are frightened stiff about the economy at home."
Finally, some people felt that it was too early to announce the end of combat operations in Iraq. They questioned whether the U.S. military had really accomplished its mission. After all, Hussein and his sons had not been captured at that point, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction had been found, and no concrete plans for Iraq's future existed. Some analysts believed that reconstructing Iraq and forming a democratic government would be the most difficult tasks of all.
Did you know...
- Bush's landing on the Lincoln marked the first time in history that a sitting president arrived on the deck of an aircraft carrier by plane (other presidents have traveled to the ships by helicopter). The four-seater S-3B Viking jet also carried two experienced navy pilots and a Secret Service agent. The jet made a "tailhook" landing, swooping down on the flight deck at 150 miles (241 kilometers) an hour, hooking a steel cable, and coming to a complete stop in less than 400 feet (122 meters).
- Before leaving Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California, Bush was briefed on what he would need to do to eject from the plane in case of emergency. Earlier, he also underwent water survival training in preparation for his flight.
- Bush was an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard following his graduation from Yale University in 1968. Upon arriving on the Lincoln, he told reporters that he had taken the controls of the jet for about one-third of the trip.
- Analysts noted that Bush did not formally declare the Iraq War to be over in his "aircraft carrier" speech. Instead, he announced an end to major combat operations in Iraq. They believed that the president did this intentionally in order to keep his options open. Under international law, declaring the war to be over could complicate the coalition's efforts to track down former members of Hussein's regime. Coalition forces were still questioning thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war at that time, and declaring an end to the hostilities would have required the release of these prisoners.
For More Information
"Commander in Chief Lands on USS Lincoln." CNN.com, May 2, 2003. Available online at http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/05/01/bush.carrier.landing/ (last accessed on February 27, 2004).
George W. Bush
George W. Bush
When George W. Bush (born 1946) won a disputed election to become president of the United States, it capped a meteoric rise to power in a relatively short political career that combined good timing, a powerful family, and uncanny campaigning skills. A late bloomer in terms of achievement, Bush's victory represented the second time in American history that the son of a former president took on the world's most powerful political job.
George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 6, 1946. His parents moved the family from New Haven, where they had lived next door to the president of Yale University, to Texas when George W. was two years old. His father, George Herbert Walker Bush, had just graduated from Yale and wanted to try his hand at the oil business. At first they lived in a ramshackle duplex in the roughneck town of Odessa, with two prostitutes renting the other half of the house. Two years later, after a brief time following the elder Bush as a drill-bit salesman in California, they moved to Midland, a more refined city that was better suited to raising a family.
One of their neighbors, Charlie Younger, described Midland as "a real Ozzie-and-Harriet sort of town." It was also bursting with optimism during the boom times of the 1950s, when the elder Bush made his fortune in drilling. Young George W. was a strong-willed and wisecracking child who posed a challenge for his mother, Barbara. His father, who had played baseball at Yale, coached his Little League baseball team, and the young boy became a baseball fanatic, memorizing statistics and trivia from his collection of baseball cards. The Bushes had five more children: a son Jeb; a daughter Robin, (who died of leukemia in childhood); then sons Neil and Marvin and daughter Dorothy. As the eldest, George W. was expected to shine. He was an all-around athlete, fair student, and occasional troublemaker in school—he was once paddled for painting a mustache on his face during a music class. In seventh grade, he ran for class president and won. The next year, his father, who had become a millionaire, moved the family to Houston.
Two years later, George W. was sent back East to enroll at Phillips Academy, an elite private prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. At Andover, he was a whirlwind of physical activity, playing varsity baseball and basketball and junior varsity football. In basketball he often made self-deprecating jokes about riding the bench. Instead of trying out for varsity football, he became the squad's head cheerleader. He also organized a stickball league and was nicknamed Tweeds Bush, after the political organizer Boss Tweed. Against the school's intense competition Bush arrayed his sense of humor. "I was able to instill a sense of frivolity," Bush later said. "Andover was kind of a strange experience."
His high school academic record was far from top-notch. However, drawing on his family connections, Bush landed a spot at Yale, where both his father and grandfather had attended. Bush, extremely gregarious and a notoriously poor dresser, made many friends, somehow bridging the growing divide between the public school graduates who were entering Yale and the "preppies." Bush's interest in politics faded temporarily after his father lost a close election for a seat in the U.S. Senate, in which his grandfather had served. He remained uninterested in politics even after his father won the Senate seat on a second try in 1966. Instead, he became president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and enjoyed parties, drinking, watching and playing football, and dating. Grades weren't a high priority. "He was a serious student of people," recalled classmate Robert McCallum. He was booked on a misdemeanor charge for being part of a prank that involved stealing a Christmas wreath for the frat house, but the charges were dropped. He was also questioned by police for helping to tear down the goalposts at Princeton University after a football game. For a brief time, he was engaged to a Rice University student, Cathryn Wolfman. In his senior year, he joined the notorious secret society, Skull and Bones. Despite his background of privilege, Bush became more at ease with all kinds of people in college. "I was never one to feel guilty," he said about his wealth and family connections. "I feel lucky." Moving back to Houston after graduating from Yale, Bush took up residence in a trendy apartment complex, the Chateaux Dijon—a hub for young single people. Cocky and loud, Bush played volleyball in the swimming pool, flirted with women, and drove a sports car. He worked, for a time, for an agribusiness company and for a mentoring program. "I was rootless," he later said. "I had no responsibilities whatsoever." Later, he would fend off reporters' questions about rumors of drug use in those days. "How I behaved as an irresponsible youth is irrelevant to this campaign," he said during his 1994 race for governor. "What matters is how I behave as an adult." Other questions later arose about how he had managed to avoid serving in Vietnam. He was a member of an elite Texas Air National Guard unit stationed at Ellington Air Force Base that included the sons of other prominent politicians and civic leaders. The National Guard had a long waiting list of young men eager to avoid military service during the war, but Bush managed to sail through easily. He has denied any impropriety, but political writer Molly Ivins claims that a family friend used Ben Barnes, then speaker of the House of Representatives in Texas, to recommend Bush for a spot in the Guard unit.
Texas Oil Business
Bush was rejected by the University of Texas Law School, but gained admittance to Harvard's Business School. After graduation, he retraced his father's footsteps and returned to Midland, Texas in 1975 to try his luck in the oil business. Bush started by searching deeds for other oilmen who wanted mineral rights. His first attempt at exploration, Arbusto Energy, failed to strike oil.
In 1977 Bush suddenly announced that would run for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Asked later about his renewed interest in politics, Bush said it was because President Jimmy Carter was trying to control natural gas prices and "I felt the United States was headed toward European-style socialism." A friend set up Bush for a date with Laura Welch, a librarian. She had grown up near him in Houston and even lived at the Chateaux Dijon, but they had never crossed paths. Three months later, he married her and they immediately hit the campaign trail. In 1982, they would have twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. In a primary, Bush prevailed over the Republican Party's handpicked choice, Odessa mayor Jim Reese, who portrayed him as an elitist and a liberal. Bush then faced off against Democrat Kent Hance, who painted him as elite East Coast carpetbagger whose $400,000 in campaign contributions came from well-connected outsiders such as baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Bush played into Hance's hands by airing a campaign ad showing him jogging—an activity considered alien to many west Texans. Hance's campaign used a last-minute attack ad that accused Bush of having given free beer to college students in order to win their vote. Bush refrained from retaliating, and lost the election.
Bush raised money from prominent family friends to support an oil drilling fund. However, Arbusto was still unable to find oil. He merged it with another company, Spectrum 7, which soon was three million dollars in debt. Many independent oil companies were going broke. Midland, the financial center of the Texas oil country, was in decline. Bush needed a miracle to survive in the oil business and was finally bailed out by Harken Oil and Gas (later Harken Energy Corporation). Harken wanted the name of the vice-president's son on its board of directors so badly that it assumed Spectrum 7's debt, paid Bush $320,000 worth of stock options, and offered him a consulting position at $80,000 a year. Government regulators later investigated the deal after Harken, which had no previous experience in the Persian Gulf, landed a lucrative contract to drill for oil off the coast of Bahrain. Bush's decision to sell 212,140 shares of Harken for $848,560—just before the company announced poor quarterly earnings—was also scrutinized, but he was not charged with any wrongdoing.
In 1985, Bush was in the family's Kennebunkport, Maine, complex, when evangelist Billy Graham paid a visit. George W. Bush said he had a "personal conversion" and began taking Biblical teachings more seriously. A year later, on the morning after a raucous party celebrating his 40th birthday, Bush suddenly swore off drinking. He had not considered himself an alcoholic, and neither had friends or family, but all admitted he drank to excess on occasion. The announcement was a turning point.
In 1988, Bush worked on his father's presidential campaign as a "loyalty thermometer," taking the pulse of campaign workers and making sure that they were ready to deflect any criticism that was directed against his father. He also traveled far and wide soliciting donations and help from powerful people. Bush was instrumental in hiring decisions, but found Washington to be a pompous, petty place. He left shortly after the work for the transition team was finished. In the process, however, he had, he said, "earned his spurs" in his father's eyes. He would return to work on the 1992 campaign, playing an instrumental role in getting rid of Chief of Staff George Sununu, who had failed the loyalty test.
Bought Baseball Team
Late in 1988, Bush heard that the Texas Rangers, a struggling professional baseball club, was up for sale. He put together a group of 70 investors who contributed $14 million to buy the team at a bargain price. Bush's own investment of $606,000—part of his booty from the Harken stock sale—was the smallest of any investor. But Bush became the driving force and public face of the new ownership group. During the next five years, he was managing general partner of the franchise. He organized a successful campaign to get voters to approve a sales tax for a new publicly funded stadium paid with $135 million in bonds. The lucrative stadium deal turned the franchise around financially, since the owners got to keep the stadium when the bonds were paid off. In 1994, when Bush ran for governor, he put his share of the Rangers, along with his other assets, in a blind trust and resigned as managing general partner just before a players strike wiped out the World Series. His opponent, Ann Richards, accused Bush of benefiting from corporate welfare, but the charges didn't stick and Bush won the election. In 1998, his group sold the team, and got a personal windfall of $14.9 million. That was money he used to bankroll his run for the presidency.
His old friend, Joseph O'Neill, said of Bush's 1988 moves: "He really hated Washington, but it charged him up. Then, with the Rangers, he really hit stride. It took some hard times and big jobs to bring out the bigness in him." When his father lost to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race, Bush the younger felt free to resume acting on his long-shelved political ambitions. His celebrity as the most well known owner of the Rangers and as the son of a former president gave him an advantage as he ran for governor in 1994. But his opponent was the popular governor, Ann Richards. With the help of political strategist Karl Rove, nicknamed "Bush's brain," Bush stayed doggedly "on message" and remained affable and unresponsive to Richards's attacks.
Governor of Texas
Famous for delegating details and making connections, Bush used his newly honed management skills in the governor's office. Texas is also a weak-governor state, and Bush was adept at making compromises and taking credit. Bush's governing style in Texas depended on bi-partisanship, a political tradition in that state. Longtime Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, a Democrat, endorsed Bush in his 1998 bid for re-election. Bullock, a tough negotiator, had been a mentor for Bush in Texas politics. He did not earn a reputation as a hard-driving executive, often taking time out in the middle of the day to go jogging or play video games. He complained that he did not like to read long books and that he hated meetings and briefings. But Bush did work hard on education reform, championing public schools.
A key to Bush's popularity in Texas was his ability to appeal both to the old-guard "country club" Republicans, who tended to be more moderate, and the Christian Right, which had come to control the GOP in that state. Bush described himself as a born-again Christian, that helped him with the fundamentalist voters, but downplayed issues like his opposition to abortion, keeping his appeal to moderates. He would use that same formula to secure the GOP presidential nomination and keep the party together during the 2000 campaign.
Many months before the first presidential primaries were held for the 2000 election, Bush had virtually sewed up the GOP nomination by demonstrating his ability to attract millions in contributions. Business interests and Republican stalwarts closed ranks behind the Bush candidacy, making his nomination appear to be inevitable. To some critics such as Ivins, Bush was characterized as "a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America." Washington Post writer Lois Romano and George Lardner Jr. said that "all along George W. harbored qualities that his father could only envy: a visceral and energetic charm, sound political instincts, an easy and convincing sense of humor, a common touch." But then a formidable challenger emerged out of a large pack of contenders.
Arizona Senator John McCain rode a wave of media and popular enthusiasm in early 2000 to provide a point of coalescence for those opposed to Bush's nomination. Sounding his key theme of campaign finance reform, McCain attacked Bush as being the creation of special interest and business contributors. Bush's campaigned was ambushed by McCain in New Hampshire, where the challenger pulled off an upset. The defeat prompted Bush to change the tone and tactics of his campaign. To win the South Carolina primary, Bush visited controversial Bob Jones University, a hotbed of far-right activism. He also launched a series of attacks on McCain's credibility. McCain, complaining about campaign dirty tricks, was soundly defeated, and Bush eventually won in enough other states to fend off McCain's challenge.
In the general election campaign, Bush selected Dick Cheney, who had been Secretary of Defense under his father, as his running mate. It signaled that Bush would surround himself with people he considered authoritative. Bush took an early lead in the polls but his opponent, Vice-President Al Gore, bounced back after the Democratic convention, when he started sounding a populist theme. The media had a field day with Bush's tendencies to malapropisms and Gore hammered at his foreign policy weaknesses and lack of experience. There was also some criticism of an alleged subliminal messages in a Bush campaign ad in which the word "Democrats" morphed into "rats" for a split-second. Bush immediately pulled the ads, and continued to display his people skills. "What Bush does with people is establish a direct, personal connection," wrote reporter Nicholas Lemann in the New Yorker. Lemann claims that Bush has "a talent for establishing a jovial connection with an unusually large number of people." The polls drew close and a series of three debates in October was expected to be decisive. Gore, portrayed as a man with more command of policies and details, was expected to win. However, Bush more than held his own, and his folksiness made Gore look stiff by comparison. In a second debate Gore was more agreeable, and the two candidates declared much common ground. However, Gore's dramatic mood shift made him appear insincere to some voters. Bush remained adamantly "on message," repeatedly sounding his issues of education reform, social security privatization, and tax cuts, while downplaying controversial issues such as abortion.
Although the 2000 presidential election was extremely close, and was finally resolved by a five to four decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush emerged as the winner. Ivins had often said of Bush: "He is so lucky that if they tried to hang him, the rope would break."
Ivins, Molly and Lou Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, Vintage, 2000.
New Yorker, January 31, 2000.
Newsweek, November 22, 1999.
Texas Monthly, June 1999.
Time, June 21, 1999.
US News and World Report, January 22, 2001.
Washington Post, July 25, 1999; July 26, 1999; July 27, 1999; July 28, 1999; July 29, 1999; July 30, 1999; July 31, 1999. □
Bush, George W.
Bush, George W. 1946-
George Walker Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, presided over the country during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and led the nation in the resulting overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The son of George H. W. Bush, the forty-first president of the United States, George W. was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1946 and grew up in Texas before attending the Philips Academy prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. In 1968 Bush earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, his father’s alma mater. After serving in the Texas Air National Guard, Bush received a Masters of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School in 1975 and moved to Texas, where he was an executive in a series of oil-exploration ventures. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978.
In 1989 Bush bought a stake in the Texas Rangers baseball team and became the managing general partner of the team. The public visibility of this position helped him secure the Republican nomination in the 1994 Texas race for governor. He subsequently defeated the incumbent Democrat, Ann Richards, in the general election.
After being reelected as governor in 1998 by a wide margin, Bush became the leading Republican contender for the U.S. presidency. Fighting off a strong primary challenge from Senator John McCain of Arizona, Bush won the GOP nomination. During the 2000 campaign against Bill Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, Bush carefully positioned himself as a “compassionate conservative,” who supported education reform, tax cuts, and private accounts in Social Security.
On election night Gore won the popular vote, but it appeared that Bush had won the Electoral College and thus the presidency. However, Gore’s aides discovered that Florida was essentially tied, and the vice president retracted the concession he had offered Bush. Gore’s campaign quickly requested hand recounts in several counties and the election shifted into a legal battle. The Florida Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the results of such recounts to be incorporated into statewide vote totals, but the U.S. Supreme Court halted the recounts in a controversial 5 to 4 decision. With Bush still ahead in the official state count, the election was over. Bush and his father became the second father and son to both serve as president, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
Some observers expected Bush to govern as a centrist and seek bipartisan cooperation in response to the circumstances of his election. Instead, Bush, a self-proclaimed conservative, pushed ahead with his campaign plan for a sizeable tax cut, which was passed into law by June 2001 with significant Democratic support.
Then on September 11 of that year, members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization struck the United States, flying jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and crashing a fourth jet in a field in Pennsylvania. More than three thousand Americans were killed. After this national trauma, the public united behind Bush, pushing his approval ratings to unprecedented levels. Within months, U.S. air strikes helped the Northern Alliance overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had provided safe haven to Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden and his followers. However, the United States failed to capture bin Laden.
In the fall of 2002 the Bush administration began to push for an invasion of Iraq, arguing that Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator who posed a grave threat to the United States due to his possession of weapons of mass destruction and links to Al-Qaeda. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair secured a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Saddam to disarm and submit to weapons inspections. Yet Saddam continued to resist the inspections, and in response the United States and the United Kingdom called for military action against Iraq. Independent observers and many foreign countries questioned the Bush administration’s claims about Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda. The United States and the United Kingdom failed to secure a second United Nations resolution approving military action against Iraq, but decided to invade without it, beginning the attack on March 20, 2003. Saddam’s regime quickly fell with minimal casualties, and Saddam himself was captured on December 13.
The occupation of Iraq proved more difficult than anticipated. A governing regime was set up, and elections were held, but an insurgency composed of disaffected Iraqis and foreign jihadists became an increasingly deadly threat to coalition forces. By spring 2006, more than two thousand U.S. troops had died in Iraq, and a majority of Americans told pollsters that the war had been a mistake. In addition, convincing evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion was never found, nor was hard evidence of operational links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Over time, Bush increasingly emphasized the cause of creating a democracy in Iraq, which had received relatively little attention before the war.
In the domestic arena, Bush passed several major initiatives after September 11, including the No Child Left Behind Act (which enacted a new accountability regime of school testing), a second tax cut, and a bill adding prescription-drug coverage to Medicare.
In 2004 he defeated his Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, in a reelection campaign that emphasized security concerns and such social issues as gay marriage. Bush won 51 percent of the vote and 286 electoral votes in the narrowest presidential reelection victory since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
The first major initiative of Bush’s second term was an effort to create private investment accounts in Social Security, but his proposal failed to gain significant momentum in Congress. By spring 2006 Bush’s approval ratings had plunged to less than 40 percent; conservative discontent with his presidency had grown; and calls for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq had begun to mount. However, Al-Qaeda had not successfully attacked the United States again and economic growth remained relatively strong.
SEE ALSO Al-Qaeda; bin Laden, Osama; Bush, George H. W.; Electoral College; Hussein, Saddam; Iraq-U.S. War; Republican Party; September 11, 2001; Taliban; United Nations
Boston Globe Web site. Campaign 2004: George W. Bush. http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/bush/.
Washington Post Web site. 2004 election: George W. Bush. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/politics/elections/2004/georgewbush/.
Excerpt from "End of Cold War: Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, January 28, 1992"
Published in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George Bush, 1992–93, Book 1, January 1 to July 31, 1992, published in 1993
"Even as President, with the most fascinating possible vantage point, there were times when I was so busy managing progress and helping to lead change that I didn't always show the joy that was in my heart. But the biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this: By the grace of God, America won the cold war."
B y the fall of 1991, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–) was finding that political changes in the Soviet Union's republics were increasingly out of his control. On December 31, 1991, the Soviet flag came down over the Kremlin in Moscow for the last time. Only days earlier, Gorbachev had resigned as president of the Soviet Union and turned over control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal to Boris Yeltsin (1931–), president of Russia. All the remaining republics declared independence and were soon admitted to the UN as new nations. Less than a month later, U.S. president George Bush (1924–; served 1989–93) was scheduled to give the annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress and the world.
It was ideal timing for declaring the end of the Cold War (1945–91). Bush began by announcing, "I mean to speak tonight of big things, of big changes." In referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union over the past several months, Bush pronounced "communism died this year." Then in a bold statement, Bush proclaimed, "By the grace of God, America won the cold war." He then listed what changes this would mean to the United States, such as decreased need for military readiness and greater attention to domestic issues. As he stated, the "world … now recognizes one sole and prominent power, the United States of America." But that world trusts the United States "to do what's right."
Bush announced he was stopping B-2 bomber production and canceling a number of missile programs. Bush announced he would be meeting with Russian president Yeltsin to negotiate a new nuclear arms control treaty. He proclaimed the reductions would save some $50 billion over the next five years: "By 1997, we will have cut defenses by 30 percent." However, he did ask Congress for funding of a scaled-down Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to protect the United States from "limited nuclear attack … because too many people in too many countries have access to nuclear arms."
Bush concluded by stating the new role of the United States in the post–Cold War era: "to lead in the support of freedom everywhere."
Things to remember while reading the excerpt from "End of Cold War":
- The beginning of the end of Gorbachev's role as Soviet leader came on August 19, 1991. On that day, Soviet Communist Party hard-liners opposing Gorbachev's reforms attempted a coup to overthrow the president. After only three days, the coup fell apart due to strong public opposition. Ironically, the ill-fated coup brought about the final demise of the Soviet Communist Party, the opposite result of what was intended. Although Gorbachev managed to regain his leadership position within days, his power and that of the Communist Party was lost. Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia, was the new holder of power. Soviet communism had essentially ended.
- The world had dramatically changed in an unbelievably short time—in just three years, from 1989 to 1991.
- The first Soviet republics to gain independence as separate nations were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on August 24, 1991.
Excerpt from "End of Cold War"
Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, distinguished Members of Congress, honored guests, and fellow citizens:
I mean to speak tonight of big things, of big changes and the promises they hold, and of some big problems and how, together, we can solve them and move our country forward as the undisputed leader of the age.
We gather tonight at a dramatic and deeply promising time in our history and in the history of man on Earth. For in the past 12 months, the world has known changes of almost biblical proportions. And even now, months after the failed coup that doomed a failed system, I'm not sure we've absorbed the full impact, the full import of what happened. But communism died this year.
Even as President, with the most fascinating possible vantage point, there were times when I was so busy managing progress and helping to lead change that I didn't always show the joy that was in my heart. But the biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this: By the grace of God, America won the cold war.
I mean to speak this evening of the changes that can take place in our country, now that we can stop making the sacrifices we had to make when we had an avowed enemy that was a superpower. Now we can look homeward even more and move to set right what needs to be set right.…
So now, for the first time in 35 years, our strategic bombers stand down. No longer are they on 'round-the-clock alert. Tomorrow our children will go to school and study history and how plants grow. And they won't have, as my children did, air raid drills in which they crawl under their desks and cover their heads in case of nuclear war. My grandchildren don't have to do that and won't have the bad dreams children had once, in decades past. There are still threats. But the long, drawn-out dread is over.…
Much good can come from the prudent use of power. And much good can come of this: A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and prominent power, the United States of America. And they regard this with no dread. For the world trusts us with power, and the world is right. They trust us to be fair and restrained.They trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what's right.…
Two years ago, I began planning cuts in military spending that reflected the changes of the new era. But now, this year, with imperial communism gone, that process can be accelerated. Tonight I can tell you of dramatic changes in our strategic nuclear force. These are actions we are taking on our own because they are the right thing to do. After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bombers. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our seabased ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the peacekeeper missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles.
This weekend I will meet at Camp David with Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation. I've informed president Yeltsin that if the Commonwealth, the former Soviet Union, will eliminate all land-based multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, I will do the following: We will eliminate all Peace-keeper missiles. We will reduce the number of warheads on Minuteman missiles to one and reduce the number of warheads on our sea-based missiles by about one-third. And we will convert a substantial portion of our strategic bombers to primarily conventional use. President Yeltsin's early response has been very positive, and I expect our talks at Camp David to be fruitful.
I want you to know that for half a century American Presidents have longed to make such decisions and say such words. But even in the midst of celebration, we must keep caution as a friend. For the world is still a dangerous place. Only the dead have seen the end of conflict. And though yesterday's challenges are behind us, tomorrow's are being born.…
But do not misunderstand me. The reductions I have approved will save us an additional $50 billion over the next 5 years. By 1997, we will have cut defense by 30 percent since I took office. These cuts are deep, and you must know my resolve: This deep, and no deeper. To do less would be insensible to progress, but to do more would be ignorant of history. We must not go back to the days of "the hollow army." We cannot repeat the mistakes made twice in this century when armistice was followed by recklessness and defense was purged as if the world were permanently safe.
I remind you this evening that I have asked for your support in funding a program to protect our country from limited nuclear missile attack. We must have this protection because too many people in too many countries have access to nuclear arms. And I urge you again to pass the Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI.
There are those who say that now we can turn away from the world, that we have no special role, no special place. But we are the United States of America, the leader of the West that has become the leader of the world. And as long as I am President, I will continue to lead in support of freedom everywhere, not out of arrogance, not out of altruism, but for the safety and security of our children. This is a fact: Strength in the pursuit of peace is no vice; isolationism in the pursuit of security is no virtue.
What happened next …
Bush and Yeltsin negotiated new arms-reduction deals agreeing to eliminate all missiles that carried multiple warheads (MIRVs) and reducing the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads by several thousand. Bush would continue to deny significant economic aid to Yeltsin as he had with Gorbachev earlier.
Ironically, the change from the Cold War stalemate between two superpowers to that of one superpower led to greater instability in the world. With the end of communist domination over the diverse ethnic populations in its republics, bloody conflicts erupted. For example, war broke out between ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia through the 1990s. Chechnya attempted to establish independence from the Russian Federation, leading to Russian troops being dispatched in 1994. Fighting continued there into the twenty-first century. International terrorism also became a key concern, fueled by the September 11, 2001, attacks by Muslim extremists against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia.
While Americans enjoyed unprecedented economic prosperity through the 1990s under the administration of President Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001), widespread economic hardships persisted in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Russian businesses were too inefficient to compete effectively on the open world market. Despite these severe problems, Boris Yeltsin managed to maintain leadership, even creating a new Russian constitution giving himself greater power. Finally, on December 31, 1999, he resigned under pressure owing to declining popularity.
Did you know …
- The costs of the forty-five-year-old Cold War were steep for the United States. Tens of thousands of American troops were killed, primarily in the Korean War (1950–53) and Vietnam War (1954–75). A national debt of almost $4 trillion grew from the arms race and providing aid to friendly nations.
- President George Bush rode an incredibly high approval rating following defeat of Iraq in the Persian Gulf War and his proclamation of U.S. victory in the Cold War. Domestic economic problems, however, led to a nose-dive in his ratings and eventual defeat to his Democratic opponent, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, in the 1992 presidential election.
- President Bill Clinton inherited far different international problems than his numerous predecessors. The collapse of Soviet communist control led to many bloody ethnic confrontations, including those in Yugoslavia between Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.
- Following his resignation as president of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev retired to a villa in Finland in addition to his main Moscow residence. Into the twenty-first century, he continued to lecture extensively abroad.
- With the United States the lone superpower in the world, focus would shift to a war on international terrorism, especially following the events of September 11, 2001.
Consider the following …
- Would the downfall of one of the world's two superpowers lead to a period of peace and prosperity?
- Some, like Bush, claimed the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Others asserted that the Soviet Union simply collapsed from its own economic and social limitations in a changing world, a path of self-destruction. Which do you think happened and why?
- The Soviet Union was replaced with a new federation of republics. What was it and how did it differ from the previous organization?
For More Information
Beschloss, Michael R., and Strobe Talbott. At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.
Bush, George, and Brent Scowcroft. A World Transformed. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Ciment, James. The Young People's History of the United States. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1998.
Kaplan, Robert D. The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. New York: Random House, 2000.
Matlock, Jack F., Jr. Autopsy of an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. New York: Random House, 1995.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George Bush, 1992–93, Book 1, January 1 to July 31, 1992. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.
Bush, George W.
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut , where his father, George H. W. Bush (1924–), was enrolled at Yale University. After his father graduated in 1948, the family moved to Texas , where the senior Bush worked as an executive in the oil industry. Like his father, George W. Bush attended Phillips Academy (a private school that prepares students for college) in Andover, Massachusetts , and went on to Yale University. He was an average student, president of his fraternity, and a member of an exclusive secret group, the Skull and Bones Society. While Bush was still at Yale in 1966, his father was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After serving in Congress, George H. W. Bush went on to hold positions in the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon (1913–1994; served 1969–74) and Gerald R. Ford (1913–2006; served 1974–77) before being elected vice president and president in the 1980s.
In 1975, George W. Bush earned a master's degree in business administration from Harvard. He served as a pilot for the Texas Air National Guard before beginning a career in the oil and gas business. He quickly gained a reputation for fast cars and occasionally heavy drinking. In later years, he admitted to being irresponsible in his youth. After working in the energy industry for several years, Bush met Laura Welch (1946–), an elementary school teacher and librarian. They married in 1977, and their twin daughters were born in 1981. Bush ran for a seat in Congress in 1978 but lost the election. He had some difficult times in the oil business, but eventually built a small, successful company.
Change of ways
In 1985, under the influence of Baptist evangelist minister Billy Graham (1918–), Bush experienced a religious conversion. A year later, he stopped drinking alcohol. To those who knew him, these events were seen as major turning points in his life. When his father won the Republican nomination for president in 1988, Bush helped manage his presidential campaign. He gained respect in Washington, D.C. , for rallying the campaign team through the ups and downs of the tight race.
Back in Texas after the election, Bush organized a group of wealthy investors to buy the Texas Rangers, a major league baseball team. Riding a wave of popularity, he decided to run as the Republican candidate for
governor of Texas in 1994. To the surprise of many, he won the election. After only a year in office, Bush was hailed as the most popular big-state governor in the country. He worked to improve public schools, cut taxes, and put welfare recipients to work, and he encouraged new business and job growth. Bush won reelection in 1998 with 68 percent of the vote.
By January 2000, Bush was the frontrunner of a large field of Republican presidential candidates and became the party's nominee that summer. Since some people questioned Bush's grasp of national issues and foreign affairs, he selected the experienced Dick Cheney (1941–) to be his running mate. Mixing a folksy approach with clear policy measures, Bush maintained a slight lead against the Democratic nominee, Vice President Al Gore (1948–), as the 2000 election approached.
A controversial election
Shortly after 8 PM on election day, Tuesday, November 7, 2000, news agencies began projecting that Gore had won the popular vote and seemed headed for an electoral college victory. (The electoral college is the group that directly elects the president and vice president. Each state is allotted a number of electors equal to the number of its representatives and senators in Congress, and each presidential candidate has a slate of electors assigned to that candidate. When a candidate wins the popular vote in a state, the electors assigned to that candidate vote for him or her in the electoral college.) Around 10 PM, news reporters began referring to Florida ‘s popular vote as too close to call. When daylight came on Wednesday morning, there was still no new president-elect.
The problem was in Florida. Vote tallies completed in Florida were extremely close, and serious voting problems had arisen in four Florida counties. Recounts began. Republican officials tried to have the recounts stopped since accepting the tallies as they were would have resulted in a victory, though a very narrow one, for Bush. Democrats took the matter before state judges. The Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously (7–0) that manual recounts could continue. Bush's lawyers appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation waited to find out who would be the next president.
On December 12, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that the recounts were unconstitutional. It ordered a halt to all further recounts. Gore conceded the election to Bush.
Bush took office ready to cut taxes, improve schools, build an antimissile defense system to intercept long-range missiles launched at the United States, create a White House department of faith-based (religious) initiatives, and reform immigration policy and Social Security. He drew criticism soon after taking office when he refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the international treaty on climate change that required nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their countries.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (See September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks ). With Congress uniting behind him, Bush announced a war on terrorism. In October, the United States led an invasion into Afghanistan (see Afghanistan Conflict ), where al-Qaeda , the terrorist group responsible for the attack, was headquartered.
The Bush administration set up a new department, the Homeland Security Department , to consolidate the different government agencies that protect the nation from terrorist attacks and other disasters. Bush aides put together the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, which gave law enforcement agents more power but caused controversy by treading upon civil rights.
Going on the offensive
Not long after invading Afghanistan, Bush announced that Iraq, North Korea, and Iran were “axes of evil,” saying that they were illegally building up weapons of mass destruction (weapons capable of causing massive numbers of deaths, injuries, or destruction that fall into one of three categories: biological, chemical, and nuclear or radiological weapons) and that the United States would not allow them to do so. He stepped up his case against Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein (1937–2006), claiming that Iraq continued to build weapons of mass destruction even after the United Nations (UN) had concluded otherwise. The Bush administration also claimed that Iraq had links to al-Qaeda, and the administration asked the UN for a mandate to strike. The UN voted not to participate in an attack.
Proceeding without the United Nations, the Bush administration put together a coalition of forces dominated by American and British troops, with support from Australia, Denmark, and Poland, and drew up plans to invade Iraq. Worldwide opposition to an Iraq invasion was demonstrated on February 15, 2003, when protests drew between six and ten million people in hundreds of cities around the world. Nonetheless, the U.S. military assembled 125,000 troops in Kuwait; the United Kingdom assembled another 45,000. The coalition gave Hussein forty-eight hours to comply with requests for inspection and then attacked, starting the Iraq War. Investigations in Iraq after the war had started revealed no significant weapons of mass destruction; the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda was disproved. The initial attack overthrew Hussein, who was later hanged, but the war continued, fueled by Iraqi insurgents (rebels) who resented the American occupation of Iraq and by a growing civil war among Iraqi factions.
Although Bush tried to accomplish other things in his presidency, the ongoing Iraq War dominated his tenure in office nearly completely. During his first term in office, Bush was able to sustain popular support for his mission, and he was reelected to a second term. Soon after his reelection, however, his popularity began to plunge as the war dragged on. Then, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the most disastrous storms in U.S. history, struck the Gulf Coast, wreaking havoc in Mississippi and Louisiana . In New Orleans, the levees that protect the city from flooding broke down, causing 80 percent of the city to flood. For days, thousands of New Orleans citizens were stranded. Critics claimed that the Bush administration, and particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), did not seem to grasp the severity of the situation in the city. Their delays in getting help to New Orleans caused chaos and suffering, which was meanwhile being viewed on nationwide television. For an administration that had prided itself on security and being ready for disaster, its handling of the rescue of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina was viewed as a black mark.
In the 2006 congressional elections, the Democrats won a majority in both the House and the Senate for the first time in more than a decade. The growing ranks of critics of the president accused him and his top aides of having manufactured evidence of weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda links to win support for the Iraq invasion. Critics also held that the administration had given too little thought to the political situation in Iraq and the Middle East and thus provided too few troops to handle the insurgency that followed the invasion. Even some Republicans broke rank, calling the administration's handling of the war incompetent. Bush's approval ratings in national polls slipped below 50 percent in January 2005 and continued to plunge, with a disapproval rating hanging in the mid-60s in 2007.