George W. Bush's first term as President of the United States

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Bush delivers his first remarks as President during his Inauguration

George W. Bush's first term as president of the United States began on January 20, 2001 and continued until his second term commenced on January 20, 2005. By far the most memorable event of this first term in office was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Bush was instrumental in pushing forward legislation in education and national security, in bringing about tax-reduction and allocating funds for global warming. He withdrew the United States from participation in the 1998 Kyoto Protocol on world climate change and from the 1989 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, as well as withdrawing U.S. support for the International Criminal Court, but his legacy was defined by his response to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

Shortly after the terrorist attack, a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan resulted in the overthrow of the Taliban government in Kabul, a region which had allowed terrorist training camps, directed at western targets, to operate in Desert Storm. This approach was symptomatic of a change in the perception of the world and of the international threats to the United States, one expounded in Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address and known subsequently as the Bush Doctrine. The United States gave itself the right to pursue its enemies wherever they could be found. In 2003, a U.S.-led military force invaded Iraq, to remove the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) under the control of Saddam Hussein.

Electoral College

President George W. Bush discusses American national security at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota in August 2002.

In Bush's first few months in office as president, the administration's focus was largely on matters concerning the economy, relations with North Korea and their nuclear efforts, stem cell research, and the job of uniting a nation still bitter over the controversy that surrounded the 2000 presidential election. In that election, Bush had lost the nationwide popular vote to Vice President Al Gore, yet narrowly defeated Gore in the Electoral College by the narrow margin of 271–266. A five-week-long battle over extremely close results in Florida ended when the Supreme Court abruptly terminated the state's month-long recounts on December 13, 2000. As a result of this, Bush won the state by 537 votes, the result of a November 27 recount that had been certified by Florida's Secretary of State, Katharine Harris. This judicial resolution was disputed by the Gore campaign and many other Democrats, since even the narrowest win for Gore in Florida would have been enough to make him President. Recounts following the November 27 certification by Harris had narrowed Bush's lead to just 125 votes when the U.S. Supreme Court declared George W Bush the winner in their December 13 ruling.

Bush's first few months were dominated by public disenchantment at this controversial and unusual election outcome, something reflected in his rainy inauguration ceremony in Washington DC, where 10,000 protesters rallied against the president.


Following the 2000 election, the U.S. Senate was split between 50 Democrat-held seats and 50 Republican-held seats while the Republicans had an extremely slim majority in the House of Representatives. The Vice President, however, is given the constitutional authority as presiding officer in the Senate to break 50-50 ties by casting a deciding vote, so this represented a slim majority for the Republicans. However, this situation changed on May 24, 2001, when the liberal Republican Senator Jim Jeffords switched his party affiliation to become the only Independent senator and announced that he would caucus with the Democrats. This gave the Democrats the hope of out-voting the Republicans on some issues in the Senate.

In the 2002 mid-term elections, Bush campaigned strongly in support of some hand-picked Republican Senatorial candidates in states considered marginal, such as New Hampshire, Missouri, Georgia, Minnesota and South Dakota. According to conservative pundit John Podhoretz, Bush was instrumental in helping to revert Senate control back to the Republicans with a two-seat majority, defying the conventional wisdom that the party in power will lose seats mid-term. Of those marginal states visited by the President, only South Dakota retained its incumbent Democratic Senator. Bush helped to install such reliable conservative stalwarts as Norm Coleman, Saxby Chambliss, John E. Sununu and Jim Talent, defeating, respectively, former Vice-President Walter Mondale, incumbent Max Cleland, Governor Jeanne Shaheen and incumbent Jean Carnahan.

Social Agenda

President George W. Bush signs the Patriot Act.

Marriage, abortion and faith

On his first day in office, Bush moved to block federal aid to foreign groups that offered counseling or any other assistance to women in obtaining abortions.[1] Days later, he announced his commitment to channeling more federal aid to faith-based service organizations, despite the fears of critics that this would dissolve the traditional separation of church and state in the United States.[2][3] To further this commitment, Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to assist faith-based service organizations. In a televised address on August 9, 2001, Bush announced a national policy on stem cell research that authorized funding and research work, with federal restrictions over the use of human embryos.

Bush also successfully pushed for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, enacted in 2003 with bi-partisan support but criticized by pro-choice groups as an attack upon legalized abortion rights. Following a national furor over the recognition of same-sex marriages in San Francisco and Massachusetts, Bush announced his opposition to same-sex marriages in 2004 when he endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment (later reintroduced as the Marriage Protection Amendment in his second term) to the United States Constitution which would have permanently defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman citing that marriage should not be cut off from its cultural, religious, and natural roots and claiming that so-called "Activist" courts and judges should not decide who can get married. Although Bush later said he supported allowing states to perform civil unions, critics said that the Federal Marriage Amendment would have also not allowed them.


Bush was staunchly opposed to euthanasia and supported Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision to file suit against the voter-approved Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which was ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court in favor of the Oregon law.[4] However, as governor of Texas, Bush had signed a law which gave hospitals the authority to remove life support from terminally ill patients against the wishes of spouse or parents, if the doctors deemed it to be medically appropriate.[5] This perceived inconsistency in policy became an issue in 2005, when Bush signed controversial legislation forwarded and voted on by only three members of the United States Senate to initiate federal intervention in the court battle of Terri Schiavo, a comatose Florida woman who ultimately died.[6]


In his State of the Union message in January 2003, President Bush outlined a five-year strategy for global emergency AIDS relief, the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. Bush announced $15 billion for this effort, $3 billion a year for five years, but requested less in annual budgets, though some members of Congress added amendments to increase the requested amounts. The emergency relief effort was led by U.S. Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, former CEO of Eli Lilly and Company and Global AIDS Coordinator at the Department of State. $9 billion was allocated for new programs in AIDS relief in the 15 countries most affected by HIV/AIDS. Another $5 billion was to go to continuing support for AIDS relief in 100 countries where the United States already had bilateral programs established. An additional $1 billion was to go to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This quantity of money set aside by the United States to fight AIDS globally was more than that contributed by all other donor countries combined.

Economic policies

President George W. Bush prepares for the State of the Union Address.

Federal spending in constant dollars increased under Bush by 26% in his first four and one-half years in office. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, based on the American Housing Survey, started at 4.7% in January 2001, peaked at 6.2% in June 2003, and retreated to 4.6% in May 2006; however the New York Stock Exchange traded for a record 61 consecutive trading sessions at above 11,000 points during Bush's presidency,

Americans received a check from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as "reconciliation" for having paid more tax than was necessary.

Facing opposition in Congress, Bush held public meetings across the United States to increase nationwide support for his plan for a $1.3 trillion tax cut. He and his economic advisors argued that unspent government funds should be returned to the taxpayers who had provided these funds, and with reports of the threat of recession from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Bush argued that such a tax cut would have the beneficial effect of stimulating the economy and creating jobs. Five Senate Democrats crossed party lines to join Republicans in approving this $1.35 trillion tax cut program. It was one of the largest in United States history and regarded as a major political victory given Bush's controversial election.

Bush sought and obtained Congressional approval for these major tax cuts spread over three years: 2001, 2002, and 2003. They reduced taxes for almost every taxpayer in the U.S. by altering the lowest tax bracket, increasing the child tax credit and eliminating the so-called "marriage penalty". Arguably, tax cuts were distributed disproportionately to higher income taxpayers through a decrease in the marginal rates at higher income, but the change in rates was greater for those of lower income, resulting in an income tax structure that was more progressive overall. Complexity was increased, however, with new categories of income to be taxed at different rates and with the introduction of new deductions and credits; at the same time, the number of individuals subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax increased, since this remained unchanged.

Trade tariffs

Bush's imposition of a tariff on imported steel and on Canadian softwood lumber was controversial in light of his advocacy of free market policies in other areas This attracted criticism both from his fellow conservatives and from the nations affected. The steel tariff was later rescinded under pressure from the World Trade Organization. A negotiated settlement to the softwood lumber dispute was reached in April 2006, and a seven-year deal was finalized on July 1, 2006.


President Bush's domestic agenda carried forward the theme of increased responsibility for performance that had characterised his days as Texas governor, and he worked hard to lobby for the adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act, with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy as its chief sponsor. This legislation aimed to close the achievement gap between the most and the least able children, measure student performance, provide options to parents with students in low-performing schools and target more federal funding to low-income schools. President Bush also increased funding significantly for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, creating education programs to strengthen the grounding in science and mathematics for American high school students.

Looking back on his first term, on August 1, 2005, in response to a question from the media about the teaching of intelligent design versus evolution in public schools, Bush answered, "Both sides ought to be properly taught... so people can understand what the debate is about.... I think that a part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."[7] Bush did not elaborate upon his personal views concerning "intelligent design".

President Bush heavily promoted his No Child Left Behind education program in 2001, visiting schools across the country. This program was endorsed by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and during this period of his presidency, Bush's approval ratings rose at times to 63 percent. In terms of overall performance, however, the Associated Press noted that, of Bush's campaign promises for the first 100 days in office, he managed to keep about a quarter of them while shelving all the others. The political climate in Washington, it argued however, had changed since the campaign.

Funding for airtime

President George W. Bush talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at his Crawford, Texas ranch.

On January 6, 2005, it was discovered that the United States Department of Education had paid The Graham Williams Group, a company run by the newspaper columnist and commentator Armstrong Williams, $240,000 to mention the No Child Left Behind Act regularly in columns and during broadcasts, to create one-minute radio features with Education Secretary Rod Paige and not to mention that they were government funded, to create a video promotion for No Child Left Behind that appeared to be a news story and for Armstrong Williams to interview Paige and other department officials for television.

The Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum, a group of black broadcasters and journalists, "to encourage the producers to periodically address" No Child Left Behind. Williams also persuaded Steve Harvey to have Paige appear twice on his syndicated radio show.

The department paid Ketchum $700,000 (USD) to rate journalists on how positively or negatively they reported on No Child Left Behind. Congress prohibited the use of propaganda, but the Education Department stated that the contract was "permissible use of taxpayer funds under legal government contracting procedures" and was an attempt to educate poor and minority communities about the benefits of the law. Williams claims that he felt the contract was a way for him to promote something that he truly believed in, although he afterwards regretted his decision to participate.


Bush promoted the increase of de-regulation and investment options in social services, leading Republican efforts to pass the Medicare Act of 2003, which added prescription drug coverage to Medicare and created Health Savings Accounts, which would permit people to set aside a portion of their Medicare tax to build a "nest egg." Kalanz said that the law, estimated to cost US$400 billion over the first 10 years, would give the elderly "better choices and more control over their health care."[8]

Science and technology

In the wake of the Columbia space shuttle disaster on January 14, 2004, Bush announced a major re-direction for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[9] Known as the Vision for Space Exploration, the policy called for the completion of the International Space Station by 2010 and the retirement of the space shuttle, while developing a new spacecraft called the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) under the title Project Constellation. The CEV would be used to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2018.

The Bush administration implemented a major change in United States foreign policy by withdrawing its participation in the 1998 Kyoto Protocol on world climate change. The Bush administration during this period has been accused of censoring or manipulating scientific research to suit various political agendas, most notably in the areas of climate change and the economic development of environmentally sensitive locations.[10] In January 2006, lead NASA climate scientist Dr James E Hansen and several other career scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies accused appointee George Deutsch of forbidding them from publicly discussing research on global warming risks.[11] The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, in March 2004 that criticized the unprecedented "manipulation, suppression, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration."

Much talk had circulated during Bush's first eight months in office over how to handle the stem-cell research debate. On August 8, 2001, in a televised address to the nation from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush announced that the federal government would provide funding, but only for research that used human embryos which had already been destroyed.

Military incidents

On February 9, 2001, a U.S. submarine, the USS Greeneville, collided with a Japanese fishing ship and killed 9 people on board the vessel. Bush soon apologized to the Japanese for this incident. In April 2001, a U.S. military spy plane was forced to land at a Chinese military airport. This spy plane incident between the United States and China, or Hainan Island incident, was one of the first major international challenges that the new administration had to face.

September 11, 2001

The World Trade Center on television as President Bush enters the room in which he is briefed on the attacks[12]

Prior to September 11, 2001, President Bush had been receiving growing criticism for the amount of vacation time he was taking. Due to the nature of the U.S. presidency there is no strict or clear guidance regarding days that the president can take off. Different sources claim that the president was averaging between two or three days off a week.[13][14] He spent most of August 2001 on a near month-long vacation.[15]

Eight months after Bush had taken office, however, a single day was to define the first term of his presidency. On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked airliners and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroying both 110-story skyscrapers, and into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. An aircraft thought to be intended to be used in an attack on either the White House or Capitol Hill was brought down in Pennsylvania, following a struggle between terrorists and the aircraft's passengers. On the evening of the day of these attacks, the President declared a War on Terror. Soon afterwards, President Bush's approval rating, calculated by the Gallup Organization, rose to 90%,[16] the highest approval rating it had recorded for any president.[17] Gallup begun its polls during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Policy response

President Bush's first policy response to 9/11 came on October 8, 2001, when, during a speech to Congress, he announced the creation of the Office of Homeland Security and appointed Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania, as its director. This was the first new executive-level office to be created since 1988, when President Ronald Reagan had appointed a head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The stated purpose of the Office of Homeland Security was "to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy" and "to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks."

This department's most public accomplishment came on March 12, 2002, when the Homeland Security Advisory System was unveiled, a system of color-coded alerts designed to warn the population of the United States of the assessed level of threat from terrorist activity, based on the evaluation of credible intelligence reports. The "terror alert" level was posted on a daily basis.

Military response

President George W. Bush signs The Flight 93 National Memorial Act in the Oval Office Standing with the President are Pennsylvania Congressman Sen. Rick Santorum, far left; Rep. John Murtha, center; and Sen. Arlen Specter.

Bush's military response to the terrorist attacks began in October 2001, with the deployment of 11,000 troops to Afghanistan. The invasion was supported by many countries, but especially by troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany. This military invasion was supported also by the Afghan Northern Alliance, a large group of allied Afghan tribes that had been waging a civil war against the Taliban for many years. The invasion was supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The stated goal of the mission was to overthrow the Taliban government, an Islamic fundamentalist regime thought to be allowing terrorist training camps directed at western targets to operate in Afghanistan and believed to be harboring Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization that was blamed for the 9/11 attacks, and which later claimed responsibility for them.

On Tuesday, September 24, 2001. President Bush signed a bill authorizing the building of a national memorial to the passengers and crew who died aboard Flight 93 when it crashed into Shanksville, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, during the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Foreign policy

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Red Sea Summit in Aqaba, Jordan, June 4, 2003.

Initial public perceptions of the Bush administration detected a lack of interest in foreign affairs[citation needed]. However, the Bush administration implemented a major change in U.S. foreign policy by withdrawing its participation in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, in order to pursue a national missile defense strategy of its own.[18] In June 2001, Bush gave a speech in Iowa touting missile defense as a sensible post-Cold War system.[19] International leaders criticized Bush for withdrawing U.S. support for the International Criminal Court soon after he assumed the presidency. The administration had voiced concerns that the court could conceivably over-rule the authority of the United States' judicial system.[20]

Although lauded by Republicans and conservatives, global public opinion was distrustful of any United States policy that reinforced its position as sole arbiter in world affairs. Bush publicly condemned Kim Jong-Il of North Korea and his Stalinist regime. Bush also undertook bold action by expressing U.S. support for the defense of Taiwan following its stand-off in March 2001 with the People's Republic of China over the crash of a Chinese air force jet and the detention of U.S. personnel. In 2003–04, Bush authorized U.S. military intervention in Haiti and Liberia to restore order and oversee a transition to democracy.


President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the Oval Office with: United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig-Moeller, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov, European Union Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten and European Union High Representative Javier Solana.

President Bush advocated a "hands-off" approach[citation needed] to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of rising violence in the region and the failure of the Clinton administration's efforts to negotiate. Bush specifically shunned the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for not tracking down Palestinian militant groups per Ariel Sharon's requirements, but following prompts from European leaders, he became the first American president to embrace a two-state solution in the Middle East, envisaging an independent Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel. Bush sponsored dialogue between Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, but continued his administration's boycott of Arafat. Bush also later supported Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and lauded the democratic elections held in the Palestinian National Authority following Arafat's death.

North Korea

During President Bush's first few months in office, the administration's focus was clearly on relations with North Korea and its nuclear efforts.

Bush doctrine

In 2002, during his State of the Union Address, Bush set forth what has become known as the Bush Doctrine. Although this doctrine was technically used for justifying the invasion of Afghanistan, it was not clearly stated as a matter of policy until this address. Simply put, because of the "new world" Americans were now living in and the possibility of further massive terrorist attacks orchestrated by organizations that existed in multiple places all over the world, the United States could no longer think of the world as being exclusively made up of sovereign nations. Because of this, the United States would now implement a policy of using preemptive military strikes against any nation known to be harboring or aiding a terrorist organization hostile to the United States. President Bush also outlined what he called the Axis of Evil, consisting of three nations that, he stated, posed the greatest threat to world peace at the time. These were Iraq, North Korea and Iran.


Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban had described Osama Bin Laden as their guest and refused to place him in United States custody, although Bin Laden may have been hiding out of the reach of the Taliban, in the mountains of Afghanistan.[attribution needed] The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the Taliban from the capital Kabul, and from large areas of Afghanistan, and a U.S.-approved government was installed. The majority of Al-Qaeda members, including Osama Bin Laden, were not captured, however, and some were still active in 2009. Bush has been criticized for sending an insufficient number of troops into Afghanistan initially and thus failing to achieve all of the mission's objectives. The Bush administration was successful in freezing Al-Qaeda funds and shutting down many of the terrorist training camps. The U.S. captured many Al-Qaeda leaders and members in the months and years following invasion.

Ellen Mariani, widow of Louis Neil Mariani, killed in the September 11 attacks, charged that Bush "has not been forthright and honest with regard to his administration's pre-knowledge of the potential of the 9/11 attacks."[21] Former White House chief counter-terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke criticized both the failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11, and the response to them in both domestic and foreign policy, in his book Against All Enemies.


Excerpt from Donald Rumsfeld memo dated November 27, 2001 [22]

In the days immediately following 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq. A memo written by Sec. Rumsfeld dated November 27, 2001 considers a US-Iraq war. One section of the memo questions "How start?", listing multiple possible justifications for a US-Iraq War.[22][23]

Weapons of mass destruction

The Bush administration began announcing in 2002[attribution needed] that officials had evidence for the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. The description of these devices ranged from chemical weapons to nuclear warheads with their associated delivery systems. The administration supported this claim with intelligence documents as well as aerial photographs. Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq, was described as being a threat to the world and to his own people as long as he remained in power – especially if his regime had access to WMDs. Saddam had been supplied with conventional weapons and other assistance by the United States during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, but since then, the political arena had altered, especially due to an increasingly hardline stance taken by Saddam in Iraq, and his arbitrary invasion of Kuwait in 1990.


President George W. Bush meets with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld outside the Oval Office shortly after authorizing operation Iraqi Freedom.

The armed forces of the United States and several other countries invaded Iraq in 2003. The operation was known in the United States as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although the American government, with encouragement from the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, had attempted to gain a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam from power, this attempt to gain international approval for the invasion was unsuccessful. Proponents of the use of force pointed to current and previous violations by Iraq of resolutions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations (UN) and the UN Security Council, as substantive enough to justify military intervention. President Bush, however, drew criticism for preemptively attacking a country that had never attacked the United States or threatened to do so, and for disregarding the opinion of the United Nations. He was criticized also, especially at home, for diverting attention away from capturing Osama Bin Laden. When asked during a press conference in March 2002 about what he was doing to capture Bin Laden, the president remarked: "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him.".[24]

On May 2, from the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, in front of a huge banner that read "Mission Accomplished", Bush declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." This drew criticism for being premature, since many Coalition forces were still fighting in Iraq. The banner, some said, was supposed to have been removed before the speech, and the president had not been involved.[attribution needed]

Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), made up of 1,200 members of British and American experts in the field of concealed weapons programs, was established. On October 3, 2003, it released its Interim report on Iraq, which stated that it had found numerous "WMD related materials" but no actual WMDs.

On November 27, 2003, the president made a surprise visit to Iraq to share a Thanksgiving dinner with the soldiers there in an effort to raise low morale. He spent two hours eating with troops at Baghdad International Airport before returning to the U.S.. The visit was kept top secret and even the army personnel had no idea he was coming. Some saw it as a patriotic gesture; others as a dangerous political stunt. Accompanied by U.S. National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the trip went without incident.

President George W. Bush talks with the press during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office. Friday, March 21, 2003.

A few weeks later, on December 13, Saddam Hussein, the deposed President of Iraq, was found and captured by U.S. forces. Pictures of the now bearded former leader, looking severely dazed, being poked and prodded by medical examiners, circulated in newspapers and on the Internet around the world. This was a boost to the Bush presidency; most Americans were pleased that Saddam had been found and captured.


On January 23, 2004, the head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), David Kay, resigned his position, stating that he believed WMDs would not be found in Iraq. "I don't think they existed," he commented. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s." Kay criticized the intelligence that led to the war in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying: "We were all wrong and that is most disturbing." The former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer was named by CIA director George Tenet as Kay's successor. In May, Bush's approval rating had fallen to 46%. On September 30, the ISG released the Duelfer Report, its final report, confirming David Kay's assertion that there were no WMDs in Iraq.

Some said that allegations of Iraqi development of WMDs were a lie to get access to Iraq's oil reserves and that Bush had committed young Americans' lives for financial gain.[attribution needed] Many people saw a continuation of this stance, even after the invasion, as illustrated by this May 29, 2003 statement:

"We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them."[25]

It is now known that the Bush administration had full knowledge, from their team of independent experts on May 27, 2003, that these labs were used for nothing more than filling weather balloons with hydrogen.[26]

Some people felt that the President had had adequate reason to attack Iraq and that he truly believed there were WMD development programs in place, given that allied intelligence agencies believed that they had grounds for suspicion, and that numerous requests by UN inspectors to visit facilities of interest in Iraq had consistently been refused by Saddam. Bush, in their opinion, was acting in the best interest of the United States.

Intelligence reform

As part of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, Congress planned to pass a major intelligence reform bill in the summer of 2004. However, the bill was slowed down by disagreements between the Republicans in Congress. Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter from California opposed the bill because he thought it moved too much control over intelligence operations and budgets from the military to a new national intelligence director. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin wanted the bill changed to stop states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. The Bush administration, however, was keen to push for the bill as part of its "war on terror" initiative, but it was blocked in the House on 20 November 2004.[27]

On December 10, 2004, an agreement was finally reached on the language of the bill and it was approved in the Senate by 89 votes to 2. The bill forced intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share information, called for a minimum federal standard for state drivers' licenses and for Homeland Security to set a standard for the identification needed to board a commercial aircraft. The bill created a new federal counter-terrorism center and a new, controversial, United States Director of National Intelligence, who was to be given strong budgetary control. However, the complexity of the bill's language was criticized, with concerns that it might lead to confusion over the director's exact powers. Bush, who passed the bill into law on December 17, was accused of pressuring Congress into passing the bill before the end of the year.[attribution needed] Some considered it to be the largest legislation overhaul in 50 years.[attribution needed]

2004 election

File:George W. Bush walks with Ryan Phillips to Navy One.jpg
Flying to the USS Abraham Lincoln, President George W. Bush walks across the tarmac to Navy One, an S-3B Viking jet, at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, 1 May 2003.


Intense issues in the Middle East, such as the overall security situation in Iraq and the lack of WMDs found in that country, fueled the fire for the 2004 election. During his campaign, Bush's platform changed little from that of the 2000 election, although he added several claims of success in fighting the war on terror and preventing another 9/11-style attack. Other presidential candidates criticized Bush for his failures in the war on terror, the war in Iraq, his policies on the environment, education, health care and the economy, the deficit in the Federal budget and his near-unilateral approach to foreign policy. Bush portrayed his Democratic opponent John Kerry as soft and said he would "flip-flop," or change opinions on issues for political gain. Kerry portrayed Bush as stubborn, rigid and unyielding in his views, although Republicans, seizing upon this, claimed that Bush's stubbornness was a positive asset for the country.

The campaign was bitterly fought and each candidate made attacks on his opponent in some form or another almost on a daily basis. The polls remained neck-and-neck in the weeks before the election. The only time either candidate was significantly ahead in the polls was after their political parties' conventions. After the 2004 Republican National Convention most polls showed an eleven-point lead for President Bush, which kept dwindling as time went on. Despite outcries by law enforcement agencies across the country, Bush allowed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban to quietly die on September 13; this did not substantially affect his approval rating, however. In fact, it went virtually unnoticed. Polls were very close to dead-even by the first presidential debate on September 30, 2004.

Presidential debates

During the three presidential debates, reactions to President Bush's performance were mixed. He was said to have scowled during the first debate several times, which he later made light of. Most media sources agree that he lost the first two debates. But by the third, which media sources saw as a tie, Bush had noticeably straightened up and appeared as firm and confident as he had been during past performances. Highly speculative claims that the President might have worn a wire or an earpiece of some kind during the last debate were suggested, based on pictures of Bush, taken during the debate, which show an apparent "bulge" running down his back. No investigation was ever conducted into these claims and most agree that if the president had been coached through an electronic device, his performances would probably have been better. Some technical problems surrounding this have been pointed out as well.

Election day

On the eve of Election Day, most polls showed President Bush ahead by 2%. Many popular television, radio and print media, however, predicted that John Kerry would win the presidency. Exit polls showed Bush leading by 2 to 3%.[28] As polling centers closed and the remaining votes were being counted, it became clear that Bush and Kerry were winning the same states that had been won by their parties in 2000. Bush managed to win the swing states of Florida (by 400,000 as opposed to the 537 margin of 2000) and Ohio (by 119,000). He won his re-election bid by 34 electoral votes, the end total being: Bush–286, Kerry–251. The next afternoon John Kerry conceded his candidacy. During a speech on that same day, Bush outlined what he hoped to do in his second term and stated that he interpreted the results of the election as a "mandate" from the American people.

The enthusiasm shown by the public in this election and its campaign resulted in a record voter turnout and something of a resurgence in the common American's interest in politics. It was often said that for Bush to have a successful second term, he must bridge a growing divide between Americans and win over his opponent's supporters. However, with a majority in both houses of Congress and the prospect of appointing three new Supreme Court Justices, getting his policies passed swiftly did not seem likely to require bi-partisan cooperation.

Time Magazine Person of the Year

On December 19, 2004, Time Magazine chose George W Bush to be its annual Person of the Year. Time Magazine gives this award to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse," and said they gave to it Bush "for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his 10-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years." They had made George W. Bush their Person of the Year in 2000. His father, former President George H. W. Bush, had received the title in 1990.

Response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami

President George W. Bush speaks with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga during a phone call in Crawford, Texas.

The president was beginning his post-Christmas vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch when he was informed of a devastating tsunami that was unfolding in the Indian Ocean. The first estimates of casualties were 22,000 people killed, of whom, six were Americans. These figures were to rise dramatically in the coming hours and days.

Bush said the earthquake was a "terrible loss of life and suffering" and a $15 million aid package was put together to help the Asian countries suffering from the devastation caused by this tsunami. The U.S. and other Western nations were criticized, however, first by the UN and then by The New York Times, for not providing enough aid. They claimed that the amount pledged by the United States was half as much as Republicans were planning to spend on inauguration festivities. The New York Times also criticized Bush for waiting three days to express his condolences to the countries hit by the disaster.

President George W. Bush addresses the press after meeting with his national security team at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

Further criticism was leveled at undelivered relief funds for the 2003 Earthquake in Iran and also that foreign aid money made up less than one quarter of one percent of the United States budget. As further details of the devastation around the Indian Ocean were revealed, Bush stepped up U.S. aid to $35 million in response and sent his brother, the Governor of Florida Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to Asia to assess the damage. After Japan announced that they were pledging US$500 million, the largest amount of any country so far, and when the death count had risen to estimates of around 150,000, Bush again increased the United States aid package to $350 million, making it the second largest contribution. On February 9, as relief efforts continued to be made, Bush asked Congress for a total of $950 million.

These financial pledges did not include the costs associated with the use of United States military personnel in the relief effort. By January 12, 2005, 15,000 troops had been committed, 25 ships and nearly 100 aircraft, whose role included the delivery of emergency supplies and search and rescue.

Private relief funding was also substantial. On January 3, 2005, the president named his two immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and father George H. W. Bush, to head up a major campaign to gather private funding to assist the tsunami victims. By January 11, only eight days later, $360 million had already been raised and more was expected.

Major bills passed

Although many bills were passed during Bush's first term, there were several initiatives that he not only spearheaded but which served to shape his general ideology. These were:


  • Fred Barnes. Rebel-in-Chief: How George W. Bush Is Redefining the Conservative Movement and Transforming America (2006)
  • L. Paul Bremer III, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (2006)
  • George W. Bush. George W. Bush on God and Country: The President Speaks Out About Faith, Principle, and Patriotism (2004)
  • James Mann. Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (2004)
  • Bob Woodward. Plan of Attack (2003)
  • Bruce Bartlett, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy (2006)
  • Hersh. Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (2004)
  • Stefan Halper. America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (2004)
  • Ron Suskind. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (2004)
  • George Packer. The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq (2005)
  • James Risen. State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration (2006)


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See also