George Walker Bush
Forty-third president of the United States; former governor of Texas (1994-2000). Born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut. Bush — often referred to as simply "W" — is the eldest son of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush. He grew up in Midland, Texas, where his father worked in the oil business. His siblings include Jeb (now governor of Florida), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died tragically of leukemia in 1953 at the age of three. Like his father, Bush attended the prestigious Philips Andover Academy in Massachusetts before matriculating at Yale University. He graduated from Yale with a bachelor’s degree in 1968, then returned to Texas and joined the Texas Air National Guard, where he learned to fly fighter jets. He eventually became a lieutenant, but was never called on to fight in Vietnam.
The early 1970s marked a distinctly unfocused period in Bush's life, as he moved back to East Texas and worked intermittently as a management trainee at an agricultural firm and on U.S. Senate campaigns in Florida and Alabama. (In response to questions from reporters about possible drug use and heavy drinking during his bachelor days in Midland, Bush has called the early 1970s his "nomadic" period and has somewhat evasively stated that he would pass a background check going back as far as 1974.) In 1972, Bush entered Harvard Business School, earning his M.B.A. in 1975.
Still following in the footsteps of his father, Bush decided to try his hand in the oil business. He returned to Midland and formed an independent oil and gas exploration company that he called Arbusto (the Spanish word for "bush"). He married Laura Welch, a former teacher and librarian, in 1977. In 1981, she gave birth to twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
In the midst of his business ventures, Bush joined the 1978 race for the U.S. House of Representatives. After a tough victory in the primaries, Bush ran in the general election against Democratic State Senator Kent Hance. He displayed prodigious fundraising capabilities, setting a new Texas record for a House candidate. In the end, however, he lost to Hance by six percentage points.
As the declining oil prices of the early 1980s took their toll on his company (by now renamed Bush Exploration), Bush accepted an offer to merge with an oil-investing fund called Spectrum 7, and became a chairman of the resulting corporation. In 1986, after a sudden collapse in the price of oil, Bush arranged for Spectrum to be sold to Harken Energy for a bargain price. He later sold his original stock shares and made a considerable profit.
Shortly after his 40th birthday in July 1986, the sometimes-wayward Bush reached a turning point in his personal and professional life. He quit drinking altogether and became more religious, turning to his wife’s Methodist faith (his family is Episcopalian). He also became noticeably more serious and driven professionally, a change many pegged to his father’s decision to run for president in 1988. Drawn by the challenge of national politics, Bush moved with his family to Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1987 to work on the elder George Bush's successful campaign. Though George W. Bush had no official title on the campaign staff, he was his father's most trusted confidant and a major point of contact for his colleagues. He also became known as a talented speaker and as the campaign's chief liaison to Christian conservatives.
Shortly after the election in November 1988, the younger Bush moved back to Texas, this time to Dallas, where he organized a group of wealthy investors (including himself) and arranged the purchase of the Texas Rangers professional baseball team. As the team's managing partner, Bush became a fixture in the stands at the Rangers' home games and earned a name for himself in Texas aside from his family's impressive legacy. (He also earned a good deal of money — after an initial outlay of only $606,000, Bush walked away with nearly $15 million when the team was sold in 1998.)
Despite his success with the Rangers, Bush shocked everyone — including his family — when he was elected governor of Texas in 1994, defeating the popular incumbent, Democrat Ann W. Richards, by 350,000 votes. Showing enviable composure and focus during the campaign, Bush triumphed on a platform including increased local control of schools and welfare reform. During his first legislative session in 1995, Bush achieved most of his goals, including important steps towards tort reform—or limiting the ability of plaintiffs to bring lawsuits, which especially appealed to Texas's big business interests. His affable nature and ability to appeal personally to nearly everyone across party lines made him the most popular big-state governor in the country by the end of his first year—even the Democrat-controlled legislature found him agreeable to work with.
In 1997, Bush backed a huge tax reform plan that would have lowered property taxes by a staggering $3 billion per year, among other cuts. It was a great political risk that would please neither conservatives nor liberals — his fellow Republicans in the state legislature defeated the bill. In the end, however, taxes were cut by $1 billion from reforms made from the remnants of his plan, and Bush emerged from the failure relatively intact. In November 1998, Bush became the first Texas Governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms, winning by an impressive margin of 65% to 35% and drawing a record number of black and Hispanic voters to the Republican ticket. His success in Texas, especially among minority voters, peaked the interest of the Republican Party’s national organization, which saw the younger Bush as a viable choice to challenge the incumbent Democrats and their anointed candidate, Vice President Al Gore, at the national level.
In June of 1999, George W. Bush officially announced his intention to run for president of the United States, billing himself as a "compassionate conservative." Basing his campaign on promises to make the Republican Party more inclusive and to restore dignity to what Republicans saw as a tarnished White House, Bush placed a strong emphasis on his desire to improve education — his most passionately felt cause — and his commitment to limited government and welfare and tax reform. Critics pointed to his relative inexperience in politics and his focus on protecting only wealthy individuals and big business interests, while supporters saw him as a much-needed dose of good-natured Middle American reality for the often-nasty realm of Washington politics. Liberals who scoffed at the "compassionate" nature of Bush's conservatism point to the Texas governor’s support of the current death penalty system (which they saw as deeply flawed), his anti-abortion stance, and his opposition to hate-crime legislation that would protect homosexuals.
Despite a few early blunders — including his failure to identify several world leaders when asked by a reporter and a primary campaign visit to Bob Jones University, an institution known for its anti-Catholic views — and an unexpectedly strong challenge from Senator John McCain, Bush emerged triumphant on "Super Tuesday" in early March 2000, winning both New York and California among other states. His success forced McCain to suspend his campaign indefinitely (he later formally endorsed Bush).
In July 2000, Bush announced his choice of running mate: Richard B. Cheney, a former congressman from Wyoming who served as defense secretary under Bush's father. Bush and Cheney were formally nominated at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia on August 2. Their battle for the White House against Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, was one of the closest and most disputed presidential elections in the country's history.
On election night, November 7, it all came down to the state of Florida and its 25 electoral votes. With a razor-thin lead in the state (though he trailed Gore in the popular vote), Bush was first declared the winner by the news networks, and Gore called to concede the election. Hours later, the final count in Florida looked too close to call, and Gore rescinded his concession as the recounts began. After five weeks of complicated legal battles that stretched all the way to the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stop the recounts in Florida, effectively declaring Bush the winner of the state by a margin of 537 votes. On December 13, one day after this decision, Gore ended his campaign and congratulated Bush on his victory, as both men urged the nation to try to put partisan differences aside in the wake of the extraordinary election. In his first address as president-elect, Bush continued to stress bipartisanship, a central theme of his campaign, and promised to be the leader of "one nation," not "one party."
George W. Bush was inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States on January 20, 2001. Since taking office, his Administration has been marked by the political success of his campaign to cut taxes, the waning of the economic boom and corporate corruption. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Bush declared a war against terror marking the rise of a unilateral and muscular approach to U.S. foreign policy.
In 2002, after a lapse of four years, the U.N. resumed weapons inspections in Iraq, warning "serious consequences" if Saddam Hussein failed to offer inspectors unrestricted access. But almost immediately after the U.N. resolution was passed, diplomats started disagreed on whether the use of force was justified if Iraq didn't comply. In March 2003, after months of debate, the United States and Britain led the war on Iraq without the support of the U.N. Security Council. After four weeks, coalition ground and air forces surrounded and captured Baghdad, and the Pentagon declared that major combat in Iraq was over.
On December 13, 2003, acting on a tip, U.S. forces captured Hussein, who was hiding in a hole in the ground at a farmhouse outside of Tikrit. Upon capture, President Bush declared "a dark and painful era" over in Iraq.
In November 2004, Bush won a second term as President of the United States after a victory over Masschusettes Senator John Kerry. Though the campaign leading up to the election was often bitter and divisive, Bush claimed a more decisive win than in 2000.
Bush’s second term has received harsh criticism, particularly with regard to his handling of the War in Iraq and the domestic economy. According to Gallup polls, his domestic approval rating plummeted to 26 percent in June 2007, the lowest for any sitting president in 35 years.