George Walker Bush
George Walker Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 6, 1946. He is the son of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush. He graduated from both Yale University and the Harvard Business School, and then moved to Texas to enter the oil business. He helped his father in his winning 1988 presidential campaign. Bush then bought a share of the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989, acting as managing partner for 5 years before winning the 1994 election for governor of Texas.
As Governor of Texas, Bush proved to be popular. He promptly used a budget surplus left by his predecessor to cut taxes and signed a vetoed law that allowed the carrying of concealed weapons. He also backed faith-based initiatives on issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, as well as domestic violence. He made education a priority by raising teacher’s salaries and improving test scores, though it did not result in an improvement in the overall performance of Texas schools.
His 2000 presidential election victory over incumbent Vice-President Al Gore was one of the most controversial in history, with Bush winning the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. With only 8 months in office, the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on 9/11 called for a strong response and Bush did not disappoint his supporters. Within weeks, he launched aerial bombing attacks on Afghanistan, which was claimed to have been the hiding place for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. That was followed by troops and open warfare. Within 18 months, Bush opened hostilities in Iraq in an effort to oust long-term Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The attack was justified by claims that Iraq possessed usable weapons of mass destruction, a claim that was found later to be false.
These terrorist acts, as part of the overall “War on Terror,” were the reasoning behind the Bush Administration’s development of the Patriot Act, which Bush signed into law. The Act suspends and modifies civil rights in the areas of search and seizure, burden of proof and habeas corpus, along with infringements on privacy rights, if the government suspects an individual or group of terrorist acts. Bush also greenlighted the use of enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and other torture methods during the interrogation of suspected terrorist subjects both here and abroad.
Domestically, Bush signed a series of tax cuts aimed at stimulating business. The two biggest programs of the Bush Administration was the No Child Left Behind Act, which set new national achievement standards and tied funding to test scores. He also expanded Medicare drug benefits for seniors. Bush was unsuccessful in reforming the Social Security system, attempting to partially privatize the system and to allow workers to place their Social Security contributions into personal accounts. He set up “temporary guest worker” status for illegal immigrant workers while tightening border security, partially due to the 9/11 attacks. By the end of his administration, the U.S. had gone from a budget surplus to a record deficit.
Bush was widely criticized for his handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not act in a timely or comprehensive manner and that overall government response was slow, inefficient and ineffective. The waffling and excuses given by the Bush Administration did nothing to dispel the criticism. Bush was also criticized for not clamping down on Wall Street and abuses within the lending market, particularly the subprime market. The collapse of the mortgage market, and the housing market with it, was the catalyst for the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression. The recession had global negative impact. There was a further uproar when the administration initiated the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) that bailed out mismanaged financial institutions deemed “too big to fail.”