Tuesday, January 18, 2011
George W. Bush
Nickname: W, Dubya, Schrub
With Clinton's Vice President, Al Gore, unable to distance himself from Clinton and his affair, Bush and the Republicans claimed the moral high ground and sought to prove that they could have a scandal free president. Bush won, though he lost the popular vote, and many still argue today that shady dealings lead to his election as president. Bush had become the second president to be a son of a president, the other being John Quincey Adams.
Upon taking office, Bush persuaded Congress to approve the greatest tax cut since the Reagan administration, since the Clinton presidency had given the nation a surplus. Two years later, faced with a lagging economic recession, he pushed through an even larger cut. He shaped education reform by imposing annual standardized tests for students, which involved No Child Left Behind. NCLB, while encouraging standardized testing, made teachers around America take new tests to teach subjects, since the law deemed that teachers were not qualified to teach a subject unless they have a major in it. In foreign affairs, Bush shifted policy away from the direction that Clinton had followed. Generally distrustful of international treaties that he viewed as counter to U.S. self-interest, Bush rejected a long-sought agreement on global warming known as the Kyoto Protocol. Despite lacking American support, the Kyoto Protocol Treaty was ratified in November of 2004. Bush also took a greater stance against partial birth abortions.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. shifted the focus of the administration. In the weeks after the attacks, most Americans rallied to the president's side, as he vowed to wage a war on worldwide terrorism. That fall, American forces moved into Afghanistan and crushed the Taliban government that had supported the al-Quaeda terrorist forces. Charging that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction and was an imminent threat to the United States, Bush then convinced Congress to authorize an invasion of Iraq. In the spring of 2003, despite global opposition, Bush launched arguably the first preemptive war in American history. Although the Iraqi government collapsed, Americans still have not totally left the country, though current President Obama has officially ended the U.S. involvement in the Iraq War.
Widespread job loss throughout his first term and seemingly endless occupation of Iraq threatened Bush's chances for reelection. Bush, with a platform of not switching leaders during a war and the luck of the Democrats picking the worst possible candidate, won, though it was still a close election. Bush's popularity continued to take a fall, as unemployment rose, the deficit increased, gas prices rose to stupid amounts, and the two wars continued. To make matters worse, Hurricane Katrina basically destroyed most of New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. A delayed response from FEMA caused blame to come to the Bush administration as many found that the government should of taken more on top of things. Near the end of Bush's second term, the housing market collapsed, causing an economic crisis. The crisis quickly turned into a recession which we currently are still in. Many people lost tens of thousands of dollars to the crisis and it has led to a spike in unemployment which has hit some states more than others, namely my home state of Michigan.
Bush, to say the least, made a few questionable decisions throughout his administration. The choice to provide massive tax cuts gave us mixed results, as has NCLB. Many find that basing everything on standardized tests is not a fair representation of student intelligence, and many teachers who were teaching for over 20 years were upset that they all of a sudden couldn't teach certain subjects without taking a test to prove they knew the subject. I can see why NCLB was passed, as it attempts to provide students with optimum learning from teachers who have great knowledge of what they are teaching, and not ones who have taken less classes. I admit that I have a personal bias in this category but I'm not basing Bush's overall grade on it. Bush led us into two wars, the first time in history that we have been in two wars at the same time, and both appear to be never ending. Bush however much people disliked him, was a proactive president that didn't shy away from conflicts. We will see what effect the two wars have on the world, though most would agree that not having Saddam Hussein in power is probably a good thing. Though Bush is consistently put near the bottom of the greatest president polls, many president's legacies have changed over time. Only time will tell how future historians and writers will view his presidency.