The Endeavors of George W.bush’s Presidential Mandate, Split Between Domestic Reformation and Terrorist Attack Reprisal

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Bush Years

George W. Bush, who occupied the presidency from 2001 to 2009, faced some of the most difficult political issues of the 21st century. Domestically, challenges included effectively reforming the welfare system, implementing a successful economic policy, and adapting laws to increasing cultural diversity in America. On the foreign front, Bush had to respond to terrorist attacks, which he did by launching the Global War on Terrorism. All the while, his presidency was plagued by scandals such as the events surrounding his election and federal money that mysteriously disappeared.

George W. Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut. After spending his childhood in Midland and Houston, Texas, with his four siblings (Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy), Bush went on to study history at Yale (Rountree 11). Following his graduation from Yale University, Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard, where he rose quickly through the military ranks (Boehlert 1). His military career ended quickly, however, when he was suspended from flying in 1972 due to his refusal to take a required physical exam; he was officially discharged from the Air Force on November 21, 1974 (Boehlert 2). In the fall of 1973, Bush picked up his college education at the Harvard Business School, where he became the only U.S. president to earn an M.B.A. (Ahles 3). His first professional effort out of college began in 1978 with a campaign to become a House representative for Texas’ 19th congressional district; unfortunately for Bush, he lost by 6% to his opponent Kent Hance (Holmes 1). Bush then turned to the oil industry – with the help of some investors, he was able to establish Arbusto Energy, which he would sell to Spectrum 7 in 1984 (Lardner 1). In 1988, Bush assisted in his father’s presidential campaign, which gave him the experience needed to successfully run for his first political office (Governor of Texas) in 1995 (Slater 1). Bush governed Texas until December 21, 2000, and focused on decreasing state welfare, reducing crime, and setting higher standards for education (Slater 2). Many of these themes would continue to be a focus for Bush during his presidency.

In fact, welfare reform was among the first issues that Bush addressed during his presidency. Arguably Bush’s largest change to welfare policy was the style in which welfare funding was allocated. Prior to Bush’s presidency, the vast majority of federal welfare money was sent to welfare recipients in the form of a welfare check. Bush, however, set in place the legislative changes which have now caused over 60% of all welfare dollars to be allocated toward social service (e.g., child care, job training, adult education, mental health, substance abuse treatment, etc.) rather than toward direct monetary assistance to the poor (Allard 2). In addition, Bush promoted faith-based charity organizations as a direct alternative to federal welfare; this was an extension of his belief that private organizations are more effective managers of social care than the government (Allard 2). These policies reduced the amount of money directly received by those in need of welfare, and were therefore deemed ineffective by of Bush’s critics.

However, welfare reform was only one component of George W. Bush’s economic platform. During his presidential campaign, he stated that his primary agenda would be to reduce the role of the government in regulating the economy so as to allow the expansion of the private sector. In reality, little action was taken to reduce government regulation, and – largely due to the costly War on Terror – government spending increased more under Bush than any under other president since Lyndon B. Johnson (de Rugy 1). Campaign rhetoric aside, Bush’s major legislative accomplishment in regards to the economy actually wound up being the implementation of a series of tax cuts. The cuts began with the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which reduced the capital gains tax from 10% to 8% for those in the 15% income tax bracket, decreased income taxes across the board (especially on married couples), and simplified retirement plans (Price 1). Unfortunately, economists from both parties found that the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act was highly ineffective at generating economic growth, as were similar tax cuts passed later in Bush’s presidency. While the cuts were intended to promote job growth, unemployment decreased by only 1.6% in Bush’s first term; worse, the government lost $860 billion in tax revenue at a time when the national debt was rising rapidly (Price 3). The economy suffered most during Bush’s second term, however, which saw the 2008 recession (Gordon 1). The crisis had multiple causes – foremost was the bursting of the U.S. housing market bubble, wherein the median price of home sales declined rapidly after peaking in 2006; another economic issue was a global increase in the prices of oil and food (Isidore 1). During the crisis, Bush largely deferred to his economic advisers and made few public statements about potential solutions to the downfall (Isidore 2). By the end of Bush’s second term, the unemployment rate had reached 7.3% – a level of unemployment not surpassed since the 1980s (“US Unemployment Rate” 1). This information is particularly shocking given that Bush came into office during one of the greatest economic booms in modern history (Isidore 1). By all measures, Bush left the economy in a desolate state.

Another contributing factor in the economic decline during the Bush administration was the War on Terror, which was a reaction to al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on American soil. On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda coordinated four attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The attacks themselves caused well over $10 billion in damage, and Bush’s response to them was far more costly still (“The Cost of September 11” 1). Bush’s initial retaliation consisted of an attack on Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which was believed to be connected to al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden. The War on Terror was expanded in 2002 to the Philippines, in 2003 to Iraq, and in 2004 to Pakistan (Shah 1). In Afghanistan and Iraq alone, over 6,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed, while at least 400,000 Iraqi civilians have died during the war (Shah 1). Additionally, financial costs have exceeded $1.12 trillion, though this figure is expected to rise to $4 trillion once the war’s debt has been repaid (Veeren 89). Bush’s foreign policy objectives in the War on Terror therefore further hurt the U.S. economy.

At the same time, American culture was progressing toward acceptance of homosexuality. In 2001, at the beginning of Bush’s first term, only 35% of Americans favored gay marriage, and 57% opposed it; by the end of the Bush administration in 2009, about 40% of Americans were in favor, with only 49% opposed (“Gay Marriage” 1). However, this cultural growth was not reflected in Bush’s stance on civil rights for homosexuals. First, during his 2004 re-election campaign and again in his 2005 State of the Union address, Bush came out in support of the “Federal Marriage Amendment,” a Constitutional amendment which proposed to ban same-sex couples from obtaining any legal recognition (“Bush Urges Amendment” 1). Moreover, Bush once threatened to veto the Matthew Shepard Act, a piece of legislation which would have added attacks based on sexual orientation to the federal list of hate crimes (Costello 1). Thus, while American popular culture became increasingly favorable toward gay rights, the Bush administration remained staunchly opposed to such an expansion of civil liberties.

A final issue for the Bush administration came with the various scandals that arose. Bush’s first major scandal actually began some time before he ever set foot in the White House: his election in 2000 itself was the subject of much national outrage. Because the Bush-Gore election was so close, its overall outcome depended on which way Florida voted. After initially announcing that Al Gore had won Florida, news networks revised their statement, saying the state’s results were “too close to call” (“Disputed Election” 1). They then announced that Bush had won, only to be forced to retract this statement as well; in the end, it took five weeks to definitively announce a winner. Finally, it was declared that Bush had carried Florida. However, since the election effectively hinged on a couple hundred votes in a single state, much doubt was cast on this verdict, and the Florida Supreme Court ordered a recount (“Disputed Election” 2). Ultimately, the Supreme Court halted the recount, and three days later, the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore (arguably the most important Supreme Court case of the 21st century) decided, on a 5-4 vote, that no recount method could accurately determine the outcome of the Floridians’ vote by the December 12 deadline (“Disputed Election” 2). They also asserted that Florida’s recount procedures were unconstitutional, as they violated the Equal Protection Clause by using different standards for counting votes from different counties (“Disputed Election” 2). And so Bush won Florida, giving him the electoral vote but not, interestingly, the popular vote (“Disputed Election” 2). Bush’s scandals continued into his presidency. Perhaps most memorable was the scandal in which Bush’s Presidential Envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer was unable to account for $12 billion that had been allocated to the rebuilding of Iraq (Newton-Small 1). Notably, this had been more than half of Bremer’s budget, and yet it was nowhere to be found in Bremer’s accounting records. Bremer’s hearings in 2007 were a public embarrassment for the Bush administration and the Republican Party.

George W. Bush had a difficult presidency. After winning a disputed election which became the subject of a narrow Supreme Court decision, he was immediately confronted by a multitude of issues, from the economy to the al Qaeda attacks early in his first term. His policy, both domestic and foreign, wound up costing the U.S. trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, his critics accused him of neglecting growing cultural acceptance of the homosexuality movement and of involvement in scandals where billions of federal dollars disappeared. To say the Bush presidency was troubled, then, would be a massive understatement.

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