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[1] George W. Bush was born on July 6th, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut -- the first son of George and Barbara Bush. He came from an extremely successful family, as his grandfather Prescott Bush was a wealthy senator from Connecticut, and his father George H. W. Bush held such prestigious titles as the ambassador to China, the head of the C.I.A., and the 41st president of the United States. When Bush Jr. was born, however, his father was still a 22-year-old Yale student who had returned to school after deferring acceptance to serve in the Navy.

[2] Bush began following in his father’s footsteps early on, attending Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, that his father also attended. In Decision Points, Bush writes that in high school, he struggled academically but thrived socially, befriending such other Texans as Clay Johnson, who ended up going to college with him as well. This pattern seemed to continue at Yale, where Bush went to college and was a solid C student, who, ironically, struggled in such classes as political science and economics. In fact, many of his professors have no recollection of having him as a student. However, once again, he thrived socially, becoming a brother of the fraternity DKE, playing rugby, and joineing the secret society, the Skull and Crossbones Society.

[3] When Bush finished college, the United States was at war with Vietnam, and he felt that it was his duty to serve his country. He wanted to join the Air Force, but his father suggested he join the Texas Air National Guard, which required a year of training. Training completed, Bush logged his mandatory flying hours while working at an agribusiness. He then moved to Alabama to work on Red Blount’s campaign for U.S. Senate, a period in his life Bush refers to as his “nomadic years.” Bush felt that he didn’t need to do anything too serious for the first decade after college but, rather, that his 20s were a time of exploration. For most of his life to that point, Bush had followed a very similar path as his father, but as he prepared to leave the Air Guard, he was at a very different place in his life than his father had been.

[4] Hoping to explore more options, Bush applied to and attended Harvard Business School at the age of 27. Unlike most of his classmates, however, he was not interested in working on Wall Street and moved back to Texas to work in the oil business, where he started Arbusto Energy in 1977. In July of this year he met Laura Welch at a barbeque at his friend Joe O’Neill’s house. Bush had just turned thirty and was getting tired of his rootless life. He and Laura had an extremely fast courtship; he proposed to her by September of that year.

[5] Bush faced personal struggles with alcohol during this period. He attributes his ability to overcome this disease to Laura’s support and to his faith. For much of his life, he never really considered religion to be extremely important. He writes that he was" listening but not hearing.” Religion was more a traditional experience for him than a spiritual one. In the summer of 1985, however, he met the famous evangelical preacher Billy Graham at his family’s summer home in Maine. Graham taught Bush many things about Christianity, such as the fact that the self is not the center of religion but that Christ is, and that we are all sinners, and that the only way we can be saved is through the grace of God. That was his initial introduction to faith. When he went back to Texas, he started attending weekly Bible studies at a local church. Bush now considers himself a “Born-Again Christian.”

[6] By the time he turned forty in 1986, Bush was habitually drinking every day. He recalls Laura asking him the last time he went an entire day without drinking, to which he replied that he could not think of a single day within the past few months. On his 40th birthday, he got very drunk and had a horrible hangover the next morning. He went on a run, and by the time the run was over, he had decided to quit drinking. He attributes his ability to quit “cold turkey” to the fact that he was running, which gave him a sense of discipline and motivation, and on his new religious conversion, which gave him strength: "I could not have quit drinking without faith. I also don't think my faith would be as strong if I hadn't quit drinking. I believe God helped me open my eyes, which were closing because of booze."

[7] In 1978, Bush ran for Congress, losing the election to Democrat Kent Hance. He then dedicated himself to his business and to running the Texas Rangers. In 1994 he again ran for office, this time for the position of governor of Texas. He won the election against Ann Richards, and was so popular during his first term that Democrats had trouble finding a candidate to run against him in the 1998 election. The election was a landslide victory for Bush, as he won 239 of Texas’s 254 counties. On March 7, 1999, he announced that he had created a presidential exploratory committee.

[8] Bush ultimately won the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2000. His opponent was Al Gore. The election was one of the closest in history. 105 million ballots were cast, and the result was ultimately determined by several hundred votes. On the night of the election, Gore originally conceded to Bush, but then it became clear that the results from Florida were too close to count, so Gore rescinded the concession. The decision was taken to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled by a 4-3 vote in Gore’s favor. However, Bush appealed this ruling, and on December 12th, 35 days after the election, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the previous ruling because they claimed it was unfair to count the results from Florida. Thus, Bush finally won the election.

[9] While in office, Bush faced many challenges. The first and arguably most significant was the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Terrorists part of the group al Qaeda hijacked four planes, crashing two into the twin towers, one into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks completely changed Bush’s view on foreign policy. He began his term emphasizing the importance of U.S. interests close to home; however, after the attacks, the American public was shocked and ready to mobilize. Thus, policy options that previously would not have garnered any support from the American people were now possibilities. There was now an external threat, and Bush launched the “war on terror” and initiated conflict in Afghanistan. He spoke in concrete terms, famously saying, "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the US as a hostile regime." This war was unlike any other war in history, Bush claimed, because there was not one definitive state that was the enemy.

[10] In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush outlined the “axis of evil,” consisting of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, saying that “States like [them], and their terrorist allies, constitute an Axis of Evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.” He also established the Bush Doctrine, which established the possibility of preemptive strike on countries the United States established as enemies.

[11] The Taliban was defeated in Afghanistan, but Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11 attack, was not captured. In light of the recently launched “war on terror” and the failure to capture bin Laden, some neo-conservatives felt that overthrowing the regime in Iraq was a good idea, since it would demonstrate the USA’s power while simultaneously freeing Iraq of an evil dictator in Saddam Hussein. However, the American public was not convinced that this was an appropriate course of action. The argument then turned to Hussein’s connection with al Qaeda and his possession of weapons of mass destruction. This claim was not supported by publicly available information or by the CIA. Bush’s advisors stated that the USA could not wait for Iraq to attack, as they were a mortal danger, and therefore supported preemptive strike. On September 12, 2002, Bush announced that Hussein could either disarm or he would be disarmed by force and that the USA would not wait long to make sure Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

[12] Most historians agree that the Afghanistan conflict was justifiable, as it was directly related to the September 11 terrorist attack and was necessary to clear out the Taliban. However, the necessity of the USA’s involvement in Iraq is much more heavily disputed. It was initiated under false pretenses, as no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Author Bert Rockman writes that "the fact that the inspection team found nothing, but was still looking at the point that the Bush administration set a deadline for Saddam's removal and for the war to commence, must at least give some pause as to whether the threat of WMD was ever the real motive for the war."

[13] Other significant issues during Bush’s first term included significant tax cuts, the No Child Left Behind act, and what to do with terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay. In 2001 and 2003 Congress passed tax cuts that totalled $1.5 trillion throughout Bush’s presidency. The 2001 tax cuts were the first major piece of legislation Bush signed into law. They were the first national tax cuts in over 20 years.

[14] The No Child Left Behind Act was created because Bush felt that by accepting low scholastic achievement from minority students, the United States was partaking in "the soft bigotry of low expectations." The law required standardized testing and tied the funding that schools received to the results of these standardized tests. The Act was controversial, however, because many people felt not enough resources were being allocated to properly run the program. Also, students in ESL classes and students with mental disabilities had to take the same standardized tests as everyone else, which made inner city public school feel like they were being targeted by the new legislation.

[15] Finally, Guantanamo Bay was a naval station in Cuba that was used during the Bush presidency to detain terrorists. It was controversial because many people accused the CIA of using torture, specifically because Bush allowed waterboarding, which is simulated drowning. The use of torture goes against the Geneva Conventions; however, Bush and his advisors claimed that they used completely legal “advanced interrogation techniques” that were necessary and justified in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. Further, Bush even stated that the Geneva Convention’s rules did not apply in the case of a war on terror.

[16] In the 2004 election, Bush’s opponent was Senator John Kerry. The campaign was ruthless on both sides. Ads compared Bush to Hitler and claimed that Kerry was a traitor to his country. However, Bush won the election. A significant event at the beginning of his second term was Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005. While his administration argued that he was “was guided here by his experience as governor of Texas and his belief that such matters are best left to lower-level officials,” Bush was heavily criticized for his inaction during the catastrophe. Howard Dean, outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that it “showed he is incompetent” and that “Before Katrina, everyone, including America's friends and enemies, believed if something awful happened in the world, you could call in the Americans and they'd fix it.” The financial meltdown that occurred in 2007 was another event that marked Bush’s second term. He supposedly went against his “gut instinct,” which was to allow the financial giants on Wall Street to collapse and, at the advice of his consultants, issued a large bailout.

[17] Since leaving the White House in 2008, Bush has returned to Texas and kept a relatively low profile. In January 2012, he collaborated with former president Bill Clinton to fundraise money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Also, in November 2012 he published his memoir, Decision Points.

Print Resources

Bush, George W. Decision Points. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010.
Bush's memoir is a reflection on the most important decisions, both politically and personally, that he made throughout his life. For this reason, Bush writes in the introduction, the book "flows thematically, not in a day-by-day chronology." Writing in a light and joking tone, Bush explains his reasoning behind certain controversial events during his presidency, such as the torture at Guantanamo Bay and his decision to invade Iraq. He even acknowledges some mistakes, such as his inaction during Hurricane Katrina. He provides much insight into his personal life, going out of his way to emphasize how close he is with his father, for example. The motivation for writing his memoirs was to show the world the internal mental process he went through that led him to each decisive decision and event in his life. He hopes that the book can be used as a tool for people studying his era of history and as a perspective on how to make decisions in complex environments.
Campbell, Colin, and Bert A. Rockman, eds. The George W. Bush Presidency: Appraisals and Prospects. Washington: CQ Press, 2004.
A collection of essays written after Bush's first term in office. Subject areas explored include Bush's foreign and domestic policies, his "approach to executive leadership," the public's opinion of him, and his judicial nominees. One of the major foci is the USA's involvement in Iraq.
Campbell, Colin, Bert A. Rockman, and Andrew Rudalevige, eds. The George W. Bush Legacy. Washington: CQ Press, 2008.
A collection of essays by esteemed historians, written after Bush's second term and therefore attempting to determine how he will be perceived in the future and what his impact as a president has been. The authors acknowledge that Bush's presidency has been one of "consequence" and has therefore been very controversial. They also explore how durable his impact will be to future generations and to the future of the USA.
Cheney, Dick, with Elizabeth Cheney. In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Cheney's memoir emphasizes his aggressive political beliefs in respect to many issues such as foreign policy and national security, both extremely important during President Bush's time in office. He provides an extensive reflection on his role in politics for almost forty years. When talking about his time as vice president, Cheyney skims over a few pivotal moments such as the controversial invasion of Iraq on false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction. However, he does address issues such as Guantanamo Bay, infamous for using torture. However, like many of Bush's cabinet members and Bush himself, Cheyney maintains that it was a "model facility" and that all treatment of prisoners was humane. Cheyney praises the President's thorough response to Hurricane Katrina, though many people criticized him for his inaction after the disaster. Further, Cheney sheds light on some of the relationships within the cabinet. He is condescending when referring to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and overtly hostile towards former Secretary of State Colin Powell but seems to have had a strong relationship with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He also shares some information about his personal life, including his health issues.
Hatfield, James. Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2001.
This bombastic and highly critical biography of Bush has faced much opposition and controversy, switching publishers multiple times, with the first publisher promising to burn 88,000 copies of the book after receiving threats from the Bush campaign's lawyers. Hatfield paints Bush as a shrewd and ruthless, though nonetheless ignorant, politician. As the title suggests, Hatfield also characterizes Bush as privileged and lazy. It begins with a section of Bush's misquotes, commonly knowns as "Bushisms," and covers most of his life up to the election. Interestingly, it was released in 1999, before the 2000 election, so it contains no information about Bush's terms as president but rather about how he had received unfair advantages his whole life because of his family's position.
Rice, Condoleezza. No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington. New York: Crown, 2011.
Rice reflects on her time as part of Bush's cabinet. She describes what it was like to be part of the administration in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and tells readers about the debate that took place over the USA's subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. She writes about her experience appearing before the September 11 Commission in order to answer questions regarding the nation's response to the terrorist attacks on that day. She also talks about such issues as her political differences with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and how she regrets taking a vacation just as Hurricane Katrina hit. Furthermore, she mentions the significance of her race as the "highest-ranking black in the administration and a key advisor to the president."
Rove, Karl. Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. New York: Threshold Editions, 2010.
Rove discusses not only his political motivations and desires but also his dark personal narrative. His mother committed suicide, and he later discovered that the man he thought was his father was actually his stepfather. He is passionate and aggressive when talking about such political opponents as Al Gore and President Obama, and he defends Bush. Unsurprisingly, Rove attempts to shape history in his party and cabinet's favor. Rove uses the book as a means to "set the record straight" on a number of accusations against himself and the former president, such as Joe Wilson's accusation against Bush's statement in the 2003 State of the Union address that Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium in Africa. He is also very passionate about the debate over whether or not weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq and accuses liberals of being as involved in the politics surrounding the controversy as Bush and his cabinet were.
Stanford, David, and G. B. Trudeau.'s The War in Quotes. New York: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008.
"A startling account of the Iraq War, told entirely in the words of those who conceived, planned, advocated, and executed it. Presented in chronological order in thematic groups against a timeline of key events, this astonishing record of remarks both public and private speaks for itself, chronicling the dramatic unfolding of America's first preventative war."
Suskind, Ron. The One Percent Doctrine: Deep inside America's Pursuit of its Enemies since 9/11. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007.
Suskind focuses on the USA's search for terrorists post September 11th, criticizing the Bush administration for combating terrorists with political motivations in mind rather than the nation's safety. He raises a number of conspiracy theories, such as the idea that members of al Qaeda may have been caught and accidentally released and that there is an operational cell containing weapons of mass destruction located inside the United States. The title of the book comes from the famous quote by Dick Cheney that "if there was even a one percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction . . . the United States must now act as if it were a certainty."
Suskind, Ron. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
Paul O'Neill was the Secretary of the Treasury for part of George W. Bush's first term. The book is based on extensive and detailed accounts provided by O'Neill, including a description of each of his days in office, as well as copies of every document that he received while working for the White House. Suskind writes that O'Neill felt that the greatest threat to national security is not the revelation of actual secrets but the poor analysis of this confidential information. Therefore, O'Neill and Suskind worked together to provide readers with access to information about the Bush presidency so that they can draw their own conclusions. The result is an in-depth analysis of Bush's decisions and policies from the unique perspective of a former, estranged cabinet member.
Suskind, Ron. The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism. New York: Harper, 2008.
Suskind writes a bombastic expose of the Bush Administration's supposed misuse of power and intelligence regarding the invasion of Iraq and Iraq's supposed possession of nuclear weapons. Suskind even calls for Bush's impeachment. He also delves into the question of whether or not we are truly faced with a threat by nuclear weapons. According to him, we are. It is "what may be humanity's last great race,, that is, a race between civilized governments and terrorist organizations, he says. The book follows the stories of a number of different people, such as a Pakistani immigrant who is mistakenly detained and interrogated by the Secret Service and an American lawyer who represents a Libyan imprisoned at Guantanamo. These stories show the growing tensions and conflicts involving the Middle East, nuclear energy and weaponry, and the United States.
Woodward, Bob. Plan of Attack. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
This book explores President Bush's reasoning behind going to war with Iraq and the secret steps he took without Congress's knowledge in the wake of September 11th. It focuses partially on Bush's actions leading up to and during war and partially on the military's actions. Using information gathered through interviews with seventy-five people, including Bush himself, Woodward provides the reader with in-depth portrayals of such Bush cabinet members as Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. He reveals that Bush was thinking about Iraq a mere five days after the September 11 attacks.
Woodward, Bob. Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
The first in a series of books about the President and meant to be about Bush's first year in office. However, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, the focus shifted to the "war on terror" and the USA's involvement in Afghanistan. Much of the book contains accounts of the National Security Council meetings that occurred after the terrorist attacks. The CIA's role in the war and the beginnings of the idea to invade Iraq are also explored. Another important issue in the Bush administration was the division among members of the presidential cabinet. There was clearly a divide in the philosophical beliefs of Powell and Cheney/Rumsfeld.
Woodward, Bob. State of Denial. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.
This book, a follow-up to two other books by Woodward that deal with the Bush Administration, examines the president's management of the Iraq War following the invasion in 2003. He believes that there is a "state of denial" about what actually occurred in Iraq and heavily criticizes the management of the Iraq War. He feels that Rumsfeld was evasive and removed and that he was merely power-hungry. He also accuses Bush of being a weak, ineffective leader while the nation was at war. Essentially, Woodward explores the plethora of problems that the United States faced during the involvement in Iraq and how the people in power chose to deal with them.

See Also

Clarke, Richard. Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror. New York: Free Press, 2004.

Cockburn, Andrew. Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, 2007.

Corn, David. The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. New York: Crown Publishers, 2003.

Gordon, Michael R., and Bernard E. Trainor. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.

Isikoff, Michael, and David Corn. Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.

Mayer, Jane, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

Minutaglio, Bill. First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. New York: Random House, 1999.

Ritter, Scott. Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America. New York: Context Books, 2003.

Rumsfeld, Donald. Known and Unknown: A Memoir. New York: Sentinel, 2011.

Scheer, Christopher, and Robert Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry. The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq. New York: Akashic Books, 2003.

Schweizer, Peter, and Rochelle Schweizer. The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.

Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. "First Father: Tough Times on Sidelines." New York Times 9 August 2007.

Tenet, George. At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Walsh, Kenneth T. "Looking Back on President George W. Bush's Troubled Presidency." US 8 December 2008.

Video/Audio Resources

Bush Declares War on Terror
Televised address to Congress after 9/11: Sept. 20, 2001.
Bush Declares War!
Television address to the nation announcing opening stages of war on Iraq.
Bush Jokes about WMD
White House Correspondents' Dinner March 2004.
Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq
Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner around the time of the 2004 election.
CNN Coverage of Shock And Awe
March 19, 2003.
Colin Powell's UN Presentation on Iraq WMD
Powell makes the case for invasion.
Dead Wrong: Colin Powell's UN Speech
CNN report on Powell's UN speech.
Fourth Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Progress report: March 19, 2007.
George Bush threatens Iraq 03-17-03
"Final Days of decision."
George W. Bush - 9/11 Bullhorn Speech
Bullhorn Speech to Emergency Rescue Workers at 9/11 Ground Zero, New York.
George W. Bush The Night of 9-11-01
The first speech to the nation.
Journeys with George. Alexandra Pelosi (Actor), Aaron Lubarsky (Director). HBO (2002).
This documentary made by Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, and Aaron Lubarsky, follows Bush on his campaign trail prior to the 2000 election. Pelosi was working for NBC at the time and was traveling with the campaign. She provides a "behind-the-scenes" look at Bush's relationship with the press, his personality, and what it takes to run a presidential campaign.
Moore, Michael. Fahrenheit 9/11. (2004)
Michael Moore's view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Mission Accomplished" -- REAL Speech
On shipboard announcing the end of military operations: May 1, 2003.
Saddam Hussein Statue Pulled Down To The Ground
April 9, 2003.
Speech Marking End of Major Combat Ops In Iraq ("Mission Accomplished")
Delivered aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May 2003.

Online Resources

Fact-Checking Oliver Stone's 'W.' — Is The Film True To Life? 8 October 2008.
The film makes a number of bold assertions, the validity of which are explored here. In the film, Bush got a girl pregnant; in reality, there is a rumor that he had a relationship that resulted in a pregnancy and that he arranged for the girl to get an abortion, though he is pro-life and abortions were then illegal in Texas. However, Bush has never commented on the rumor. Also, the film shows that Bush loves the musical Cats, which Stone says is a fact that his research team uncovered. Further, the film featured a character named Jack Hawk, who hosted a conservative program called Spinball, and who was full of praise for Bush. In reality, this man does not actually exist but is a compilation of many American reporters. Finally, Bush crashes his car into a garage in a fit of anger after a bad debate. This event actually occurred. After he asked Laura Bush how his speeches were going and she said "terribly," he drove his Pontiac Bonneville into the garage wall.
The Rumsfeld Papers
As Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld had a very significant role in the development and implementation of Bush's war strategy.
Stavis, Carley. "Fact-Checking Oliver Stone's ‘W.'" City on a Hill Press 30 October 2008.
"The story of George W. Bush's rise to the highest office in America delivers comedy and drama while inspiring a certain surprising level of empathy. And it couldn't have come at a better time. The film lives up to Stone's intention of reminding voters, prior to the big day on Nov. 4, just what the last eight years have done to this country. Whether this film wholly represents the truth, however, is not so cut-and-dry. Here's a fact-check of some of the representations made in the film."
Top 10 Bushisms
Audio clips: "The Stupidest Things President George W. Bush Has Ever Said."