George W. Bush

George W. Bush

43rd President, 2001-2009

Early Life and Pre-presidency

White House portrait of George W. Bush, 2003

White House portrait of George W. Bush, 2003

  • Born on July 6, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Parents: George H.W. Bush and Barbara Pierce. Siblings: Robin (1949–1953), John Ellis “Jeb” (1953–), Neil (1955–), Marvin (1956–), and Dorothy “Doro” (1959–).
  • Attended public schools in Midland, Texas, then the Kinkaid School in Houston for middle school.
  • Attended Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts for high school, graduating in 1964.
  • Enrolled at Yale University in 1964, graduating in 1968.
  • Joined the Texas Air National Guard in May 1968 and was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve in November 1974.
  • Attended Harvard Business School in 1973, graduating in 1975.
  • Married Laura Welch (1946–) on November 5, 1977. Children: Barbara (1981–) and Jenna (1981–).
  • Formed his own oil company in 1977 named Arbusto Energy, later renamed Bush Exploration.
  • Ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978 but lost.
  • Helped his father George H.W. Bush in his Presidential campaign for the 1988 election.
  • Bought shares in the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989 and became managing general for 5 years. He sold his shares in 1998.
  • Ran for Governor of Texas in 1994 and won. He served from 1995 to 2000, having been re-elected in 1998.
  • Nominated as the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate in the 2000 election. He lost the popular vote to Al Gore of the Democratic Party but won the majority of the electoral votes.
  • Bush’s win in the election hinged on a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the recount of votes in Florida. The Supreme Court decided 5-4 in favor of giving the Florida votes, thus the electoral votes, to Bush. He won the election with 271 electoral votes to 266 for Gore.

Presidency

Preisdent Bush with Vice President Cheney, 2003 Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Preisdent Bush with Vice President Cheney, 2003
Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

  • Took his oath of office on January 20, 2001 at the West Front, U.S. Capitol.
  • In April 2001, Bush officially pledged to support Taiwan in the event that China attacked.
  • Signed a package of tax relief bills in June 2001. He signed another package of tax cut bills in May 2003.
  • On September 11, 2001, four commercial airplanes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, which may have been intended for the White House.
  • On September 20, 2001, President Bush spoke before Congress and vowed a “War on Terror,” specifically to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.
  • Signed the USA Patriot Act of 2001 in October. The law contained several measures that allowed law enforcement to root out suspected terrorists on U.S. soil.
  • In October 2001, Bush announced the start of a military offensive in Afghanistan, code-named “Enduring Freedom,” to capture Osama bin Laden.
  • In December 2001, Bush informed Russia of the United States’ intent to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty so it could conduct anti-missile defense tests. The U.S. officially withdrew in June 2002.
  • Signed the No Child Left Behind Act, an education reform bill, in January 2002. The law gave each state the authority to set standards and administer assessment tests in order to receive federal funding.
  • Addressed the nation on television in June 2002 to announce the creation of the Office of Homeland Security as the head organization to oversee the protection of the U.S. from terrorism.
  • On October 10, 2002, the Senate voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq, seeing the country as a serious threat to U.S. security and due to its violations of several U.N. resolutions. Combat operations began in March 2003 and Bush declared the operations completed in May. The Bush administration would later admit that it was incapable of rebuilding Iraq.
  • Signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 in November. The law prohibited late-term abortions.
  • Ran for re-election for a second term as President in the 2004 election and won.
  • The Bush administration was critized for its inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in August 2005.
  • In October and November 2008, Bush signed bailout plans for banks and the automobile industry totaling nearly $800 billion. Another $800 billion would be used to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from going under.

Post-presidency

George and Laura Bush at the White House, 2002 Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

George and Laura Bush at the White House, 2002
Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

  • Retired to their home in Midland, Texas then moved to Dallas, Texas.
  • Has made relatively few public appearances since leaving the Presidency.
  • Released his autobiography Decision Points in November 2010.
  • Established the Clinton–Bush Haiti Fund in 2010 to raise funds for the relief and recovery of Haiti after a devastating earthquake.
  • Threw the ceremonial first pitch in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
  • Was having dinner at a restaurant on May 2, 2011 when he received a phone call from President Obama informing him that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. operatives in Pakistan.
  • Attended the 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2011 in New York City with President Barack Obama.
  • Attended the opening and dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas on April 25, 2013. The Center includes the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, George W. Bush Institute, and
    George W. Bush Foundation.

 

Detailed Biography

Born on 6 July 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut, George Walker Bush, known as George W. Bush or George Bush Junior was the 43rd President of the United States of America, serving from 2001 – 2008. He was preceded by Bill Clinton, and he was followed by Barack Obama. He is only the second President in history who served after his Father had already served as a President of the US, following John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams.

George is the eldest child and son of 41stPresident George HW Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush. His family made their name and fortune through business and politics.

 

George’s Father and Grandfather

George W Bush’s great-grandfather, Samuel Prescott Bush, born in 1863, made his name and fortune working on the railroads, working his way up various companies until he was President of Buckeye Steel Castings, a company previously run by Frank Rockefeller. His son Prescott Bush, George’s grandfather, was an investment banker, Republican politician and US State Senator. He began a tradition of politics within the Bush family which would span a century.

Not only did Prescott Bush begin a tradition of politics within the Bush family, he also started an educational tradition when he was the first Bush son to attend then, Yale College from 1913-1917. He excelled at Yale, playing in several of the school teams, as well as singing for the Whiffenpoof Quartet, and serving as a member of the infamous Skull and Bones secret society. After graduating from Yale, he served in the US Military during World War One, fighting in the last two years of the war. He married Dorothy Walker from a prominent and wealthy American family in 1920 and had five children together.

Born in June 1924, George Herbert Walker Bush, known later in life as George HW or George Senior, was the second son, his elder brother Prescott Junior being two years older than him. George HW excelled in every area of his life from his education to his career. He was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, where in his final year he met Barbara Pierce. They were quickly engaged, however, marriage was postponed whilst George HW served in the US Navy, flying as the youngest American pilot of the war. He married Barbara on 6 January 1945 whilst on leave.

After the war, George HW returned to America and to complete his education. He attended Yale University as his father had done, where he shined both in and out of classes as President of his Class and captain of the baseball team. He was also inducted into the Skull and Bones Society, presumably because George HW fitted the set checklist of achievements that a prospective member would have to meet. Usually, the nominee was considered a leader at the college, this often meant they were part of a sports team, were president of the Yale Daily News, a member of the Whiffenpoof singing group, but also included other more “radicals” such as political activists, playboys, or religious persons. He graduated in 1948 with a degree in economics and moved to Texas where he spent the next fifteen years working in the oil industry, making his fortune and a name for himself.

His political career began in 1963 when he was elected as the Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. From this, he gained a seat in the United States House of Representatives which he held for two terms. After unsuccessfully gaining a seat in the Senate, he held several important positions within key governmental organisations such as US Ambassador to the United Nations, Head of the Republican National Committee during the Watergate Scandal, US envoy to China and Director of the CIA.

From 1980 he unsuccessfully ran a campaign for the presidential nominee but lost out to Ronald Reagan, although Reagan did name him as his Vice-Presidential running mate which eventually turned to Vice President upon Reagan’s succession to the Presidency. He served as Vice President of the United States through Reagan’s two terms in office, announcing his intention to run again in 1988 which he did, and won, becoming the 41stPresident of the United States of America in 1988. He was the first President since 1837 to have been elected President whilst still sitting as Vice President.

 

George W. Bush’s childhood and siblings

George HW and Barbara had six children of which George W was the eldest child and first son. He was born in Connecticut whilst his father was studying at Yale University and he is the only child of the family to be born outside of Texas. In 1948 when George was two, the family moved to Texas to establish a life together and also so that George HW could focus on his business work in the oil industry.

In December 1949 a new baby, a girl named Pauline Robinson Bush, known as “Robin” was welcomed into the family, followed by a second son John Ellis “Jeb” who was born in February 1953. It was around this time, just after having given birth to John, that Barbara and George HW learned that their daughter Robin had leukaemia. A relatively unknown disease at this time, it was considered incurable, and the parents were told by their paediatrician that they should “take her home, love her. In about two weeks she’ll be gone.” Rather than give up on their daughter they took her to New York and pursued blood transfusion treatment and bone marrow tests. This prolonged Robin’s life by seven months, but tragically in October of 1953, just two months shy of her fourth birthday, she passed away. Barbara attributes her premature greying to the emotional distress caused by her daughter’s illness. A charity was later set up in Robin’s name – the Bright Star Foundation.

Three more children were to follow to complete the family – Neil Mallon, born in 1955, Marvin Pierce, born in 1956 and Dorothy born in 1959. The elder boys of the family were educated, as their father was, at Phillips Academy in Andover, although Neil Mallon struggled with school and was later diagnosed with Dyslexia.

Jeb Bush is probably the most well-known of George W’s siblings in that he has also had a political career. He studied at the University of Texas, gaining a degree in Latin American affairs. When he was twenty-one he met and married Columba Garnica Gallo who he met whilst teaching English in Mexico. They have three children together, George Prescott, Noelle, and Jeb Bush Jnr. From 1980-88 he lived in Florida and pursued a career in real estate development, becoming Florida’s Secretary of Commerce in 1986. In 1988 his father George HW was running for president and Jeb moved into politics to support his father’s campaign and then campaigning himself for the position of Governor of Florida which he was successful in. He did do some initial campaigning towards a bid for the 2016 presidency, but he pulled out in February 2016 and instead endorsed Ted Cruz whilst also openly opposing Donald Trump.

George W’s two younger brothers, Neil and Marvin are lesser known in the public eye, mostly because neither of them has had careers in politics. They have however forged successful careers in education and business. Neil, inspired by his own struggles with learning, as well as those of his son Pierce, co-founded Ignite! Learning an educational software corporation. He also spearheaded an anti-Ritalin campaign and supports many business and charitable causes. He has been married twice, firstly to Sharon Smith with whom he has three children, and secondly to Maria Andrews. Marvin, ten years younger than George, gained a BA in English from the University of Virginia and then established a successful business career for himself. He worked for many years as Director of HCC Insurance Holdings, a publicly traded insurance company. He married Margaret Conway in 1981 and the couple has two children whom they adopted from the Gladney Centre in Fort Worth, Texas – a daughter Marshall and a son Charles.

Dorothy Bush, known as “Doro” was the baby and only surviving daughter of the family. She was educated at Miss Porter’s School, a private, all-girl college-preparatory school in Connecticut. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Boston College in 1982 and went on to work as an event’s organiser and charity fundraiser for charities and not-for-profit organisations. She is very passionate about literacy and education and alongside her brother Jeb, she is a co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She is also the author of the book My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H W Bush. She has been married twice and has four children, two with her first husband William Heekin LeBlond, a son named Samuel and a daughter named Nancy, and two with her second husband Robert P. Koch, a son Robert and a daughter Georgia.

Whilst at Phillips Academy in Andover, George excelled in sports, playing baseball, basketball and football. He was a fair student but had a bit of a reputation for being a troublemaker and often preferred to be the goof of a class, rather than a studious student. He graduated from Phillips Academy, and with suggested help from family connections, entered Yale University in 1964 where he also shone. His role as the President of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and a strong player within the Yale rugby team may be the reason why he was “tapped” by the secretive Skull and Bones Society. In 1968, as graduation approached, George was also approaching the end of his draft deferment for military service. He decided to enlist in the Texas Air National Guard and gained his fighter pilot certification in June of 1970. George served in the final years of the Vietnam War before being honourably discharged in November 1974 despite rumours about irregular attendance and questions over whether he did serve or spent time in Texas at the base.

After his discharge from the military, he returned to education, attending Harvard Business College and gaining a master’s degree in Business Administration and then returning to Midland, Texas where he entered the oil business under his father’s guidance. He worked for a family friend for a number of years and then successfully established his own oil company.

 

Marriage and Early Career

It was in 1977, at a barbecue where he met Laura Welch through mutual friends. Laura was a school teacher and librarian also from Midland Texas.

She was born on 4 November 1946 and was the only child of Harold Welch a successful real estate developer and Jenna Louise who worked as a bookkeeper for her husband’s business. Laura had a normal, mid-west upbringing in Midland, attending the local school and making lots of friends, however, in 1963 she was involved in a tragic accident which would mar her conscience for the rest of her life. On the night of 6 November, she was driving a friend to a nearby party, when she ran through a stop sign on a remote country road. Unfortunately, there was a car coming along the road at the junction and Laura’s car hit it broadside, hitting the driver and killing him. The driver was Michael Dutton Douglas, a school friend of Laura’s. Whilst the incident was ruled as a tragic accident, Laura has admitted that the guilt of the incident has followed her throughout her life. Following high school, Laura attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she gained a bachelor’s degree in early education. She taught for a couple of years, before gaining a master’s in library science from the University of Texas and becoming a public-school librarian alongside her teaching.

Laura and George had a short courtship before becoming engaged just three months later, marrying on 5 November 1977. Soon after the marriage George joined the United Methodist Church and became a born-again Christian – he credits Laura with settling him down to a serious, mature way of life, encouraging him to give up drinking and focus more on family and work.

From 1977 to 1988 George lived and worked in Texas, establishing his business which he eventually sold in 1986 to Harken Energy corporation for stock and a seat on its board of directors. He and Laura also welcomed twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara named after their grandmothers, into their home in 1981.

 

Politics

Like brother Jeb, in 1988 when his father George HW was running for President, he briefly moved the family to Washington DC so that he could work on his father’s campaign alongside his brother, moving back to Texas a year later when his father had successfully taken the Presidency.

This brief break in his career gave George the opportunity to think differently about where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, he worked as a successful businessman, earning a reputation for shrewd business through his successful leadership of the board of investors for The Texas Ranger’s baseball team.

However, it was soon clear that politics was where he wanted to focus his career and in 1992 just at the time that his father George lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, George decided to run for Texas Governor as a Republican. His election to state governor was a scrappy fight with accusations being thrown from his side as well as the side of his opponent, Ann Richards. He did win though with 53% of the vote and because the first child of a US President to be elected as a state governor. He broke another record in 1998 when he was elected for a second term and became the first Texas governor to serve back to back four-year terms.

By this time Bush had a higher seat in mind and began to set his sights on the White House, winning the nomination for the Republican party for the 2000 Presidential election. He ran against Democrat nominee Al Gore and the election itself was steeped in controversy as by the end of the day there was still no clear winner and Florida was having major trouble with its balloting system. What followed was almost a month of recounts, and legal disputes before the US Supreme Court ruled that George W. Bush had been the winner and was given the victory and the Presidency, being sworn in during Spring 2001. It was later proved by extensive work looking at votes and counts, that had the election run smoothly, Bush would have won anyway.

 

First Term as President

One of Bush’s first actions upon reaching the Presidency was to announce a huge tax cut of $1.3 trillion dollars, using the surplus in the budget left from Clinton’s Presidency. He claimed the purpose of the tax cut was to be able to boost the economy, but many of his critics claimed that the tax cut favoured wealthy people and not the everyday man and woman. He also announced that the US would be ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions, claiming it would harm the US economy.

Undeniably though, the events of September 11, 2001, would be some of the most tragic and remembered events of Bush’s presidency. On the morning of the 11 September, four commercial airplanes were hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists, members of a Sunni Islamic extremist organisation. Two of the planes were flown into the North and South towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, the third plane was flown into the Pentagon, and the fourth, rumoured to have been destined for the White House, went down in a remote field after passengers fought the terrorists on board and prevented the plane from reaching its intended destination. The two towers of the World Trade Centre eventually collapsed after massive internal damage to the building’s structure, killing over 3,000 men, women and firefighters.

Bush speaking about the events of 9/11: “disbelief, terrible sadness, and quiet, unyielding anger”

Following the events of 9/11, Bush promised his American people that he would do everything in his power to prevent another terrorist attack and would seek to put an end to the powers in Afghanistan who had executed the attack.

The Taliban, Afghanistan’s ruling elite, refused to hand over to the US Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al Qaeda, claiming he was a “guest” in their country. This gave President Bush the impetus to seek an international coalition with other nations to invade Afghanistan and shatter the strength of Al Qaeda.

“On my order, US forces have begun strikes on terrorist camps of Al Qaeda and the military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.”

By mid-March 2002 the Taliban had been removed from power, and the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan was severely damaged.

As the war on terror raged, suspected terrorists and members of Al Qaeda were captured in Afghanistan and transported to Guantanamo Bay, a permanent US naval base in Cuba, where prisoners were subject to intense interrogation techniques. These interrogations were able to happen because the Bush administration gave all Afghan prisoners ‘enemy combatants’ classification, thereby identifying them as terror detainees and excluding them from the Geneva Conventions which would have protected them against what is now commonly known to have been torture interrogations.

In March 2003 Bush announced that the US and its coalition of allies would be invading Iraq if they did not expel Saddam Hussein, Iraqi leader and his sons from the country. When Hussein failed to leave the country, US forces invaded.

At home, in the latter months of Bush’s first term as President, he scaled tax cuts back to $350 billion, claiming funds needed to be reassigned to the war in Afghanistan, the space shuttle Colombia explodes during re-entry, killing all seven crew members, Massachusetts becomes the first state to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and there is a ban on late-term abortions.

 

Second Term as President

In late 2003 George Bush announced his intention to run for re-election for the 2004 Presidency. He ran against Democratic nominee John Kerry and despite his approval rating being quite low, and many American’s disapproving of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, he won the election with over 50% of the vote to Kerry’s 48% and began his second term in office in 2004.

In the first two years of the presidency abroad, the new Iraqi government announces its intention to try Saddam Hussein for war crimes; he is convicted of crimes against humanity dating back to 1982 and hung in December 2006 in Baghdad. By 2007 Bush announced a timetable of the removal of troops from Afghanistan after the US death toll reached 4,000 and approval for the war hit an all-time low.

“we will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail”

At home, Bush started his second term as president with another tragic incident, this time of a natural kind, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast of the US hitting New Orleans particularly hard, causing $125 billion dollars’ worth of damage and taking over 1,800 lives. The Bush administration is harshly criticised for its handling of the disaster and its lack of support for victims, many of whom were from low economic, black families.

In the last years of his presidency, Bush faced several challenges. On 16 March 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and himself at Virginia Tech school in what was then the deadliest campus gun rampage in US history. This began campaigns and conversations on gun control which would rage through the next presidency under Barack Obama.

“I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace”

In 2008, the global economy crashed, sending many countries into an economic recession. In the US 15,000 jobs were lost in December of 2008 alone. In his last months as President Bush bailed out failing bank assets to the value of $700 billion, and General Motors and Chrysler to the value of $17.4 billion, with help from the Federal Reserve which bought $800 billion of the nation’s debt to help the economy.

By the time he left the presidency, the country was in a terrible state. The war in Iraq was still ongoing, troops had not been removed from the country as promised, and the economy was on its knees. The budget surplus left by the Clinton administration had disappeared, to be replaced with a multi-trillion-dollar debt.

 

Life after the Presidency 

Following his Presidency, George and Laura settled back in Texas, this time in Dallas, where he focused on building his Presidential Library and writing his memoir Decision Points.

Laura also wrote a memoir Spoken from the Heart and began to turn her focus back to education and literacy. She has also co-written two books with her daughter Jenna Bush Hager entitled Read All About It! which was written to encourage young children to get into reading and Our Great Big Backyard which encourages a love and care for nature and the outdoors. She had established the semi-annual National Book Festival in 2001 and continued to work on the festival and encouraging education on a worldwide scale.

The Bush’s daughters Jenna and Barbara, neither of whom are Republican, did initially help their father with some election campaigning, particularly in 2004, but seem to have preferred to keep mostly away from politics. Jenna is a teacher and educational campaigner, she has also worked abroad and is an educational journalist, contributing to monthly educational updates on the Today show. Alongside a career in education, she is also a published author, showing a passion for literacy and education clearly fostered by her mother. Aside from the book published with her mother, she has published Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hopechronicling her time working with Unicef, and a joint memoir with her sister. She married husband Henry Chase Hager in 2008 and the couple has two daughters together, Margaret “Mila” and Poppy.

Barbara Bush had the same educational beginnings as her sister Jenna, but where Jenna attended the University of Texas, Barbara followed in the family footsteps and attended Yale University, joining Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, graduating in 2004 with a degree in humanities. She noted in an interview with Elle magazine that a life-changing event occurred when she visited Africa with her parents in 2003 for the launch of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Seeing people lining the streets waiting for drugs that were freely available in America deeply affected her and following her graduation she immediately sought guidance on how to become involved in global health issues. In 2009 she founded the Global Health Corps, a not-for-profit company which provides opportunities for young professionals from diverse backgrounds to work on the front lines of the fight for global health equity. In 2010 she spoke at a TEDx talk about her company.

 

 

 

Bibliography

https://millercenter.org/president/george-w-bush/key-events

https://www.biography.com/people/george-w-bush-9232768

https://www.biography.com/people/laura-bush-9232785

https://www.newsweek.com/who-was-robin-bush-barbara-daughter-died-leukemia-890339

https://www.thelist.com/94418/untold-truth-barbara-bush/