The Presidency of George W. Bush


  • Republican George W. Bush served two terms as president, from 2001-2009.
  • The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack led President Bush to reframe American foreign policy as a War on Terror, and to fight two wars in the Middle East.
  • A housing market crash led to a severe economic downturn in President Bush’s final years in office.

The presidential election of 2000

Describing himself as a “compassionate conservative,” Bush—former governor of Texas and the son of former President George H.W. Bush—became President of the United States in 2001 in one of the closest US presidential elections ever. Al Gore, Bush’s Democratic rival, won the popular vote by a narrow margin, but Bush won the electoral college.

The outcome hinged on election results from the state of Florida, where voting irregularities created uncertainty about the results. The Florida Supreme Court authorized a vote recount, but the Bush campaign appealed the decision. The case of Bush v. Gore went to the Supreme Court, which stopped the recount and declared Bush the winner.

President Bush’s foreign policy

On September 11, 2001, terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed jets into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The Bush administration then declared a Global War on Terror. The first front in this war was Afghanistan.

In 2003, the United States also went to war with Iraq. Intelligence agencies in the United States and around the world had claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found during the war.

President Bush’s domestic policy agenda

George W. Bush came into office with an ambitious domestic policy agenda that included reforms in the areas of education, Social Security, and immigration.

Bush actively supported the No Child Left Behind Act, a bipartisan effort to raise school standards in low-income areas. He successfully supported a new federal program that subsidized the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly.

The Bush administration increased funding for many federal programs, while implementing some of the largest tax cuts in history. This enlarged the federal budget deficit. During Bush’s presidency the national debt doubled to $10 trillion.

In 2007 the United States tumbled into a sharp economic recession when a multi-trillion dollar housing price collapse led the Federal Reserve and US Treasury Department to direct economic intervention in the private sector to bail out failing financial institutions.

A combination of tax cuts, increased federal spending, economic recession, and vast expenditures on two wars in the Middle East led to the “Great Recession,” the worst economic crisis the country had faced since the Great Depression.

Source: The Presidency of George W. Bush
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