When George W. Bush took office on 20 January 2001, the economic prosperity of the 1990s was disappearing in the wake of an emerging recession. The tech bubble that had offered quick riches to venture capitalists had burst. Corporate accounting scandals and cooked books that were allowed to fester during the previous decade surfaced, breaking the backs of some of the nation's biggest companies. Hundreds of thousands of jobs and the life savings of many hard-working Americans evaporated.
Bush had promised to unite the nation, but his task was a difficult one. Having been the fourth U.S. president to be elected without a majority of the popular vote, he emerged as the victor of the closest presidential contest in American history. He was pegged by the media and his opponents on the left as having no mandate to govern, and they cynically noted that much shouldn't be expected of him.
But from his first days in office, Bush proved his detractors wrong. He moved forward to stem the economic downturn by getting Congress to pass the largest tax relief package in a generation. Tax rates were cut across the board, easing the burden on small business, doubling the child tax credit, and reducing the marriage penalty. He also acted to enforce corporate responsibility and citizenship, so that investors could regain their trust in the markets.
Despite the recession that Bush inherited, and the further economic trauma caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks, the economy is gaining momentum every day. Since August 2003, 1.8 million jobs have been added to the economy. Unemployment remains at 5.6 percent, below the average for the last three decades. Homeownership is at record levels, and real after-tax income in America is up ten percent since 2001.
"America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected. Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in commitments." --President George W. Bush, 20 January 2001
Using talents to reach across the aisle that worked so well when he was Governor of Texas, Bush created a bipartisan initiative to reform public school education. The No Child Left Behind Act was the first national education reform act passed in almost 50 years. For the first time national testing standards were implemented for school children so that student progress could be measured. Annual testing also allowed parents for the first time to assess their child's development, school performance, and teacher qualifications.
This system also allowed the federal government to target school districts that were performing below average, and focus on improving those districts. Within a year, the results of No Child Left Behind were evident, with students around the nation testing higher in math and reading. While the left continued to talk about equal opportunity -- especially in election years -- President Bush actually did something, and the achievement gap between white and black students has been steadily closing ever since.
The bipartisan camaraderie unfortunately didn't last long. Even after a historic midterm election that saw Republicans make significant gains in the House and the Senate, Bush found it increasingly difficult to work with the obstinate Democrat minority. A major sticking point has been the filibustering of his judicial appointments. Rather than allow for an up-or-down vote as the Constitution demands, Dems, led by chief obstructionist Tom Daschle, have refused to allow many qualified Bush nominees the vote for approval or denial they rightfully deserve. Such action has caused serious case backlogs in federal courts around the country, and has added to the bitterness that Dems are fostering in Washington.
"Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing" --President George W. Bush, 14 September 2001
It is no underestimation that the events of September 11, 2001, changed the course of history for this country. America was rocked to its very foundations, the world was stunned, and George W. Bush became a war president. He eloquently answered the calling that history placed before him. Sharing tears with the families of the victims, offering strength and clarity to the nation at large, President Bush set upon the task of hunting down the perpetrators who planned and executed the murder of 3,000 Americans.
But Bush realized from the start that this was no law enforcement operation. The war we would be waging would, like our enemies, have no boundaries. It would be a conflict that would see us engaged on many fronts around the world, in battles large and small, fighting covertly, and using virtually every combination of diplomatic, economic, social, and military methods. There would be gains, but there would also be loss. Some operations would be secret, even in their success. This was a new war, a war like no other. But there was no question for President Bush that the only acceptable outcome was victory.
Bush's ability to stay focused and committed in the war against radical Islamic fundamentalism has been one of his most defining characteristics. He has not shied away from the hard work that needs to be done, and he has not concerned himself with others' opinions of him, only that his actions make America safer.
With that in mind, Bush has lived up to a serious commitment for a strong national defense. Even before the war, he pledged to make the military a modern fighting force that would be lighter, more agile, and able to deploy to any area and fight any type of battle. He has raised military pay, offered better military housing and benefits for families of servicemen and women.
There has been a 50 percent increase in research and development for new weaponry that includes digitizing combat units in the field, bunker-busting munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles, and enhanced space-based surveillance. With the help of Japan, Australia, and Great Britain, the United States is in the early stages of deploying a missile defense system in the Pacific.
The FBI has been retasked at home to combat domestic terrorism, and legislation is pending in Congress right now to substantially reorganize America's intelligence apparatus. A product of this will be the creation of a National Intelligence Director who will act as a principal adviser to the president.
To further protect the nation at home from terrorist attacks, Bush signed an authorization in January 2002 to create the Department of Homeland Security, a new cabinet-level agency that was charged with protecting the country from terrorist threats. Homeland Security gained authority over 22 existing federal agencies and their 180,000 employees -- including the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- sparking the largest executive reorganization of government since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947.
Another important tool in the arsenal of this war is the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act. Passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001 allowed law enforcement agencies the leverage they needed to pursue investigations and indictments against terrorist cells operating in the United States. These clandestine groups frequently operate in the shadows beyond the law, and Patriot Act gives federal and local law enforcement the tools they need to combat them. It has been the subject of much controversy, but has also led to the arrest of al-Qa'ida cells and supporters in Florida, Buffalo, NY, and on the West Coast.
"The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth." --President George W. Bush, 20 January 2001
In combating terrorism abroad, President Bush has offered bold leadership that could not be imagined by his predecessor or his current opponent for the White House. From toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan to bringing Saddam Hussein to account after years of international criminal behavior, Bush has demonstrated to the world America's resolve to defend itself and forge a more peaceful order.
In October 2001, when the ruling Taliban of Afghanistan refused to give up Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida cohorts, the United States led an international coalition that toppled the Taliban and routed al-Qa'ida from their home base. Since then, two thirds of the terrorist group's top leadership have been killed or captured.
And America's efforts to rebuild that nation have been paying off. Earlier this month Afghanistan held free democratic elections, with over ten million registered voters, over 40 percent of them women. With the help of an international coalition, that country is experiencing its first taste of democracy after a long sad history of repression and tyranny.
In 2002, Bush turned to Iraq, a nation that he marked as a member of the Axis of Evil. This axis, which includes Iran and North Korea, represented countries that willingly harbored and supported terrorists, and had the capability to develop weapons of mass destruction that could end up being used by al-Qa'ida and similar groups against the United States. Bush made it distinctly clear that any such nation was a danger to U.S. and international security and would be treated accordingly.
Saddam Hussein, who built a dictatorship based on murder, torture, and being a general menace to the international community, had spent years flouting UN resolutions and sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam rejected renewed demands by the United States to disarm and come clean on his WMD programs. The United Nations, swayed by a morally equivalent group led by France and Germany, countries that stood to lose economically if Saddam were removed from power, did not have the will to back up their threats of serious consequences should Saddam not cooperate.
It was at this stage that Bush acted boldly in the interest of U.S. security by waging a preemptive war to topple Saddam. According to the national security strategy given new prominence after September 11, the United States retains the right to act preemptively in its own defense because the cost of waiting for the enemy to strike first is simply too high to contemplate. On September 11, 19 hijackers were able to kill 3,000 people in just under two hours. If terrorists struck with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, the death toll would be astronomically worse. Due to the nature of the war we were now waging, Bush understood the consequences of being caught unaware, and vowed not to let that happen.
The United States, at the head of a 30-nation coalition, toppled Saddam's regime in a little over a month's time. The Iraqi people welcomed liberation from the dictator, and the true scope of his crimes began to unfold before the world. Since that time, while we have been working hard to rebuild the crippled infrastructure and establish a democratic government in Iraq, our military has been engaged face to face with terrorists and their allied Saddam sympathizers. Al-Qa'ida and radical fundamentalists from all over the Middle East have made Iraq their cause cÈlËbre because they know that a free and democratic nation will strike a significant blow to their attempt to create an Islamic caliphate in the region.
The war continues on many fronts, in many fashions. We are currently engaged in multilateral talks with North Korea, and are supporting the UN efforts to get an obstinate Iran to fully disclose the nature of its supposedly benign nuclear program. Al-Qa'ida continues to operate in the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa, and U.S. and allied forces are on their heels every step of the way.
There has been much domestic criticism over how President Bush has prosecuted the war to this point. He has been accused of acting unilaterally, and he has even been accused of acting multilaterally. He has been accused of driving away fair weather allies like France and Germany while real allies like Great Britain, Japan, Italy, and dozens of other nations have put their soldiers in harms way to stand by our side.
The fact is that President George W. Bush is acting in the best interest of the United States, and his primary concern is the safety of this country and the American people. If that means he is ridiculed by the American left, so be it. If it means that he is burned in effigy in Paris, c'est la vie. Not influenced by polls, not swayed by the divergent opinion of those who seek a quicker, easier solution, and unrelenting in his commitment to America and the Constitution he swore to protect, George W. Bush has proven why his first four years in office have been a success, and why he should be reelected to another four.
"I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." President George W. Bush, 20 September 2001