by Lance Vargas
The presidency of George
W. Bush can thus far be easily divided into to two separate parts:
Before and after the Sept. 11 attacks. While Bush was a steady
but average president in the first months of his presidency, his
rousing Sept. 20 speech rallying the American public and subsequent
successful military action in Afghanistan have given his year-old
presidency an FDR-like legitimacy and propelled his approval ratings
into the upper 90 percent range. When he promises tonight to further
America's war on terrorism, Bush stands to continue his acceptance
by the American public and keep his status as an effective American
leader fully intact.
Bush's presidency began
under a cloud of controversy as Democrats kept the complications
of Election 2000 in the news in spite of its obvious result. Al
Gore's concession on Dec. 13, 2000 did not silence critics who
contested that Bush "stole" the election. Though Election 2000
was the closest in American history, no clear-cut evidence has
emerged to suggest Gore would have been declared the victor even
if all available options had been pursued in the recount process.
Months later, A news coalition composed of members of the Washington
Post and other newspapers found that extended recounts would have
still favored Bush. Even so, questions still remain concerning
the CHAD voting system and disqualified votes in certain Florida
Before Sept. 11
With the controversy of
Election 2000 behind him, Bush forged ahead as America's president.
In his inaugural address the president stated, "Sometimes in life
we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times
has said, every day we are called to do small things with great
love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone.
I will live and lead by these principles: To advance my convictions
with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to
speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility
and try to live it as well." It was a peaceful statement launching
a presidency that would soon be tested by the most devastating
terrorist attack the country has ever endured.
Naming recognizable figures
such as Colin Powell and John Ashcroft as Secretary of State and
Attorney General, Bush composed a cabinet of competent and proven
political authorities. His selection of Ashcroft in particular
was met with opposition in the Senate due to the Missouri Congressman's
fierce conservative views. Other Bush nominations included Andrew
H. Card, Jr. as Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of
Defense and Paul O'Neill as Secretary of Treasury.
Bush also announced tax
cuts that immediately resulted in refunds being sent to many Americans.
By the end of the summer, citizens began seeing return checks
from the national treasury in their mail boxes.
On April 1, 2001, the Bush
Administration faced it's first major issue on the international
front. A U.S. spy plane operating over China collided with a Chinese
F-8 fighter, causing the surveillance aircraft to maneuver an
emergency landing on a Chinese airfield. The Chinese pilot was
As the plane and its crew
were held on Chinese soil, China demanded that US flights along
their coastline be halted while the US contended that the accident
was the result of the Chinese pilot flying too close to the American
plane in an "intercepting" maneuver. At the end of the crisis,
China released the planes crew and later allowed the US to dismantle
and return the plane to United States. The solid and unyielding
attitude of America's new president in regards to the return of
the plane was heralded by the American press and by June of 2001,
talks between the United States and China were quoted by CNN as
The Summer of 2001 saw
Bush announce America's intent to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic
Missile treaty. Referring to it as a relic of the Cold War, Bush
stated that the treaty did not offer enough protection against
rogue nations who have since developed nuclear capability. By
withdrawing from the treaty, the US could begin focussing on a
National Missile Defense program similar to Ronald Reagan's "Star
Wars" plan. Though the withdrawal from the Anti Ballistic Missile
Treaty resembled an aggressive move, it was actually aimed at
reducing the number of nuclear missiles in the US and Russia.
Both America and Russia have reduced their number of missiles
After Sept. 11
Of course, all previous
issues were de-emphasized on Sept. 11. In Florida for a week that
was supposed to devoted to Education, Bush was in a classroom
full of third graders when he received word that a second plane
hit the World Trade Center. After issuing a brief statement to
the school, Bush was taken by Secret Servicemen to Air Force One
where the President was taken in precautionary measure to several
Air Force Bases before returning to Washington. That night, the
president gave a speech stating, " These acts shattered steel,
but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."
Other speeches followed
on Sept. 14 and 20. The second being a particularly emotional
and riveting joint session of Congress. With many references to
individual heroes of the tragedy and a focus on resolve and retaliation
for the attacks, Bush's Sept. 20 speech was Churchillian in its
power and effectiveness. "We will not tire, we will not falter,
and we will not fail," Bush said.
To back up his intense
and inspiring Sept. 20 speech, Bush instituted a new Cabinet position
to be devoted to stopping domestic terrorism. Pennsylvania governor
Tom Ridge was appointed director of the Office of Homeland Security.
By Oct. 7, The United States
began bombing Afghanistan search of the man believed to be responsible
for the Sept. 11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden. The war, unlike unsuccessful
Afghan conflicts by Russia and Britain in the last century, was
swift and effective. By the end of 2001, Afghanistan's ruling
government, The Taliban, had been overthrown by US Forces and
the rebel group The Northern Alliance. However, the ultimate prize
of the campaign, Osama Bin Laden escaped.
With the Taliban and bin
Laden's Al Queda network defeated, Bush has recently announced
his intentions to broaden America's war on terrorism to other
countries. If his success in Afghanistan is any indication, terrorist
organizations hiding in these countries will meet the same fate
as Al Queda and the Taliban.
President Bush's State
of the Union Address is tonight.