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1/29/2 News: W's first year

"A second plane hit the second tower, America is under attack," were the words being whispered in George Bush's ear by senior advisor Andrew Card when this image was captured by Paul Richards.

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.

Election 2000

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 precincts.

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 reported killed.

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 "upbeat."

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 by thousands.

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.