Bush took office in March 2001. His first months in office have often been characterized as lacking in direction, but this all changed on September 11, 2001. The Bush presidency gained a focus that before was lacking — the fight against terrorism. The whole world was focused on New York City and the Pentagon with the attacks by al-Qaeda operatives that resulted in the deaths of more than 2,900 people. This event changed Bush's presidency forever. His popularity skyrocketed after the tragedy. He ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban, which had been harboring al-Qaeda training camps.
As part of the fight against terrorism, Bush created a new cabinet position and department: the Department of Homeland Security. The first secretary of homeland security was Tom Ridge. The department has three primary missions according to its own Web site: “Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.”
War in Iraq
Bush then moved to declare war on Saddam Hussein and Iraq on the premise that they were hiding weapons of mass destruction. When it was obvious that the UN would not agree to a combined effort against Iraq, America went to war with a coalition of twenty countries to enforce UN disarmament resolutions.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Bush in his 2002 State of the Union Address: “Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. … States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
It was later determined that, although Hussein was planning to purchase weapons of mass destruction after UN sanctions were lifted, he was not stockpiling them within the country. The lack of weapons of mass destruction has taken a toll on Bush's popularity. However, the initial military campaign in Iraq was quite successful. By implementing the strategy of “shock and awe,” U.S. forces took Baghdad and occupied Iraq in a very short period of time. Hussein was captured in 2003. He was tried and convicted in November 2006 by Iraq's High Tribunal for crimes against humanity. He was executed by hanging on December 30, 2006. While in 2005 a referendum was held to approve a new Iraqi constitution and there was a huge voter turnout, fighting in Iraq has escalated and there is concern that the country is already in a state of civil war.
No Child Left Behind
One of Bush's major policy concerns first as governor of Texas and then as president has been education. In 2001, Bush joined forces with Democrat Ted Kennedy to create the No Child Left Behind Act, which was meant to improve public schools.
Its main goals are to make schools more accountable and create more choices for parents.
President Bush is an avid baseball fan, as evidenced by his part-ownership of the Texas Rangers. In fact, Bush was the first president to hold a Little League game at the White House. In 2001, thirty-two little leaguers played one inning on the south lawn. He was also the first president to attend a Little League playoff game.
On January 14, 2004, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded, killing all on board. After this, Bush announced a new vision for NASA. The focus would move from the space shuttle to returning to the moon by 2018 and creating a new manned space vehicle. The point of returning to the moon is to enable deeper exploration into space.
It is still hard to assess Bush's future significance. Certainly, actions taken after September 11, along with America's involvement with the war in Iraq, will be scrutinized for years to come. Only time will tell how future historians will rank Bush as president.