Knowing the Presidents: George W. Bush

George W. Bush

Forty-Third President, 2001-2009


In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote during his election. Florida votes had to be recounted, and after weeks of legal battles, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no fair way to recount the votes in Florida in time for the state’s votes to be counted in the Electoral College. Bush ultimately won the presidency by just a few hundred votes. Although Bush won an Electoral College victory by a margin of 271 to 266, his opponent Al Gore won 500,000 more popular votes.

President Bush’s second term campaign was focused on reforming immigration, social security, and, of course, fighting the war on terror.


The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of what George W. Bush proclaimed the “War on Terror,” initiating the war with Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein.

Hurricane Katrina devastated areas of New Orleans and the Mississippi delta, overwhelming sources of aid relief from the affected states. Bush did not act quickly or send enough federal assistance to the area, resulting in unnecessary violence, suffering, and death.

Bush could not placate Democrats in Congress, and the initiatives he took to reform Social Security failed.

Major Acts:

President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act instituting a national curriculum and testing standards.

Bush passed the Patriot Act, which granted controversial and unprecedented freedom to government and law enforcement to protect citizens from terrorism.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 created new benefits and was the largest expansion of Medicare benefits since the program’s creation in 1965.

Bush helped stem an AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa. By the time Bush left office in January 2009, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief had paid for the treatment of 2.1 million people and testing and counseling for more than 57 million.

Bush created the President’s Malaria Initiative, a $1.2 billion program to fight the disease in fifteen African countries with a goal of cutting malaria deaths in half.

Attempting to boost global economy, the Bush administration expanded the number of U.S. free trade agreements from three to seventeen and invested $6.7 billion in 35 partner countries.


In the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Bush Doctrine stated that extremist violence against Americans would be avoided through preventive war in which the United States would strike an enemy nation or terrorist group before they had a chance to attack the U.S.; mandated unilateral action in which America would act alone if necessary to defend itself either at home or abroad; and promoted spreading democracy and freedom around the world, focusing on concepts such as free markets, free trade, and individual liberty.

The slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina greatly affected George W. Bush’s popularity, which dropped accordingly.

Effects from the 2008 financial crisis at the end of Bush’s tenure were so long-lasting that it would take years for the U.S. economy to recover.

The fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa will likely remain as one of President Bush’s most important legacies.