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Texas Governor and U.S. President

October 1, 2013

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George W. Bush was born into a political family and is the son of former President George H.W. Bush (President from 1989-1993). However, his eventual prominence in politics was not assured. Bush grew up helping his father with his political campaigns, but developed a problem with alcohol that could have derailed any political ambitions. This changed when he met his wife, Laura, in Midland, Texas, and especially when he experienced a religious transformation. His renewed focus eventually propelled him into business and politics.

George grew up in Midland in his early years, where his father worked in the oil industry. Later, the family moved to Houston, where young George attended Kincaid prep school. He attended Yale University, followed by Harvard Business School. Bush became the only U.S. President to earn the M.B.A.

In 1978, Bush's attempt to win a seat in the U.S. Congress to represent his home area of northwest Texas failed. Bush also went into business, founding small oil companies. During his father's presidency, Bush became part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. in 1998, when he sold his share in the team, he made $15 million on his original $800,000 investment.

George Bush helped in his father's reelection campaign for President in 1992, but the senior Bush lost to Bill Clinton. But the younger Bush's entry into the 1994 gubernatorial campaign against popular incumbent Ann Richards was a surprising success.

Bush served as Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, where he distinguished himself as a surprising collaborator with the tough Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock, a Democrat. Texas is strongly controlled by the Lieutenant Governor, who runs the legislature during regular sessions. The only time that the Governor has control of the legislature occurs when the Governor calls a special session, when the legislature is normally in recess. In spite of the handicaps of a "weak" governorship and an opposing-party Lieutenant Governor, Bush accomplished much, and his popularity soared.

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Bush was the first governor to serve two consecutive four-year terms, as the gubernatorial term changed from two years to four years, by constitutional amendment, in 1975. During his two terms, he signed legislation aimed at improving education, a tax cut, and a requirement for retail electric utility companies to obtain part of their energy from alternative sources. The major alternative energy source proved to be wind power, making Texas the leading state that produces wind-powered electricity. He also signed a concealed handgun law, which Ann Richards had previously vetoed. In his second term, Bush's popularity drew attention to his potential candidacy for President.

In the 2000 election campaign for President, Bush ran against Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee. The campaign discussed issues of handling a federal budget surplus, cutting taxes, bolstering defense, gun control, and helping minorities. In a close and controversial election, he won in the Electoral College but with fewer popular votes than Al Gore.

Eight months into his first term, the attack on America occurred on September 11, 2001. The Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon were struck by hijacked airliners. Bush effectively rallied Americans to a call to war against the terror organization known as Al Qaeda, and the government of Afghanistan, which harbored the terrorist organization headed by Osama Bin Ladin. He obtained support from the Congress to invade Afghanistan to track down Al Qaeda members, especially its leaders. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2002 and unseated the Taliban, the party in power, as the military sought out Al Qaeda leaders. Bin Ladin was not found and killed until after Bush's administration.

In 2003, Bush led the U.S. Congress into a second, overlapping war, the War in Iraq. His justification was an alleged buildup of "weapons of mass destruction," such as chemical weapons, which the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, had apparently used on the Kurds of northern Iraq. Bush perceived Iraq as another nation that collaborated with Al Qaeda. In an unusual action in U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. waged a preemptive strike on a nation that had not attacked first. This proved to be the most controversial and far-reaching decision of the Bush presidency. The two wars were still ongoing when Bush left office at a huge price in lost lives and economic investment.

Bush's popularity declined in his second term as the country grew tired of the wars. According to some observers, the point of no return for public opinion of Bush occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the federal agencies, including FEMA, responded sluggishly to the huge human and economic disaster. When he failed to pay a visit to the Gulf Coast disaster area but was photographed peering from the window of his aircraft overhead, Bush was seen as a leader out of touch with the reality of the moment, even though his explanation-not wanting to interfere or create distraction by visiting the disaster zone while relief workers were working-was quite plausible.

In December 2007, the credit crunch occurred that began with the collapse of mortgage-backed securities and grew into the bankruptcy of investment-banking firm Lehman Brothers in 2008.

President Bush signed an economic stimulus bill in 2008 and supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that bailed out AIG, a very large financial institution (insurance) that had leveraged itself into a fatal or near-fatal position in the market. (General Motors was reorganized under Chapter 11 and bailed out in 2009, during President Obama's first term.)

The Bush presidency, while very controversial, will be analyzed in history as an administration that prevented further attacks on U.S. soil, even as certain freedoms were encroached upon with issues such as privacy, detention, interrogation techniques, and due process. Economic reforms in the post-Bush era have been attempted, such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, but with mixed and still-uncertain results. The effect of recent reform of federal disaster relief is also uncertain.

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