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Debate: George W. Bush

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Did George W. Bush leave a positive legacy for America and the world?

Background and context

George Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. There are numerous contentious issues, each of which could lead to a full debate in its own right. To keep a broad perspective, this article will look at his personal qualities, his mandate, his domestic policy plans, his foreign policy plans and his performance in the office so far. It is important to not give undue emphasis to his views on various legislative issues though, as the US President has no power to legislate. As a general rule, he is not allowed to sit in Congress.

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Argument #1

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Yes

His personal qualities and background show him to be a capable leader. He is obviously intelligent and received a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He is patriotic and disciplined and served as an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard. He is well acquainted with business as he had a career in the oil and gas business in Midland in 1975, working in the energy industry until 1986. As a politician, he was well respected in Texas and he became the first Texas Governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms on November 3, 1998, winning 68.6 percent of the vote. His links to scandals are both more remote and less serious than that of his predecessor President Bill Clinton.

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No

Intelligence can hardly be one of his virtues. He was exposed on national television not knowing important things like the name of the heads of Pakistan and India, despite pronouncing strong opinions about them. His military career seems to have numerous ‘missing’ portions, including having gotten his commission without going through the difficult ‘Officer Cadet School’ and getting his pilot’s licence despite low scores on the aptitude tests. He has also had dubious associations with shady business deals and there is strong suspicion that he dabbled with drugs. His personal qualities are not quite as shining as they are made out to be.

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Argument #2

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Yes

It was Bill Clinton and Al Gore who decided not to amend the Electoral College system before the elections, and so George Bush won despite playing on the rules of the incumbent. More importantly, the electoral college represents the federal nature of the US, and is not in itself illegitimate. His victory was endorsed by judges according to the Constitution of the US according to the rule of law, not according to their preference. They also have security of tenure and there is no need for them to vote in line with the views of whoever appointed them. His mandate is clearly legitimate.

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No

More than any President previously, he has a very weak democratic mandate too, having secured fewer votes than Al Gore and having his victory handed to him by Conservative judges in the Supreme Court, who had been appointed under Reagan.

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Argument #3

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Yes

He has a strong stand on domestic issues and is tough on crime. He is in favour of stricter gun laws, trying adolescent offenders as adults and maintaining the death penalty. Most of these measures are necessary, especially in the light of cases like the Columbine killings.

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No

A tough stand is not necessarily a correct one. Texas has the highest rate of executions in the US, and given the propensity of error in judgments, it might mean that some innocent people are executed. Trying child offenders as adults will undermine the primary purpose of rehabilitaion which is best for children. While he is in favour of stricter gun laws, he is a long way from banning the use of guns.

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Argument #4

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Yes

He has a sound economic policy. His plan to provide large tax cuts is essential at a time when there is a danger that the American ‘bubble’ will burst and the economy will fall into recession. This plan will at least encourage further investment, as businesses will have more liquidity, and this will keep the economy growing.

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No

A tax might cause inflation. This is especially so if it is coupled with lowered interest rates which the Fed seems to have been announcing recently. There is no indication that there is a ‘bubble’ at all.

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Argument #5

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Yes

The nuclear missile defence system is a sound policy, and the threat it is aimed against is a launch of nuclear weapons by a rogue state. China and Russia have nothing to fear.

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No

His plan to institute a nuclear missile defence system as part of his foreign policy is ridiculous. It is unlikely to work and will only serve to strain relations with China and Russia.

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Argument #6

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Yes

International politics is not just about making concessions. If they admitted fault immediately, China would have used that as leverage to gain further concession out of the US. China has also spied extensively on the US. Instead, Bush’s response showed that he is not going to be a pushover, and yet in the long term he has agreed to a compromise. Relations are getting back to normal now and the US has been allowed to recover the remains of their aircraft.

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No

The diplomatic skills of his team are dreadful. When the American EP-3 spy plane crashed with a Chinese jet close to Chinese territory, the correct thing to have done would have been to have issued an official apology. Instead, he was defiant and made the row worse with his obstinacy.

See also

External links and resources

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