A descendant of seven Mayflower Passengers, John Howland, Elizabeth Tilley, Henry Samson, Francis Cooke, Mary Chilton and her parents, Mr. and Mrs James Chilton
Mary Chilton m. John Winslow
John Winslow m. Judith Smith
Judith Winslow m. John Packard
Mary Packard m. Samuel Kingsley
Silence Kingsley m. Samuel Herrick
Sarah Herrick m. Rev. Nathaniel Butler
Samuel Herrick Butler m. Judith Livingston
Courtland Philip Livingston Butler m. Elizabeth Slade Pierce
John Howland m. Elizabeth Tilley
Hope Howland m. John Chipman
Hope Chipman m. John Huckins
Hope Huckins m. Thomas Nelson
Hannah Nelson m. Jabez Wood
Rev Jabez Wood m. Joanna Short
Joanna Wood m. Comfort Horton
Sarah Horton m. Jarvis Wheeler
Betsey S. Wheeler m. Levi Pierce
Elizabeth Slade Pierce m. Courtland Philip Livingston Butler
Mary Elizabeth Butler m. Robert Emmet Sheldon
Flora Sheldon m. Samuel Prescott Bush
Prescott Sheldon Bush m. Dorothy Walker
George H. W. Bush m. Barbara Pierce
Henry Samson m. Sarah Ann Plummer
Stephen Samson m. Elizabeth Sprague
Mary Samson m. Samuel Thayer
Zilpah Thayer m. John Holbrook
John Holbrook m. Rhoda Thayer
John Holbrook m. Mercy Hill
Chloe Holbrook m. James Pierce
John James Pierce m. Kate Pritzel
Scott Pierce m. Mabel Marvin
Marvin Pierce m. Pauline Robinson
Barbara Pierce m. George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush
Bush, George W.
George Walker Bush, b. New Haven, Conn., July 6, 1946, emerged the victor in a disputed election in 2000 to become the 43d president of the United States. And in 2004, Bush won a second term after a fiercely contested and close contest, with his challenger, Sen. John Kerry, only conceding the election a day after the polls had closed.
Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2001, he is the eldest son of former president George Bush. Educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., Yale University, and the Harvard Business School, Bush followed in his father's footsteps by going into the oil business in Midland, Tex., the town where he grew up. After helping to manage his father's successful campaign for the presidency in 1988 he moved to Dallas, where he became familiar to the public as part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1994 he won the Republican party nomination for governor and defeated the popular Democratic incumbent, Ann Richards. During his first term, Bush was able to implement the four-point program outlined in his campaign: reform of the tort laws, the welfare system, and the juvenile justice system, and an increase of local control over school districts. Despite the failure (1997) of his plan to overhaul the state's tax system, he won reelection by a landslide in 1998.
Having demonstrated an ability to attract bipartisan support in Texas, Bush was early viewed as a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000. He formed an exploratory committee for that run in March 1999 and began actively campaigning in June. By that time he had amassed a campaign fund of $36.2 million, far more than any other candidate had ever raised that early in a campaign - and his funds continued to grow. In the Iowa straw poll of August 1999 he finished a comfortable first among the nine Republican contenders.
In early 2000, Bush was a strong winner in the January Iowa caucuses, but he came in a poor second to Sen. John McCain in the New Hampshire primary. In battling McCain in the following primaries, he swung hard to the right and spent all of his $70-million war chest. The two candidates seemed neck-to-neck until the March 7 primaries, when Bush won decisive victories in the dominant delegate states of California and New York and elsewhere. McCain then suspended his presidential campaign and eventually endorsed Bush. Bush runs strongest among conservative Republicans, who make up a formidable base of the party. At the Republican National Convention in August, however, he strove hard to broaden his appeal. His vice-presidential running mate, selected on the eve of the convention, is his father's former secretary of defense, Richard B. Cheney.
The election on November 7 was closer than any in history. A month later Bush was behind the Democratic candidate, Vice-President Al Gore, nationwide, with 246 electoral votes and 49,820,518 popular votes. This tally did not include Florida, however, with its decisive 25 electoral votes. In this state, where his brother Jeb was governor, Bush was ahead by a tiny margin, and his campaign battled in court to stop further recounts of the votes (sought by Gore) that might erode his lead. In the 36-day legal battle, the Florida Supreme Court twice ruled in favor of additional counting, and the U.S. Supreme Court twice intervened to stay its actions. On December 12 (the deadline for states to choose their electors), the U.S. Supreme Court ended all recounts, effectively deciding the election in Bush's favor. Gore conceded on December 13. In the final tally, Bush won by 5 electoral votes but trailed Gore in the nationwide popular vote by more than 500,000; he was the first presidential candidate in more than a century to win the presidency while losing the popular vote. In his victory speech President-elect Bush paid tribute to his opponent and stressed the theme of national reconciliation. In his inaugural address the new president continued to stress national reconciliation and unity and also touched on such major themes of his campaign as improving education, lowering taxes, and upgrading the military.
During his first few months in office, Bush methodically set about implementing this agenda, giving special emphasis to his plan for a $1.6 trillion tax cut, which was criticized by the Democrats as mainly benefiting the rich and eliminating tax revenues that could have been used to shore up Social Security and Medicare and to pay down the national debt. In March 2001 the House passed the Bush tax cut in its entirety, while a month later the Senate approved a lesser cut of $1.2 trillion. Bush's first budget increased spending for education and the military but reduced funding for transportation, agriculture, and environmental protection. On the environment he definitely moved away from Clinton-era policies: while proposing a relaxation of restrictions on oil exploration in public lands, he lowered drinking-water standards, and reversed a decision to regulate carbon dioxide emissions by power plants. Another controversial Bush proposal was to channel federal funds to "faith-based" (religious) charities, which many felt would violate the separation of church and state.
In foreign affairs the Bush administration generally seemed less enthusiastic about international commitments, moving to limit U.S. peacekeeping activities in the Balkans, reduce economic aid to Russia, and abandon the effort to reach an understanding with North Korea. A collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter off the coast of China caused the death of a Chinese airman in April 2001. The resulting crisis in relations with China ended with a U.S. expression of regret over the incident and China's release of the American crew (who had landed at a Chinese airfield). May marked the passage of the final version ($1.35 trillion) of the tax-cut bill but also the defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords (Vt.) from the Republican party (to status as an Independent), which gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate. Bush signed the tax cut into law on June 7. In the same month, the administration announced that it was willing to resume talks with North Korea, and Bush visited Europe to confer with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders and with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Some improvement in relations resulted, but many disagreements remained unresolved.
Then came September 11, 2001, and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by hijacked American airplanes. For the first time since the War of 1812 the mainland United States had been attacked by a foreign enemy, and the estimated death tolls, in the thousands, rivaled the Battle of Antietam, the most deadly day in American history. A horrified nation was in shock, its vulnerability exposed. Then the disbelief and fears rose still higher when a number of persons contracted anthrax from spores sent through the mail, a seemingly apparent case of biological warfare by terrorists, although the source of the deadly letters remains unknown.
The nation looked to its president for leadership, and Bush provided it. Suddenly his rhetoric - comforting and purposeful - possessed an eloquence previously lacking in his speeches. His distaste for detail and lack of nuance, earlier seen as flaws, now became assets as the country, shifting to a war footing, rallied to a president focused on the big picture, untroubled by doubt.
Proclaiming a war against terrorists and those who harbor and aid them, the Bush administration quickly secured the support of most of the countries in the world to apprehend known terrorists and seize their financial assets; many foreign leaders also offered to lend military assistance to the United States in its efforts to hunt down and punish the Islamist terrorist network, Al Qaeda, responsible for the September 11 attacks and its leader Osama bin Laden.
In October, following the refusal of the Taliban government of Afghanistan to turn over bin Laden to the United States, Bush launched an air war against Afghanistan and ordered U.S. Special Forces and commandos to assist the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in its campaign to topple the regime. While avoiding a massive Vietnam-like military buildup and large numbers of American casualties, the United States achieved a stunning victory, destroying Al Qaeda's base of operations in less than two months.
Although the whereabouts of bin Laden, dead or alive, remained unknown, the decisive actions abroad taken by Bush and the absence of further terrorist attacks in the United States after September 11 transformed public perceptions of the president and his administration. With a job-approval rating of about 90% for more than four months, something unparalleled since polling began, Bush used his 2002 State of the Union address to restate his grim resolve to destroy terrorist groups and the countries that sponsor them and to propose the largest defense-spending increase in 20 years, as well as more money for airport policing, for bioterrorism research, for tougher border enforcement, and for technology to track visitors coming to the United States. He followed this up in June with a proposal to create a new cabinet department of Homeland Security, which would combine a number of previously independent federal agencies in the interest of greater efficiency.
The Bush administration had at first been reluctant to become involved in negotiations for a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians. In May 2001, however, Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed Assistant Secretary of State William Burns to act as mediator in the conflict; in June, Powell himself visited the region and began to take an active role in trying to arrange a peace settlement. In October, Bush issued a statement endorsing the idea of a Palestinian state, the first Republican president to do so. The following month retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni was appointed to assist Burns in his mediation efforts. In April 2002, responding to the continued escalation of the fighting, the president sent Powell on a new peace mission to the Middle East. On June 24, in a major speech on the problems in that region, Bush reiterated his support for a Palestinian state, but not under longtime Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, whom he criticized for his tolerance of terrorist groups. The president urged the Palestinians to "elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."
In a further move toward improving relations with Russia, Bush and Russian president Putin agreed in May 2002 to reduce the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over a period of ten years. At the same time, Russia was given an increased role in the NATO decision-making process. At home, in response to a growing scandal involving Enron, WorldCom, and other big U.S. corporations accused of accounting irregularities, Bush pledged (July 9) to "end the days of cooking the books"; he declared that business leaders would be held accountable for their corrupt practices and advocated longer prison terms for those found guilty of fraud.
Having declared in April 2002 that the policy of his administration was to "remove" Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq, Bush, in an address to the UN General Assembly on September 12, warned Hussein that he must comply with UN resolutions on the destruction of his arsenal or face reprisal. The possibility of unilateral U.S. action against Iraq aroused considerable opposition both within and outside the United States. In early October, however, the president received congressional authorization to use force against Iraq. In November, President Bush's popularity with the voters was given as the reason for the Republicans' winning back the Senate and adding several seats to their existing majority in the House, a rare event in midterm elections. A few days after the election, moreover, the United States and Britain won unanimous approval for a UN Security Council resolution calling for the imposition of a tough new weapons inspection regime on Iraq. Although the resolution did not include a threat of serious consequences should Iraq fail to comply (as the Bush administration had hoped for), the United States interpreted it as not requiring a second resolution should the United States decide to go to war.
Although Bush devoted the bulk of his 2003 State of the Union address to domestic programs, such as a plan for revamping Medicare and his continued push for the diminution of federal income taxes, the pith of the speech concerned Iraq and a new problem that had recently arisen, North Korea. The latter had announced late in the previous year that it would no longer adhere to a signed nuclear-weapons-freeze agreement it had made with the Clinton administration in 1994. As Bush continued to advocate a military solution for the removal of the Hussein regime in Iraq, he pointedly took a low-key approach toward the North Koreans, asking Russia and China, which had friendly relations with North Korea, to try to mediate a resolution to that problem.
Despite the U.S. argument that it did not need UN approval to pursue war with Iraq, the extent of world opposition to such a war apparently convinced the administration that it needed to make its case to the international community. Working with Britain, however, it was unable to muster a Security Council majority authorizing war and faced a veto from both France and Russia. By March 2003 the United States had a large force in the Middle East, and with the help of British troops and token support from other countries, it launched massive air strikes on Iraqi military installations on March 19 and invaded Iraq on the 20th (see Iraq War). There were initial doubts about the wisdom of the overall plan of military operations when the "coalition" forces were slowed by unusually bad weather and the hoped-for greeting of the invaders by the Iraqi populace did not materialize. But the forces moved forward with a great deal of professionalism, incurring a minimum number of casualties while destroying and demoralizing opposition troops, and they all but secured the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, by the second week of April. While the fighting raged in Iraq, diplomatic problems arose for the president in the United Nations and elsewhere about how a liberated Iraq should be governed and by whom. Experiencing a minimal number of casualities, coalition forces were in control of Iraq by the end of the month, and Bush declared the war over (though not ended, for legal reasons) on May 1.
The diplomatic difficulties with nations that had opposed the invasion all but disappeared, to be replaced by problems of dealing with a hostile and unruly Iraqi population and a severely fractured infrastructure. Problems in Iraq continued to mount during the summer of 2003, and Bush's policies came under increasing criticism not only from Democrats but also from members of his own party. Furthermore, U.S. casualties in the postcombat phase of the war were climbing steadily: by September, U.S. forces had suffered more deaths from guerrilla attacks than they had during the invasion. The Iraqi civilian infrastructure - power stations, water-pumping facilities, and oil pipelines - was also being sabotaged by terrorists, inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment among the already discontented population. In addition, no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been found, the elimination of which had served as the primary rationale for the U.S. invasion of the country in the first place. In early September, Bush addressed the nation, stating that he would ask Congress for an additional $87 billion in emergency spending - the largest emergency-spending bill ever requested by a president - to continue the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan. In his speech he gave a new rationale for his administration's Iraq policy, saying that that country had become "the central front" in the war against terrorism. In early November, Congress passed and Bush signed the $87 billion appropriation he had asked for. Later that month he traveled to England for a state visit, where he was warmly greeted by Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair and less cordially by thousands of people who marched in protest against his Iraq policy. Less than a week later, on Thanksgiving Day, Bush made a highly secret, very quick visit to Baghdad, remaining at the airport, where he greeted U.S. troops and helped serve them turkey dinner. Also in November, the president scored a notable political victory when Congress passed legislation reforming Medicare, a major part of his political agenda.
With the fighting in Iraq declared over in May and the rebuilding of that country's infrastructure moving at a torturously slow and often painful pace (in addition to other foreign-policy problems demanding attention: the stalled reconstruction of Afghanistan and the bellicose government of North Korea threatening to build and perhaps distribute nuclear weapons), Bush set out to try to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose latest phase had resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. Using a "road map" - drawn up by the European Union (EU), Russia, the United Nations, and the United States, which through a series of programmed steps would lead to an end of the fighting and an independent state of Palestine by 2005 - as the plan, on June 3, 2003, he met in Egypt with the leaders of five major Arab nations and on the following day, in Jordan, with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and newly appointed Palestinian National Authority prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom, with varying degrees of reluctance, accepted the road map in principle. But in September, with continuing assaults and counterassaults by Palestinian terrorist groups and the Israeli army, it became obvious that the road map to peace was not working, and Abbas resigned his post. The Bush administration, as well as the rest of the world, again searched for a new approach to solving the seemingly intractable problem of peaceful coexistence in the Holy Land.
In October 2003, Bush made a quick, six-day, six-nation visit to Asia to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, held that year in Bangkok, Thailand. He received an unfriendly reception by the public at every stop, most of the demonstrators angered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. His discussions with various foreign leaders during the trip made it more and more clear to him that because of the United States' Middle East policies, many, if not most, of the world's Muslims considered America an enemy. Shortly after his return, in a remarkably frank speech, Bush decried "60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East." He appealed specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and by implication to all other Arab nations, to replace their autocratic regimes with democratic ones. Reaction to this appeal was mixed: some Arab commentators applauded Bush's sentiments, but many more complained that the speech was more for domestic consumption and criticized U.S. policies in the Muslim world.
Despite Bush's statement during the 2000 presidential campaign that Africa "doesn't fit into [U.S.] strategic interests," on July 8, 2003, the president began a five-day, five-nation visit to that continent. During his stops in Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, and Nigeria, his discussions with the various leaders dealt with the AIDS epidemic (earlier in the year the Bush administration had pledged $15 billion over a five-year period to help fight the disease in Africa and the Caribbean), trade, the encouragement of democracy, and, in Nigeria, the promotion of oil exports, which would lessen somewhat the U.S. dependence on the unstable Middle East. Some political observers also noted that the visit to Africa could burnish Bush's popularity with African Americans, only 10% of whom voted for him in 2000.
As 2003 came to a close and a new year dawned, the Bush administration's policies, both domestic and foreign, appeared to be bearing positive fruit. In mid-December, U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein, the result of a persistent and sophisticated intelligence operation. At the end of that same week Iran signed an agreement permitting complete inspection of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move long demanded by the administration. Later that month the Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi renounced his country's efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, which some analysts attributed to pressure resulting from the tough U.S. stance in Iraq as well as in foreign affairs in general. Then, in the first week of 2004, North Korea offered to suspend its nuclear-weapons program in return for a treaty with the United States, a positive breakthrough in a potentially dangerous standoff with the rogue nation. Domestically, the U.S. economy showed definite signs of improvement at year's end, which the administration attributed to the Bush tax cut of 2001. All of these significant achievements confused the opposition Democratic party, then in the process of choosing a presidential candidate, while increasing Bush's standing with U.S. voters as the 2004 election date began to appear on the horizon.
But just as Bush was riding the crest of a wave of approval in January 2004, his popularity plunged precipitously in early February. Although the economy continued to improve, there remained a major deficiency in the number of jobs being created. Furthermore, the president's 2004 State of the Union address was regarded by many as unexciting and containing very few worthy new initiatives, and his annual budget request, issued soon after, augured huge government deficits far into the future. In addition to economic woes, the administration's chief weapons inspector, David Kay, resigned after returning from Iraq without finding any weapons of mass destruction; he also stated that there most likely had not been any when the coalition forces invaded the country in 2003, which had been the administration's rationale for the invasion. Questions also arose during this time about the president's service during the Vietnam War, suggesting that not only had he joined the National Guard to avoid being sent to Vietnam but that his commitment to his duties while in the Guard had been perfunctory at best. These flaws were seized on by Democrats and examined closely and loudly by the various news media. But equally serious for the Bush White House, they also brought questioning from some conservative Republicans deeply disturbed about the promise of huge national deficits as well as the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. As far as the public was concerned, various opinion polls showed that Bush's approval rating had fallen to below 50%.
The 2004 presidential campaign picked up speed in March and April when Sen. John Kerry, the candidate left standing after the early primaries and caucuses, became the all-but-official Democratic presidential nominee, giving the Republicans a specific target to concentrate on. In March a long-awaited increase in the number of jobs created, in addition to statistics that showed that the economy was continuing to expand, boded well for Bush, who claimed the improvement as a direct consequence of the large tax cuts he had maneuvered through Congress in 2003.
Other news reports, however, caused concern in the White House. One, the result of an independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks, seemed to indicate that the Bush administration had been less than sensitive to intelligence data warning of a terrorist move within the United States, very possibly employing hijacked airplanes, a charge that the president and those around him hotly denied. And in early April 2004, widespread uprisings in Iraq took the occupying forces by surprise and caused U.S. casualty figures to rise precipitously, which brought obvious condemnation from Democrats but also questions from some in the media and the public about the Bush strategy in that country. Also in April, President Bush met in Washington with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and endorsed an Israeli plan to single-handedly withdraw both troops and settlements from the Gaza Strip while retaining some settlements in the West Bank in a final peace plan, and denying a right to return by the Palestinians and their descendants who fled Israel when it became a state. Bush's acceptance of the latter two parts of the plan without consultation with the Palestinians marked a departure from previous U.S. policy and angered the Arab world.
In May 2004, revelations that Iraqi detainees were being seriously abused caught the Bush administration off guard. Pictures of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by their U.S. guards were featured in news media around the world, forcing the president to make a public apology. While Bush's staff worked to keep problems in Iraq from causing political damage, he continued electioneering, speaking mostly about the economy, which still showed signs of improvement, and promoting his tax and education policies. Despite the negative publicity stirred up by the Iraqi prisoner-abuse scandal, polls showed that Bush was still able to keep a few percentage points ahead of Kerry in the presidential race.
In the first week of June 2004, Bush traveled to Europe to mark the entry of Allied forces into Rome during World War II, and then, two days later, on June 6, to the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy, France, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings (see Normandy Invasion) that eventually led to the liberation of the Continent from the Nazis. Although the visit to Europe was one of both celebration of victory and somber remembrance, a loud undertone concerned the U.S. presence in Iraq. Polls taken in both Italy and France showed continuing disapproval of the U.S. actions there, and even an audience with Pope John Paul II brought a mention of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Bush traveled from Europe directly to Sea Island, Ga., to host the 30th annual summit of the Group of Eight. Again, despite the fact that the purpose of these yearly meetings is to consider global economic problems, reservations about Iraq overshadowed the event. Bush, however, scored a major victory on the opening day of the forum, June 8, when the UN Security Council unanimously voted to accept a joint U.S.-British resolution to end the occupation of Iraq on June 30 and to transfer sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government, which, in a tacit way, seemed to legitimatize the U.S. invasion. He followed up the UN action by soliciting from the other participants both financial help and personnel commitments for the rebuilding effort in Iraq. Also at the conference, the president sought support for a Mideast initiative that was designed to aggressively promote democracy in that region. Although the plan received conditional approval from those in attendance, it was greeted with hostility by the leaders of several important Arab nations who, insulted by the notion of outside political interference, had refused a special invitation to Sea Island to discuss the idea.
Bush visited Europe again in late June 2004, this time Ireland for the annual EU-U.S. summit meeting, where the parties signed joint agreements on counterterrorism and on counterproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, among other things. From there he traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, for a NATO summit meeting. In both Ireland and Turkey there were signs of the United States' strained position in the world community. Large, angry crowds in both places protested against the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and in Ireland as well as in Turkey, Bush was questioned closely by world leaders about U.S. actions in Iraq. At the NATO forum, the president, with diminished expectations, asked for only limited help in training the new Iraqi army and police force rather than seek a commitment of troops and funds to help in returning the country to a degree of normalcy. With Bush still at the NATO meeting, the United States turned over the reins of power to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, two days earlier than planned and without public ceremony in order to forestall probable attacks by local insurgent forces. The move, strategically and politically risky, was greeted somewhat skeptically in Iraq but was seen in a more positive light in the United States. Back home, the president was handed a defeat by the Supreme Court, which, in one of its end-of-term decisions, ruled against the administration's claim of wartime authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects indefinitely and deny them access to lawyers or courts while under interrogation. Also at the end of June, Bush's approval rating in public-opinion polls fell to its lowest point of his presidency.
At the Republican National Convention in September 2004, held in New York City, Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second presidential term with a speech that sought to emphasize his leadership abilities, which opinion polls showed as his major strength going into the election, in contrast to what he and his advisors perceived as an exploitable weakness in his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry. The speech was divided equally between domestic and foreign-policy issues, the latter specifically the Iraq War and the war against terrorism, which the president and his administration had continued to insist were two faces of the same problem despite widespread criticism of that view. While reiterating the validity of his decision to invade Iraq, he assured the cheering delegates that he remained resolute and would continue to attack the nation's enemies wherever they could be found, before they could attack the United States. On the domestic front, and without offering specific details, Bush promised to hold back government spending, to simplify the tax code, to offer tax credits for health-savings accounts, and to allow personal investment accounts for Social Security, among other things.
The first of three nationally televised debates between the presidential candidates, held at the end of September 2004 - whose subject was the war in Iraq and its aftermath and the U.S. policies against terrorism - was considered a defeat for Bush and resulted in a subsequent rise in Senator Kerry's standing in the preelection polls; the television cameras recorded Bush scowling and noticeably uncomfortable when his policies were attacked by his opponent, reactions that were regarded negatively by many viewers. As a result the two men entered the second debate, eight days later, statistically even. This debate, conducted in a town-hall format, featured uncommitted voters posing prescreened questions to each candidate. Neither Bush nor Kerry seemed to have gained advantage as a result of their second face-off, and it was widely recorded as a draw. Bush's onstage demeanor was markedly tempered even as the attacks by his opponent grew more pointed and severe. The last debate was also a draw, with both candidates consciously avoiding the mistakes they had made during the previous two. When the campaign was finally over and the results were in, it seemed that the three debates had had little influence on the outcome of the election.
In the end, after one of the most dramatic and emotional presidential election campaigns in a century, President Bush won a clear and conclusive victory. The campaign had been hard-fought and relentless, with both candidates making appearances even on Election Day, a rarity in U.S. presidential contests. During the months leading up to the election Bush had maintained that he was better able to protect the nation from terrorist threats, while Kerry attacked what he called the president's mismanagement of the Iraq War and criticized the administration's handling of the economy and such social issues as health care and social security. Surveys of voters leaving the polls indicated that their final choice had indeed been swayed by the arguments of both candidates. In the last days of campaigning both sides had made herculean efforts to get out the vote, the Bush forces concentrating on Christian conservatives while the Democrats focused on young voters and African Americans, and the electorate responded by turning out in record numbers to cast their ballot.
Biography from The Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia