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Looking Back On Bush's Eight Years In Office

This story was written by Jordain Carney, Arkansas Traveler

Today, as a new president prepares to take office, President George W. Bush faces his last 76 days in the White House after eight controversial years in office.

"We will confront the hard issues, threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security before the challenges of our time become crises for our children," said President George W. Bush during his 2000 speech at the Republican National Convention.

Later that year, after campaigning against Al Gore, Bush won a controversial election in which he lost the popular vote but still won the majority of the electoral vote, according to the Supreme Court decision in Bush vs. Gore.

On Sept. 11, 2001, America faced terrorist attacks in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, and after being in office for only nine months, the Bush administration found itself dealing with an event that would shape its policy in the years to come.

"I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks," Bush said at an Air Force base in Louisiana. "Make no mistake: the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."

Bush worked with the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iraq before breaking with the UN and beginning Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. While the Iraq War Resolution passed in Congress with a majority, since then, various representatives and senators, including Sen. Hilary Clinton, a Democrat from New York, have said they now would vote against the war, and the sentiment is echoed by many across the University of Arkansas campus.

"The Iraqis don't even want us there," UA student Brittany Rodgers said.

While Democrats have pushed for a timeline to withdraw from Iraq, Bush has objected and even used his veto power to stop bills that had a timeline stipulation.

"We need to help them rebuild their country," UA student Sarah Dollard said.

However, Dollard said she didn't know if U.S. troops should have ever gone to Iraq.

"I don't think we really had any business going in to begin with," she said.

In January 2002, Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. Within the first month of being in office, he sent copies of his ideas regarding education to leaders of both houses, and throughout 2001, he talked with various members of Congress to make sure the legislation was on the right path.

"We owe the children of America a good education," Bush said before signing the bill into law in Ohio."And today begins a new era, a new time in public education in our country."

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the act aimed at four things: accountability for results, unprecedented state and local flexibility, focusing resources on proven methods, and expanded choices for parents. In an April 2008 press release, Bush said that although the law was a bipartisan effort, there had been no real effort to strengthen it since 2001, and he had given Education Secretary Margaret Spellings permission to institute reforms that would address the "dropout crisis" that had caused some to criticize the act.

The terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001, caused the president to begin a campaign to make borders more secure and, in a press release, he "commended the Senate action on immigration legislation." In 2004, Bush proposed a temporary worker program that would pair foreign workers with companies when no Americans could be found to fill the job, he said during his radio address. In a 2005 press release, he applauded the House for passing an immigrtion reform bill.

"The bill I'm about to sign is an important step in our nation's efforts to secure our border and reform our immigration system," Bush said in 2006 from the Roosevelt Room as he signed the Secure Fencing Act, which allowed for hundreds of miles of fencing along the southern border of the country.

"I thank the members of the Senate and members of my administration who worked so hard on the border security and immigration reform bill," Bush said in 2007, after the Senate failed to reach an agreement on the bill. He said that Congress's failure to act on immigration was a disappointment.

Beginning in 2001, Bush spoke to members of Congress about an economic stimulus, and in June 2001, he signed his tax relief policy into law. The plan included increasing the child tax credit to $1,000, reducing the marriage penalty and making the Research and Experimentation tax credit permanent.

"These are the basic ideas that guide my tax policy: lower income taxes for all, with the greatest help for those most in need," Bush said on But the law drew criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans.

"This is a classic case of lost opportunity - it's full of gimmicks," Sen. Joseph Lieberman said at the time.

More tax cuts - which aimed to reduce tax rates, end double taxation of dividends and give incentives for small businesses to grow - were implemented by the Bush administration in 2003, and Bush said 92 million taxpayers would benefit.

But the tax plan was met with hesitation in Congress from Republicans and Democrats alike.

"I have a feeling this is going to backfire on the president," Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee said in an interview with CNN anchor Bill Hemmer. The senator said they should consider how the tax cuts would affect the growing deficit.

"The agenda starts with keeping taxes low and restraining the spending appetite of the federal government," Bush said in 2005 while outlining his economic agenda and reiterating that he believed the U.S. economy was strong. "Tax relief left more money in the pockets of the people."

From the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington in 2006, despite differing opinions about the economy, Bush said the economy was thriving and strong, and his tax cuts "left $880 billion in the hands of Americans. And they have used that money to fuel our economic resources."

In February 2008, the president signed into law the stimulus package that would send checks to Americans.

Since the economic crisis in fall 2008, the president called for responsible government intervention in the markets and supported the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, even though the act was received with heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle.

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