On this day in 1946, George Walker Bush, the son of future President George Herbert Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut.
When he was two years old, Bush’s parents moved to Texas. where the elder Bush worked in the oil industry. Bush was nicknamed “Dubya” for his middle name, which began with the letter “W,” and as a way to distinguish him from his father, who was also named George. He graduated from Yale University in 1968, after which he served in the Texas Air National Guard as an F-102 fighter pilot. In 1975, Bush obtained his M.B.A. from Harvard University and followed his father into the lucrative oil business. He worked on the senior Bush’s successful presidential campaign of 1988 (as well as the ill-fated one in 1992), became part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989 and became governor of Texas in 1994, a position he held for six years.
George W. Bush ran for the presidency as a “compassionate conservative” Republican in 1999, beating Democrat Vice President Al Gore in a hotly contested election that hinged on close vote counts in several Florida counties. Al Gore immediately filed a lawsuit contesting the results, but a month later the Supreme Court declared Bush the official winner, making him the 43rd president of the United States. Bush revived a conservative political agenda similar to that advanced by both his father’s and Ronald Reagan’s administrations, and even appointed key advisors from both Bush Sr.’s and Reagan’s administrations to his cabinet. Bush made political history, though, when he appointed the first black secretary of state, the well-known and respected former Gulf War general, Colin Powell.
Just nine months into his administration, Bush faced a tragic and unprecedented challenge to his presidency and to America’s national security. On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked commercial jets and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, killing close to 3,000 people in what was the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941. Immediately, Bush launched the “war on terror” in which he would seek, but not wait for, international cooperation in rooting out terrorist networks in the Middle East and South Asia, beginning with al-Qaida headquarters in Afghanistan.
In 2003, Bush extended the war on terror to include an invasion of Iraq, based on controversial evidence that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein—who had attempted to assassinate Bush’s father in 1992—was secretly building weapons of mass destruction in violation of a U.N. agreement. In December 2003, Hussein was captured by U.S. troops, but sectarian violence, led by Islamic insurgents, has continued. At the time of Bush’s second inauguration in 2004, U.S. military forces and a handful of allies, including the United Kingdom, remained in Iraq in an attempt to help rebuild the country and establish a viable democratic government.