A Year of Challenges for George W. Bush

Article excerpt

Byline: PHILIPPE DEBEUSSCHER
Agence France Presse

WASHINGTON - After a year in power, US President George W. Bush has finally put the 2000 election fiasco behind him, thanks to his deft handling of the response to the September 11 attacks but major challenges lie ahead in this mid-term election year with an economy in recession and Democrats in control of the Senate.

Perceived, upon his arrival to the White House on January 20, 2001 as having limited political experience, mainly in his home state of Texas, a lack of legitimacy surrounded Bush as a result of the disputed Florida vote recount.

In his first eight months in office he failed to dissipate public doubt, pressing conservative policies by relying on experienced aides drawn in part from the presidency of his father George Bush.

But the September 11 attacks, which not only hit key symbols of US capitalism and military might - New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon - and also undermined the US feeling of invincibility, had a powerful impact on Bush.

The terror strikes forced him to redefine himself as president, and his declaration of war on international terrorism quickly led to the disintegration of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

However, the campaign has not yet fully reached its goal of eradicating the al Qaeda network of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

For Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, Bush has essentially reinvented himself since the attacks. "The second George W. Bush presidency - the one that began September 11 - has been strikingly more successful than the first," Mann noted.

"Since the attacks, President Bush has demonstrated impressive leadership skills and political instincts, garnering widespread public admiration for his judgment and strength," he added.

And although September 11 worsened the economic recession and dissolved the budget surplus, used to shoulder the cost of the attacks and pay the expenses of a war Americans could get tired of if results are less than spectacular. …