Taking the Measure: The Presidency of George W. Bush

By Donald R. Kelley; Todd G. Shields | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Economic Legacy of
George W. Bush

Raymond Tatalovich

The tenure of Pres. George W. Bush was dominated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the resulting wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. National security trumped economics in 2002, when the GOP won control of the House and Senate in the midterm elections, and proved to be the key issue in the reelection of Bush in 2004. Had the economy been the key issue in the 2004 campaign, as it had been in 1992, Kerry might well have defeated George W. Bush the way Bill Clinton beat his father. The economy was never a success story for Pres. George W. Bush, and that legacy was the Achilles’ heel in John McCain’s campaign to succeed Bush in 2008. Negative economic perceptions only worsened when the financial “crisis” of September−October 2008 decidedly helped to elect Barack Obama.

The eight years of George W. Bush was bookended by recessions. The five-member Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) tracks the expansions and contractions of the business cycle. The 2001 recession occurred under Bush, though there were signals that economic growth was slowing in 2000, the last year of President Clinton. Technically the recession began in March 2001 but, because of the sluggish pace of economic recovery, not until July of 2003 could the NBER definitively conclude that the economic downturn had ended in November of 2001. And though it lasted only eight months, the 2002 midterm elections were waged at a time of great uncertainty about the economy. In other words, although the 2001 recession was relatively brief and shallow in its impact, what

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