George W. Bush's second term as President of the United States
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Governor of Texas
President of the United States
- 1 Stated goals
- 2 Inauguration
- 3 First 100 days
- 4 Assassination attempt
- 5 2006 State of the Union Address
- 6 Fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks
- 7 Mid-term elections
- 8 Invoking the 25th Amendment
- 9 Shoe-throwing incident
- 10 Domestic policy
- 11 National security and presidential power controversies
- 12 Foreign policy
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Bush's stated goals for his second term were:
- Major changes to the federal tax code
- Limits on medical malpractice lawsuits (tort reform and non-economic damages caps)
- Reform of Social Security
- Immigration Reform
- Amending the United States Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife
- Continuation of the War in Iraq
- Continuing to fight the War on Terror
- Strengthening public education, particularly through the continuation of the No Child Left Behind Act
- Expanding college affordability programs
||This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (March 2009)|
Some $40 million was raised by private sponsors such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Cinergy, Occidental Petroleum and the Nuclear Energy Institute. The money was to be spent on parties, parades, and other celebrations before and after the actual inauguration. Donors received special tickets and seating at the events. While Bill Clinton's second inauguration in 1997 cost $42.7 million, Bush drew some criticism for planning such an extravagant celebration.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the inaugural events as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). The designation provided additional security measures and a higher number of security personnel. Bush was surrounded by Secret Service officers and police on all sides of the procession from the Capitol to the White House and snipers were positioned on top of buildings. Due to the tight security measures the most significant threat to materialize was a snowball thrown at Dick Cheney's limousine. There were many protesters and at least one fire, however, but this did not threaten the safety of the event in any significant way. Bush remained in his own limousine until he reached the last leg of the journey down Pennsylvania Avenue, where, as is traditional, he got out of his car and walked the rest of the way. This was the most heavily secured inauguration in the history of the United States.
First 100 days
George W. Bush, having won a majority of the vote in the 2004 election, began his second term with a self-declared "historic victory" and with "political capital". He was the sixteenth president to win a full second term. As in his first term, he began his second administration with a majority of his party, the Republicans, in both the House and Senate.
Social Security reform
The first month of Bush's second term was largely spent in debate over one of his stated goals, partial privatization of Social Security. The plan called to give younger workers the option of redirecting some payroll taxes into their own private account. Current retirees and those soon to retire would see little change, but opponents of Social Security reform contend that later retirees would receive lower benefits. Congress' budget analysts estimated that the program's trust funds would be depleted in 2052, and something had to be done to save the program. Republicans even argued that the trust fund had already been spent for other purposes with no plan to pay it back and that Social Security would run out of funds by 2018. Democrats, however, accused the President and other Republicans of creating a Social Security scare, and that the program was not in as much danger as the Republicans had claimed. The Social Security plan remained a priority for Bush's national agenda for several months but it proved unpopular with the majority of the public and ultimately, since no reform bill was released by committees in the Republican controlled House and Senate, nothing came to pass.
State of the Union
On February 2, Bush delivered the first State of the Union Address of his second term. He discussed his plans for partially privatizing Social Security, receiving jeers from Democrats and applause from Republicans. He chastised Iran as the "primary state sponsor of terror" and promised Iranian reformists the backing of the U.S., and warned Syria to stop supporting terrorists as well. He encouraged Egypt and Saudi Arabia to do more to foster democracy as part of the United States' highest ideal in the War on Terror: "America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world... Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace." A regular device of recent State of the Union Addresses is to use special guests to illustrate points. This address included an embrace between the parents of a Marine killed in Iraq, and an Iraqi woman, Safia Taleb al-Suhail, who took part in the recent Iraqi election, 11 years after her own father was murdered by Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.
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President Bush began his European tour on February 20 in hopes of repairing relations between Europe and the U.S. His five-day trip  began in Brussels and concluded in Slovakia where he met with virtually every prominent politician on the continent: Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, Viktor Yushchenko, Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, members of the European Council, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) heads of states, and completed with Vladimir Putin. After Brussels, President Bush stopped in Mainz, Germany, where he dined with U.S. troops based near Wiesbaden. Bush ultimately arrived for the conclusive Slovakia Summit for a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. President Bush's celebrated arrival to Slovakia – marking the first time a sitting President of the United States visited Slovakia — was greeted by Slovakian Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and President Ivan Gašparovič.
On March 7 Bush nominated John Bolton as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Congressional Democrats and Republican George Voinovich filibustered the nomination, claiming the Bush administration was withholding important documents from Bolton's service in the Department of Defense. On August 1 Bush appointed Bolton to the position during a congressional recess.
On April 15, Bush called for an energy plan to be developed by Congress. After lengthy negotiations between the House and Senate, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed. Although it included large subsidies for the oil, coal, nuclear, and natural gas industries and weakened many environmental protections, Bush touted the provisions that maintained a wind tax credit and conservation and efficiency incentives. Despite pressure from Bush and Alaska's senators, environmentalists were able to keep drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out of the bill. Bush signed it into law on August 8.
During a visit to the Republic of Georgia on May 10, 2005 there was an attempt to assassinate Bush by Vladimir Arutinian, whose live grenade failed to detonate after hitting a girl and landing in the large crowd 19 meters from the podium where Bush was delivering a speech.
2006 State of the Union Address
In Bush's 2006 State of the Union Address, delivered on January 31, he declared, "America is addicted to oil" and announced his Advanced Energy Initiative to increase alternative energy research. While keeping with many of the same priorities and achievements he outlined in his previous address, Bush touted elections in Egypt and the Palestinian territories and praised reform in Saudi Arabia.
Bush pressed the Congress to focus on reforming Social Security and Medicare. This address was seen as key as to whether Bush's Republican Party would get head-start with polls indicating their defeat later in the year.
Fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks
Bush launched a public relations campaign prior to the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil. In a series of speeches, President Bush spoke more openly about his the American interrogation program, touted progress in the War on Terror, declared the Iraq War central to it, and shifted Bush's rhetoric from portraying the Iraq War as the cornerstone of a transformational change to democracy in the Middle East to the battleground in a broader global conflict with Islamic extremism comparable to the fight against Nazi fascism in World War II.
On September 11, 2006, the United States and relatives of the victims commemorated the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on American soil. President Bush visited the sites of the attacks, laying a wreath with First Lady Laura Bush at the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania in which United Flight 93 crashed. Bush later that day delivered a prime-time speech from the Oval Office, proclaiming the War on Terror the "ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation" and a "struggle for civilization." While conceding the misconceived link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, supported by the conclusion of a U.S. Senate report released on September 8, he said Hussein's regime posed a "clear threat" that justified a war that he said has made the world safer. Bush was resolute that changing direction in Iraq would be tantamount to giving in to terrorists like Osama bin Laden whom he said sees the Iraq War as "The Third World War".
President Bush lent his views to a few controversies that would potentially shape the mid-term elections, held on November 7, 2006. On October 11 Bush called Mark Foley's actions in the congressional page scandal disgusting and said the Republicans would retain control of Congress in the 2006 congressional elections despite the scandal. On October 30, Senator John Kerry said, "You know, education - if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Bush countered, "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful. The men and women who serve in our all-volunteer armed forces are plenty smart and are serving because they are patriots - and Senator Kerry owes them an apology." Kerry initially refused to apologize, saying, "The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe. It's a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything in America to raw politics." Kerry caved in to bipartisan pressure and apologized the next day on November 1.
Bush also went on the campaign trail, stressing that the Republicans were strong on national security and would keep taxes low, unlike the Democrats.
But Bush's tone changed accordingly when the Republicans lost the majority of state governorships and control of both houses of the bicameral legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate, to the Democrats. The next day on November 8, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned. Rumsfeld, who had endured several calls for his resignation but had won what many thought was an assurance of his job security as recently as November 1 by Bush's voiced confidence in his job performance, served until the confirmation of his successor, whom Bush nominated that day to be former CIA Director Robert Gates. Bush spoke about these developments in a press conference. Regarding the elections, he said, "Look, this was a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping... I'm obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election, and as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility. I told my party's leaders that it is now our duty to put the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and independents on the great issues facing this country." Bush highlighted bipartisan efforts in the past: "We had some pretty good success early on in this administration. We got the No Child Left Behind Act passed, which was an important part of bipartisan legislation. We got some tax cuts passed with Democrat votes", adding later that the prospects of immigration reform are improved under a Democratic-led Congress. He also said, "I knew we were going to lose seats, I just didn't know how many... I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security." Regarding the Defense Secretary post, he said he made the decision based on the consent from Rumsfeld, whom he said appreciated "the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war [in Iraq]", and Gates from speaking to them on election day, and that the change would have happened regardless of the outcome of the elections. While affirming the United States' commitment to the mission in Iraq through statements to U.S. enemies, U.S. troops, and the Iraqi people, he said he was "looking forward" to the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member at the time, on U.S. policy in Iraq.
Invoking the 25th Amendment
On July 21, 2007 Bush underwent a colonoscopy for the second time. During the 2½ hour operation the 25th Amendment was invoked making Dick Cheney the Acting President for the second time within Bush's presidency.
On December 15, 2009, just five weeks before he handed over power to Barack Obama, President Bush made a surprise trip to Iraq. While the President was giving a press conference in Baghdad, Muntadar al-Zaidi threw both his shoes at the President in a gesture of disdain and disrespect. President Bush dodged both and laughed off the incident stating "it's a size 10 shoe that he threw". Afterwards Mr. Zaidi was arrested and eventually sentenced to a 4-year prison term, which was later reduced to one year on appeal. In September 2010, after nine months in jail, Zaidi was released early for good behavior.
Terri Schiavo case
In 2005, a national controversy arose over the fate of Terri Schiavo, a woman diagnosed as being in an irreversible persistent vegetative state. Her husband was trying to get her feeding tube removed against the wishes of Schiavo's family through court action. After a state court ordered the feeding tube removed, Congress passed the Palm Sunday Compromise allowing the case to be moved from state court into federal court. The Senate passed the act late in the evening on March 20, 2005 (Palm Sunday), and the House passed it after midnight on March 21. Bush flew to Washington from his vacation in ranch in Crawford, Texas to sign the bill half an hour after it was passed at 1:11 am. However, Schiavo's family's case was unsuccessful, and her feeding tube was removed on March 18, 2005. She died on March 31, 2005.
After her death, Bush offered his sympathies to the family and said:
|“||I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life.||”|
During a working vacation Bush left his ranch two days early following criticism of a slow and inadequate response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in late August 2005. On August 30, 2005, Bush received additional criticism when photographed playing a guitar he was presented with by country singer Mark Wills during a speech at California's Naval Base Coronado. The administration also faced mounting complaints about the ongoing occupation of Iraq, which some saw as draining much needed manpower and resources needed in the United States during disasters. Bush also faced criticism from fiscal conservatives and those who felt the disaster relief efforts came too late when Bush signed into law a flurry of legislation, including the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act to Meet Immediate Needs Arising From the Consequences of Hurricane Katrina, Second Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act to Meet Immediate Needs Arising From the Consequences of Hurricane Katrina, 2005 Flexibility for Displaced Workers Act, Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005, QI, TMA, and Abstinence Programs Extension and Hurricane Katrina Unemployment Relief Act of 2005, and the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005. Some pundits observed that these recovery activities illustrated Bush's compassionate conservatism, giving opportunities to the needy through a public works overhaul that included emergency aid and incentives to work. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Michael Brown, with whom the Bush administration feuded in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, resigned on September 12; on September 13, in a vague answer to his critics, Bush said, "[T]o the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."
Approaching the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, on August 23, President Bush met with Rockey Vaccarella, a St. Bernard Parish resident and Katrina survivor who drove his FEMA trailer to the White House to thank the president for providing mobile homes to victims.
Supreme Court and Federal Reserve appointments
Bush enjoyed successful nominations to the Supreme Court and Federal Reserve toward the end of the first year in his second term. After Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's July 1 announcement of her retirement, Bush nominated D.C. Circuit judge John Roberts to take her seat. Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on September 3, however, and on September 5 Bush withdrew Roberts's associate justice nomination to instead have him considered for the vacant chief justice seat, with O'Connor agreeing to stay on the Supreme Court until the confirmation of her replacement; the Senate confirmed Roberts's nomination with a 78-22 vote on September 29. On October 3 Bush nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor, but following controversy over her judicial and conservative credentials, on October 27 Miers asked Bush to withdraw her nomination, which he did later that day. On October 31, 2005 Bush nominated Third Circuit judge Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor. Alito was confirmed on January 31, 2006 on a 58-42 vote. Bush's choice to replace Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, however, won relatively smooth confirmation. Following Bush's October 24 nomination of Bernanke, the Senate Banking Committee recommended Bernanke's confirmation by a 13-1 voice vote on November 16. The full Senate confirmed Bernanke on January 31, 2006 by another voice vote, and Bernanke was sworn in on February 1.
In response to the massive immigration protests following bill H.R. 4437 and the subsequent intense debate within and beyond Congress, Bush proposed sweeping legislation that would include a guest worker program, path to citizenship, and increased border security. Bush, who has faced opposition from fellow Republicans on the illegal immigration issue, announced on May 15, 2006 that he would dispatch the National Guard to the United States-Mexico border as an immediate solution. On May 25 the Senate approved bill S. 2611 that would create comprehensive immigration reform consistent with Bush's proposal. On October 26 Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, authorizing the construction of a 700-mile fence along the 1,951-mile United States-Mexico border. In May and June 2007, Bush strongly advocated Senate passage of another sweeping immigration reform proposal, the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The bill was prepared by a bipartisan group of senators with an active participation of the Bush administration. For this reason, the time of its introduction in the Senate in May 2007 the bill was seen as having a greater chance of becoming law compared with the previous immigration reform proposals. A heated debate, both in Congress and among the public, followed. Most of the conservatives broke ranks with Bush and vigorously opposed the bill, for its provisions regarding legalization of illegal immigrants and providing them with a path to citizenship. The bill was ultimately defeated in the Senate, when, on June 28, 2007, a cloture motion to limit the debate failed, 46-53, and did not gather even a simple majority, whereas 60 votes were needed for the motion to pass. In the absence of legislative action, on August 10, 2007 the Bush administration announced a series of immigration enforcement initiatives that do not require a change in law. 
White House shakeup
To revitalize the administration with fresh ideas and improve relations with the press, Bush's cabinet and executive office underwent what major media outlets and Bush himself have called the White House shakeup. Joshua Bolten succeeded Andy Card as White House Chief of Staff on April 14, 2006 following the latter's resignation on March 28. Bush gave Bolten his confidence to make staff changes, and Bolten requested that anyone considering resigning soon should do so now. On April 19 White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced he would resign upon his replacement, and Tony Snow took on press secretary duties on May 8. Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove moved his focus to the fall mid-term elections on April 19 but retained his titles and offices. Although those changes received the most attention, Dirk Kempthorne replaced Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior on May 26, Henry Paulson replaced John W. Snow as Secretary of the Treasury on July 10, and Mary Peters replaced Norm Mineta, who resigned on July 7, as Secretary of Transportation on September 30.
With Bush's backing, the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment was subjected to rigorous debate in Congress. With a 49-48 short of the 60 required for a cloture motion in the Senate, on June 7 the amendment failed to pass.
Stem cell research
In July 2006 Bush used his first Presidential veto on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. A similar bill was passed in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in the early summer of 2007 as part of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 100-Hour Plan. However, Bush vetoed the second bill as well and the votes in Congress were still not enough to override the President's rejection of the legislation.
The economy had seen a fairly large growth in Bush's second term until a huge increase in the price of oil occurred and the subprime mortgage crisis went into full swing. In the fall of 2008, the economy suffered its most serious downturn since the Great Depression.
Between 2001 and 2008 the Bush Administration called for reforms to government-sponsored enterprises created by the United States Congress (GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) some seventeen times as cited below.
2001 April: The Administration's FY02 budget declares that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is "a potential problem," because "financial trouble of a large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities and economic activity." (2002 Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 142)
2002 May: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calls for the disclosure and corporate governance principles contained in the President's 10-point plan for corporate responsibility to apply to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (OMB Prompt Letter to OFHEO, 5/29/02)
2003 February: The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) releases a report explaining that unexpected problems at a GSE could immediately spread into financial sectors beyond the housing market.
September: Then-Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the House Financial Services Committee to recommend that Congress enact "legislation to create a new Federal agency to regulate and supervise the financial activities of our housing-related government sponsored enterprises" and set prudent and appropriate minimum capital adequacy requirements.
September: Then-House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-MA) strongly disagrees with the Administration's assessment, saying "these two entities – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – are not facing any kind of financial crisis … The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing." (Stephen Labaton, "New Agency Proposed To Oversee Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae," The New York Times, 9/11/03) October: Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) refuses to acknowledge any necessity for GSE reforms, saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." (Sen. Carper, Hearing of Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, 10/16/03)
November: Then-Council of the Economic Advisers (CEA) Chairman Greg Mankiw explains that any "legislation to reform GSE regulation should empower the new regulator with sufficient strength and credibility to reduce systemic risk." To reduce the potential for systemic instability, the regulator would have "broad authority to set both risk-based and minimum capital standards" and "receivership powers necessary to wind down the affairs of a troubled GSE." (N. Gregory Mankiw, Remarks At The Conference Of State Bank Supervisors State Banking Summit And Leadership, 11/6/03)
2004 February: The President's FY05 Budget again highlights the risk posed by the explosive growth of the GSEs and their low levels of required capital and calls for creation of a new, world-class regulator: "The Administration has determined that the safety and soundness regulators of the housing GSEs lack sufficient power and stature to meet their responsibilities, and therefore … should be replaced with a new strengthened regulator." (2005 Budget Analytic Perspectives, pg. 83)
February: Then-CEA Chairman Mankiw cautions Congress to "not take [the financial market's] strength for granted." Again, the call from the Administration was to reduce this risk by "ensuring that the housing GSEs are overseen by an effective regulator." (N. Gregory Mankiw, Op-Ed, "Keeping Fannie And Freddie's House In Order," Financial Times, 2/24/04)
April: Rep. Frank ignores the warnings, accusing the Administration of creating an "artificial issue." At a speech to the Mortgage Bankers Association conference, Rep. Frank said "people tend to pay their mortgages. I don't think we are in any remote danger here. This focus on receivership, I think, is intended to create fears that aren't there." ("Frank: GSE Failure A Phony Issue," American Banker, 4/21/04)
June: Then-Treasury Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman spotlights the risk posed by the GSEs and calls for reform, saying "We do not have a world-class system of supervision of the housing government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), even though the importance of the housing financial system that the GSEs serve demands the best in supervision to ensure the long-term vitality of that system. Therefore, the Administration has called for a new, first class, regulatory supervisor for the three housing GSEs: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banking System." (Samuel Bodman, House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Testimony, 6/16/04)
2005 April: Then-Secretary Snow repeats his call for GSE reform, saying "Events that have transpired since I testified before this Committee in 2003 reinforce concerns over the systemic risks posed by the GSEs and further highlight the need for real GSE reform to ensure that our housing finance system remains a strong and vibrant source of funding for expanding homeownership opportunities in America … Half-measures will only exacerbate the risks to our financial system." (Secretary John W. Snow, "Testimony Before The U.S. House Financial Services Committee," 4/13/05) July: Then-Minority Leader Harry Reid rejects legislation reforming GSEs, "while I favor improving oversight by our federal housing regulators to ensure safety and soundness, we cannot pass legislation that could limit Americans from owning homes and potentially harm our economy in the process." ("Dems Rip New Fannie Mae Regulatory Measure," United Press International, 7/28/05)
NOTE: following dissatisfaction with Iraq War, and Bush Administration's 2006 legislative defeats regarding Social Security Reform, the 2006 US midterm elections held on Tuesday Nov 07, 2006, resulted in a sweeping victory for Democratic Party which captured both House of Representatives (233–202 advantage, Speaker, Nancy Pelosi), and effective eight-seat loss in the Senate (51-49, Harry Reid Majority Leader, with independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, both caucused with Democrats, plus eventually on Nov 9th, James Webb/VA, and John Tester/MT following protracted vote recounts), in addition to a majority of governorships (28-22) & state legislatures.
2007 August: President Bush emphatically calls on Congress to pass a reform package for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying "first things first when it comes to those two institutions. Congress needs to get them reformed, get them streamlined, get them focused, and then I will consider other options." (President George W. Bush, Press Conference, the White House, 8/9/07)
August: Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Christopher Dodd ignores the President's warnings and calls on him to "immediately reconsider his ill-advised" position. (Eric Dash, "Fannie Mae's Offer To Help Ease Credit Squeeze Is Rejected, As Critics Complain Of Opportunism," The New York Times, 8/11/07)
December: President Bush again warns Congress of the need to pass legislation reforming GSEs, saying "These institutions provide liquidity in the mortgage market that benefits millions of homeowners, and it is vital they operate safely and operate soundly. So I've called on Congress to pass legislation that strengthens independent regulation of the GSEs – and ensures they focus on their important housing mission. The GSE reform bill passed by the House earlier this year is a good start. But the Senate has not acted. And the United States Senate needs to pass this legislation soon." (President George W. Bush, Discusses Housing, the White House, 12/6/07)
February: Assistant Treasury Secretary David Nason reiterates the urgency of reforms, saying "A new regulatory structure for the housing GSEs is essential if these entities are to continue to perform their public mission successfully." (David Nason, Testimony On Reforming GSE Regulation, Senate Committee On Banking, Housing And Urban Affairs, 2/7/08)
March: President Bush calls on Congress to take action and "move forward with reforms on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They need to continue to modernize the FHA, as well as allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to homeowners to refinance their mortgages." (President George W. Bush, Remarks To The Economic Club Of New York, New York, NY, 3/14/08)
April: President Bush urges Congress to pass the much needed legislation and "modernize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [There are] constructive things Congress can do that will encourage the housing market to correct quickly by … helping people stay in their homes." (President George W. Bush, Meeting With Cabinet, the White House, 4/14/08)
May: President Bush issues several pleas to Congress to pass legislation reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before the situation deteriorates further. "Americans are concerned about making their mortgage payments and keeping their homes. Yet Congress has failed to pass legislation I have repeatedly requested to modernize the Federal Housing Administration that will help more families stay in their homes, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance sub-prime loans." (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/3/08) "[T]he government ought to be helping credit worthy people stay in their homes. And one way we can do that – and Congress is making progress on this – is the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That reform will come with a strong, independent regulator." (President George W. Bush, Meeting With The Secretary Of The Treasury, the White House, 5/19/08) "Congress needs to pass legislation to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure they focus on their housing mission, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to refinance subprime loans." (President George W. Bush, Radio Address, 5/31/08)
June: As foreclosure rates continued to rise in the first quarter, the President once again asks Congress to take the necessary measures to address this challenge, saying "we need to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." (President George W. Bush, Remarks At Swearing In Ceremony For Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development, Washington, D.C., 6/6/08)
July: Congress heeds the President's call for action and passes reform legislation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as it becomes clear that the institutions are failing.
September: Democrats in Congress forget their previous objections to GSE reforms, as Senator Dodd questions "why weren't we doing more, why did we wait almost a year before there were any significant steps taken to try to deal with this problem? … I have a lot of questions about where was the administration over the last eight years." (Dawn Kopecki, "Fannie Mae, Freddie 'House Of Cards' Prompts Takeover," Bloomberg, 9/9/08) (Ref: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2008/10/20081009-10.html).
National security and presidential power controversies
Bush's presidency had been characterized by the unitary executive theory, which is a vigorous defense of "executive privilege", evidenced in such acts as signing Executive Order 13233, which suspends the release of presidential papers, tight control of Congressional inquiries into White House officers such as in the 9/11 Commission's interviews with Condoleezza Rice, Bush and Dick Cheney, and the generally high level of coordination between the White House, Congressional Republicans and Senate Republicans in both of Bush's terms. Many commentators have claimed that deference to executive privilege was one of the principal considerations in Bush's administration, when he proposed his three nominations for the Supreme Court, and appointed John R. Bolton to the United Nations.
Policies of the Bush administration have been criticized for subverting elements of the Constitution, violating treaty obligations, and obstructing justice. The suspension of habeas corpus for U.S. citizens was reversed by the Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004). Domestic spying has included undercover infiltration of political organizations with no suspected terrorist affiliations, telephone surveillance without a warrant, and the Carnivore program for internet surveillance. The policy of holding enemy combatants in a legal status, outside of either due process of criminal prosecution or the Geneva conventions for prisoners of war, created a legal limbo without a process for adjudication or appeal. The extraordinary rendition of an innocent citizen of Canada, to Syria, caused an international incident involving kidnapping, wrongful imprisonment and torture. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, stated in a white paper that "President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers."
CIA leak scandal
In mid-July, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief political advisors, Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby respectively, came under fire for revealing the identity of covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Valerie Plame to reporters in the CIA leak scandal. Libby resigned on October 28, hours after his indictment by a grand jury on multiple counts of perjury, false statements, and obstruction in this case. In November Bush ordered that his staff take mandatory briefings on ethical behavior and handling of classified information.
On October 5, 2005, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which sought to outlaw inhumane treatment of prisoners by restricting interrogation methods to the confines of the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogation passed through the Senate on a 90-9 vote. On December 15, 2005, President Bush announced that he would "make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad." Bush clarified his interpretation of the legislation on December 30, 2005, in a signing statement, reserving what he interpreted to be his presidential constitutional authority in order to avoid further terrorist attacks. The amendment, which critics said had no power to stop the U.S. military from torturing terrorist suspects, followed years of reports of torture in overseas prisons, such as the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. Relatedly, a report of CIA secret prisons in a November 2, 2005 Washington Post article generated further controversy.
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld the Supreme Court rebuffed the administration on the issue of detainee rights, ruling the military commissions at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp illegal and pressuring the interrogation program to reform.
President Bush on September 6 acknowledged that the United States confines terrorists to jail cells overseas through a secret CIA interrogation program. Conceding the program's wide prior disclosure, Bush noted in a televised interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, "Everybody knows that, but I'm now formally announcing it." Bush denied that detainees are tortured but declared the interrogative techniques effective: "I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why... But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful and necessary... Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland", he said, releasing declassified information about intelligence gained from captured terrorists. The president announced the transfer of fourteen high-profile terrorist suspects, including the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks and architects of the USS Cole bombing and U.S. Embassy bombings, from secret prisons to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp for trial. Bush called on Congress to swiftly pass legislation legalizing the use of military commissions for trials of terrorist suspects.
On September 21, Bush bridged an impasse on negotiations for legislation on the treatment of terrorist suspects that was formed when Republican Senators John Warner, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, decorated Vietnam War veteran John McCain, and Armed Services and Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham broke with the party line with Bush's plan announced on September 6; former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell also voiced his opposition to the program. In the agreement, Bush made concessions on the harshness of the language but he said it "preserves the single most potent tool we have in protecting America and foiling terrorist attacks." On September 28 and September 29 the Senate and House respectively passed different versions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law on October 17. It created military commissions to try suspected terrorists and allow the president to determine the legality of interrogation techniques so long as they do not constitute clear abuse of the Geneva Conventions.
According to the book Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer, in 2007, Red Cross investigators concluded in a secret report that the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Al-Qaeda prisoners constituted torture, which could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes.
Manfred Nowak, the special representative on torture at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated in January 2009 that Bush and Donald Rumsfeld should both be prosecuted for war crimes due to their approval of the interrogation methods used on prisoners at the USA military base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Cheney hunting incident
On February 11 Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend Harry Whittington in the face in a hunting incident. Cheney did not speak about the incident until his interview with Fox News Channel's Brit Hume on February 15. In Bush's first public comments about the incident on February 16, Bush said, "I thought the vice president handled the issue just fine. Yesterday when he was here in the Oval Office, I saw the deep concern he had about a person who he wounded. I thought yesterday’s explanation was a very strong and important explanation to make to the American people.” Bush also stated that Democrats who found the incident suggestive of a White House penchant for secrecy drew “the wrong conclusion about a tragic accident.”
In February Dubai Ports World's purchase of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), which operated major U.S. port facilities in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Miami, grew imminent. Bipartisan opposition to the takeover ensued, with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert questioning the deal and Frist threatening to block it. The White House said that Bush did not know of the transaction until it had been approved by his administration but Bush, who has proposed the creation of a U.S.–Middle East Free Trade Area by 2013, implemented free trade agreements with Jordan, Morocco, and Bahrain and signed one with Oman, and built relations with such Middle Eastern nations as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, on February 22 threatened to veto any legislation that would block the deal, saying, "It would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through." On February 23, Dubai Ports World volunteered to postpone the takeover to convince Congress and the public that the deal would pose no additional security threat to the United States. The company said on March 3 that it would transfer its operations of American ports to a "U.S. entity" after congressional leaders reportedly told Bush of the improbability of Congress's approval of the deal. According to a report on June 19, however, Dubai Ports World still owned and controlled operations at 22 U.S. ports.
Senator Arlen Specter, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has led challenges to the administration over its stance on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, and on August 17 U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the program unconstitutional in ACLU v. NSA; the federal government subsequently appealed the decision.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
United States attorneys
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
The administration has come under criticism for memoranda and Senate testimony revealing potentially politically motivated dismissals of United States Attorneys and efforts to use of the expanded appointment powers of the United States Attorney General (permitted by the USA PATRIOT Act) to diminish Senate influence in monitoring and confirming appointments to vacant U.S. Attorney offices.
Bush remained committed to the Iraq War, acknowledging on August 21 that it was "straining the psyche of our country" and would be an issue in the fall congressional elections, but said that the United States would remain in Iraq throughout his presidency.
In 2005, the Iraq War persisted during a year in which Iraq underwent revolutionary democratic reforms. True to a Bush campaign promise, on January 30 Iraq held its first general election since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in which the Iraqi people voted on representatives for the Iraqi National Assembly. On December 15, Iraqis elected the first permanent assembly under the Constitution of Iraq, which was ratified on October 15.
But the direction and stability of Iraq remain contentious. In August 2005, during what was termed a 'working vacation' at Bush's ranch outside Crawford, Texas, Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, an American casualty in Iraq, led a demonstration in opposition to the Iraq War at the peace camp Camp Casey outside the ranch, sparking assembly in the town by both supporters and detractors of the war. In Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, elected the first post-invasion Prime Minister of Iraq in the December 2005 legislative election, faced calls for his resignation from Sunni and Kurdish Iraqi leaders and the Bush administration pressured al-Jaafari to step down. On April 22, 2006, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, with the White House's support, named Nouri al-Maliki prime-minister delegate. Maliki presented his Cabinet to Parliament on May 20; the seats of Interior Minister and Defense Minister were not permanently filled until June 8. Along with the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 7, Bush hailed Iraq's national unity government. Although Maliki, who vowed to crack down on militias upon stepping into office, presented his national reconciliation plan on June 25, and despite the security crackdown in Baghdad begun on June 14 dubbed Operation Forward Together, United States Central Command Commander John Abizaid, with the backing of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, on August 3 told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "Sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it." On September 3 Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie announced the arrest of second-ranking al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Hamid Juma Faris Jouri al-Saeedi. On September 6 Iraqi National Assembly President Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said that the Iraq must embrace national reconciliation within three to fourth months lest the government fail. On September 7, 8 days after General George Casey said on August 30 that he expected Iraqi forces to take over security operations in 12 to 18 months "with very little Coalition support", coalition forces handed over military command to the Iraq’s naval and air forces and the 8th Iraqi Army Division. On September 19, as Iraqi lawmakers demanded that the defense and interior ministries explain their plans for controlling rampaging Shiite death squads, General Abizaid announced the likelihood of the maintenance of or increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq through the spring of 2007 or as needed. On September 2 Iraqi politicians agreed to consider a federalism bill that would allow some regional self-rule, as al-Maliki pleaded for peace a day before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan began. On September 26, Bush disputed the implications of, and declassified parts of, a leaked National Intelligence Estimate report that assessed, "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists", that appeared in media reports on September 24, emphasizing the report's conclusion that the Iraq War was central to the "global jihadist movement" as reason to fight the war, Bush challenged Democrats who interpreted the report as saying the war has increased terrorism and decreased American safety. On September 27 a senior U.S. military official said that Iraqi Shiite militias have cooperated with the Iranian Badr Organization in killing thousands of Sunni Arabs in the country. On October 2, Maliki announced a four-point plan to stem sectarian violence through the unity of Sunni and Shiite parties in his government, as it extended Iraq's state of emergency for a month and the country suffered two massive kidnappings on consecutive days. On October 11, Bush rejected as not credible a report that Iraqi deaths had totaled 655,000 from the war, and United States Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker said that the U.S. military was planning to retain current troop levels in Iraq through 2010. Bush met with military commanders and Cabinet secretaries to discuss policy in Iraq on October 21, a day after saying, "The tactics are constantly changing." On October 24, U.S. officials said that Iraqi leaders have agreed to develop a security and political timetable by year's end and General Casey said that Iraq will take responsible for its security with U.S. support within twelve to eighteen months. On October 25, Bush said that he was not satisfied with the situation in Iraq and "The ultimate accountability rests with me. If people are unhappy about it, look right to the president", but "absolutely we're winning" the Iraq War. On October 28, hours after a Maliki aide quote the Iraqi prime minister as saying, "I am not America's man in Iraq", Bush and Maliki said they were "committed to the partnership" and agreed in the goals of speeding up the training, Iraqi control, and national control of security of Iraq's security forces. On November 5, former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein, who had been tried for murdering 143 Shiites from Dujail in retaliation for the failed assassination attempt against him of July 8, 1982, was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. Bush hailed the conviction, saying, "Saddam Hussein's trial is a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law—it's a major achievement for Iraq's young democracy and its constitutional government. A series of attacks in Sadr City on November 23 killed at least 215 people and injured 257 others, making it the deadliest attack in the Iraq War's history.
Bush participated in a flurry of activity on the war weeks after the mid-term elections. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned on November 8 in the immediate aftermath of the elections, to be replaced by Robert Gates, whose term began on December 18, 2006. Gates said in his confirmation hearings that he would continue to try to transform the U.S. military into a light, robust force to deal with 21st-century changes and that he was open to significant changes to U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a report by The New York Times on December 2, Rumsfeld wrote a classified dated November 6 that also said current U.S. strategy in Iraq is not working and requires major adjustments. On November 29, thirty Parliament lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr boycotted the Iraq government to protest a planned meeting between Bush and Maliki that day; Maliki called on an end to the boycott on November 30. Bush and Maliki met in Amman, Jordan for crisis talks but a three-way dinner between the leaders and Jordan's King Abdullah was cancelled, reportedly because of a November 8 memo by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley leaked by The New York Times expressing doubts about Maliki's ability to rein in Iraq's militias and secure the country. Bush and Maliki met with Abdullah separately, who was concerned about Iran's growing influence in Iraq. During the meeting between Bush and Maliki on November 30, Maliki said that Iraq would be able to assume command of its security forces by June 2007, Bush agreed to speed up the turnover of responsibility for security, and both leaders agreed that Iraq not be partitioned. Reports would surface that the Iraq government is in talks to replace Maliki and bring in a coalition against al-Sadr, but the White House has denied a bid to oust the Iraqi PM. Bush met with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. On December 5 Maliki, who had rejected UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's request for a peace conference on Iraq because it would have been held outside the country, said Iraq would hold a regional conference with its neighbors, a development the White House welcomed. On December 6, the Iraq Study Group released its Report, which called for conditional phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, a conditional American transition from a leading to a supporting role, and for talks with Iraqi neighbors Iran, with which Iraq signed a security agreement on November 29, and Syria; Talibani decried the report on December 10. Bush met with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who asked for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, on December 12. Bush, who has acknowledged the grave situation in Iraq, said on December 13 that he would not rush to make a decision for a "new way forward" there.
A CNN report noted that the U.S. led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8,800,000,000 in the Development Fund for Iraq. An inspector generals report mentioned that "'Severe inefficiencies and poor management' by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used," Stuart W. Bowen Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said.
War in Afghanistan
Bush also continued to stress the priority of the Afghanistan War, on September 29 declaring, "As Afghans have braved the terrorists and claimed their freedom, we've helped them, and we will continue to help them. It's in our interests that we help this young democracy survive and grow strong." Nevertheless, the February arrest of Abdul Rahman, a convert from Islam to Christianity, offered a sobering look at Afghanistan's stunted social and democratic reforms. Although the Afghan court, under international pressure, notably including that from the Bush administration, turned over the case to prosecutors on March 26 and released Rahman on March 27, the arrest exhibited a lingering conflict between the Constitution of Afghanistan's recognition of freedom of religion, albeit limited, and its inclusion of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, which stipulates the death penalty for apostasy. In response to the ongoing Taliban insurgency, the U.S.-led coalition launched Operation Mountain Thrust from about May 15 to July 31. With North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces assuming control of the region on August 1, violence continued to wage and American forces remained in the eastern provinces. Bush said that the Taliban, whose refusal to cooperate against al-Qaeda he said led to Operation Enduring Freedom, "understand that the arrival of Afghan and coalition forces in the region means that the government is beginning to win the hearts of the people", and "saw the transfer of the region from the United States to NATO control as a window of opportunity." NATO-led forces began Operation Medusa on September 2 to route out insurgents in the Panjwaye and Zhari districts; the offensive finished on September 17. On September 8 a car bomb in the capital of Kabul killed sixteen people, the highest death toll from a suicide attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. On September 10 Provincial Governor Hakim Taniwal of Paktia was assassinated by a suicide bomber on the same day that NATO said it made its biggest offensive against the Taliban, killing nearly 100 insurgents. Operation Mountain Fury was launched on September 16 to route out insurgents in Afghanistan's eastern provinces. Yet amid what international news reports, partisan and nonpartisan think tanks, the U.S. military, and the Afghan government have called a Taliban resurgence, Bush said that the Afghan National Police "have faced problems with corruption and substandard leadership", but "as the police become more capable, and better led, and more disciplined, they will gain legitimacy and they will earn the respect of the Afghan people." Underscoring the delicate security situation in Afghanistan, British General David Richards, who commands NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said on October 8, "By this time next year I would understand if a lot of Afghans, down in the south in particular, said to us all, 'Listen, you're failing year after year at delivering the improvements which you have promised to us. And if you don't do something about it,' that 70 percent or so will start saying, 'Come on, we'd rather have the Taliban,'" adding, "We're at a tipping point" and "next year could be much better."
Afghani-Pakistani relations are critically important to the War in Afghanistan. On September 22, Bush held a joint conference with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in which the presidents hailed their alliance in the War on Terror but sidestepped Musharraf's claim made on September 21 that the U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" if the country did not aide the U.S. in the global conflict. On September 24, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that if the money spent on the Iraq War went to Afghanistan, his country would "be in heaven in less than one year". The presidential neighbors' comments came ahead of a September 26 three-way talk between the heads of state.
Iran has drawn international attention through what has been called the Iranian nuclear crisis, announcing on April 11, 2006 that it had enriched uranium and on August 26, five days before the Security Council's August 31 deadline for Iran to abandon its nuclear program or risk facing economic and political sanctions, inaugurated a heavy-water nuclear reactor. On August 31, the UN declared that Iran had not complied with the deadline, while Iran reiterated its interest in reopening talks. On December 23, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1737 imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. In response, Iran said hours later that it would install 3,000 centrifuges in a uranium enrichment plant for what it continues to insist is civilian purposes.
North Korea launched missile tests on July 5, leading to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1695. The country said on October 3, "The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test", which the Bush administration has denied and denounced. Following North Korea's claimed nuclear test on October 9 (it was confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte's office on October 16), Bush said, "The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond." Indeed, other Security Council members and neighbors of North Korea were quick to release statements of their own. On October 11, Bush said that the United States will seek to severely punish but not attack North Korea, shortly after Kim Jong-il said he would consider any further provocation by the U.S. an act of war. On October 14, the Security Council voted unanimously to sanction North Korea for the claimed test; North Korea immediately rejected the UN resolution. On October 31 North Korea agreed to join six-party talks; of the diplomatic breakthrough Bush said, "I am pleased and I want to thank the Chinese." On October 10, 2008, Bush dropped North Korea from the U.S's official list of state sponsors of terrorism because he felt that North Korea was complying with verification of its nuclear weapons checks.
Hamas's refusal to comply with the demand of the U.S., Israel, and the European Union to disarm, recognize Israel, and denounce terror following the group's winning a majority of seats in the January Palestinian legislative election and the return to violence between it and Israel months later inflamed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and detracted from the road map for peace, which was first proposed by Bush. Yet the Bush administration still considers Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a peace partner. In a September 20 meeting with the Palestinian leader, Bush called Abbas, who was unsuccessfully trying to form a coalition government with Hamas that met the Quartet's demands for peace and recognition of Israel, a "man of peace".
The warfare between Israel and Lebanon disturbed the attention on the Iranian nuclear crisis. President Bush supported the Israelis on the basis that Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, started the fight and Israel had the right to defend itself and live in peace. To this end, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice resisted UN and international efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire, desiring a sustaining resolution to the conflict and not a return to the status quo. Bush and Rice demanded an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon as a precondition to the end of the fighting, and repeated that Iran and Syria must stop funding or otherwise sponsoring Hezbollah. This strong stance created a rift among Arab leaders, especially Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt due to domestic pressure to support Hezbollah. The issue also created a breakage between some European allies, especially France, although United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, unanimously approved on August 11 to end the fighting and approved respectively by the Lebanese and Israeli governments on August 12 and August 13 with Hezbollah's support, was based on a draft initially proposed by the United States and France.
Bush on September 18, 2006 spoke at the White House Conference on Literacy, hosted in New York by First Lady Laura Bush, at which he said, "The simple act of teaching a child to read or an adult to read has the capacity to transform nations and yield the peace we all want. You can't realize the blessings of liberty if you can't read a ballot."
In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2006, Bush, while challenging the Middle East to push for reform and choose freedom over extremism, sought to reassure Muslims that the West is not at war with Islam but "respect[s]" the religion and wants peace, and Iraqis of the American commitment to their security. He also pressed the Iranian government to end its nuclear program, addressing his concerns also to the Iranian people. Explaining that a peaceful and liberated Middle East not only builds Western security but also passes onto the region's people the blessings of liberty, Bush said that democratic transformations take time, the extent to which he admitted a miscalculation, saying "the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage". The speech came at a time of criticism of the United States[why?] and was greeted with both receptive and politically charged reactions, notably by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's speech on September 20 in which he called Bush "the devil."[why?]\
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