George W. Bush was voted as the 43rd American president in 2000 and was sworn in 2001 and served up to 2008. Barrack Obama was elected for the first time in the 2008 election and has served as president from 2009 to present. These two leaders were among the America’s youngest presidents. Bush was declared president at the age of 53 while Obama was just 47 years. This essay highlights the main achievements of President Bush and Obama and some of the issues pointed out by their critics.
George W. Bush Presidency (2001-2008)
Bush was the son of former American president Gorge H.W. Bush who led America towards the end of Cold War. Immediately after getting in power, his resilience on national security was tested by global terrorists on September 11. In his two terms as the America’s 43rd president, his leadership was criticized and praised in equal measures. Some of his main achievements include the following.
Protecting the Americans after 9/11
Protecting the American people was his sole obligation as the head of the state. Since the September 11 terrorist attack, the president carried with him a symbol of courage and sacrifice which was a police shield that was given to him by the mother of an officer who had died during the World Trade Center attack. As Bush pointed after the attack, that the event would serve as a reminder of the souls that ended but the risk was not closer to ending. He made the promise to Americans not to relent in waging the war to secure the American people.
Removed the regime that harbored terrorists in Afghanistan
After the 9/11 attack, president ordered to start an operation on hot pursuit of the terror masterminds. As he stated in April 2008, there was no other option than going to war, which was not started by America. The terrorist training grounds and armory bases were bombed in Afghanistan which later became an ally in fighting global terrorism. As a result, the American solders managed to free the 25 million population. His wife Laura Bush made several trips to Kabul to show the American dedication and to help the emerging democracy to succeed. Currently, Afghanistan has managed to uphold democracy and now has a democratically elected president with a national assembly and the economy that is operated by market forces.
Removal of Saddam dictatorial rule in Iraq
Saddam Hussein led a group of extremists that murdered his own Iraqi, invaded the neighboring countries like Kuwait and constantly threatened to attack the United States. Bush led the coalition that helped remove Saddam Hussein from power. When the coalition took power, there was a surety that the 25 million of Iraq population was safe. In addition, America helped Iraq people in drafting one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world. With Saddam dead, the coalition managed to help the Iraq people defend their freedom against extremists. As the Iraq battle reached a pivotal point, Bush ordered to retreat and supported a new strategy by a surge of force instead. According to Bush (45), such landmark decision helped in reducing violence and creating the progressive economic and political conditions.
Transforming the institutions of war
Bush retooled the Defense Department from the Cold War era to a modern, agile, adaptive and flexible organization. In 2002, the funding for the Department of Defense was increased by over 70% to expand the American all-volunteer force and develop advanced military intelligence for sophisticated aerial operations. Bush also enhanced the country’s capability of intelligence gathering and augmented America’s homeland security.
Established new approaches to international development
Bush’s administration ushered in a new era in assisting development by doubling the funds that transformed the way development agendas were implemented. Through the new tools of development assistance, like the Millennium Challenge Account, transparency was encouraged. Previously, the success of a project development was measured on the amount of resources spent but not the results achieved. The 2003, President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was the largest of commitments in history done by any country to fight a single disease. Since its launch, the project has provided life-saving treatment for over 2.1 million and care for over 10.1 million people in the world. In 2008, the program was reauthorized under the next phase to support treatment to a total of at least 3 million people and prevent 12 million new infections.
Lowering of taxes and instituting pro-growth strategies
In 2001, President Bush enacted the biggest tax relief in history. Tax relief influenced every taxpayer on income tax and over 13 million Americans had their income tax eliminated. In collaboration with the congress, the president doubled the child tax credit, reduced the marriage penalty and gradually set the road map to remove the death tax. The tax rates on dividends and long-term capital were reduced and, as a result of such policies, capital gains immediately increased to 150 percent. In addition, the level of income growth increased from an average of 8.5 percent to approximately 14 percent per annum.
However, the presidency of Bush did not pass without criticism. According to a documentary film Fahrenheit that captured the 9/11, Bush is criticized for his dishonesty and inaccuracy on the war against terrorism. The filmmaker suggests that the political cronies and friends of Bush in the Fox News Channel skewed the balloting results by prematurely pronouncing him the winner in the 2000 election. The film also suggests that an election fraud was done by handling the Florida voting controversy (Dean, 43).
George Bush is also criticized for the staging a conspiracy in Air National Guard service. The dry hole oil well attempts are Saudi to have been funded by the Saudi government through James Bath under the guise of Bin Laden’s family. He is accused of having a conflict of interest and an ulterior motive in the Afghan War which included the construction of a natural gas pipeline through the country to the Indian Ocean. It was through such conspiracy of action that the Bush administration instilled fear to the American people through the mass media, speaking about anti-terrorism campaigns.
Barack Obama’s Presidency (2009 to Present)
The presidency of Obama began when he was elected the 44th American president in 2009 after he defeated the former Arizona legislator John McCain. He is the first President of the United States with an African-American background. His policies have addressed the global financial crisis through enacting changes in the tax policies, reforms on the legislation of health industry, initiatives in the foreign policies and also phasing out the confinement of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay camps in Cuba.
As an African-American President, his presidency has served to unite the American people and provide a new dimension in fighting racism. Obama took office at a time when the economy was at its down-turn in history. The American economy was at the edge of another Great Depression. Obama convinced the Congress to amend the ARRA Act that enabled salvaging the economy and generating 3.6 million jobs. More could have been done if not the resistance of the Republican members in the Congress. In the last quarter of 2010 Obama supported an additional $26 billion aid project to salvage the jobs of thousands of police officers, teachers, firefighters, nurses and others who serve the country by providing crucial services. As the ARRA spending ended weakly, Obama doubled on his commitment to invest in job creation by proposing on the American Jobs Act.
Within three years of Obama’s presidency, the Americans had managed to create over 11 million jobs that were started by his pro-corporate economic agenda. In only 23 months of his leadership 3.8 million jobs were created in the manufacturing sector. The labor movements played a major role in Obama’s election victory and also helped him pass major elements of the party’s legislative agenda of the first term in office.
The ARRA was able to aid the education jobs, local governments, infrastructure, clean energy and high speed rail. Such projects expanded the federal unemployment insurance program by increasing jobs to over 200,000 additional workers who were previously jobless. With $14 billion additional income, the workers’ savings scheme provided the COBRA healthcare subsidies for those unemployed who helped in broadening the health coverage under the Trade Adjustment Act to thousands of other eligible workers. In the State of the Union Speech of 2012, Obama called for a 50 billion dollar investment in the transport infrastructure, which was very critical for economic growth.
The Wall Street Reforms were amended during the Obama administration to prevent the country from slumming into another financial collapse. Under the Obama leadership, the Dodd-Frank law was passed and served as a major achievement for workers and the rising middle class over the Wall Street greed and the alleged irresponsible risk taking (Kennedy, 34). The law created a strong consumer protection agency that helped protect working class citizens from predatory lenders.
The comprehensive health insurance reforms were far from perfect but promised to provide health security to millions of Americans. Such goal was eluded by the democratic presidents for over a hundred years. In this Act, critical issues were addressed that affect the worker’s ability to bargain for their healthcare benefits, which remained unresolved for over a century. However, unfruitful budget deficit debates distracted the healthcare spending for the first quarter of his leadership.
The Historic Affordable Care Act popularly known as Obamacare put America on the path of achieving quality healthcare affordable to all Americans regardless of their economic status. This policy stopped the insurance companies from denying their clients healthcare services due to the preexisting conditions or denying coverage for those who fall sick, thus, eliminating the annual coverage caps. The policy provided incentives for employers and penalized employers who denied their employees’ health coverage in the existing subsidized healthcare. Thus, the ACA slowed the relentless rise of healthcare costs and the number of uninsured individuals in the US reduced significantly.
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In 2014, Barack Obama’s leadership score dropped to a new low level in the post polls. The criticism was based on both domestic and international agendas. With only 38 percent of the American citizens approving his leadership, most pointed his excessive caution in dealing with the Islamic insurgents in both Syria and Iraq while others scoffed him for providing the US airstrikes in Syria. According to Lebovic (23), the rollout of former State Secretary Hilary Clinton in her new book “Hard Choices” revealed most of the stark agreements between her and Obama in regards to forcing a step down to the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Another disagreement on foreign policy was on the decision to arm moderate rebels in Syria, where on both arguments Clinton lost to Obama. Syria was one of the stages where Obama’s disrepute revealed a ‘red line’ before he claimed that America has never played a role in the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.