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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Bush: The first 100 days
President Bush
Bush has appointed a conservative cabinet

On Monday, George W Bush completes 100 days in office. American affairs analyst Ben Wright examines his record.

Things didn't start well.

George W Bush became president of the United States after losing the popular vote in a farcical election that will be forever remembered for its hanging, pregnant and dimpled chads.


When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them. And it was clear who them was. Today, we're not so sure who they are, but we know they're there

George W Bush

However, at the 100 day mark President Bush has firmly stamped his mark both at home and abroad.

He has appointed an ideologically conservative cabinet, looks set to secure a vast tax cut and is pushing ahead with his education reforms and faith-based initiatives.

For someone who it was believed had minimal interest in the world outside the United States, President Bush has already spurned the international effort to reduce global warming, called off talks with North Korea about its missiles, bombed Iraq and expelled 50 Russian spies.

One of the most interesting changes since Bush arrived is his reshaping of the presidential image.

George Bush
Bush is often portrayed as a right-wing cowboy
The tone of the White House is serious, conservative, buttoned-down and punctual. Even the films on Air Force One have been cleaned up.

An April CNN/Gallup Poll gave Mr Bush an approval rating of 62%, better than the 57% standing he had when elected.

It is probably too early to tell exactly where on the political spectrum the new president sits. The image portrayed abroad is usually that of right-wing cowboy president, sitting in the pocket of big business, itching to throw America's weight around.

There is some justification for this caricature.

But he has also been keen to foster bipartisan co-operation in Washington, has left in place a Clinton administration rule that would expand acres of wetlands across the United States, and ended a long running trade dispute over bananas with the European Union.

The direction is definitely to the right, but the bigger picture is more complicated.

The first three months have given important clues as to how a distinctive Bush foreign policy might evolve in the coming years.

US spy plane
The spy plane has been Bush's biggest foreign policy test
In his speech to the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner in March, President Bush outlined in a surreal, self-effacing way, his foreign policy vision: "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them. And it was clear who them was. Today, we're not so sure who they are, but we know they're there."

Unintentionally, his disarming humour actually produces a neat summary of the American dilemma.

The United States is the last superpower left, and needs to decide how best to both use and protect its power. The Summit of the Americas in Quebec, Mr Bush's early visit to Mexico and the firm support given to Taiwan indicate that the administration's foreign policy priorities may lie with Latin America and Asia rather that Russia and Europe.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein continues to perplex the White House
Mr Bush's America also looks happy to go it alone and to critics, the nadir of the new president's early weeks was his March announcement, without consulting allies, that he was abandoning the Kyoto treaty to combat global warming because it was "not in the United States' economic best interest".

Greenpeace was quick to dub Bush the "toxic Texan".

The clear US commitment to some form of national missile defence system also fits this pattern of growing unilateralism. It is becoming increasingly apparent that US foreign policy is emerging from two competing camps in the new administration - the Pentagon and the State Department.

The clash between them means that deciphering the broad ideological direction of the administration's foreign policy is tricky.

Key areas to watch are Iraq, Taiwan, Russia, the Balkans and North Korea, areas where the competing agendas behind US foreign policy most clearly clash.

For a president who five months ago didn't know who the leader of Pakistan was, the first 100 days have been a sharp learning curve and a fast introduction to the responsibility of leading the United States.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Nationally his approval ratings are high"
Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta
"He's done some things that are good and I think he's done some things that are troubling"
The Chicago Tribune's Ray Moseley
"He's not a typical Republican president - he's further to the right"
See also:

25 Apr 01 | Americas
Bush defends Taiwan arms sales
17 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: US-China military rivalry
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