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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 12:33 GMT
Profile: George W Bush
George W Bush came to office in a storm of controversy, unified the United States after the attacks of 11 September and then took the country into a divisive war against Iraq.

George W Bush
George Bush had a nervous start as president
He had promised to be "humble" in his foreign policy but he went on to declare a "war on terror" and to remove from power the man his father had only removed from Kuwait: Saddam Hussein.

His supporters see a clear-sighted patriot and a leader who has extended freedom in the world.

His opponents see an arrogant American and a unilateralist who has ignored world concerns.

George Bush had a nervous start. He won power on a minority vote and only got to the White House because the US Supreme Court decided that recounts in Florida should stop.

But after the World Trade Center in New York City had been attacked and destroyed on 11 September 2001, he rallied Americans with a defiant call from the rubble that "Those who did this will hear us".

They did. He launched a war against the Taleban in Afghanistan which had given shelter to Osama Bin Laden.

He extended that war into a general offensive against al-Qaeda and its various manifestations.

He capitalised on the sympathy for the United States around the world, which had led even the French newspaper Le Monde to declare: "We are all Americans now".

But the mood and the sympathy did not last. Opposition to President Bush grew as his threats to Iraq grew. Declaring that Iraq had developed weapons of mass destruction, he went to war. Saddam Hussein was overthrown but, so far, no weapons have been found.

Born to power

President Bush was almost born to power.

The Twin Towers were destroyed in September 2001
The president unified the country after the attack on the World Trade Center
He comes from one of America's foremost political dynasties. His grandfather was a Connecticut senator, while his father held office as an ambassador to the UN, director of the CIA, vice-president and finally president.

He became only the second son of a president to be elected to America's highest office in his own right.

While he has described himself as a "compassionate conservative", Mr Bush's economic policies have tended towards the traditional Republican aim of tax cutting.

But he has also pressed for greater medical help for the elderly.

His stand against the Kyoto treaty on climate control won him friends in American industry and many enemies abroad.

His argument was that the treaty would not work and that American jobs should not be put at risk anyway.

But Kyoto is a word that follows him round the world whenever protests are held.

Public glare

Due to his father's position, George W Bush's early years were often open to public scrutiny.

When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.
George W Bush
His time at Yale University is said to have been dominated by drinking and partying with other members of the Skull and Bones fraternity.

After graduation, George W Bush joined the Texas national guard as a pilot - despite a poor test grade and a long waiting list - prompting recent allegations that his family pulled strings to keep him out of Vietnam.

He has characterised these years as aimless. "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible," he once said.

Mr Bush has also been surrounded by rumours of a hell-raising lifestyle which included not only hard drinking but drug abuse.

Waking with a hang-over, he decided to quit drinking, found God and transformed himself into a man seeking high office.

Asked by one reporter if he would pass a White House background check, Mr Bush replied that he had not taken drugs for seven years.

That date was soon moved further back to 1974 but he has refused to rule out any drug abuse at any point.

But in 1986 Mr Bush appeared to go through a religious awakening at the time of his 40th birthday.

Waking with a hangover, he decided to quit drinking, found God and transformed himself into a man seeking high office.

Slow starter

But the political career of the man who became America's 43rd president had an inauspicious start.

When his first attempt at public office, a run for Congress failed, George Bush jnr, as he was then known, vowed to stay out of politics until his father's political career had ended.

His return to the public scene came two years after his father left the Oval Office when he ousted the sitting Governor of Texas.

To help distinguish himself from his father, he insisted that his middle initial W be used. It stands for Walker, his grandfather's name.

In his 1999 inaugural address, following re-election as Texas Governor, George W Bush said it was not enough to reduce problems just to a matter of economics.

"The real answer is found in the hearts of decent caring people who have heard the call to love their neighbours as they would like to be loved themselves," he said. "We must rally the arms of compassion in every community of this state."

But while he has developed a taste for populism, his critics said he lacked the gravity needed to be president.

That criticism came to the fore when he fluffed an impromptu foreign policy quiz posed by a reporter. Mr Bush failed to name three of four leaders of key countries.

The awkwardness has continued into his time as president.

But he has sought to laugh it off and to present himself instead as a folksy, tell-it-to-them-straight Texan.

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