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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 11:26 GMT
George W Bush: Out of his father's shadow

George W Bush is a man who has lived in the shadow of his father, former President George Bush, all his life.

But 2000 is the year when he finally strikes out on his own - and, in a rich irony, defeats one of the men who beat his father in 1992.

Bush comes from a political dynasty not unlike that of Al Gore. 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.


When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.

George W Bush
Bush's time at Yale is said to have been dominated by drinking and partying with other members of the Skull and Bones fraternity.

After graduation, he 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.

Bush made his money in the oil business and by taking a stake in a baseball team.

His first stab at public office, a run for Congress, failed and he vowed to stay out of politics until his father's own career had ended.

Hell-raiser?

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

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


We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile

One of George W Bush's famous 'Bushisms'
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 Bush appeared to go through a religious awakening at the time of his 40th birthday.

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

Texas Governor

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

Commentators say that Bush has been a successful Governor and has brought major improvements to the state's schools.

On crime, he has horrified liberals and pleased hardliners by presiding over America's largest prison building program and the greatest number of executions in one year since the reintroduction of capital punishment.

On gun control, he has opposed greater restrictions while he advocates industry self-regulation to clean up the environment.

Compassionate Conservatism

Bush describes himself as a "compassionate conservative".


Bush has surprised the party by campaigning on issues such as poverty, education and minorities and he attacked the 1999 congressional budget negotiations, warning that the books should not be balanced "on the backs of the poor"

In his 1999 inaugural address, following re-election as Texas Governor, 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."

Bush has surprised the party by campaigning on issues such as poverty, education and minorities and he attacked the 1999 congressional budget negotiations, warning that the books should not be balanced "on the backs of the poor".

'Lack of gravitas'

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

That criticism came to the fore early on in the campaign, when he failed an impromptu foreign policy quiz posed by a reporter. Bush failed to name three of four leaders of key countries.

Bush has also been plagued by what are being called Bushisms - embarrassing, and often hilarious, slips of the tongue.

"We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile," Mr Bush once commented in relation to the proposed missile defence programme.

And on another occasion, Mr Bush told an election rally in Michigan: "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

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