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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 17:02 GMT
Tuesday, 1 November, 2005

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Gavin Esler's biography


From Gavin Esler


Today's Quote for the Day comes from an editorial in the Miami Herald about the visit to the USA of Charles and Camilla:

"It's the un-Diana tour in which a couple of middle-aged, earnest eccentrics from the English countryside take an educational holiday abroad."

Tonight: Newsnight's Bush Special - the Twilight of the President?

A year after his election for a second term, five years since he was first elected, we focus on George W Bush, the most powerful man in the world and the most consistent newsmaker. He is also mired in trouble at home and abroad. The negatives are obvious: his domestic agenda - reform of social security (what we would call old age pensions) - is going nowhere. Tax cuts were achieved early in his first term. Hurricane Katrina suggested a severe managerial weakness in the White House. So did the Valerie Plame affair - the CIA agent allegedly "outed" by someone or some people at the heart of the Bush administration.

Some critics see Mr Bush not as a Ronald Reagan small government conservative but as a big government conservative who has created new bureaucracies without much consistency. Abroad there is the constant wound of Iraq, a profound lack of respect for the president, and a serious wave of anti-Americanism coupled with a lack of trust even among generally pro-American people. At home and abroad this is a president who is - some would say - clearly in the twilight of his presidency.

But beyond the almost ritual European characterisation of President Bush as a dimwit, what are the strengths of his presidency? Do we Europeans simply underestimate him? Do we fail to connect with the half of America which elected - and then re-elected him? Will he do what beleaguered presidents - Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush senior, Clinton - have done in the past and increasingly seek solace in foreign affairs because he faces political paralysis on domestic issues in Washington? What - above all - do we want from America? An engaged superpower which sometimes irritates us because it tries to do too much? Or a disengaged superpower which sometimes irritates us because it tries to do too little?

We'll assess Mr Bush's achievements - and lack of them - at home and abroad. We'll talk to a leading Bush friend and defender from the US Senate, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, one of President Clinton's close advisers and others. George W Bush may not be to everyone's taste - especially here in Britain. But it looks like he will be leading his country until January 2009. What will his legacy be as he tries to revive a presidency in difficulty?

We will also have the latest from Michael Crick on David Blunkett's woes.

Newsnight is on BBC Two at 10.30 tonight.


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