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

Details of tonight's programme
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Gavin Esler's biography

DETAILS OF TONIGHT'S PROGRAMME

From Gavin Esler

Hello

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.

Gavin


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