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George Bush
The Accidental President
Sunday 21 January 2001
Reporter Gavin Hewitt
Producers Barbara Want and Andrew Bell
Assistant Producer Judith Ahern



Gavin Hewitt answered your questions on The Accidental President in a live webcast. Click on the link below to watch coverage of the forum.
Video56K
George W Bush has become the 43rd President of the USA, only the second presidential son to reach the Oval office. But, what kind of leader will he be? Panorama's Gavin Hewitt has been finding out from the people who know him.

George Bush ran for political office as Governor of Texas only six years ago. Most Americans confess to knowing little about the man who has just entered the White House.

There are still many who doubt that Bush has the gravitas to be president. Some doubt that he even wanted the top job.

Mark Mackinnon, his campaign aide, told Panorama: "He didn't want to be John F Kennedy grown up. He wanted to be Willie Mays one of the great baseball players of America."

He seems oblivious to a lot of issues

Elliott Naishtat
As Governor of Texas, Bush showed little interest in issues or worldly affairs. Texas Democrat Elliott Naishtat said: "He's not intellectually curious, he never has been, he admits this. But more importantly he seems oblivious to a lot of issues."

His supporters argue that if not curious, Bush is intellectually capable. Republican elder statesman James Baker says "he has the intellectual capacity and suggestions to the contrary in my view at least are a bum rap".

Similar to Reagan

Baker goes on to say: "He prefers the big picture, you're quite right about that. But so did another extraordinarily successful president that I worked for, for two terms, Ronald Reagan."

The best guide to how the new president will act in a crisis was the five weeks when the results of the election were being disputed. He took a hands-off approach, choosing not to oversee the crisis.

Bush appointed people to fight his corner while he took off for his ranch, which didn't even have a television. At the most critical moment in his life he seemed almost disengaged to some people.

Bush developed this very individual leadership style as Governor of Texas. He rarely immersed himself in the detail of policy, delegating heavily to others then expecting them to give him simple briefings.

Karen Hughes
Karen Hughes says Bush's briefing sessions were short
Karen Hughes, Bush's press adviser, says that he had no time for long briefings. She recalls that the governor would say: "You tell me what you think is the most important thing I need to know to make this decision."

Bush also developed a reputation for an aggressive confrontational style. Sports writer Randy Galloway tells the programme: "To use a Texas term George is a red-ass... that means that he's gonna snap on you immediately. He has a temper."

Driven to distraction

When Bush Senior ran for office, Laura Bush was offered some advice by her mother-in-law Barbara. She was told not to criticise her husband's speeches whilst he was working on his father's campaign. She was careful to follow the advice, but one night she let slip.

Laura Bush said: "we were just turning into the driveway and he said 'Tell me the truth, how was my speech?' And I said 'Well it weren't that good'. And with that he drove into the garage wall."

When Bush Senior lost the presidency in 1992, the family took the defeat badly. None felt the pain more than George W, who has always been very close to his father.

I believe he grew up with an enormous almost Shakespearian set of expectations on him

Bill Minutaglio
Doug Wead, Bush Senior's campaign adviser, recalls: "It definitely hurt because he loved his father and it's hard to describe the respect he had for his father." Wead believes that it was this sense of loss that influenced his decision to enter politics.

Bush's biographer, Bill Minutaglio, also recognises the impact of his father's career. "I believe he grew up with an enormous almost Shakespearian set of expectations on him," he said. That he was the prince and the heir in this dynasty to his father."

Marlboro Man?

Although he has his critics, Bush can even charm some of his opponents. Elliott Naishtat said: "I think he will be popular because he's charming and personable, but I don't think he's going to be the type of president who is hands on."

George Bush
Bush has the common touch
Republican politician David Gergen, who has worked for both the Clinton and Reagan administrations, agrees that he has the common touch.

"There are a lot of God-fearing folk if you like who are going to think George W Bush is the right model of what a lot of Americans look to," he said. He's not quite the Marlboro man but he has some of those qualities."

Over the next four years, both George W Bush and the rest of us will find out if his rapid rise to the presidency of the USA was too quick.

David Gergen says: "I think this has all come as a big swoosh, and whether he's ready for it or not I think we'll wait and see."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Panorama's Gavin Hewitt
This is Midland, Texas. It is oil country and the place George Bush calls home
The Accidental President
George W. had the Bush family name going for him

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