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The Accidental President, Sunday 21 January 2001

Thank you for the first in-depth and comprehensive report I've seen concerning George W. If the American media had the courage to do so honest a report, I doubt if we would have seen G.W. on the podium this past Saturday. Thank you again, Mr. Hewitt and the BBC.
Theodor J. Tegenkamp
Los Angeles, CA

Excellent, informative programme, apparently without taking sides
K. Goodwin
Hunstanton, Norfolk

I felt the title The Accidental President was misjudged. It seems to me that certainly in the last few years his rise to the top was most deliberate thanks to his friends and friends of his father
Mark Jones

I find it interesting that so many people should accuse the BBC of left-wing bias in this programme, yet most of the people interviewed in the programme were friends or supporters of G W Bush.

It's bad news that such a surface level examination of the new President can cause such concern

Paul Hammond, Nottingham
They interviewed his wife, and his campaign manager, the only democrat interviewed being a Texan who didn't seem to mind Bush getting him in a headlock one day. Despite the tone of the programme being 'getting to know you', and the majority of the interviewees being well disposed towards Bush, I left the programme feeling very concerned about the next four years, with this man in such a powerful position. I thought the programme well made, but it's bad news that such a surface level examination of the new President can cause such concern.
Paul Hammond

It is not hypocritical to be pro-death penalty and anti-abortion! An innocent babies life is worth more then the life of a convicted murderer or serial killer like Timothy McVeigh or Myra Hyndley! Stand up for the rights of the innocent not the guilty, and why criticise Bush for his policy on the death penalty when Clinton and Gore both support it as well?

After reading the many supportive posts from UK readers criticizing the BBC's biases, I feel I might have overreacted in a previous message. All in all, my wife and I really did love our year in London and the people were super. (Sure, I've mellowed). Nonetheless, one last observation: criticism of our Electoral College system, while not a pure form of democracy, does require a majority of votes in each state sending electors to the Electoral College. (94% of the time it correlates with the overall popular vote. Compare and contrast, please with the method of selecting a P.M. in the UK. Who elects him/her?)
Eric Sorenson

Thank you, Mr Kinnear, for your "contributions". Neither of them seem to contain any convincing criticisms of George Bush Jr although you clearly detest him. Clearly one of us does need to grow up.
Michael McGowan

Morally how can a born again Christian anti-abortionist also be an actively passionate supporter and facilitator of the death penalty? It seems that pro life and pro death values have be rolled up inside one very confused President.
John Parrott

Michael McGowan, I tell you what is drearily familiar in the UK in 2001. Snide comments like the Blair Broadcasting Corp, you people really need to grow up.
Stuart Kinnear

It's a shame that Barbara Want produced a programme about George W. Bush and did not interview Molly Ivens. The funniest political writer in Texas and author of a book about Bush called, Shrub.
Leonie Van Ness

I tend to agree with Julie Hayden in that this report was a little unbalanced - not what we normally expect from the calibre of Gavin Hewitt. There didn't seem to be anyone in the report wiling to say anything really negative about GWBush and give a picture of the other side of the leader of the free world apart from what a great guy he is.
Fergus Crossen

The programme about George Bush brought out all that is worst about the Blair Broadcasting Corporation and some of its viewers. For two years or more, the BBC has been abusing licence payers' money to campaign for the Democrats. Now that Bush has won the election, the BBC is sulking. Some aspects of the programme were laughable, such as the attempt to pin atmospheric pollution in Texas on Bush.

Bush has at least stuck consistently to his line on the death penalty

Michael McGowan, London
No mention was made of his successful education reforms, spearheaded by Rod Paige, the black man from Houston who will now be Education Secretary. No mention was made of Bush's success in capturing the Texas Hispanic vote when he was re-elected Governor by a landslide in 1998. Of course the programme homed in heavily on the death penalty in Texas under Bush. I do not believe in the death penalty but I also know that Texans have long supported it. Texas also led the US execution ratings under Bush's Democrat predecessor, Ann Richards. Bush has at least stuck consistently to his line on the death penalty, unlike Governor Clinton who suddenly abandoned his liberal principles in 1992 when it looked as if his election chances would be boosted by executing the mental defective, Ricky Ray Rector. As for your American viewers, I can only apologise that you have to endure the sneering and snobbery which typify many of my countrymen's reactions to the US. I'm afraid that these reactions are drearily familiar in the UK of 2001.
Michael McGowan

The accidental president was a fine piece of TV. Our fear will be realised I think on the basis of Odessa alone. The article on death row was likewise shocking in the extreme. We did not however get much information on what made him get in - there must have been more behind the scenes information to be dug up about a man so keen in not transforming data into information and then into decisions. Alas I feel this is the way of that nation and will likewise be shown here too in a place where accountants and the like have a considerable amount of clout.

I agree with Eric Sorenson, there is a strong anti-American attitude in this country! After watching tonight's edition I thought the BBC showed its true anti-American attitudes, and course they wouldn't dare do the same towards Indian or Asian people for fear of being branded racist! I also find it frightening that the BBC constantly takes a left-wing bias in almost every political debate especially on Question Time! Why not report the corruptions of the Clinton administration for the last eight years instead of slamming GW Bush when he's only just got his foot into the Whitehouse! Bill Clinton has lied to his country, sold nuclear secrets to Communist China, gave donations to the IRA (to claim Irish-American votes), and allowed children to be killed in Waco! Who cares if Bush has a poor foreign policy, he is the President of the United States not the President of the World! I envy Americans who now have a leader that will put America as his first priority, the world second! Unlike Tony Blair who puts Europe first and Britain second!

Some scary comments. One contributor said he didn't read books or magazines, just sports mags. And he didn't see a problem with this!!!! I enjoyed the prog but thought there were far too many Bush supporters giving their comments, some of their fawning garbage was a bit nauseating but maybe it was a bit too sublimimimimal...
Stuart Kinnear

A disturbingly unbalanced report. Whilst I myself am disturbed when I see mediocrity rise to the top, it must have been possible to find someone other than a family friend to extol Bush's virtues - no doubt he must have some!
Julie Hayman

Whilst I would have been happier IF Al Gore had won the US Presidential election I do feel that some of the BBC coverage has been somewhat, if not one-sided, then at least a little unfair to the Bush campaign. Whilst I appreciate some of what comes out of the new President's mouth does leave a lot to be desired, I think it a bit unfair to dismiss Bush because he cannot name four very particular world leaders, including the President of India, I mean I wonder if our own Tony Blair could do that. An interesting programme, but it pandered too much to prejudices and assumptions about President Bush we may live to regret. He's no Bill Clinton (who many people of my generation will miss), but, with proper guidance, he could lead the US and the world through what could be, economically, a turbulent four years.
Mathew Hulbert

The history of the United States is littered with so called "accidental Presidents" who became extremely popular

Sam Smedley, Colchester
I feel the programme used Bush's beliefs as an excuse for personally attacking him. As a student of American politics I feel Bush was unfairly elected and seriously lacks a mandate. However, Kennedy faced a similar situation in 1960 and went on to poll impressive popularity ratings. The history of the United States is littered with so called "accidental Presidents" who became extremely popular. As an ardent left winger I deplore Bush's policies but must defend him personally; almost every man who has taken on the job this century has been criticised for lack of experience. Clinton, for instance had no foreign policy background whatsoever yet ended up with his legacy firmly resting on Ireland and the Middle East. It is so easy to sneer and be cynical at Bush, and Panorama fell for the easy targets. It is one thing to disagree with a man's politics and another to base a whole documentary around this fact. Bush will be hampered by a split Congress, and in 2002 probably a Democratic Congress, scare stories about banning abortion and isolationism are all talk. Lets see what happens and then start slagging him off.
Sam Smedley

To be perfectly honest, I couldn't care less if America voted a chimpanzee to their highest office (how long can it be) - but only in-so-far as it affected just Americans. However when Bush junior declares his intention to build this ridiculous Son-of-Star-Wars missile net, a major chunk of which will be situated at Flyingdales base in the UK - I start to worry. I positively welcome closer ties with Europe and genuinely hope that America 'looks inwards' again. You are the weakest link - goodbye.
John Donne
Bristol, UK

After all I have seen of George W Bush's rise to the highest office in the US, and the whole election process, one coincidence still troubles me deeply. I can't really understand why there hasn't been more investigation into the various irregularities within the state of Florida which appear to have essentially determined who resides in the White House. Is it not an odd coincidence that the State that essentially decided the Presidency was the most hit with irregularities and has a mayor who is the president elect's brother. I find the coincidences a bit disturbing especially as the USA has positioned itself as the bastion of democracy and free thought.
Justin Forrest

I doubt if George Bush is any more or any less mediocre than either Gore or Clinton. At least he actually worked for his living in the proper world, a claim neither of those two sophisticates ex Pres and ex Vice Pres can make. What did Clinton actually achieve. He could certainly speak a good fight, but deliver - what?, or should we count the bombing of Sudan as a victory?
Peter Bolt

Unbalanced? No, factual but biased. I didn't see the relevance for the footage where 3 sick Americans were interviewed, and desperately trying to link oil pollution to Bush. Hey, we all know that America is the world's worst polluter. Have we forgotten the compromise that John Prescott tried to make?

It is deeply disturbing to know that... the world's most powerful democracy could elect such a man (or should I say puppet) to lead them

William Stow, Canterbury
Pollution and Bush - is there a link? Time will tell how good a president he will make. But thank you for making known his religious convictions.
Victor Wong

I found myself watching this chilling programme through my hands. It is deeply disturbing to know that, even if under a cloud, the world's most powerful democracy could elect such a man (or should I say puppet) to lead them. Freud would have had a field day.
William Stow

It would have been interesting had the programme quizzed Laura Bush (apparently a woman of politically savvy and awareness) about her feelings regarding her husband's policies on environmental issues and the death penalty. It was a rather disappointing, bizarre programme - a sort of tabloid Panorama, and whilst I think the man is of questionable intellect, he must have interests outside of being daddy's boy, baseball, pollution and death row. Would have liked to have had some insight into his presidency - what will he be like over the next 4 years. The fact that he drank too much (yet hasn't done for the last 15 years) and fooled about in the past will surely not impact on his ability to make decisions NOW. For god's sake, Reagan was an actor and, I'm not saying he did a good job, but he was still considered good enough to do it TWICE!

From the results, and now the post presidential talk about President Bush, can this not be seen as a flaw in democracy in the US. It seems to me now that politics and the whole democratic processes in US is designed to put a man in power not if he is the best for the job not even if he is qualified at all but once he has the money and a little bit of showmanship, the top job in the world is guaranteed. I think there should be some kind of condition before anyone can run for president. Maybe some time in top politics at least ten years or two terms in a high political post. This will ensure that the future president at least has been tried and tested. The faith of the whole could be in the hands of a man we know little or nothing about. The presidency of America in now a global leadership position and not just a leader of a country.
Bola Maduka

Typical BBC. When the right wing wins and the left wing at the BBC doesn't agree with the result they rubbish the winner. How disgraceful for a supposedly neutral organisation, funded by the taxpayer, to take such a partisan view.
Matthew Knowles

I note that one comment suggests, falsely, that the USA elected George Bush as President and that it was no accident. Whilst agreeing with the accident part of the comment, the former part of the statement is blatantly untrue. We could look to the popular vote, which was won by Gore. However, such is life in "first past the post" systems and the same can happen in the UK. It is not in this respect that the statement is untrue. It is with direct reference to Florida and the electoral college. We all know that if Gore won Florida he became President and, officially, he did not. However, the concerted efforts at excluding the votes of those who would probably have voted for Gore (road blocks, removal from the electoral register, the use of old laws regarding felons etc.) excluded more voters than the official gap between the candidates. And this excludes the issue about "pregnant chads", which interestingly, are counted in Texas. To argue that votes were counted once, twice, three times is blatantly untrue. The votes in question were not counted once, because of old machinery in poorer (more probably Democrat) neighbourhoods, and because of concerted efforts to ensure that they were not counted, with the endorsement of a quite blatantly political decision of the Supreme Court. Accident? - definitely not. Elected - yes, but in the same way that Milosevic was!
Brian Capaloff
Huntingdon, Cambs

Investigative reporting should not merely note varying opinions, but seriously examine the evidence

Ted Welch, London
This programme was a typical piece of "some say this but others say that..." i.e. balance and neutrality masquerading as objectivity. Investigative reporting should not merely note varying opinions, but seriously examine the evidence. It's not good enough to just let a friend of his dismiss Bush's ignorance and mangling of the English language because, supposedly, they all do it in Texas. It's not just a rare minor slip, Bush makes absurd errors time after time. Duane Long blames pollution on the Mexicans and pine trees! Here's some relevant evidence about Bush's polluted Texas (ranking amongst US states under Bush):
Pollution released by manufacturing plants: 1st
Pollution by industrial plants in violation of Clean Air Act: 1st
Spending for the environment: 49th
For some real in-depth reporting on the "Accidental President" see:
Ted Welch

I think that a lot of people would have been happy to just keep Clinton in office had that been an option. I can't say that I was surprised at the number of protestors who turned out to see Bush take office.
Kate K.

We in the U.S. have a different view than most of the rest of the world. We elected this man. It was no accident, the only accident was Mr Gore's inability to win his own home state. If the people who know you do not vote for you what could they be telling the rest of us? If you think President Bush is an accident why don't you look back in your own history - half your Kings have been German.
John Cappiello
Connecticut, USA

Your understanding of GW Bush indicates that you are very superficial in terms of your research.
Bob Theriault
Seattle, USA

Just because the BBC is a Commie tool of Labour, it doesn't give you the right to criticize the president of the United States. He has achieved something important, the BBC simply robs us (through the license) in exchange for very little.
Antonio Marchesini

Folks, give my President a chance! He's not even done a full day in the Oval Office, and some of you have him re-igniting the Cold War! All I'll say for now, is good riddance to Arkansas Trash, Hello to Texas Class.
E Chalgren
Maryland, USA

Why don't the English just join Europe and leave America alone

Tristan Abbot-Coates, Gloucester
I find it disgusting that so many people in England are ready to let loose with such a barrage of criticism at America's new President when all they know about the man is the biased xenophobic media reports that couldn't produce a constructive biography of somebody if they tried. Unfortunately dirt sells and telling the real story of how a man like George W. Bush turned his life around from self-destruct to a hard-working and God-fearing man isn't what the English people want to read or hear. Why don't the English just join Europe and leave America alone. America doesn't need you because you have no concept of support, either for each other or for your allies. I hope the next time England gets into trouble on the world political stage they sit and think back to why they've caused themselves to be disliked by almost every country in the world.
Tristan Abbott-Coates

You think the appointment of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice is an example of an inclusive cabinet? As for compassionate conservatism, we'll see. Authorising the death of over 150 American citizens on death row isn't in my opinion an example of compassion. If the Pope can't convince a Bush to think twice before authorising a death, then who knows what will? Look on the bright side though, we can all now wake up in the morning and say, "I'm smarter than the President of the United States."
Nottingham, England

I am a US citizen who voted Democrat. As comments in your programme infer, I also believe that G.W.Bush is now President primarily because his father, and the Republican party, were so thoroughly embarrassed by the Clinton victories. I believe that Mr. Bush is a fundamentally good and moral man. But his primary platform goal of a major, unnecessary and irresponsible tax cut reflects his (and his party's) desire to atone for his father's unavoidable tax increase; and to pander to the wealthy yet again.

After the last eight years of Clinton's personal gaffs, the country may settle for appearance over substance for a while

Tom Deuitch, Summerbridge
The campaign to deploy a "National Missile Defence" system flies in the face of reason; resurrecting another Reagan/Republican legacy. Additional funds should be expended on retaining highly skilled military personnel, and arming them to fight in the real world. Instead, the new administration wants to build a missile defence that is bound to fail, while compromising the county's ability to predict and respond to real-world events. I did not so much vote FOR Al Gore (I find him aimless and too political), as I voted AGAINST the Republican Party platform. If the Republicans had had the foresight to permit Sen. John McCain to assume his true role as a natural and national leader, they would probably have been guaranteed a second term in the White House. And most Americans would have voted for him. I give the new Bush administration less than 50% chance to retain the office. However, after the last eight years of Clinton's personal gaffs, the country may settle for appearance over substance for a while. As Bush already lost the popular (true) vote, he may pull it off again.
Tom Deuitch

The American public have enjoyed the most successful presidency ever, yet when it came time to vote, what questions could they have possibly asked themselves? "Do I vote for the vice-president, because his policies are almost identical to those of Clinton, or do I vote for this other guy whose policies are polarized to those of the current party, and while their leader seems half-witted, he appears to have a little more character than that of the vice-president..." I hope Bush can keep his wrecking-ball in his own backyard.
Michael Dean
Auckland, New Zealand

Never before has the world given its future into the hands of such an inept, inarticulate, inexperienced, introvertive idiot. America has a lot to answer for, this clown could re-start a cold war, or worse....
Carl Gurmin

Let's give the guy a fair start before we start critisicing. We do that to much already.
Sarah Roberts

Is the world balancing on a tip nowadays? Can one man (even as powerful as the President of such a state as the USA) really throw the world in turmoil? Does it really matter who is the President of the US? If it does, it means democracy is not working there anymore.
Timofey Osin
Moscow, Russia

Hewitt's article is a pathetic hatchet job; a cobbling together of negative remarks into a shallow and distorted picture of the individual. Not mentioned: George's successful completion of his studies at Yale and Harvard; his learning to fly jet aircraft; running a successful national professional baseball team, the Texas Rangers. His inaugural address gives lie to the notion that he cannot deliver an effective speech. Perhaps Hewitt's problem is more with Mr. Bush's conservative policies than with his capabilities as a leader. It's premature to judge his Presidency. Some simple honesty and dignity will be a refreshing change from what we've seem in White House for the past 8 years. These are apparently qualities that do not register on Hewitt's radar screen. Kind regards
Kirk Jenne

It has been a while that in America only weak characters are nominated for presidency. Well in one hand when somebody volunteers for the position, his whole personal life will be under the limelight by press, and not everybody wants that. On the other hand, it appears that the parties also do not want leaders up there. They nominate figureheads and buttress him by strong advisors and secretaries to do the job.
Mark Sabeti
Laguna Hills

My wife and I are nice people. We lived our first year of marriage in the UK throughout 1987. With some marvellous exceptions, received the (well I gotta say it) snotty, biased and ignorant attitudes about my country. To a far lesser extent those feelings were directed, in a personal way, to us and other Americans we knew over there.

The programme is far more honest than any main-stream American news outlets will be able to be

Thomas Noerper, Chicago
I will bet anyone of you reading this could come over here and be treated like members of the royal family. Bush, a decent and sincere, individual is going to be getting this same treatment from most of your press, it appears. Is it any wonder we might want to turn inward?
Eric Sorenson
Brooklyn, NY

I appreciate the Panorama piece on the "Accidental President." The programme is far more honest than any main-stream American news outlets will be able to be. In terms of his quality and his character, the man is an embarrassment to all intelligent and clear-thinking Americans, his politics aside. I especially appreciate the mention of his alleged use of cocaine, which he has never been able to deny. The BBC have performed a great service in producing this Panorama.
Thomas E. Noerper
Chicago, USA

A delegating ignorant president who can't be bothered with details. Sounds disastrous to me. I'd like to think that UK will tell him to get lost when asked for support for the Star Wars II project, but I have a sneaking suspicion that any colour of British government will just roll over and say yes. Heaven help us all.
Judy Rose

We waited 8 long years for Clinton to cut our taxes as he promised to do. He cost Gore the election not the Florida election board. Gore was unable to win his home state! I'm thankful for the electoral college. Good luck to W!
Paul J.Pattavina
Vernon, CT

Bush will further embarrass our nation and hasten the end of the Great American era.
Douglas Thomas
Magnolia, AR USA

Bush is a joke - He lost by 540,000 votes
Jonathan Cravitz

I caught the end of your programme on George Bush. Although it was entertaining, I feel it is somewhat unfair. In the past I worked in the environmental field. While it is true that the amount of pollution in Texas is great, proportionally it is not that extreme. Texas is an extremely large state. The company I work for has a manufacturing plant in Scotland. They have much less extreme environmental regulations than we have here. Also, much of the pollution in Texas is caused by emissions from Mexico and from pine trees if you can believe it. The numerous trees in east Texas emit enormous amounts of pollution.

I enjoyed this portrait of President Bush - It is interesting to see how other countries view the USA

Duane Long, Texas
I also felt that the programme attempts to show that being a delegator instead of an intellectual is somehow going to make President Bush less of an effective President. I disagree. Most truly successful people are those who delegate effectively. It is impossible to do everything yourself. I aspire to be more like him, as I myself tend to do everything myself. I think this hurts my career occasionally. Even so, I enjoyed this portrait of President Bush. It is interesting to see how other countries view the USA. At the end of the day, the quality of BBC is matched by no other.
Duane Long
Lewisville, TX

I found tonight's programme a little bit biased in an 'anti-bush' way. I think George W Bush has many qualities such as making difficult decisions by following his instincts and sticking to them. He also has a lot of ambition which I believe he will use in his leadership to allow America to move forward in issues such as technology, defence and taking a strong lead in foreign affairs. All of these qualities in George W Bush will probably make him into a great president.
Dominic Montgomery

When will someone give George W Bush some credit? Bush overcame great odds - a booming U.S. economy and a popular administration - to become America's 43rd President. It is just lazy to deride him as a lightweight right-winger. What tonight's programme didn't mention, for example, was Bush's appointment of an inclusive cabinet - featuring the likes of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice - and his advocacy of compassionate conservatism. This evening's Panorama was an example of grudging and lazy journalism.
Tony Thomas
Hadleigh, Essex

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