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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Bush's 100 days: BBC's Nick Bryant took your questions

George W. Bush has just clocked up 100 days as US President - and in that time he has made a mark both at home and abroad.

On the international stage, he's made a series of high-profile moves. He has spurned the international effort to reduce global warming, called off talks with North Korea about its missiles, authorised air strikes on Iraq, expelled 50 Russian spies and signalled a tougher line on China.

At home he has pushed through measures to cut public spending while giving tax cuts to the very rich and he has been accused of doing too much to help big business. But according to a recent US poll, his standing at home has gone up by 5% since he was elected.

Is Bush meeting the expectations of Americans? What kind of leader is he turning out to be? What do his first 100 days tell us about what the rest of his presidency will bring?

The BBC's Washington Correspondent, Nick Bryant, answered your questions on Dubya's performance so far.


  56k Click here to watch Nick Bryant's forum  


Highlights of interview:


Ross Whiteford, Aberdeen, Scotland:

Do you believe in following in the footsteps of previous Republican administrations and in continuing to exercise a tougher line against Communist regimes, Bush's actions could theoretically lead to a new Cold War?


Nick Bryant:

Certainly the Bush administration has toughened up the rhetoric both with Russia and China and that has marked a difference between this administration and the last one. Bill Clinton was criticised by many Republicans for being too easy on Russia. Bush has certainly stiffened up the rhetoric. The fact that he is willing to countenance a National Missile Defence System - which is angering Russia and China - is a sign of that.

But I think what we saw during the China crisis over the spy plane incident was Bush being quite moderate in his approach there. There were tough words at the beginning but he ratcheted back the rhetoric mid-way through and partly that was the fear that US-China relations could really sour.

The worry was that trade could be affected and I think that will be a dominant theme of Bush's foreign policy - that trade will be very high up on the agenda. American business is keen to do a lot of trade with China - billions of dollars worth of trade in China - and I think that will have a big impact on the way that America has developed its relationship both with Russia and China.

Are we going to see a new Cold War? I don't think we are. American businesses wouldn't like to see that - Cold Wars aren't good for US profits.


Patrick O'Neill, Swansea, Wales:

Do you think Bush's immediate rise in popularity is more to do with his style rather than his or Dick Cheney's opinions on every day issues? Therefore could you foresee that over time - after the honeymoon period has ended - that his stance on issues such as the environment will inevitably lead to a drop in his domestic popularity?


Nick Bryant:

I think style is very important. Personality in American presidential politics has always been as important as policy - probably more so.

I think there is something of the Ronald Reagan about this presidency. Ronald Reagan, rather like George Bush didn't really deal with the detail of policy - he often delegated authority to his deputies. He built a very strong team at the White House and he relied on them to a certain extent. He had a broad brush approach - he tried to paint a vision of where America should be going and he let other people fill in the detail.

Bush is very similar. He has got a sunny optimistic personality just like Ronald Reagan. He seems to have this amiable approach which a lot of American people seem to like and I believe this has helped him overcome the controversy surrounding Florida as well.

However a lot of people in Europe and indeed in America, question his intellectual capabilities - whether he really has the brainpower to be a good executive. But at the moment a lot of American people don't seem to be too worried about that - they think he has a good team around him. Dick Cheney, as vice-president, they believe is doing a pretty good job. There is a lot of support for George W. Bush simply on his personality and style alone.


Martin Kellaway, Reading, England:

The administration appears to have turned away from considering global affairs replacing it with its own national interest. How far is this merely the administration being more realistic and honest with the rest of the word, and how far does it really represent a sea change in America's attitude?


Nick Bryant:

I think Bush came in determined to say that American foreign policy under him would be very different from American policy under Bill Clinton. With a much narrower definition of what the American national self-interest is, much less curiosity in what is happening in the rest of the world and much less desire to actually get involved in some of those problems.

If you remember, Bill Clinton wanted to become involved with the problems of Burundi in the final days of his presidency. We saw Bill Clinton involved again in some very complex peace talks in Northern Ireland - taking a very key role in the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement. I don't think we are going to see Bush in any way replicate Bill Clinton on that front. First of all I don't think he is particularly interested in the problems of Burundi and Northern Ireland and secondly, he just doesn't think that America should be involved.

So we are going to see this much narrower definition of America's self-interest. We are going to see a far less energetic foreign policy. Bush isn't going to be intervening in the affairs of individual countries. The biggest indication of that policy is in the Middle East - we have real problems at the moment between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Bill Clinton it is inconceivable to think wouldn't have taken a more hands-on approach to that problem but Bush is sitting back right now waiting to see how things turn out before he really lets America get fully involved in that peace process.


Andrew Fletcher, Glasgow, UK:

Given the fact that George W. Bush was not elected and has no mandate to speak of, do you find it alarming that he has taken such a right-wing, pro-business stance that has no popular support?


Nick Bryant:

In a way it is pay-back time. Remember this election was the most expensive that has ever been financed in American politics. A lot of the money for Bush came from his big business friends. Remember, he is an oil man. In Texas, much of his political appeal for the Republicans was that he was so pro-business. So it is no surprise that it is pay-back time - he is returning a few political favours to his friends.

I think they have also made a political calculation that it is good right now to get the right-wing on board, even it means losing some moderate and democratic support. George Bush Senior had a real problem in the early days of his presidency - he spoke of this kinder, gentler America and many thought he was disavowing the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the hero of the Republican right. George W. Bush is eager not to make that same mistake. The problems of the right-wing in the Republican Party came back to haunt him later on - remember when George Bush tried to win re-election, Pat Buchanan on the Republican Right, challenged him and caused him real problems in the New Hampshire primary in 1992.

George W. Bush is determined not to make that mistake - he wants the right-wing of the Republican Party right behind him and on board straightaway. In the first couple of days of his presidency, he stopped American funding for abortion programmes abroad giving a clear signal to the Right.

Bush also appointed John Ashcroft as Attorney-General - a real standard bearer of the Republican Right. So what he has tried to do is harness the support of the Republican Right early on and perhaps he will start moving to the centre again as elections take place. Classic presidential politics - shore up your electoral base and as he comes up for re-election - move towards the middle again.


Helen Duys, London:

Have the left united in response to Bush's initial policies and right-wing overtones?


Nick Bryant:

There is an argument that the Democrats are in disarray. Indeed we have seen some editorials in the papers saying that the Democrats are a dying party. Certainly they lack a figurehead right now. Bill Clinton had hoped to emerge as the titular leader of the Democratic Party - that simply hasn't happened because of the controversy surrounding his departure from office with all the scandal over those presidential pardons he issued in his final days in office.

The Democrats are lacking a voice right now. Al Gore has decided that he is just going to keep a very low profile taking up some teaching jobs in Columbia University, New York. We haven't seen Al Gore comment on any aspect of the administration's policy - even the Kyoto Protocol which was one of Al Gore's signature issues - this need to safeguard the environment.

However, as the administration progresses there will be more vocal criticisms from his democratic and environmental opponents.


Glyn Jones, Leeds, UK:

Why has Bush been so bluntly anti-environment, pro business so soon? What do American opinion polls say about domestic reaction? Will the mid-term elections stop this agenda?


Nick Bryant:

I think the Bush White House has made a key political calculation early on which is this: they believe America faces a fuel crisis - they believe America is going to experience pain at the petrol pumps over the summer; we have seen rolling black-outs in California and there is the fear that we might see them elsewhere in America as the summer temperatures rise.

Bush knows that that would create an enormous political problem for him. They have made a political calculation that more people are concerned about rising energy prices than are concerned about the possible damaging effects to the environment and that seems to be governing the way that they are approaching this problem.

There is a concern within the White House about the presentation of its environmental policy - I think they were taken aback at the alarm in Europe especially over his disavowal of the Kyoto Protocol. I travelled from America the day that he announced that to Europe the following morning and the headlines were so different.

In America it wasn't really a huge story - partly because people knew that Kyoto was always going to struggle to get the Senate's approval and partly because Americans are used to driving their cars. They regard cheap gas as a right not a privilege and a lot of people in America are willing to make that bargain that if cheap fuel means damaging the environment - to a certain extent they are willing to actually allow that.

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