BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Is Bush the Churchill of the 21st Century?
By seeking a "regime change" in Iraq, despite criticism that he should give negotiations with Saddam Hussein another try, President George Bush is emulating Winston Churchill - who was derided in the 1930s for opposing the appeasement of Hitler.

At least that is the parallel being drawn by US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. "It wasn't until each country got attacked that they said: 'Maybe Winston Churchill was right.'"

This is not only a powerful political analogy, it also reflects President Bush's professed admiration for Britain's wartime leader. "I love Churchill," he once admitted to TV host Oprah Winfrey.

So how does the President really measure up to his political hero?

Bush Churchill
Political pedigree
The grandson of a US senator, George W Bush also has the rare distinction of being the son of a United States president. He did fear that bearing his father’s name would work against him, but he reasoned: "I've lived with his all my life." Sir Winston was descended from John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, who sent the French packing at the Battle of Blenheim (1704). Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s father, was a star of the Tory party until a miscalculation forced his resignation as Chancellor in 1886. He died a syphilitic wreck aged just 45.
Route to the top job
Educated at Yale and Harvard, Dubya won his pilot’s wings with the National Guard in the late 1960s. Trying his hand in the oil business and later heading a baseball team, he cut his political teeth working for his father. He swapped the governorship of Texas for the White House aged 54. After a lacklustre start at Harrow, Sir Winston embarked on a military career at Sandhurst academy. He served in India and saw action as a swashbuckling reporter in several African campaigns. Shuttling in and out of political office (and shifting from parties), Churchill finally became Prime Minister in 1940, aged 65.
War-war, not jaw-jaw
"Those who seek missiles and terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe. Like the threats of another era, this threat cannot be appeased or cannot be ignored." Berlin, Germany, May, 2002 "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping that it will eat him last." December, 1954
Coining a phrase
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." State of the Union address, January, 2002 "From Stettin, in the Baltic, to Trieste, in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." March, 1946
We salute you
Perhaps to differentiate himself from his father, President Bush made much of his middle initial – W for Walker – even going so far as to regularly flash a three-fingered salute. Churchill was the master of (hand) gesture politics. Sixty years ago the PM launched his ‘V For Victory’ campaign with his now hallmark two-finger salute. The defiant V-sign was, as Winnie knew, also a crude insult in the UK.
Raise your glasses
President Bush gave up drinking at 40, following a particularly heavy night. Though he refutes suggestions he was "clinically" an alcoholic, he concedes "alcohol was beginning to crowd out my energies and could crowd, eventually, my affections for other people". Sir Winston was once described as a "fine two-handed drinker" by US ambassador Joseph Kennedy. Keen on Hine brandy and Pol Roger champagne (after a glass of which "the wits become more nimble"), Churchill was content with his relationship with the bottle. "I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."
Get your head down
In a nation where workers seldom take more than two weeks annual holiday, Bush has a reputation as a nine-to-five president. Even during the working day he has told reporters: "I am going to answer some questions and then I'm going to head home and take a nap." Famously he took his own pillow around with him on the election campaign. Despite fighting a total war, Sir Winston regularly took power naps during the day. However, the PM used these brief rests to recharge his batteries so he could work on late into the night.
Brought to book
Asked to name his favourite book during the election, then Governor Bush failed to give an answer. As president, he still admits to lacking the temperament for reading: "I'm a decisive person . . . I'll read. I won't read treatises. I'll read summaries." He is said to have embarked on the One-year Bible – the Bible divided into 365 coffee break-sized chunks. Churchill boasted a passion for books, counting Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson among his favourite authors. A prolific writer himself, Churchill picked up a Nobel Prize for Literature, though he seemed more excited by the accompanying £12,000 cash ("Free from tax," he noted gleefully).
Guardians of the English language
"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."

Some of your comments so far:

Comparing Bush and Winnie is great. I feel history will prove that Bush is just as great of a man as Churchill. The world should wake up and learn from history. Churchill was right, and so is Bush
Bil, UK

While I understand why Mr Bush would like to be compared with Winston Churchill, only history will tell if his actions make him a hero, a villain or (most likely) a footnote in the story of how the US came to terms with what it can and cannot do in this decade.
John Paterson, UK

It is an insult to the memory of a great man to mention that buffoon George W in the same breath. Powerful he may be, great, never.
Colin Keyser, England

I think that it is making insult for the big statesman whom was Churchill to compare him with GW Bush who is only a marionette without a brain! My English friends, please, wake up!
Stéphane, France

I wouldn't call George Bush another Churchill. But like Churchill, his words of warning are being ignored.
Rob, UK

To compare a mental midget like Bush to a giant of the stature of Sir Winston is more than absurd... it is obscene!
Michael Eagan, USA

American historian John Lukacs
How does George Bush match up to Churchill

Key stories





See also:

29 Aug 02 | Politics
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |