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Chapter 8
Alternate Lives

Lives Unlived - George W. Bush

Father, lover, sports enthusiast, President of the United States. Born September 10, 1947, in Texas. Died March 25, 2031 of heart failure, aged 84.

Nobody expected much from George W. Bush when he took office in 2000. To be sure, he had succeeded as an oil entrepreneur and baseball team owner, but his public life had been limited to two relatively quiet terms as governor of Texas.

Because of his narrow victory at the polls, President Bush declared that he would be a humble leader. He immediately made good on his promise, directing bi-partisan committees to determine sound fiscal and financial policy. When he came to office, President Bush inherited a budgetary surplus; combining this with a modest increase in taxes for the most wealthy Americans (as well as closing many of their tax loopholes), he was able to increase funds for housing and health care for the poorest Americans.

Many Americans were concerned that, because he had a background as an oil executive, President Bush's tenure would be bad for the environment. However, as he did so many times, President Bush surprised his harshest critics by expanding upon environmental regulations first enacted by the Clinton administration, as well as using some of the budgetary surplus to add new inspectors to the Environmental Protection Agency. "We live in one world," the President explained to a room full of stunned oil and nuclear energy executives, "and we owe it to our children, our children's children and all generations after that to ensure that the world they inherit is inhabitable."

But President Bush's most impressive triumph came in his response to the terrorist attack on New York and Washington on what has come to be known as 9/11. Resisting cries for an immediate retaliatory strike, President Bush consulted with representatives of Interpol and the United Nations; through joint efforts, they quickly captured Osama bin Laden. He was found guilty by the World Court and sentenced to life in prison. While it is true that his organization, al Qaeda, continued to plot terrorist acts, the evenhandedness with which the President dealt with the situation kept it from being able to recruit others.

"I want to be known as the peace President," Bush stated.

To his credit, the President also resisted cries to crack down at home. He refused to allow arrest and detention without due cause, for instance, and he threatened to veto any legislation that would allow prisoners of war to be treated in contravention of the Geneva conventions. "Democracy abroad," he explained in an address to the nation, "cannot be bought at the cost of undermining democracy at home."

Although his second term - won handily - was not nearly as tumultuous as the first, President Bush distinguished himself by bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the bargaining table, over the objections of his far right Christian supporters, who put tremendous pressure on the President to put his full support behind Israel alone. "There can be no peace without justice...for either side in this dispute," the President calmly responded.

One of the lesser known accomplishments of President Bush's second term was the enshrining of environmental and worker protections in international trade agreements. He had already proven himself a domestic supporter of the environment, of course, but his willingness to walk away from the negotiating table if strong environmental protections weren't included in NAFTA, GATT and other trade agreements surprised a lot of governments. In addition, his support for unions reversed decades of American government hostility towards them.

In the middle of his second term, many Americans began to discuss the possibility of extending the two term limit for Presidents, but, ever humble, President Bush said that if they succeeded he would not run. "Too much power can corrupt a man," he said from his ranch in Texas, "and I would not want to be so tempted."

As so many other Presidents have, President Bush retired to a life of memoir writing, corporate Board sitting and lecturing. However, as the member of several energy company Boards, he was active in getting the energy sector to clean up its act. On the lecture circuit, he always spoke of the need for the United States to live up to its democratic ideals in order to be a model for the world. And, of course, his memoirs, The Peace President was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize.

All in all, a remarkable life.

Chuck Labuck

Chuck Labuck never met the President personally, but, like most of his fellow Americans, he was grateful to have lived under such a wise leader.

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