George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States of America and served from 2001 until 2009. Son of former President George Bush Senior, Bush divided political opinion hugely, with some seeing him as the answer to America’s economic and political problems, whilst others merely viewed him as a barely eloquent buffoon used a puppet by his party. Since stepping down as President, Bush has withdrawn from the media spotlight and has kept a relatively low profile. As such, we may be ignorant of some of the more surprising facts about the former President’s life. A handful of these are laid out below.
1) He enjoyed both the highest and lowest approval ratings of any President
Bush came into power amid controversy in 2001 when he lost the popular vote by half a million to Al Gore, but claimed the Presidency regardless by edging the electoral vote. After the September 11th terrorist acts of the same year, a wave of nationalism saw his ratings rise to an unprecedented 90%. However, he incurred the displeasure of many citizens due to his management of Hurricane Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which many did support, though others opposed) and his transformation of a large governmental surplus into a huge national debt. Accordingly, his approval rate was at an all-time low of 25% in 2008, shortly before the elections.
2) He was the head cheerleader in his senior year
Bush attended a number of different schools, finishing his secondary education at Phillips Academy, an all-male boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts. He was the head cheerleader here during his senior year and when he went to Yale, he continued his cheerleading duties there. He is one of four presidents to have done so; the others being Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
3) He is sometimes described as the ‘Baseball President’
As well as cheerleading at school, Bush was an avid sportsman and played rugby union as well as baseball. In 1989, he purchased shares in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise and served as their managing partner until 1984, at which point he sold his shares for $15 million, making a huge profit on his initial stake ($800,000; he got out almost 20 times what he put in!) He was the first Little League player to become President, and also the first one to conduct games on the White House lawn. It clearly runs in the family, as well; whilst at Yale, his father met Babe Ruth just a few months before his death.
4) He is a former alcoholic
Like many of us, Bush liked to drink heavily during his twenties. In the mid-seventies he got into some scrapes linked to his alcohol abuse, including being arrested in 1976 for driving under the influence (DUI). He was fined $150 and banned from driving for two years. Luckily, the year after he met his future wife, Laura Welch, who he himself claims to have had a very sobering effect (excuse the pun) on his drinking activities. It appears Welsh was one of the main catalysts behind him giving up alcohol altogether in 1986. One the subject of recreational drug use in the past, Bush has refused to give an answer.
5) He declared June 10th “Jesus Day” in 2000
After winning re-election to the position of the Governor of Texas in 1998, Bush became the first Texan governor in history to win two back-to-back four-year terms. Two years into his second term, he caused controversy by declaring June 10th “Jesus Day”, a day when Texans should help the poor and needy. The controversy was not aroused by the sentiment of the day but rather its overtly religious name; and, indeed, whilst in power as President, Bush would often be criticized for blurring the lines between the State and the Church.
6) He is the only President to have an MBA
After graduating from Yale with a degree in History, Bush then went to Harvard and achieved a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard Business School in 1975. He is the only President in history to have achieved such a qualification, and on paper, is one of the most highly educated presidents in history; though such an education might not always come out in his public speaking. Incidentally, the only President with a PhD was Woodrow Wilson.
7) He had a live grenade thrown at him
Everyone remembers in 2008 when an Iraqi journalist, so incensed by Bush, decided to make his feelings known by launching both of his shoes, one after the other, at the President. But do you remember the genuine attack on his life back in 2005? Whilst visiting Tblisi, Georgia, Bush was the victim of an assassination attempt when a native Georgian Vladimir Arutyunian hurled a live grenade at the President. The Georgian President himself was seated nearby and was most certainly within the explosion radius; fortunately for both men, the grenade never detonated. Arutyunian was arrested and sentenced the following year.
8) He took more vacation days than any other President
During his eight-year stint as President, Bush took 1,020 days off, more than any other in history, and even more than Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 958, who actually served for four years more than Bush. In fact, Bush’s days off almost amount to more than the total time spent in office by John F. Kennedy (1,036 days). In August 2005, he took a five-week long vacation, which was the longest in modern standards; and furthermore, trips have also been very expensive. In total, he has made 77 trips to his Crawford ranch in Texas using Air Force One, running up a huge bill. The numbers themselves are hard to pin down, though estimates put the airfare at somewhere between $56,000 and $68,000 per hour. That translates as a rough total of more than $20 million; for which the US public were held accountable.