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Old 12-22-2004   #1
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TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

George W. Bush

For sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years, George W. Bush is TIME's 2004 Person of the Year

By NANCY GIBBS and JOHN F. DICKERSON

Posted Sunday, December 19, 2004
Eagles rather than doves nestle in the Oval Office Christmas tree, pinecones the size of footballs are piled around the fireplace, and the President of the United States is pretty close to lounging in Armchair One. He's wearing a blue pinstripe suit, and his shoes are shined bright enough to shave in. He is loose, lively, framing a point with his hands or extending his arm with his fingers up as though he's throwing a big idea gently across the room.

"I've had a lot going on, so I haven't been in a very reflective mood," says the man who has just replaced half his Cabinet, dispatched 12,000 more troops into battle, arm wrestled lawmakers over an intelligence bill, held his third economic summit and begun to lay the second-term paving stones on which he will walk off into history. Asked about his re-election, he replies, "I think over the Christmas holidays it'll all sink in."

As he says this, George W. Bush is about to set a political record. The first TIME poll since the election has his approval rating at 49%. Gallup has it at 53%, which doesn't sound bad unless you consider that it's the lowest December rating for a re-elected President in Gallup's history. That is not a great concern, however, since he has run his last race, and it is not a surprise to a President who tends to measure his progress by the enemies he makes. "Sometimes you're defined by your critics," he says. "My presidency is one that has drawn some fire, whether it be at home or around the world. Unfortunately, if you're doing big things, most of the time you're never going to be around to see them [to fruition], whether it be cultural change or spreading democracy in parts of the world where people just don't believe it can happen. I understand that. I don't expect many short-term historians to write nice things about me."

Yet even halfway through his presidency, Bush says, he already sees his historic gamble paying off. He watched in satisfaction the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "I'm not suggesting you're looking at the final chapter in Afghanistan, but the elections were amazing. And if you go back and look at the prognosis about Afghanistan—whether it be the decision [for the U.S. to invade] in the first place, the 'quagmire,' whether or not the people can even vote—it's a remarkable experience." Bush views his decision to press for the transformation of Afghanistan and then Iraq—as opposed to "managing calm in the hopes that there won't be another September 11th, that the Salafist [radical Islamist] movement will somehow wither on the vine, that somehow these killers won't get a weapon of mass destruction"—as the heart of not just his foreign policy but his victory. "The election was about the use of American influence," he says. "I can remember people trying to shift the debate. I wanted the debate to be on a lot of issues, but I also wanted everybody to clearly understand exactly what my thinking was. The debates and all the noise and all the rhetoric were aimed at making very clear the stakes in this election when it comes to foreign policy."

In that respect and throughout the 2004 campaign, Bush was guided by his own definition of a winning formula. "People think during elections, 'What's in it for me?'" says communications director Dan Bartlett, and expanding democracy in Iraq, a place voters were watching smolder on the nightly news, was not high on their list. Yet "every time we'd have a speech and attempt to scale back the liberty section, he would get mad at us," Bartlett says. Sometimes the President would simply take his black Sharpie and write the word freedom between two paragraphs to prompt himself to go into his extended argument for America's efforts to plant the seeds of liberty in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

An ordinary politician tells swing voters what they want to hear; Bush invited them to vote for him because he refused to. Ordinary politicians need to be liked; Bush finds the hostility of his critics reassuring. Challengers run as outsiders, promising change; it's an extraordinary politician who tries this while holding the title Leader of the Free World. Ordinary Presidents have made mistakes and then sought to redeem themselves by admitting them; when Bush was told by some fellow Republicans that his fate depended on confessing his errors, he blew them off.

For candidates, getting elected is the test that counts. Ronald Reagan did it by keeping things vague: It's Morning in America. Bill Clinton did it by keeping things small, running in peaceful times on school uniforms and V chips. Bush ran big and bold and specific all at the same time, rivaling Reagan in breadth of vision and Clinton in tactical ingenuity. He surpassed both men in winning bigger majorities in Congress and the statehouses. And he did it all while conducting an increasingly unpopular war, with an economy on tiptoes and a public conflicted about many issues but most of all about him.

The argument over whether his skill won the race and fueled a realignment of American politics or whether he was the lucky winner of a coin-toss election will last just as long as the debates among historians over whether Dwight Eisenhower had a "hidden-hand strategy" in dealing with political problems, Richard Nixon was at all redeemable and Reagan was an "amiable dunce." Democrats may conclude that they don't need to learn a thing, since 70,000 Ohioans changing their minds would have flipped the outcome and flooded the airwaves with commentary about the flamboyantly failed Bush presidency. It may be that a peculiar chemistry of skills and instincts and circumstances gave Bush his victory in a way no future candidates can copy. But that doesn't mean they won't try.

In the meantime, the lessons Bush draws from his victory are the ones that matter most. The man who in 2000 promised to unite and not divide now sounds as though he is prepared to leave as his second-term legacy the Death of Compromise. "I've got the will of the people at my back," he said at the moment of victory. From here on out, bipartisanship means falling in line: "I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals." Whatever spirit of cooperation that survives in his second term may have to be found among his opponents; he has made it clear he's not about to change his mind as he takes on Social Security and the tax code in pursuit of his "ownership society." So unfolds the strange and surprising and high-stakes decade of Bush.

For sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes—and ours—on his faith in the power of leadership, George W. Bush is TIME's 2004 Person of the Year.
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Old 12-22-2004   #2
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

This is my favorite part:

George W. Bush is about to set a political record. The first TIME poll since the election has his approval rating at 49%. Gallup has it at 53%, which doesn't sound bad unless you consider that it's the lowest December rating for a re-elected President in Gallup's history.

The president with the lowest approval rating in history after his reelection is picked to be Time's person of the year. How fitting, before you know it they will be nominating Hitler (oh wait, they already have).

Question: How does someone get democratically elected when the majority of America doesn't approve of them?

Another Question: Why is Bush standing behind Rummy so fervantly in times when even their own party's senators (Lott, Hagel, and McCain) are against him? I suspect that Bush is just happy to have a scapegoat, because if Rumsfeld leaves the blame will just migrate up the chain of command.

</end political rant>
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Old 12-22-2004   #3
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Quote:
Originally Said by Weasel
Question: How does someone get democratically elected when the majority of America doesn't approve of them?
Firstly, please don't do this Weasel. I respect you, but I don't respect people who claim voter fraud. To answer your question, the gallup poll was wrong about the election, and that's understandable, because it's just a sampling of about 1000. Poll the entire country and you might get another response. And also, they might take some people who didn't or can't vote in the poll.
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Old 12-22-2004   #4
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

I never said anything about voter fraud. I was asking rhetorically, in order to drive home the point that we've somehow ended up with a leader for the next 4 years that 51% of people disapprove of a month after 51% of people vote him into office (according to Time).

Also, I don't see the validity in your argument that the approval rating polls are "wrong". Polls come with margins of error that statistically guarantees where the opinion of 100% of the target population falls. The election polls were almost always a statistical coin flip (as this article mentions) because of this fact. I bet even if you skewed the results in Bush's favor to the maximum MoE value, he would still end up breaking this 'record', at least for the Time poll (I don't have the historical data on this so I can't say for sure).
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Old 12-22-2004   #5
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Quote:
Originally Said by Weasel
I never said anything about voter fraud. I was asking rhetorically, in order to drive home the point that we've somehow ended up with a leader for the next 4 years that 51% of people disapprove of a month after 51% of people vote him into office (according to Time).
Right- that seemed to be getting at voter fraud.

Quote:
Also, I don't see the validity in your argument that the approval rating polls are "wrong". Polls come with margins of error that statistically guarantees where the opinion of 100% of the target population falls. The election polls were almost always a statistical coin flip (as this article mentions) because of this fact. I bet even if you skewed the results in Bush's favor to the maximum MoE value, he would still end up breaking this 'record', at least for the Time poll (I don't have the historical data on this so I can't say for sure).
The polls can be wrong because they can take people who were not elligible to vote. Like there was this one poll during the election that gave Kerry a big lead, but then it sampled people under 18.
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Old 12-22-2004   #6
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Quote:
Originally Said by Bleed Black

The polls can be wrong because they can take people who were not elligible to vote. Like there was this one poll during the election that gave Kerry a big lead, but then it sampled people under 18.
they can be wrong but rarely are, they give a good - but not perfect - indication of man-on-the-street average opinion. for me, its not democratic when he leads by such a tiny majority, thats not really democracy at all.
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Old 12-22-2004   #7
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatullah Khomeini were Time's Man of The Year too.
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Old 12-22-2004   #8
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush



IN THE NEWS
44 Suspicious Packages Detonated Under White House Christmas Tree.


Just thought it belonged here.
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Old 12-22-2004   #9
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

nice tree.
that's all i have to say.
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Old 12-24-2004   #10
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Quote:
Originally Said by Weasel
...before you know it they will be nominating Hitler (oh wait, they already have).
Just to make sure... are you comparing Bush and Hitler?
Or is this a critic to Time's choices.
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Old 12-24-2004   #11
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

Just a joke, don't read too much into it. I'm fine with Time's choices if they are going for the most influential person, bad or good.
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Old 12-26-2004   #12
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Re: TIME's Person of the Year: George Bush

there is only one poll i know of that uses a sample group of all registered voters and that poll is out of new york without a magazine affiliate.
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