The second member of his family to be President (and the second person in American history to hold the office after his father, the first being John Quincy Adams), George Walker Bush made the scene amidst a commotion and would continue on in that fashion. The presidential election of 2000 was a notoriously close one between Bush (then Governor of Texas) and Al Gore (Vice President to the outgoing Bill Clinton), ultimately hinging on the tally from the state of Florida. When recounts found that the vote in Florida had itself been nearly too close to call, controversy erupted over the level of clarity a cast ballot must display before being considered a legitimate vote, culminating in a Supreme Court decision that the count favored Bush.
Less than a year into Bush's first term in office, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 shook the nation. Bush was visiting an elementary school, reading to students from a book, when word came. By choosing to remain and finish the reading when an aide whispered the words in his ear, “Mister President, the country is under attack”, he raised questions over his sense of priority and provided fuel for the growing impression of him (especially among his political opponents) as a slow-witted man. Nevertheless, in the outburst of patriotic fervor that swept the nation following the events of September 11, the American people overwhelmingly rallied behind Bush as the leader who would see the country through, sending his approval rating soaring to the highest ever recorded for any US President.
Bush used the political capital from 9/11 to win public (including international) support for a series of military campaigns. Among these was the infamous invasion of Iraq, launched in 2003 for the express purpose of unseating Saddam Hussein as that nation's dictator. Bush's famous “Axis of Evil” speech during a State of the Union address, in which he named not only Iraq but Iran and North Korea as nations of evil, indicated that he may have had further ambitions once Iraq was tamed. This failed to materialize, largely because the occupation of Iraq became extremely difficult and costly, eventually trying the patience of the American people and causing them to reconsider their support for the move.
Not only enthusiasm for the war, but Bush's favor with the public in general began to greatly wane into his second term. Having never found friends among the left, Bush offended many conservative allies with his profuse spending policies. Iraq alone was estimated to have cost some one trillion dollars, all told, with deeply unpopular corporate bailouts costing taxpayers billions more. Bush also presided over the infamous “prescription drug benefit”, an expansion to the Medicare program that drew the ire of many on his side of the political aisle. By the time Bush left office in 2009, he had gone from the highest approval rating in history to one of the lowest, with hecklers singing jubilantly during his farewell speech.