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7. The Plame affair
The 2003 leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert operative in the CIA consumed the administration for months and led to a rift between Bush and then-Vice President Cheney during their second term, after Bush refused to pardon Cheney’s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in connection with the case. It later turned out that the source of the leak was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who said he leaked her identity accidentally. But many saw it as politically motivated, given that Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, had questioned the administration’s case for going to war in Iraq.
6. The 2006 "thumping"
The 2006 midterm election left Bush the lamest of lame ducks for his final two years, in large part because of what were perceived as the failures in his administration. Democrats won both the House and the Senate, along with a majority of governorships - the first time they had a majority of all three since the 1994 Republican Revolution. Bush summed it all up at a press conference by calling it a "thumpin’".
5. ‘Mission Accomplished’
Bush announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, on what should have been a momentous occasion. But the banner that hung behind him that day will live in infamy. The banner preemptively declared "Mission Accomplished" in a war that would last another decade and cost thousands of American lives. The Bush administration had said it wasn’t responsible for the banner, but that later turned out not to be the case. Bush has called it a "big mistake."
4. The 16 words
Bush’s statement in his 2003 State of the Union address that "the British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" has come to symbolize the botched case for war and what critics call the lies of his administration. There remains some disagreement about whether the words were justified, but CIA director George Tenet later admitted that he never should have approved that statement in Bush’s speech, and it became a proxy for the administration’s case for war.
3. Abu Ghraib
Bush’s anti-terrorism policies came under a microscope throughout his presidency - including Guantanamo Bay, "enhanced interrogation techniques," the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping. But no one policy was as damaging as the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. The picture above remains the biggest symbol of the mistreatment and torture that occurred at the prison in Iraq - much of it captured in pictures that were released for the world to see. The episode, while not directly implicating members of the administration, remains a huge black eye on United States foreign policy.
2. (tie) ‘Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva a job’. The Hurricane Katrina flyover. Kanye West’s "George Bush doesn’t care about black people."
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the last straw for Bush’s second term, with his widely criticized handling of the recovery pretty much precluding him from any kind of success in his final years in office. It was punctuated by his admonition that FEMA director Michael Brown was "doing a heckuva job" (amid a large number of complaints that Brown wan’t up to the job), an iconic image of Bush flying over the wreckage of Katrina on his way back from a vacation rather than going there immediately, and rapper Kanye West saying during a Katrina telethon that Bush "doesn’t care about black people." The last moment registered with Bush, who later called it the worst moment of his presidency.
1. The market crashes and the recession begins
Bush’s term ended on a low note, with the market crash of 2008 requiring emergency government intervention and resulting in a long recession that the country is still climbing out of. The bank bailout that Bush spearheaded has gotten positive reviews, but Bush continues to endure criticism for the policies that led to the crash, and he will forever be linked to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
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