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ESR's Seventh Annual Person of the Year
By Steven Martinovich
There appeared to be no real point in holding a vote for ESR's Seventh Annual Person of the Year. Our selection this year was both the runaway favourite of this magazine's readers and the first person in our short history to be a repeat winner. ESR's Person of the Year for 2002 was U.S. President George W. Bush.
It's a popular misconception that wartime presidents can count on unity and a free pass from their ideological opponents and the press. Even the phenomenally popular Franklin Delano Roosevelt, mere months after his stirring declaration of war after the Pearl Harbor attack, was forced to endure bitter partisan attacks as America's war against the Axis powers got under way. At best war only gives you temporary breathing room.
For Bush it was little different. The quiet murmurs of dissent in the waning months of 2001 gave way to concerted efforts by Democrats, some Republicans and many in the press to derail his foreign and domestic agendas. Their attacks didn't seem to have inflicted much in the way of damage or slow down the administration. In fact, few presidents in any era of American politics can boast of the successes that Bush managed to rack up. And despite a war with nebulous nature and no clear end date, his popularity with the American people remains very high.
"Bush is a man of impeccable character. It is the main reason for his success. Bush is the right leader for this time and should be admired for who he is and the things he has accomplished." -- "Young Conservative"
Without a doubt, America's continuing war against terrorism is boosting Bush's popularity. As with his father, Bush's concentration on foreign affairs has meant that for the most part that his domestic agenda has gone mostly by the wayside. Outside of his massive reorganization of the federal government with the introduction of the Department of Homeland Security, a legislative effort that many conservatives didn't particularly care for, Bush's attention for most of 2002 seemed to be Iraq. Fortunately for him, a strong majority of Americans are supportive of a potential war with Iraq.
"He has truly become a statesman, rising above the level of politician." -- one nominator's comments on Bush
Despite all that, 2002 was George W. Bush's year. From the mid-term elections which saw him expend his considerable political capital by campaigning for his party's candidates, something even Ronald Reagan refused to do, to help propel the Republicans to complete control of Congress to his open declaration of American sovereignty to the United Nations in one of the finest speeches in recent years, Bush has had a remarkable run of political successes.
We said it last year when we named Bush our Sixth Annual Person of the Year and we're forced to do so again: How could this selection go to anyone else this year?
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