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Personality in Politics: Analyzing George W. Bush Essay

The relationship between personality, experience, and political decision-making has been established in several studies. This has been undertaken using “at a distance techniques” which evaluate the relationship using biographies, speeches, and text from interviews. One of the most prominent names that focused on the predictive ability of personality on political styles and actions of world leaders has been renowned political scientists Margaret Hermann. Hermann lists six factors that influence the impact of world leaders on foreign policy.

“1) what their world view is; 2) what their political style is like; 3) what motivates them to have the position they do; 4) whether they are interested in and have training in foreign affairs; 5) what the foreign policy climate was like when the leader was starting out his or her political career; and 6) how the leader was socialized into his or her present position. ” Essentially, personality, background, and previous experiences shape the foreign policy-making behavior of world leaders.

This becomes especially clear when leaders confront a national crisis. How a leader conducts foreign affairs in the midst of crisis heightens his level of control on decision-making and resources. It is during this time that the interplay of personality and experience can be evaluated on their impact on the leader’s words and actions. Personality is a significant modifier in a leader’s foreign policy-making behavior. This was posited by Hermann in her leadership analysis of 51 world leaders. Hermann (2003) defined personality to be a mixture of seven traits.

These were “`1) belief in ability to control events, 2) conceptual complexity, 3) need for power, 4) distrust of others, 5) in-group bias, 6) self-confidence, and 7) task orientation. ” This paper applies this mode of analysis on George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States with an emphasis on his behavior during the September 11 Crisis and the Iraq War. Bush displayed high belief in his ability to control events, a personality trait related to how an individual perceives his control over political circumstances and his perception on the influence or significance of his state in resolving a foreign policy issue.

Judging on his pronouncements about the righteousness of the Iraq War and the responsibility of the US and its allies to stop Saddam Hussein, Bush was strong, even arrogant in his belief that the US must wage war, even going against the judgment of the United Nations Security Council, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people. ” In terms of his conceptual complexity, Bush was more inclined to see foreign affairs in black and white terms than appreciate it to be the result of a myriad of factors.

Bush displays a straightforward binary stance on the positioning of countries in foreign affairs, most notably the classification that all US action is good and countries better follow it. In his speech precursor to the US campaign after September 11, Bush said, “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. ” In analyzing the causes of foreign policy problems, Bush went for the superficial explanation in place of the complex one.

In terms of self-confidence, Bush displays high levels of optimism and fervor despite being placed in tight situations. His well-known Bushisms, for instance, seemed to have not marred his confidence or his nature. Despite his numerous verbal fiascos such as in addressing families of victims of September 11, “They misunderestimated the compassion of our country… I talk to families who die,” Bush has managed to even make fun of himself. In sum, the foreign policy decisions of George W.

Bush were reflective of his personality that is characterized by high belief in ability to control events, low conceptual complexity, and high degree of self-confidence. His personality and background created a foreign policy legacy which became detrimental to his party’s bid for the 2010 presidential seat. Bibliography CNN. “State of the Union Address,” (2004) http://edition. cnn. com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/01/20/sotu. transcript. 1/index. html (accessed May 8, 2010). CNN. “Transcript of President Bush’s address. ” (2001) http://edition. cnn.

com/2001/US/09/20/gen. bush. transcript/ (accessed May 8, 2010). Feller, Ben, “Analysis: Bush’s Personality Shapes His Legacy. ” MSNBC (Jan. 3, 2009), http://www. msnbc. msn. com/id/28482517/ (accessed May 8, 2010). Hermann, Margaret, “Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior Using the Personal Characteristics of Political Leaders. ” International Studies Quarterly (1983) 24:7-46. Hermann, Margaret, “Assessing Leadership Style: Trait Analysis,” in The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders, ed. J. M. Post (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).

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