“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 this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years, we name George W. Bush as TIME’s Person of the Year for 2004,” writes managing editor Jim Kelly in a letter to readers.
From Time's Person of the Year story:
. . . "Sometimes you're defined by your critics," [Bush] 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."
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