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“W” to Premiere on PBS AMERICAN EXPERIENCE in May as Part of THE PRESIDENTS Series

By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (The Hollywood Times) 5/4/20 – George W. Bush, son of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, is known as one of the least prepared U.S. Presidents who faced some of the greatest challenges the country has ever known.  George W. Bush took office less than ten months before 9/11 and the war on terror ushered in a new climate of fear and uncertainty in the United States.
U.S. President George W. Bush a statement at the Rose Garden of the White House (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Hurricane Katrina crisis and the Great Recession further plagued one of the most popular AND unpopular Presidents in national history.  Bush’s presidency has been related below average in historians’ polls, although his favorability ratings improved after he left office.

A member of the Republican Party, George W. Bush served as the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.  He is a graduate of Yale University and the Harvard Business School.
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In 2010 Bush published a memoir called DECISION POINTS.  In 2013 his Presidential library and museum opened in Dallas, Texas.

Today Monday, May 4th and Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 PBS AMERICAN EXPERIENCE will launch a two-part biography of George W. Bush called W to complement the similar production created about father George H.W. Bush in 2018.  Both titles are part of the Peabody Award-winning series THE PRESIDENTS.
W features interviews with historians, journalists, and several members of the President’s inner circle.  It is written, directed, and produced by Barak Goodman and executive produced by Mark Samels.  Goodman previously directed the acclaimed CLINTON segment in THE PRESIDENTS collection.
Writer, director and producer Barak Goodman of American Experience “George Bush” speaks during the PBS segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 10, 2020 in Pasadena, California.
(Photo: Getty Images North America)

“Not since Lincoln has such an inexperienced leader been called upon in a moment of genuine existential crisis,” says Barak Goodman.  “How Bush evolved in office under these pressures–at first struggling mightily, but later finding his feet–illuminates not only his character, but also the evolving nature of power and the Presidency in an increasingly dangerous world.” 

“W” is also well remembered for the highly contested 2000 election when 36 days passed without a clear president-elect.  A Supreme Court ruling in favor of George W. Bush named him the 43rd President of the United States rather than the Democratic candidate, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.  In 2004 Bush defeated Democratic candidate John Kerry in a close election to win a second Presidential term.
W was discussed at a PBS panel taking place on Monday, January 10th at the Winter 2020 TCA Press Tours held at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena.  Present were filmmakers Barak Goodman and Jamila Ephron as well as Bush’s former Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, Andrew Card and Ari Fleischer.
President George W. Bush listens as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center while Bush was conducting a reading seminar at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School, in Sarasota, Fla., on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Win McNamee / REUTERS)

Andrew Card achieved overnight celebrity after he informed the President about the 9/11 bombings during a school visit in Sarasota, Florida.  “The nation is under attack!” Card whispered dramatically to the man just realizing he had assumed the role of Commander-in-Chief of America’s Armed Forces.

This fateful day immediately changed the Bush administration’s focus from domestic to foreign policy.  Card was full of praise for the new President’s performance under extreme pressure.
“He had the sole responsibility, out of all the people in America, to lead the nation, to preserve, protect, and defend,” said Card.  “And I was very impressed by how he stepped up to that responsibility.  He was very, very disciplined. . . .I think his training in the MBA program at Harvard helped him, and he was very deliberate in how he made his decisions.  He had the courage to make them, and he didn’t always get them right, but he got the best information he could at the time.”  
Producer and director Jamila Ephron
(Photo: Getty Images North America)

The Clinton and Bush segments of THE PRESIDENTS collection allowed the creators to deal with live subjects.  Jamila Ephron wished that they could have gotten interviews with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to provide a feminine perspective upon the George W. Bush administration.

Ephron felt, like Andrew Card, that America had seen George W. Bush grow into the role of U.S. President.  She thought the early difficulties the new POTUS obviously had to overcome made him more relatable to the average American.
Ari Fleischer ended the panel with some excellent advice for us reporters.  “When there is extraordinary, important news, stop and calmly collect information,” he said.  “That’s what I learned on September 11th. . . .That’s how you have cool heads and, hopefully, good decisions.”