George W. Bush on Crime

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


Post-9-11: Terrorism no longer just a law enforcement matter

With his post 9/11 speech, Bush signaled two dramatic changes in American policy. First, terrorists were no longer simply a law enforcement matter, to be turned over to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the FBI and the justice system, which would work its course. Terror attacks were now a question of national security, and all the force and power of the United States--diplomatic, economic, and, if need be, military--would be used to defeat those who carried them out.

Second, Bush was telling state sponsors of terror that they would be held accountable. Afghanistan and other countries that supported or tolerated terrorists within their borders were now on notice that the United States would no longer tolerate their support of those who attacked the West.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.265 , Nov 2, 2010

Survived 2005 assassination attempt in former USSR

On May 10, 2005, when a man threw a grenade at Pres. Bush as he spoke at a rally in a public square in Tbilisi, Georgia. Because magnetometer screening was stopped, the man was able to take a grenade into the event.

"The Georgians had set up the magnetometers all around this area," says the FBI agent who headed the investigation. "They screened about 10,000 people, and there's about 150,000 that want to get in. So they just shut off the machines and let everybody in."

The grenade landed near the podium where Bush was speaking, but it did not explode. Witnesses said a man wearing a head scarf reached into his black leather jacket and pulled out a military grenade. He yanked the pin, wrapped the scarf around the grenade, and threw it toward Bush. [The igniter] got stuck. After analyzing the device, the FBI concluded it could have killed the president if it had worked.

If all onlookers had been screened, the grenade would have been detected, and Bush's life would not have been in jeopardy.

Source: In the President`s Secret Service, by R. Kessler, p.234-235 , Jun 29, 2009

OpEd: 300,000 felons immigrated during Bush's tenure

On November 28, 2005, President Bush, speaking in Tucson, conceded that in 5 years 4.5 million aliens had been caught attempting to break into the US. Among the 4.5 million, Bush admitted, were "more than 350,000 with criminal records." One in every 12 illegal aliens the US Border Patrol had apprehended was a criminal.

That is 70,000 felons apprehended each year, 200 felons every single day for 5 years, trying to break into our country to rob, rape, and murder Americans. Of the millions who succeeded on Bush's watch, how many came for just such purposes? How many Americans have been robbed, assaulted, or murdered because the president failed in his duty to defend the borders of the US?

Nearly 8 million foreigners did enter during those 5 years, 3.7 million of them illegally. If 1 in 12 was a criminal, 300,000 felons slipped in during Bush's tenure. This is an historic dereliction of presidential duty.

Source: State of Emergency, by Pat Buchanan, p. 8-9 , Oct 2, 2007

As governor, first faith-based prison rehabilitation program

I toured each Kansas prison, and one of the things that was striking to me was that we had an extremely high recidivism rate--prisoners were being released and then ending up back in prison a short time later.

Back in the late 1960s we had some well-intentioned but soft-headed policies on prison reform that had failed miserably. Then the popular idea became to lock them up and throw away the key. For anyone who bothered to pay attention, it was obvious there had to be a better way.

Prison Fellowship found a way. I began working with them: the first [faith-based prison ministry] was operated in Winfield, Kansas, and later moved to Ellsworth, Kansas. The system is modeled on the successful program that Prison Fellowship established in Sugarland, Texas, when George W. Bush was governor. It had a recidivism rate of less than 10%.

Source: From Power to Purpose, by Sam Brownback, p. 72-4 , Jul 3, 2007

1994 Gov. race: toughen up juvenile justice

In the race for the governor's office, his opponent would be Ann Richards. They planned to win with a clear agenda. They knew that the elder Bush had lost the presidency in part because he did not have a clear focus. Meanwhile, Clinton's strategist kept their candidate on message with the phrase "It's the economy, stupid!" George W. learned the lesson. He campaigned on a 4-point plan: return control of education to local schools districts, toughen up juvenile-justice laws, design stricter provision for welfare recipients, and reform that state's tort laws. He kept his message simple, and he repeated it as often as he could.

If Bush was anything, he was "on message."

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 92-94 , Apr 12, 2004

America is the land of the second chance

We know from long experience that if released inmates can’t find work or a home, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison. So I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.
Source: 2004 State of the Union address to joint session of Congress , Jan 20, 2004

Ignored Byrd hate crime bill despite plea by Byrd’s family

The Gore campaign accused Bush of trying to deflect attention from his unwillingness to push for an enhanced 1999 hate crimes bill named for James Byrd that died in the State Senate. And Byrd’s daughter, Renee Mullins, who lobbied Bush in 1999 to help pass that bill, said in an interview today that the governor pointedly told her that he would not work to do so. “I pleaded with him,” Mullins recounted of her meeting with Bush. Mullins said she was offended when she learned that Bush expressed support for hate crimes legislation, saying “I just went to him last year and he didn’t support me. So how could he support one?”

A Bush spokesman attributed the governor’s inaction on the Byrd bill in 1999 to several factors: It was not part of Bush’s own legislative package, and [strengthening penalties for one group] might weaken penalties under existing laws for [other groups which were not specified in the Byrd bill]. Advocates of the Byrd bill argued that the existing law was too vague.

Source: Analysis of Wake Forest debate, Jim Yardley, NY Times , Oct 13, 2000

National hate crimes law OK, stricter enforcement better

GORE [to Bush]: The law that was proposed in Texas that had the support of the Byrd family, died in committee. There may be some other statute that was already on the books, but the advocates of the hate crimes law felt that a tough new law was needed. And it’s important not just because of Texas, but because this mirrors the national controversy. There is pending now in the Congress a national hate crimes law because of James Byrd and others. And that law has died in committee also because of the same kind of opposition.

Q: And you would support that bill?

GORE: Absolutely.

Q: Would you support a national hate crimes law?

BUSH: I would support the Orrin Hatch version of it, not the Senator Kennedy version. But we’re happy with our laws on our books. There was another bill that did die in committee, but I want to repeat, if you have a state that fully supports the law, like we do in Texas, we’re going to go after all crime, and we’re going to make sure people get punished for the crime.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Limit frivolous lawsuits to create entrepreneurial heaven

Liberal court decisions had resulted in an unfair legal system, tilted in favor of personal injury trial lawyers, unfortunately making Texas a great place for people to sue one another. I wanted Texas to be a great place to do business, an entrepreneurial heaven, where dreamers and doers felt comfortable risking capital and creating jobs, not a haven for frivolous lawsuits.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 25. , Dec 9, 1999

“Tough-love” in strictly disciplined juvenile boot camps

Previously, juvenile offenders spent large parts of their day loitering or sleeping.. when juveniles arrive at our [“boot camp”] intake facility today, they are issued bright orange uniforms and their heads are shaved. They get up early, exercise regularly, and help maintain the facility. They don’t speak unless they are spoken to. we teach them they are accountable for their actions. We created strict alternative schools for students who caused problems in regular classes.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.212 , Dec 9, 1999

1990s: TX is dangerous because 7,700 criminals were released

Although Bush claimed his campaign's 1st television ad would focus on issues of importance to Texans, and not in mudslinging, the graphic images of a woman being grabbed at gunpoint in a parking garage and police draping a sheet over a young boy's body, were aired statewide while Bush declared in a voiceover that Texas was considered "the 3rd most dangerous state in the nation. No wonder, because in the last 3 years, 7,700 criminals have been released early from prison." Bush promised, "I will end early release of criminals and end parole altogether for rapists and child molesters."

Richards' staff quickly attacked the 60-second commercial as "scare tactics" that distorted the governor's war against crime, noting that the 7,700 criminals released early from prison during her administration included 3,000 nonviolent offenders and 4,700 who had to be released because they were sentenced prior to 1987 and 1991 changes in the mandatory supervision law that bypassed the parole process.

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p.128 , Aug 17, 1999

For tough juvenile justice laws

Each of us is responsible for the decisions we make in life. The old [juvenile justice] code used to say if you commit a crime it is not your fault, it is our fault. The new code recognizes that discipline and love go hand in hand. Our new juvenile justice code says there will be bad consequences for bad behavior in the state of Texas. We want you to understand you are responsible for the decisions you make in life. It’s called tough love.
Source: (Cross-ref from Families & Children) Right Choices for Youth , Jun 14, 1999

Criminal rehabilitation by Prison Ministry after release

[Bush created] InnerChange, a Prison Ministry Program for criminal rehabilitation. It’s a 24-hours-a-day, Bible and value-based prerelease program, aimed at helping inmates achieve spiritual and moral transformation. InnerChange begins 12-18 months before release and continues for 6-12 months of post-release aftercare to re-integrate inmates back into society. Volunteer church mentors will help inmates re-adjust and keep on the straight and narrow by avoiding old habits and old friendships.
Source: GeorgeWBush.com/News/ “Faith in Action” , Jun 12, 1999

Increased penalties to rehabilitate juveniles

Governor Bush’s previous reforms include: rewriting the Texas Juvenile Justice Code, lowering to 14 the age at which the most violent juveniles can be tried as adults, expanding the use of fingerprinting and photographing juvenile criminals to help police track gangs, creating weapon-free school zones, toughening penalties for selling guns to kids, encouraging the use of boot camps and ‘tough love’ academies to house and rehabilitate juvenile offenders.
Source: GeorgeWBush.com/News/ “Juvenile Justice” , May 25, 1999

Supports trying minors as adults for violent crimes.

I want those young people who commit crimes to be held accountable for their actions; most 14-year olds who commit violent crimes can now be tried as adults and sent to adult prison.
Source: www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/faq_index.html 12/31/98 , Dec 31, 1998

George W. Bush on Death Penalty

Death penalty, when properly administered, saves lives

In Feb. 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, came to visit Laura and me. The death penalty came up. Cherie made clear she didn't agree with my position. Tony looked a little uncomfortable. I listened to her views and then defende mine. I told her I believed the death penalty, when properly administered, could save live by deterring crime. Cherie rebutted my arguments. At one point, Laura and I overheard the Blairs' bright 17-year-old son, say, "Give the man a break, Mother."
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.230-231 , Nov 9, 2010

Death penalty saves innocent lives through deterrence

Governor Bush took a pretty tough line on stays and commutations. He believed that the death penalty helps save innocent lives through the deterrent effect. In his view, if the convicted felon had been afforded full access to the courts and there was no question about his or her guilt, then it was not the governor's place to overrule a jury. In any case, by state law, his options were limited to one 30-day stay, and he could commute the sentence only if he received a recommendation to do so from the Texas pardons and parole board (whose members are appointed by the governor).

During Bush's tenure as governor the death penalty was implemented 152 times. Those executed included a handful of felons whose IQs were below what is often considered the threshold for mental retardation, as well as Karla Faye Tucker, a born-again Christian whose 1998 case attracted pleas for clemency from Pope John Paul II and prominent conservatives including Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p. 41-42 , May 28, 2008

Expand use of DNA evidence

In America, we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit, so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.
Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech , Feb 2, 2005

150 death-row executions during Bush's term

If executed, Tucker would be the 1st woman put to death in Texas since 1863. But the case took an unexpected twist. In prison, Karla Tucker became a Christian and married the prison chaplain. She was a changed woman, she said, and her lawyers argued that she deserved clemency. The case received nationwide attention.

The crisis forced Bush to examine both the law and his beliefs. Bush was being asked to act based on the religious conversion of an inmate. As sincere as Tucker might have been, jailhouse conversions were commonplace, and if he were to act in Tucker's case based on her conversion to Christianity, how could he refuse to do so if an inmate converted to another religion and made the same claim? It was beyond the range of human wisdom and beyond the scope of the law, Bush came to believe.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 97-98 , Apr 12, 2004

Not proud that Texas has most executions

Q: Are you proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?

BUSH: No, I’m not proud of that. The death penalty is very serious business. It’s an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously, and if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do.

I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. I do believe that if the death penalty is administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives. My job is to ask two questions. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, in all cases those answers were affirmative. I’m not proud of any record. I’m proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I’m not proud of any record, no.

Source: St. Louis debate , Oct 17, 2000

Death penalty for deterrence, not revenge

Q: What about the death penalty?

GORE: I support the death penalty. I think that it has to be administered not only fairly, with attention to things like DNA evidence, which I think should be used in all capital cases, but also with very careful attention. If the wrong guy is put to death, then that’s a double tragedy. Not only has an innocent person been executed but the real perpetrator of the crime has not been held accountable for it, and in some cases may be still at large. But I support the death penalty in the most heinous cases.

Q: Do both of you believe that the death penalty actually deters crime?

BUSH: I do, that’s the only reason to be for it. I don’t think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don’t think that’s right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives.

GORE: I think it is a deterrence. I know that’s a controversial view, but I do believe it’s a deterrence.

Source: (X-ref Gore) St. Louis debate , Oct 17, 2000

Death penalty decisions are profound, but made in 15 minutes

Bush has written that “by far the most profound” decision he or any governor can make is whether to proceed with an execution. “I get the facts, weigh them thoughtfully and carefully, and decide,” Bush wrote. What he did not say is that he normally does this in 15 minutes.

A review of Bush’s daily schedules underscores that he has devoted himself remarkably little to policy details-including whether to go ahead with executions. The detachment from policy details may arise in part because Texas law gives a governor very limited powers-he cannot commute a death sentence, but only delay its implementation for 30 days. And it may partly arise because Bush shows great trust in those to whom he delegates authority, including the board of pardons and paroles. He almost always follows the board’s recommendations. A spokeswoman said that the time schedule reflected Bush’s confidence in his legal advisers, who might have spent hours reviewing a death penalty case before discussing it with the governor.

Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times, on 2000 election , Oct 16, 2000

Death penalty for hate crimes like any other murder

GORE [to Bush]: James Byrd was singled out because of his race in Texas. We can embody our values by passing a hate crimes law.

Q: You have a different view of that.

BUSH: No I don’t, really. We’ve got a hate crime law in Texas and guess what? The three men who murdered James Byrd, they’re going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty. It’s going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death.

GORE: I guess I had misunderstood the governor’s previous position. I had thought that there was a controversy at the end of the legislative session where the Byrd family among others asked you to support a hate crimes law, Governor. Am I wrong about that?

BUSH: What the Vice President must not understand is we’ve got a hate crimes bill in Texas and secondly the people that murdered Mr. Byrd got the ultimate punishment, the death penalty. When you murder somebody, it’s hate. I’m not exactly sure how you enhance the penalty any more than the death penalty.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Uphold law on death penalty; and think of the victims

Bush said that as Texas governor, his first job is to see that the state’s laws are carried out. Should Gary Graham be executed [as scheduled tomorrow], Bush said he was prepared to bear the consequences. “I’m going to uphold the law of the land and let the political consequences be what they may. If it costs me politically, it costs me politically,” a somber, deliberative Bush said. “No case is an easy case,” he continued, adding: “I also keep in mind the victims, and the reason I support the death penalty is because it saves lives. That’s why I support it, and the people of my state support it too.“

Bush’s advisors point out that the governor combs over case records thoroughly as each impending capital punishment case reaches his desk. State operatives insist that Bush is caught in the middle of something that he has very little control over. 66% of Americans support the death penalty as a deterrent, but many express concern that innocent people are facing execution.

Source: Ian Christopher McCaleb, CNN.com , Jun 22, 2000

134 Texas executions are “fair and just”

Texas Gov. George W. Bush defended his state’s legal system Wednesday as “fair and just” and said there was no need for a moratorium on executions. “As far as I’m concerned there has not been one innocent person executed since I’ve become governor,” Bush said. Since he took office 5 1/2 years ago, 134 inmates have been executed in Texas. Bush said he has analyzed each capital case that reaches his desk.
Source: Associated Press, N.Y. Times on 2000 election , Jun 21, 2000

Use DNA evidence for death penalty cases

Bush insists that the 30-day reprieve granted to death row inmate Ricky McGinn was done on procedural-not emotional-grounds. The delay-the first such reprieve Bush has issued since he took office-will allow defense attorneys to seek DNA testing of crime scene evidence. “To the extent that DNA can prove for certain innocence or guilt, I think we need to use DNA,” Bush said. The increasing trend toward the use of such science-based evidence has reshaped the national debate over capital punishment.

“It’s a case where we’re dealing with the man’s innocence or guilt,” Bush said. His recent comments reflect a new sensibility from just a few months ago, when he stated emphatically: “There’s no doubt in my mind that each person who has been executed in our state was guilty of the crime committed.” Bush has not yet spared any death row inmate, and in 1998 rejected a direct plea from the Vatican to spare the life of Karla Fay Tucker, who became the first woman put to death in Texas since the Civil War.

Source: CNN.com coverage , Jun 2, 2000

Death penalty clemency for bad process, not for repentance

Bush had two criteria for considering clemency: Is there any doubt about guilt? Has the inmate had full access to the courts?

Karla Faye Tucker did not argue that she was innocent or that she had been deprived of her legal rights. She asked for mercy as reward for a life redeemed through faith. Bush cited his duty to carry out the execution: “My responsibility is to ensure our laws are enforced fairly and evenly without preference or special treatment,” he said. “I have concluded judgments about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority.“

In the case of Henry Lee Lucas, investigators determined [after his conviction] that Lucas was guilty of only three slayings and that the rest of his confessions had been lies. The paroles board recommended clemency, and the governor commuted Lucas’s sentence to life in prison. ”I take this action so that all Texans can continue to trust the integrity and fairness of our criminal justice system,“ Bush said.

Source: New York Times, by Jim Yardley on 2000 election , Jan 7, 2000

George W. Bush on Mandatory Sentencing

Miranda should be waived in some situations

Bush said that he had disagreed with the Supreme Court’s 7-to-2 ruling on Monday that upheld the reading of Miranda warnings to criminal suspects. “We should never undermine the right of a person arrested to have their rights read to them,” he said. “I did believe, though, that voluntary confessions should be allowed without a Miranda reading. The court didn’t agree with my position. I’m now going to uphold the law.”
Source: Katherine Q. Seelye in NY Times on 2000 election , Jun 28, 2000

Proud of eliminating parole for violent criminals

My appointees to the board of pardons and paroles reflect my no-nonsense approach to crime and punishment. They believe people who commit crimes against innocent Texans should pay the consequences; they believe sentences imposed by juries should be carried out. The Texas prison system had become a revolving door earlier in the 1990s, when the prison population had far exceeded the capacity of the system.. I am proud that Texas today has virtually eliminated parole for violent criminals.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p.151-152. , Dec 9, 1999

1994: End "mandatory supervision" and early parole

One of Bush's "big 4" reform proposals involved the criminal justice system, primarily the end of automatic parole for prisoners. Bush defeated Gov. Richards in 1994 in part by promising to end "mandatory supervision," a system that required prison inmates to be released once their "good time" and actual time served equaled the number of years of their sentence. Bush also pledged to voters that he would make the abolishment of mandatory supervision releases retroactive to include those already behind bars, even though legal experts argued that such a move would violate state and federal constitutions.

Bush initially said he would challenge the legality of repealing the mandatory supervision law, but later declined, claiming that he didn't want to embroil the state of Texas in a possibly lengthy and costly court battle. One state senator on the criminal justice committee noted, "Anticrime laws--no matter how popular--cannot be applied retroactively to those already serving time in prison."

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p.160 , Aug 17, 1999

Track gangs; enact automatic sentencing

An excellent quality of life means safe neighborhoods. So I propose giving law enforcement the tools to fight the menace of gangs: a spotlight program to focus on violent juveniles, a statewide database to track gang activity across Texas and automatic jail time for juveniles who commit crimes with guns.
Source: 1999 State of the State Address, Austin TX , Jan 27, 1999

Supports “two strikes” & registration for sexual criminals.

We have ended mandatory early release for offenders with a history of violence. We approved a tough two strikes & you’re out law for sexual predators. It is now illegal for paroled sex offenders to live in Texas without registering with local authorities.
Source: www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/faq_index.html 12/31/98 , Dec 31, 1998

Supports victim notification laws and anti-stalking laws.

We passed a stalking law, because no Texan should have to live in fear of a stalker. Our stronger victim notification laws give victims a louder voice in court and make it illegal for criminals to contact their victims once they leave prison.
Source: www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/faq_index.html 12/31/98 , Dec 31, 1998

More searches and less parole for criminals

Give police.a law that says to juveniles who have been convicted of a violent crime, “Our police have the right to stop and frisk you to make sure you are not carrying a gun.” Keep violent criminals behind bars longer. Last session, we repealed mandatory release for violent criminals. This session, we should broaden the law to apply to [all] violent criminals and sex offenders, no matter when they were sentenced. I do not believe violent criminals have a constitutional right to get out of jail early.
Source: 1997 State of the State Address, Austin TX , Jan 28, 1997

Mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders

Texans have made it clear they want the most violent criminals to serve their full sentences. We must put a stop to the mandatory early release program that lets criminals out even though the parole board says no. Texas must increase penalties for criminals who assault law enforcement officials and give judges and juries more discretion in sentencing criminals. Drug dealers and other repeat offenders should face the prospect of hard prison time if they continue to flaunt the law.
Source: 1995 State of the State Address, Austin TX , Feb 7, 1995

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