The Influence of Personality on George W. Bush’s Decisions to Go to War.

Recap. of: Presidential Decision Making. The Influence of Personality on George W. Bush’s Decisions To Go to War. By Stephen J. Wayne, Georgetown University.

The Influence of Personality on George W. Bush’s Decisions to Go to War.

 Crisis decision making reveals the leadership style

  • Personality drives the process
  • Situations change, but personality is stable over time
  • Psychological variables are not directly observable-but must be inferred
  • Speeches may be scripted, but are still useful
  • Use of unscripted remarks and actions best—look for repetition.

The Bush Family Legacy

  • “My dad has never tried to influence me except through example…”
  • Resentment that life journey was mapped out for him
  • Contradictory emotions and angry impulses
  • He mimicked his father, but failed at everything
  • Underachiever in a competitive atmosphere
  • Popular, witty, and fun in the midst of perceived pretentiousness
  • Very angry—“roman candle”
  • Bible journey begins—control of temper, drinking, perceived sins

The Psychological Dimensions of the Bush Presidency

  • “I’m a gut player”
  • Results are concrete. Actions evidence strength. Strength is related to decisiveness.
  • Action-confident action yields positive results
  • Pray for strength and forgiveness
  • God’s work—all humans have inherent and inalienable rights
  • Ideology provides a clear vision for Bush
  • Formality over informality—routine over spontaneity
  • Must be concrete, concise, direct, and LOYAL
  • Richard Clarke questioned W.—“no-holds-barred” attack upon Clarke
  • Need for control since he was out of control for 40 years.
  • Bush Sr. perceived as weak, vacillating, inconsistent, and lack of vision
    • W. Bush would be the opposite at all costs
  • W. Bush decisive to a fault. Bush does not look back
  • Repetition extremely important—confirm beliefs, cognitive processing
  • W. did more than Sr…he pursued the universal values of freedom and human dignity.

George W. Bush’s Decisions to Go to War

  • “Terrorism against our nation will not stand—same as Father’s speech
  • Monumental struggle between good and evil. We must rid the world of evil.
  • W. personalized the war, almost made it a divine endeavor
  • Nation’s father figure
  • “This crusade”—only stopped using this after Muslims objected
  • Like his father, use of force only way to dispose of despots
  • Assumptions became facts!
  • Absence of ambiguity was a denial of complexity
  • There is a higher father that I appeal to.


  • W. Bush finished the job Sr. had begun.
  • W. embodied all the traits his father [supposedly] lacked
  • “Policy goals and psychological needs pushed him in the same direction”
  • Would a different person invaded Iraq? Probably not!
  • Self-deception played a major role in Iraq.

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