George W. Bush served as the 43rd president of the United States. The Texas native served two terms from 2001 to 2009 following Bill Clinton’s terms (via WhiteHouse.gov). Prior to that, his father served as the 41st president of the United States.
Bush faced many challenging times in his presidency, but none were more difficult than the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. According to Business Insider, Bush was visiting an elementary school when he learned of the devastating news. Shortly afterward, he gave the most memorable speech of his lifetime. “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts,” he said in his famous presidential address. “The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors.”
Although Bush was not a victim of the 9/11 attacks, his life was threatened during his previous and subsequent years in office. When you’re the leader of the United States, you hold the title with the most power, but there are plenty of cons that also come with the territory. According to History, there have been four presidential assassinations (Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy). Two unsuccessful assassination attempts injured Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. However, there were also two attempts against Bush. Keep scrolling to find out more.
Robert Pickett's attempt to assassinate George W. Bush
In his first year in office, George W. Bush survived his first attempted assassination. According to ABC News, Robert Pickett, who was a former employee of the Internal Revenue Service, fired several rounds of ammunition outside of the White House in February 2001. A member of the Secret Service thwarted Pickett’s plot by shooting him in the knee. He was taken to the hospital, where he recovered from his injuries. Following the attempt, authorities found a suicide note in his car. “You are guilty of murder. Your predecessors made decisions which killed an innocent man,” he wrote in the letter to the IRS (via CNN). Copies of the letter were also addressed to President Bush, among others.
Pickett pleaded guilty to one count of “violating a local weapons law” in court. He also entered an “Alford plea,” which means that he didn’t admit guilt but acknowledged that “the government has sufficient evidence to convince a jury of guilt,” CNN explained. The court sentenced Pickett to three years at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Following his release, Pickett served three years under probation.
Vladimir Arutyunian's attempt to assassinate George W. Bush
May 2005 marked the second assassination attempt against George W. Bush. According to an excerpt from Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts — From FDR to Obama by Mel Ayton, which was shared to History on the Net, then-President Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, were visiting the country Georgia, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union. Bush was standing near a podium at the Freedom Square in Tbilisi when a man by the name of Vladimir Arutyunian launched a grenade near the stage. The device hit a girl’s head on its way and came to a screeching halt. Luckily, the bomb did not go off. Had it, it might have killed the sitting president, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, and potentially others. It was not until after the rally that Bush learned the scary news.
Following the incident, Arutyunian managed to disappear into the crowd. The FBI released photos of Arutyunian, and someone later came forward to identify him. Police and an FBI agent went to Arutyunian’s home where the assailant opened fire, killing one Georgian agent. Arutyunian was disarmed and later confessed to wanting to harm the president because “he thought he was too soft on Muslims,” according to the book.
In Georgia, Arutyunian faced trial for President Mikhail Saakashvili’s attempted assassination and the murder of the officer. He was sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole. “Arutyunian was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for his assassination attempt on Bush,” the author explained. “But Washington did not request extradition as he faced trial in Georgia on [the other] charges.”
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