George Bush admitted he knew little about foreign affairs

Mr Bush served two terms as president between 2001 and 2009.

Published

George W Bush admitted he knew little about international affairs at his first meeting with Britain’s ambassador to the US, according to newly released official papers.

Mr Bush’s presidency was dominated by US military action in Iraq and Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.

But when Sir Christopher Meyer sat down with with Mr Bush in February 1998 as he contemplated a run for the White House, he found a politician whose world view was largely limited to “Texan and Mexican horizons”.

Former US President George Bush
Former US President George Bush

According to papers released National Archives, Mr Bush – who was then governor of Texas – was candid about his lack of international experience, despite his father, George Bush senior, having been US president between 1989 and 1993.

“Bush admitted that, apart from Mexico, he did not know much about international affairs and that he would do well to broaden his experience,” Sir Christopher wrote in his report of the encounter.

The ambassador urged him to visit the UK, but Mr Bush said that he could not afford to be seen undertaking high-profile foreign travel ahead of gubernatorial elections that autumn.

“The Texas electorate would not forgive him if he appeared to be taking his eye off the business of governing Texas,” Sir Christopher reported.

During what was described as “an amiable 40-minute conversation” in the governor’s office in Austin, Mr Bush insisted he had not made up his mind whether to make a run for the presidency in 2000.

“He was concerned for his family. Washington was a zoo, an ugly place. Of course he could not deny that he had a real interest in running,” Sir Christopher noted.

He said Mr Bush’s concerns for his family, while genuine, served a “useful political purpose” giving him cover for not committing “too far too soon”.

“To me George W had the look of a man who really wants to run. Of course, at this juncture, he has no interest in a foreign ambassador going back to Washington and telling everyone that he has made up his mind to run for the presidency,” Sir Christopher added.

Mr Bush did ask about the new Labour government or Tony Blair, who he thought seemed to be “a good fellow”.

“I said that he would enjoy meeting Mr Blair. As the only other Labour politician he appeared to have heard of was Michael Foot, I offered a rapid potted history of how Labour had moved since then,” Sir Christopher wrote.

He concluded that if Mr Bush did decide to seek the Republican Party nomination, he was regarded in the political salons in Washington as “by far the front runner”.

“This meeting confirmed my first snap opinion of George W: Very personable and with a good self-deprecating sense of humour,” he noted.

“His world view – as he is well aware – is largely limited to the Texan and Mexican horizons. There is not much that he can do about this until 1999.”

Mr Bush served two terms as president between 2001 and 2009.