- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

President Bush rejected calls for fierce and angry language in his speech to the nation on Sept. 11 including calling the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington "acts of war" but the next day he decided on his own to use more warlike rhetoric, according to his handwritten notes, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times yesterday.
That Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush sat down at his Oval Office desk and jotted down some thoughts on a piece of paper marked simply "The White House Washington."
"This is an enemy that hides but won't be able to hide forever. An enemy that thinks its havens are safe but won't be safe forever," the president wrote. In the margin of the first line, Mr. Bush inserted the word "runs" between the word "that" and "hides."
Later that morning, during comments to the press before a meeting of his national security team in the White House Cabinet Room, Mr. Bush used the words for the first time.
"This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover. But it won't be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide. But it won't be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe. But they won't be safe forever," he said.
The second day's rhetoric was far more in line with what Americans were feeling, according to later polls. Sept. 11's national speech watched by more than 80 million Americans was panned by some critics as wooden and passionless.
Karen Hughes, the president's counselor and longtime friend, said Mr. Bush wanted to use reassuring language in his first comments to the nation.
"He called me from Air Force One on Tuesday, as he was returning to Washington, and talked to me about what he wanted to convey from the Oval Office. And what he wanted to convey that night was a sense of reassurance. He felt the need to help calm the country, to let them see that their president was there in the Oval Office," she said.
It was not until the next day, in the president's second public comments, that he first called the attacks "acts of war."
Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director who flew aboard Air Force One that Tuesday first to Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska before returning with the president that afternoon said Mr. Bush was using different language during the flights.
"He said 'this is an act of war,'" Mr. Bartlett said. "He was using that language privately throughout the day. But he knew that what was proper for the nation that night was calm and reassurance."
Mr. Bartlett said there was no explicit plan to use calming language the first day and tougher language the next day, nor was the president's harsher rhetoric a response to critics.
The day after Mr. Bush's Sept. 11 speech, Tom Shales wrote in The Washington Post that "President Bush appeared on television early in the crisis but proved ineffectual, neither reassuring nor forceful enough." USA Today's Susan Page wrote "masterful public speaking has never been President Bush's strength."
Many condemned his early comments on the attack, which came at 9:30 a.m., minutes before an airliner slammed into the Pentagon and before the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. After being informed during a Florida education event that the twin towers had been attacked, Mr. Bush said: "Terrorism against our nation will not stand."
Hours later, after the president diverted from his intended destination, Washington, and instead flew to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, he said, "We will show the world that we will pass this test" and added he intended to "punish those responsible."
While one senior administration official said that many in the White House wished Mr. Bush would use stronger language, the president told advisers that his first speech was not the time.
"He deliberately, that evening, did not use the word 'war,' because, again, he felt his primary goal that evening was reassurance and calming," Miss Hughes said. She said the next morning she talked with the president by phone, he told her: "We need to prepare the country for what lies ahead." When she went to the Oval Office a short time later, he gave her some papers.
"He handed me a couple of notes there's one right here: 'This is an enemy that runs and hides but it won't be able to hide forever,' which you remember. 'An enemy that thinks its harbors are safe but they won't be safe forever.'"
Miss Hughes said she did not agree with a reporter's characterization that Mr. Bush got off to a "stutter start" during the first day. But she agreed that later images of the president have shown the real man she knows.
"The moment in New York where he that spontaneous moment where he stood up and held the bullhorn and the firefighter yelled, 'We can't hear you,' and he said, 'But I hear you and the world hears you' at that moment I thought America is seeing the President Bush that I know, his ability to relate to people.
"That was the essence of him, his ability to relate to the people who were there, to respond to what they had said and to convey a very simple, but eloquent, message."
She said the media are partly to blame for the incomplete image most Americans have of Mr. Bush.
"Let's face it, what they normally see is a seven-second edited sound bite. Now they're seeing his entire conversation. And so I think what they're seeing is sometimes what you all see, but doesn't get conveyed," Miss Hughes said.
Since his first speech, Mr. Bush appears to be deciding for himself what to say or at least winning internal White House arguments. On Monday, he harked back to his Texas days, recalling that the old West had signs that said: "Wanted Dead or Alive."
Those words were the culmination of a weeklong escalation of rhetoric. Each day since the attack, Mr. Bush had ratcheted up his language. On Saturday the day after his New York visit Mr. Bush said in his national radio address: "I will not settle for a token act. Our response must be sweeping, sustained and effective."
A few hours later, before a Camp David meeting with his national security advisers, Mr. Bush said: "Make no mistake about it: Underneath our tears is the strong determination of America to win this war. And we will win it." Miss Hughes said the words were "off the cuff."
The next day he named bin Laden the "prime suspect."
The president's tougher stance has drawn praise from many. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article said "among the things we all have witnessed is a president finding his voice at last."

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