- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

NEWS ANALYSIS

President Bush, looking confident and in command, delivered a toughly worded call to arms to Congress and the nation last night to prepare for an all-out war against America's terrorist enemies.
Appearing determined in his new role as a wartime president, and speaking in a calm but steely voice, his delivery drawing comparisons to the "Great Communicator" President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bush set the nation on a war footing for the first time since the Persian Gulf war.
"Tonight he became a great communicator. He filled a huge stage that had to be filled," said Republican strategist Bill Dal Col who ran Steve Forbes' presidential campaign against Mr. Bush in last year's Republican primaries.
The president, repeatedly interrupted by applause, explained the elusive nature of the terrorists and why it will take time to hunt them down in what will likely be a long drawn-out struggle.
Mr. Bush demanded that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan turn over all of the terrorist leaders it harbors "or share in their fate." He reassured Americans that he would use "every resource at our command" to aggressively retaliate for the suicide airline attacks on New York and Washington that left more than 6,000 dead or missing.
Mr. Bush told the nation that "we will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail" until terrorism has been destroyed.
Unlike some of the earlier speeches in his young presidency, when he seemed a little tentative at times, Mr. Bush appeared in charge last night, fully presidential in expression and tone.
Only this time he was coming before the country as commander-in-chief, declaring war on an unseen enemy spread out over many countries, and rallying Americans for a long, armed engagement that could take years.
"He sent a direct message to the American people and to the world. He clearly got across the point that while bloodied we will not bow, that we will punish our enemies," Mr. Dal Col said.
"It was a powerful speech. He went beyond what people would expect of his abilities. I don't think anyone could have delivered it better," he said.
"I thought he appeared very strong and very presidential. He's a plain-talking, no-frills speaker but this time he was eloquent and almost Churchillian, inspiring the country," said Frank Donatelli, a former White House political adviser to Mr. Reagan.
"This will go down as one of the great speeches in American history," said pollster John Zogby. "He measured up tonight in every way. He was compassionate and he called us to greatness. I think he rallied the troops and rallied the American people to what needs to be done."
Going into last night's speech, Mr. Bush already had the strong, nearly united support of the American people for retaliating against the terrorists, according to the latest polls.
"The public is already convinced that military action has to be taken. Normally, the toughest thing for a president is to convince the public that military force is necessary and that our strategic interests are involved. In this case, the public is already there," Mr. Donatelli said.
Other wartime presidents have not had the intense support that Mr. Bush has, according to the latest polls. President Lyndon Johnson was never able to fully rally the country behind America's commitment to support the non-communist government in South Vietnam. Former President George Bush faced a divided Congress on the Persian Gulf war before troops were committed to that action.
Nevertheless, one of the president's major tasks was to explain who the enemy is and make clear it could take an extended campaign that risks the lives of American soldiers to end future terrorist threats. Unlike the Persian Gulf war, where the clear objective was to drive occupying Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, the profile of the enemy that Mr. Bush faces and its whereabouts is less clear.

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