- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 10, 2001

Who can doubt that President Bush spoke in very personal terms Thursday night when he addressed the nation from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. "We are a different country than we were on September the 10th," said Mr. Bush, "sadder and less innocent, stronger and more united. And in the face of ongoing threats, determined and courageous." Equally, who can doubt that Mr. Bush spoke for the vast majority of Americans, who experience not just a new sense of vulnerability, but also a renewed sense of patriotism. It was an inspiring speech, the kind of speech Americans need to hear from their president from time to time as we prepare to confront the evil forces of terrorism in the long run.
The president's tribute to the new heroes of this home-front war was particularly appropriate, police, firefighters, postal workers, the teachers as well as the men and women of the armed forces, "those who voluntarily place themselves in harms way to defend our freedom." These everyday heroes were reflected in the audience in Atlanta, which responded to the president with wave after wave of enthusiastic applause. It is surely a sign of superior cynicism that most of the networks did not choose to carry the president's speech, which had to be watched on cable television.
The emphasis on what private citizens can do carried over into the president's proposal to mobilize volunteer forces to work with police and health care agencies. In the same spirit, Mr. Bush praised the passengers on United Airlines flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, as private citizens rushed the terrorists and spared untold American lives through their act of bravery. This speech was Mr. Bush's version of "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Even so, Americans need more than inspiration and volunteerism at this time. The president owed the nation a clear and more specific message on the status of our fight against biological terrorism and on the role of the Office of Homeland Security, which as yet is ill-defined. Mr. Bush should also have addressed White House proposals for easier tracking and prosecution of suspected terrorists, which will be stretching fundamental principles of American jurisprudence in new ways. What's more, the president last week warned the nation that terrorists may have acquired nuclear materials. Intelligence agencies reportedly have been on high alert for this very reason, suspecting that at least one nuclear device already has entered the country. Yet, Mr. Bush failed to acknowledge his own most serious warning. White House sources say he was in deadly earnest when it was issued. Americans surely deserve as much information as can be shared.


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