- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Bush's task
"President Bush suddenly faces a crisis that transcends nearly any nightmare he could have imagined, and one that calls upon him to summon leadership skills he's never tested," Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald F. Seib writes.
"Indeed, the very skills he now needs most — the ability to unite a quarrelsome nation, the knack for transcending partisan divides, the talent to pull America's international allies behind him — are precisely the skills that skeptics doubt he possesses," Mr. Seib said.
"Other presidents whose skills were similarly doubted at a time of national duress — Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt — rose to the demands of history, showing depths of leadership and character that detractors never imagined they held. Others — Lyndon Johnson, perhaps, or Herbert Hoover — were found wanting.
"In either case, there's little doubt that the defining moment of Mr. Bush's presidency occurred between dawn and lunchtime [Tuesday], as hijacked airliners flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, wreaking death and havoc. Now, there is no script for Mr. Bush, for America has never before been the target of concerted attack from an unidentified foe.
"It isn't even clear where to direct a response. As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has long noted, the difficulty in dealing with terrorism is finding the address to which you respond."

A daunting challenge
"This morning, George W. Bush begins the first full day of his new presidency, because yesterday terrorists blasted his old one to rubble," Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Dick Polman wrote yesterday.
"Forget the tax cut, and the inspirational speeches on 'values' he was planning to give this fall. Forget his abiding interest in improving children's literacy. Forget the whole domestic agenda, because, in the sobering months ahead, this president, a novice at foreign policy, will be judged by the American people on how well he answers this question:
"Can he make us feel safe again?"
"Few of Bush's predecessors ever faced such a daunting challenge," Mr. Polman said. "Pearl Harbor shocked the nation, but Americans knew in an instant who the enemy was — and where to find him. The Cuban missile crisis brought us to the brink of war, but, in the end, John F. Kennedy was dealing with a world leader who did not view suicide as a higher calling."
Mr. Bush "has been pulled into the murkiest waters of foreign policy, a place where slogans such as 'compassionate conservatism' have no meaning," Mr. Polman said. "Americans will turn to him for reassurance; many will demand vengeance. The challenges that await him would test even the most seasoned national leader."

A stern test
"The greatest challenge any American president can face is war — and George W. Bush, who won the presidency at a moment of peace and prosperity, is abruptly facing a sterner test than anyone expected," reporters Ronald Brownstein and Doyle McManus wrote yesterday in a front-page news analysis in the Los Angeles Times.
"Polls show that after the bitterly disputed 2000 election, Bush still faces doubts from skeptics who question whether he has the skills and experience the presidency demands," the writers said.
"In that political context, the best analogy may not be Pearl Harbor, but rather the Cuban missile crisis that confronted President John F. Kennedy. Like Bush, Kennedy faced doubts whether he had the experience and strength of leadership for the job — but his conduct of the 1962 faceoff with the Soviet Union increased his stature enormously.
"In the weeks ahead, Bush's response to the magnitude of this challenge, from mapping a law enforcement and military response to reassuring the nation that its borders are safe, could either quiet his doubters — or harden their skepticism."

Beyond imagining
"We've heard it said that when we choose a president, we are picking someone to deal with situations we cannot possibly imagine when we make the choice. That's true. But even those who say such things could not have imagined this," the Philadelphia Inquirer's Larry Eichel writes.
"Everything that has commanded George Bush's attention during his eight months in office pales in comparison to the decisions that await him in the wake of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. On those decisions rests so much. For him and for us."

'Our worst fear'
Former Sen. David Boren, the Oklahoma Democrat who was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1986 to 1992, says that what happened Tuesday in New York and Washington "was our worst fear all through the years, the six years I chaired the committee."
"Back during the Persian Gulf war period, in fact, the World Trade Towers was one of the targets we worried about most. I was having breakfast with CIA Director [George J.] Tenet when the attack occurred, and we were interrupted at breakfast to be given the news of it," Mr. Boren told United Press International's Peter Roff.
Mr. Boren, who is now president of Oklahoma University, added: "Obviously, this has all the fingerprints of bin Laden all over it."

A new world
"September 11, 2001 is now forever the demarcation line," Robert A. George wrote yesterday.
"How odd it was picking up any morning edition of any newspaper [Tuesday] after 9 a.m. Barely a few hours old, they were completely, totally obsolete when the second plane hit the second tower. That was the one — the second — that completely changed our reality. One allowed us, for a brief moment, to think some, awful, horrible accident had happened. But, that second one — jetting from the right on TV screens nationwide — hitting the other tower? No, that defied any possible rationalization," Mr. George, a New York Post editorialist, said in a column at the National Review Web site (www.nationalreview.com).
"It's all Before 9-11-01 and After 9-11-01 now.
"Lockboxes? Social Security surpluses? What do those words mean now? And, meaning no disrespect to a California doctor and his wife, there are now hundreds if not thousands of families also wondering where there loved ones are — and they have no immoral congressman to help the media remain focused on their pain.
"Before 9-11-01. After 9-11-01.
"We wake to a new day every day. But this day, we wake to a new world.
"And it is a very scary one."

Point, counterpoint
Newsweek reporter David A. Kaplan, author of "The Accidental President," takes issue with the Media Research Center's Brent Baker, who, in an analysis picked up by this column Tuesday, criticized the book for referring to conservative Supreme Court justices as being on "the Dark Side" in the Bush vs. Gore ruling.
Mr. Kaplan, in an e-mail to this columnist yesterday, denied that his book is skewed in any way. Here is Mr. Kaplan's response in full (he refers to Mr. Baker as "your letter-writer"):
"Read your item today concerning my book and, hey, I'm flattered by any mention of the book. But three small points:
"(1) My mention of 'the Dark Side,' if you read it in context, is from [Justice David] Souter's perspective. The sentence right before explains that all that follows in the graf is from Souter's point of view. I didn't call the conservative bloc 'the Dark Side' as such and, more important, the book makes that clear my criticism of both wings of the court in recent decades.
"(2) Your letter-writer claims my book has a 'skew.' I'd ask him to read it first before casting judgment. The book certainly has a point of view, but 'skew' connotes an agenda.
"(3) Your letter-writer also refers to 'justices who talked to Kaplan.' Both the excerpt in Newsweek, and the book itself, say no such thing."

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