- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Political and media opponents of the president's Iraq policy seem to think it supports their position to note the trepidation of the American public at the prospect of war. While 65-70 percent of the public supports war with Iraq so long as we go in with allies and the endorsement of the United Nations (both of which conditions will be met as the result of President Bush's last two months of diplomacy), it is also true that there is fear and doubt in the public mind. Moreover, at least half (and perhaps more) of the public is also very worried about the economy.

But these facts are not evidence of weakening public support for war or Mr. Bush. Rather, they are evidence of an extraordinary public trust in the president's leadership. After all, the president has not charmed the public into bellicosity. He has not promised the public a quick, triumphant and bloodless victory. Since September 11, he has constantly warned that we live in danger, that the struggle against terrorism will last beyond his presidency and that further terrible blows will surely be our lot. He has spoken repeatedly, as no president has ever done, about the real and imminent risk of mass annihilation of millions of Americans by nuclear, biological and chemical assaults. He is in the process of reorganizing our government to meet the dangers. He has warned that while he will try to find allies, we must be prepared to fight alone, if necessary. And since the very beginning of his presidency he has warned that the economy is weak; that we are on the bad side of the bubble.

A lesser president, and more to the point a lesser public, might have retreated into defeatism or denial. But the American public God bless them have taken in the facts with a sober maturity. While many Europeans and much of our own alleged elites habitually take delight in sneering at the American public, all the polls and all the anecdotes disclose our public to be the world's bulwark against chaos. No, we are not going to be whistling off to war. We are without illusions, and many are with fear. But, as Ernest Hemmingway said, courage is displayed by grace under pressure. And surely we are under pressure. And surely Americans are displaying courage.

The strong public endorsement of the president is thus not a false and unreliable support conjured up by a misled or beguiled public. It is a sturdy thing, built with truth. And when the pollsters ask the public if they have doubts and fears, they respond with truth. Yes, they are worried about their jobs, their retirement investments, their children's future in a dark world, the prospect of prolonged and inconclusive war. They are worried about whether we are getting too involved with foreign lands and strange peoples. They are even worried that the president is not focusing enough on the domestic economy. This is an adult conversation that surprisingly to the elites does not see the world in black and white. This is the kind of conversation that parents have after they have put the kids to bed and brought the account books out. It's not New Years Eve with glitter and champagne. It's the morning after, with headaches and responsibilities. And the American people are coping, while the pollsters and pundits are probing them for evidence of weariness, indifference or hostility.

Let them probe. Here in Washington, they will find parents taking their children to school and going about their business even though there is a sniper in our midst. "Are you afraid?" "Yes." "Are you going to hide in a hole?" "Hell no." On the West Coast, there are thousands of independent truckers reliant on business from the closed ports. "Are you losing money?" "A lot." "What are you going to do about it? " "Work harder when the ports reopen." In Louisiana, the hurricane floods have hit hard. "Have you lost much?" "Everything." What are you going to do about it.?" "Rebuild." These are the Americans who support the president as we prepare for war. They stand upright, even if a hard rain's a-falling.


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