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Considering Mr. Bush’s Speech

September 11, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: President Bush addressing the nation from the Oval Office. Back to Tom Oliphant and Bill Kristol. Tom, your comments.

TOM OLIPHANT: A short speech. I hope we don’t bury the lead as we say in journalism because there was one sentence in there that was very important to focus on. That is that we will make no distinction, the President said, between terrorists and those who harbor them. I think in that sentence is the message of resolve that we have been hearing about all day from the administration.

The task of leading the country to what it will actually take to change and get ready to carry out a policy like this has been left by the President for the days ahead. He spoke very briefly but certainly forcefully. It may be that the enormity of this horror almost negates any attempt at summing it up with rhetoric.

JIM LEHRER: Bill?

WILLIAM KRISTOL: Yeah, I agree. It was a very good speech, I thought, an appropriate speech. But it did put off the fundamental decisions about foreign policy and defense policy that the President will have to make and will have to go to Congress to seek legislative and budgetary support for.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with Tom, that that’s the key sentence?

WILLIAM KRISTOL: I think that was a key sentence. On the other hand, he spoke about the intelligence and law enforcement communities and did not make clear, I would say, that he regards the war on terrorism as a foreign and military policy priority as opposed to a matter of catching bad guys and punishing them.

It’s not clear to me whether he and his administration see this as war against an enemy or as the need to punish some bad groups out there in the world.

TOM OLIPHANT: Within the context of today, I think, you know, officials have not been willing to say they know for sure what happened. That could account for the restrained nature of the rhetoric at this point. But that sentence sticks out like a sore thumb to me.