I think they can easily be exaggerated. Remember, this 2002 State of the Union
was the third in a series of important statements by the president about what
his approach to terrorism was going to be. The first was the speech to the
joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, the second was a speech to the United
Nations in October, and this then was the third. And each of them amplifies and
fills out things that were implicit before.
But there were actually few new departures. Everything in the 2002 State of the
Union was implicit in the Sept. 20 joint session speech. That was a speech in
which the president laid down his definition of what made a state a sponsor, a
harbor, of terrorism -- a state of special concern to the United States.
... I'm trying to come to terms with just how major a consolidation this
was. ... If it wasn't the reconciliation of a lot of very divergent viewpoints,
what was it? ... Can you just give me a sense of the magnitude of this
statement of foreign policy and the issues that it resolved?
The whole State of the Union speech was a very important statement, about as
important a statement as the president could give, because he was warning the
American people of threats to the security -- not just the security, the very
survival -- of the whole nation.
If the kinds of people who crashed those planes into the World Trade Center had
weapons of mass destruction, had nuclear bombs, they would have used them. ...
We don't know how close they were to having them, but they wanted them and they
were pursuing, seeking them, and they are backed and linked to governments that
are seeking such weapons even more strenuously than Al Qaeda itself.
Among these governments are North Korea and Iran and Iraq, and they present a
threat to the United States as profound, as terrible, as communism in its day
and Nazism in its day; not because these regimes are as powerful as the Soviets
and the Nazis were -- they're not -- but the weapons they are pursuing are more
powerful than anything that the Soviets and the Nazis had. And the regimes
themselves are that much more reckless, more bent on death and destruction; not
[more] than the Nazis, but certainly [more] than the communists. ...
The most arresting part of that most recent speech was the phrase "axis of
evil." Can you tell me how that [came about]? From the mind of the president?
Or was that the product of a resolution of various conflicting [camps] within
... The president said on Sept. 20, in his first speech on terrorism to the
joint session of Congress, that his doctrine was that terrorism did not just
mean the particular individual killer who went out and took innocent life. It
was everyone behind that killer, the entire apparatus of support that made mass
terrorism, the killing of civilians, possible -- those who feed them, equip
them, arm them, train them, prepare them. And it was pretty clear on Sept. 20
that he had states in mind. ...
He made it clear from the beginning that this is not about a few fanatical
individuals acting irrationally. This is the expression of well-organized
groups with serious political goals. And he was going to respond to all of
that; he said that from the beginning. The State of the Union in 2002 then
filled in the details.
... [And yet] the power of the speech can be attributed to the provocative
nature of [that] single phrase, "axis of evil."
... The power of this speech derived from the fact that it was given after
President Bush showed the intensity of his commitment to taking on terrorism,
and the effectiveness and power of the American armed forces in dealing with
it. The words of the speech were so powerful because they were backed by proven
resolve and demonstrated military accomplishment. And people came to the speech
to know ... "What are you planning on doing now?" That's where the speech was
powerful, important, because it was not just words; it was words that had
already been backed by deeds. And it was a speech in which people were looking
for an indication of the deeds to come. ...
[We] could go back over presidential statements on the subject of terrorism
over the last 20-something years, ever since Ronald Reagan. Terrorism comes up
a lot. This is the first time that I'm aware that somebody actually pointed a
finger at, for example, Iran. ... How did Iran get in the cross hairs?
It's not the first time that someone has pointed the finger at Iran. Every
other year, the State Department produces a list of terrorist states, states
that sponsor terrorism and use it as a political tool. [The State Department
has] done this since at least the middle-1990s. ... And every year, Iran has
been identified as the single most important state sponsor of terrorism in the
Iran has, in a way that is almost qualitatively different from any entity on
earth except maybe the Palestinian Authority, used terror as a conscious tool
of state policy. And the United States has said so again and again and again.
It hasn't always said so from a State of the Union [address]. [It] said so in
print, and it said so through its actions. The United States maintains
sanctions against Iran because it recognizes Iran, and has recognized Iran, for
a long time as a terror-sponsoring state.
They said that about Libya. They now talk in a friendly manner with Libya.
Not so many years ago, Pakistan was on the list. Pakistan is now a principal
ally. ... What did Iran do, particularly in the wake of Sept. 11? ... What did
they do in a few weeks that would change things so dramatically?
... Ever since the election of Khatami in 1997, people in the West and in the
United States have hoped that Iran would temper the bloodthirstiness and
cruelty of its conduct on the international stage. ... [There was] a lot of
hope that things would get better, that the Iranians would cease to use murder
as a tool of state. In fact, under Khatami, after about 1998, things began to
get worse. They got worse and worse and worse.
Iran's own behavior is the single most determinant of how other people respond
to Iran. That's true of any country. [It's true of] countries like Libya and
Pakistan. ... As they have become less implicated in terrorism, [they] have
seen a warming response from the United States. ...
After Sept. 11, there was some early indications that perhaps Iran would
cooperate. [Iran] had reasons of [its] own for disliking the Taliban. The
Taliban [was a] band of murderous fanatics, from their point of view, and they
preferred a different band of murderous fanaticism. ... [But] it became pretty
quickly apparent that the Iranians were working to sabotage good order in the
western part of Afghanistan.
How did that become [apparent]?
It became apparent [that] they gave refuge to individual members of Al Qaeda.
How did it become apparent to the United States? Al Qaeda people may very
well have gotten into Iran as they got into Pakistan, as they got into a lot of
As you well know, getting into Iran is no joke. Iran is not separated from
Afghanistan by the Himalayas the way Pakistan and Afghanistan are. And
Pakistan, of course, is cooperating with the United States in the hunt for
members of Al Qaeda who may have slipped across the border and are hiding in
That's not the situation with Iran. It is not [that] people [are] hiding out
inside Iran. They seem to have been given refuge inside Iran. Iran has been
providing weapons and other forms of assistance to subvert the hopes for good
order and tranquility and peace in the western part of Afghanistan, because
they have an eye to preventing the consolidation of a benign moderate
representative government in Afghanistan. The last thing they want to see is a
peaceful, orderly, open, pro-Western government in Afghanistan on their eastern
border. That is very, very dangerous to them.
This is one of the most repressive regimes in the world. It's a regime that is
hated by its own people. It's a regime that is truly terrified of the prospect
of a revolution inside its own boundaries. To have regimes nearby that offer
the example and hope of a better life, particularly Afghanistan, the Western
part of which is so culturally Iranian, is a very frightening thing to the
present rulers of Iran. ...
You've suggested ... that the mullahs, the powerful people in Iran, are
desperately afraid of the arrival in the region of more Americans than are
there now. You have suggested that that's one of the motives for meddling in
Afghanistan, and it's one of their motives for attempting to provoke some kind
of a showdown with its own reformers at this point.
If you are a dictator ruling a desperately unhappy and oppressed people, the
one thing you cannot afford to let your people have is any hope that there is
anything that can be done to remove you. And that is the situation the mullahs
are in. They must deny the Iranian people hope. ...
The American army of liberation in Afghanistan sent a tremendous message of
hope to people in Iran. It showed them that regimes like the Taliban are not
here forever, that they can't last, that liberty is powerful. That has to be a
terrifying thing to the mullahs. And that may explain why they have, almost
from the beginning, tried to sabotage and destroy the American mission in
Afghanistan -- because they're frightened of the power of the liberating
example of that army.
There are now American troops elsewhere in the region. And wherever the
American armed forces go, wherever the American flag flies, there's a message
of hope and liberation. For a regime that is trying to snuff out hope and
fasten oppression on its people forever, that message of hope and liberation is
very, very disturbing.
How real do you think is the prospect of American troops on the ground, next
door in Iraq? And what does that mean?
... President Bush has said on I don't know how many different occasions and I
don't now how many different ways that Iraq is a threat to the peace of the
region and to the safety of the world; and he's going to do something about it.
I believe him. When the present regime in Iraq gives way to a more open, more
tolerant, more peaceful regime, that's one more beacon of hope for the Iranian
people, and one more source of danger to the Iranian regime. ...
A day is coming when the region of the Middle East is going to be more benign,
and when Iran is going to be bracketed by regimes that show respect for their
people, that show respect for the world we govern, that show more religious
tolerance, that do not use terror as a tool of state. So the government of
Iran, the oppressors of the Iranian people, are going to find themselves
increasingly isolated and alone and unique. And that is bound to have powerful
effects on Iranian politics. ...
Iran has always been fairly open about its ... involvement with a lot of
what they call liberation movements. Can you say that there has been some new
element added to the American intelligence about Iran, post-Sept. 11, that
would lead to this rather dramatic change in the policy?
... Iran has made itself the armory of the suicide bombers in the West Bank. It
is now outfitting people who are firing missiles into Israel from across the
Lebanese border. It is acting as the powder monkey of what may be the most
dangerous conflict in the entire world. It is acquiring missile technology from
China. It is developing nuclear warheads. ... Iran is a state that is pushing
the region in the world toward ever more radical, more violent, more terrifying
The explanation for the reaction of the United States and other democracies to
Iran is Iran's own behavior. That is the source of the problem the world has
with Iran. It is a state that relies on murder as a tool of foreign policy,
that has threatened to commence a nuclear war against Israel. This is a very
dangerous regime to Iran's neighbors. It is also cruel and oppressive to its
own people. ...
Now, the Iranian argument would be, "Well, we do have a nuclear program, but
it is, first of all, power-generating. But even if we are interested in nuclear
weapons, it's only because everybody else in the neighborhood has them." What
is the response to that?
... Nobody else in Iran's neighborhood has ever declared its willingness to be
a first user of nuclear weapons.
When did they do that?
The president of Iran, in his Jerusalem Day speech, announced his intention,
should he ever acquire these weapons, of using them to destroy Israel, to
entirely annihilate the population of another state. That is a very serious
threat. It's also, by the way, a threat not just to Israel, but to all of the
region, because once the Israelis are on notice that the Iranians intend to use
their nuclear weapons in this way, do you think the Israelis would be mad
enough to permit the Iranians to acquire these weapons? They will not.
My reading of the speech that you refer to is that it was a former
president, Rafsanjani, who was making a rather academic discussion of what
would happen if Israel and Iran or any other Arab [group], or any other
Rafsanjani, you're right. I'm mistaken. I'm sorry.
And it was more of a hypothetical situation of what a horrifying prospect it
would be if people in the region started throwing nuclear material at each
A threat couched in hypothetical form is still a threat. And Iran's own record
of behavior indicates that threats like this are to be taken very, very
seriously. Iran has been a source for many of the world's conflicts -- not just
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but many regional conflicts since 1979. Iran,
by the way, has also got on its hands and on its conscience the blood of many
hundreds of Americans. There is an unopened account with the United States.
Now America has responded, and the world has responded to Iran with, really,
under the circumstances, amazing openness and goodwill. The election of Khatami
was responded to [with] genuine enthusiasm by people in the West. They really
wanted to see Iran be a force for good. Iran, despite all its economic
troubles, [has] great economic resources, a highly educated people, an ancient
and powerful and attractive culture. This is a country that has the potential
to be a great force for good in the Middle East, and people really want that to
happen. ... They want to believe the best, and the hand of friendship has
always been outstretched from the West and the United States to Iran -- never
the other way.
Iran's own behavior over the past while has become so threatening, so
frightening, that it is just natural that people have no choice but to respond
The Iranian response to the accusation of being a provider of arms would be
that if all things seem to be as they appear, a shipload of arms destined to a
government organization -- the Palestinian Authority -- is not necessarily an
act of international subversion. It's what goes on all over the place. And what
is the principal American objection to that?
The arms that the Iranians are trying to introduce into the West Bank would
have raised the level of violence in that conflict to what would have been then
an unprecedented level. These are much more destructive explosives, much more
destructive rockets, much more accurate tools of killing. Iran, by sending
these weapons, was seeking to escalate the level of violence to a whole new
degree of tragedy and sadness. ...
The Iranians often speak as if encouraging the murder of civilians were
everywhere a normal tool of policy. It is not. It is a distinctive Iranian
contribution. I shouldn't say "distinctive," because Iran's not unique. But
Iran is one of a list of very, very few countries that uses the conscious
murder of civilians as a tool of policy. It's a different kind of regime from
other regimes -- even other troublesome regimes.
I'm still, I guess, trying to put my finger on what button mobilized this
very dramatic gesture by the president of the United States sometime between
September and January.
The president of the United States, in his September speech, laid down certain
rules about what kind of behavior would get a regime on the wrong side of the
United States. He then went to the United Nations in October and he said, in
effect, "The slate's clean. We are prepared to wipe away all memory of past
transgressions. If terror has been a tool of policy in the past, if you stop
today, it will not be held against you. We are prepared to start afresh with
every country in the world."
And there has been something of an opening to Libya as a result of that. The
United States is willing to start afresh and to test the good intentions of the
Libyans. But the rules are binding. If a country continued to use terrorism as
a tool, [continued] to support and outfit terrorism, if it continued to acquire
the weapons of mass destruction that will make the terrorism of the future,
should it occur, vastly more devastating than even the worst of what we've seen
so far, that country then becomes a threat to its neighbors and a threat to the
United States. The president could not have been more clear about this.
I think it is wrong to see to see a change of policy between ... [the
president's speech on] Sept. 20 and the State of the Union. What we have is an
explanation of the consequences of a policy the president laid down very
clearly on Sept. 20.
... Americans have for some time shown an interest in doing business with
Iran, notwithstanding the political tensions. It's a ... Westernized country.
It's very wealthy, ... a potentially large market. It seems that George W. Bush
blew that out of the water in the State of the Union address.
Iran's economic difficulties are completely home-generated. ... When you
operate a repressive, cruel regime with thousands, possibly tens of thousands,
maybe hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in which ... judicial murder
is an ordinary tool of government, you're going to have a very hard time
attracting foreign investment.
But that hasn't stopped American businessmen from attempting to--
No. American businessmen are very enterprising, and are always looking for new
opportunities. Good for them. But Iran's economic problems are the result of
Iran's own behavior and choice of the kind of society it wants to be, the kind
of state it wants to be. ... If Iran is to realize its economic potential, it
has to become a society based on law. A regime in which life is not safe, in
which the law is not respected, in which terror is a normal part of life is not
a regime that is going to prosper. ...
Five or six years ago, well within the time framework of its most sinister
activities, the man who's now vice president of the United States [Dick Cheney]
was lobbying to do business with Iran, was working for companies that were
actually doing business with Iran. How big of a leap was it for this
administration to sort of move past that?
There was, in the middle- and later-1990s, a real moment of optimism that maybe
Iran was going to reform spontaneously [and] maybe the present theocratic
regime could find in itself the resources to reform. ... For all that was wrong
with the election that brought Khatami to power -- remember, in that same
election, it was by no means a free election; there were 234, I believe,
candidates who were told they were not allowed to run -- Khatami was the
least-repressive choice. And the people chose him. And there's great optimism
But since then, the situation in Iran has become steadily worse, [and] that has
had economic implications for Iranians and it has [had] foreign policy
implications. ... The Iranian state chose worse. And that is the fate that Iran
has brought on itself. ...
There may be individual Americans who want to do business with Iran; I don't
know. There is a network of sanctions that says what people can do and what
they can't. But the real restraint on American and international involvement in
[the] Iranian economy are Iran's own laws. A society in which life is not safe
and property is not safe, a society where law is not respected, in which murder
is an ordinary tool of state -- that's not a society that is going to be very
successful in opening up to the world market and persuading the world to come
in [and] invest, do business, bring technology.
If Cheney as a citizen and businessman lobbied for the exclusion of Iran
from the oil embargo, lobbied for the exclusion of Iran [and] Syria from other
sanctions, has Dick Cheney changed his mind?
I don't know.
Well, he must have. ...
I just don't know the answer to that.
Saudi Arabia has been identified as a major supporter of an organization
like Hamas, which is probably more involved in terror than any other
organization we can think of right now, and yet we see no sanctions against
Saudi Arabia. How do you explain what seems to be a contradiction [in this
I think I can explain it in two ways. The first is, for the Saudi Arabian
government, murder is not a tool of foreign policy. The individuals, Saudi
Arabians, may support, sometimes even unknowingly, murderous organizations. And
the Saudi Arabian government has not always been a strong voice in condemning
terrorism as it should be. That's a very different thing from yourself being
deeply implicated in murder as a tool of state, as the Iranian government is.
The Bush doctrine on terrorism is a serious proposition, and it's going to
define his presidency. It governs his conduct, and all governments in the world
should know that and should act accordingly.
["Axis of evil" is a] phrase for which you will go down in history, rightly
or wrongly. ... How much of a slogan is this? How glib is this? Is it, would
you say, a considered statement of precision? ...
People often note that George Bush is not a naturally spontaneously articulate
man, and there's some truth to that. But his response to that is to be a man
who is even more respectful of words and their power than people to whom words
come more easily. He understands what words do, what words mean and the impact
they have. And he especially understands the impact and power of presidential
words. He thinks about these things very, very hard, and weighs them very
"Axis of evil" is a phrase that has large implications that I think the
president really considered. First of all, it makes it clear that the struggle
America is in is a moral struggle, that you're not dealing with competing
interests ... the normal stuff of politics. ... We're dealing with a struggle
in which the United States is under attack from regimes and organizations that
see, as a legitimate tool of politics, the deliberate targeting for death of
thousands of innocent people as they go to work in a skyscraper. Those are the
kinds of regimes the United States is struggling against, and that is a moral
As in, good versus--
As in good versus evil. And the president has used that word, "evil," in many,
many contexts. What he wants to say about this, [is that] this is not a clash
of interests. We're not fighting over trade routes here. We are fighting about
deep questions -- about how people should live, and what kind of behavior is
acceptable in the world. We are under attack by people who believe that murder
is a normal and acceptable tool of politics, and the president's saying that's
not acceptable and we will fight that, and we will fight that because it's
wrong, because it's wicked. And the people who would do such a thing are wrong
He sees this first and foremost as a moral struggle, and that's what gives it
its power -- that if you are going to rally a democratic society and you're
going to draw on its full power and potential, democratic societies are moral
societies. They care about right and wrong, and they want to know what
principles are at stake when we're called on to do all the things the
president's called on the United States to do. He's serving notice that we are
dealing here with regimes that represent a moral challenge. Also a strategic
challenge, that's true; but above all, a moral challenge.
The word "axis" applies a relationship, a loose relationship as the original
Axis had. And that relationship is real. There's a lot of evidence of
cooperation between Iran and Iraq and Al Qaeda. These are obviously regimes
with very, very different ideologies, one from another, as Germany and Japan
and Italy had very different ideologies during World War II. And yet they found
a common interest in their shared hatred of free societies, and especially the
United States. You'll recall that during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein felt
his air force was in danger, he flew it to Iran; that at that point, the
Iran-Iraq war was just a couple of months old, three years behind them. And yet
he still preferred to trust his air force to the mercy of the Iranians. ...
He never got it back, either.
He never got it back. That was a big mistake. ...
It has been suggested that George Bush was looking for a phrase that had the
historical resonance of "evil empire," and that he latched onto this one with
one eye cocked to the future history books.
... Democratic leaders have to give their people answers, answers to questions
like, Who's attacking us? Why? What are we going to do about it? How are we
going to do it? And when will we know we've won? So they are always looking for
clear and powerful language that brings home to people the kinds of dangers
they face, the way the danger's going to be met, and how long the struggle is
likely to last. So yes, that's what President Bush was looking for when he
looked at the language in the State of the Union speech.
But if you define the struggle as a conflict between good and evil, you are
summoning up something of biblical proportions. ...
Struggles between good and evil are not endless. Sometimes they're [lost];
sometimes they're won. The war of 1939-1945 was a struggle between good and
evil and it came to an end. The Cold War was a struggle between good and evil
and it came to an end. I wouldn't be so pessimistic about the power of good.
Good tends to prevail.
And where does this one end? What possible end game can you envisage for
this Manichaean struggle that the president of the United States has defined in
the last six months?
I think it's very easy to envision an outcome for Iran in which Iran becomes a
much better place for its own people and a safer country in the world. The
regime that now misgoverns Iran is desperately unpopular with its own people. I
think there's plenty of evidence the overwhelming majority of Iranians would
like to see a more secular, more democratic regime at peace with itself, at
peace with its neighbors, able to bring economic development.
And the real question is, how long can this regime survive? ... When this
regime goes, the Iran that will emerge... I think we have good reason to hope
that that will be a country that has a strong economic future ahead of it, that
will grow, that will be at peace, that will be more secular and more
democratic. That is an ending to a struggle between good and evil. Struggles
between good and evil do tend to end with the triumph of good, and what that
means is not necessarily even a military struggle.
People in Iran -- reformers, democrats -- are telling us that the
apocalyptic view that the United States has taken of Iran as of now sets back
the exact project that you say that you have in mind.
There are people who do say that. There are many others who say the opposite.
And the Iranians who oppose the president's approach tend to live in the West,
where they are freer to speak. But let's remember, this term "reformer" in Iran
covers a very, very large territory.
There are people in Iran who would like to see a regime that retains the
clerical fascism that exists in Iran now, but is a little bit less economically
irrational, a little less cruel, a little less hated by its own people and a
little less inclined to bring Islam itself into disrepute. Those people are
There are also people who would like to see Iran become a true democracy, a
truly secular society, capable of true dynamism and economic growth. Those
people are called reformers, too.
But that's a big territory. There are a lot of people who go by the name of
reformers in Iran,who are trying to preserve the main outlines of this
repressive regime. And there are other people who go by the name of reformers
who are trying to move beyond this regime to something that's truly secular and
It is true that people who hope to preserve some vestiges of Khomeinism don't
like what the president said. But the people who want to move beyond Khomeinism
to democracy tell the press, tell the president, tell the White House that they
like what the president said.
You seem to be saying that the reformers who don't accept President Bush's
and the American vocabulary aren't reformers at all. ...
What I'm saying is that ... we need to be aware that, under the rubric of
reform, there are a lot of different people with a lot of varieties of points
of view. And that the people who are most frightened and appalled by what the
president said are the people who are seeking to preserve some vestiges of the
old regime. ...
Think of exactly what the president said about Iran -- let's disassemble its
parts. He said Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism. That's true, and
universally acknowledged. He says Iran is a state that is pursuing weapons of
mass destruction. That's true, and acknowledged by the Iranians themselves. He
said Iran is a state in which an un-elected few suppress the democratic desires
of the many, and you saw that with your own eyes.
Which of those statements are troublesome? He said that Iran and Iraq and
states like these, that sponsor terrorism and seek weapons of mass destruction,
are linked together in an axis of evil, which is, I think, right; which
suggests how reckless they are. Well, what other term would you use to describe
It seems to me that everything he said was exactly true. You have to wonder,
when people find the truth so unspeakable, what is it exactly that they are
afraid of? What part of this truth are they trying to conceal from the eye?
But I guess the question [is], what's the point? What now? Having defined
this problem in black-and-white simplistic terms, what now?
... If the problem is black and the problem is white, black-and-white terms
are not simplistic; they are truthful and accurate. And [to] say "gray" when
you see black and white is to be untruthful. What the president did with his
powerful language was to serve notice on the Iranian regime that limits on its
conduct that have not been enforced for 20 years are going to be enforced now,
that there are going to be real and important consequences to using murder as a
tool of state internationally. There are going to be real and important
consequences [if it continues] to pursue nuclear weapons and the missiles to
carry them. So he's giving the Iranians information they need to have. ...
He sent a message of hope to the people of Iran. He told them that he is
serious in condemning their government, that he is not going to be one of those
world leaders who tries to do business with and prop up their oppressors, that
in fact he sees their oppressors as oppressors. That is a hopeful message to a
people who are overwhelmingly sick of being misruled by these clerical
fascists. I think truth is not often spoken in international relations, and it
is a little bit shocking to the ear when you hear it. The truth is very, very
powerful. And when you're in a struggle of good against evil, truth is good's
What is the "or else?" Obviously, there is an "or else" factor. What do you
think it is?
I think it's the universal rule of the American government that it does not
make threats. ... It spouts out doctrines, it spouts out limits. And then if
people defy those limits, then there are consequences.
I don't know that there is some plan in a drawer of a "what else." But I do
know this: that from the point of view, not just of the American government but
everybody in the region in the world, to have one of the potentially
wealthiest, most numerous, most sophisticated, most advanced societies in the
region committed to murder as a tool of state, seeking weapons of mass
destruction, oppressing its own people, dragging what should be a rich country
into poverty, [is] a terrible thing for everybody. And I think everybody should
welcome the efforts of President Bush and the U.S. government to seek an Iran
that is an asset to its neighborhood, rather than a threat to its neighborhood.
[The phrase "axis of evil"] had such an impact that the discussion of the
authorship has almost eclipsed the discussion of the axis of evil, axis of
One of the things that I learned from the speechmaking process is that
presidential speeches, ... if they have an author, the author is the
Come on. Every so often, they come up with a gem that rises above the
normal. What about this one?
The power of words comes not just from the words themselves, but who says them
and under what circumstances. I could come up with a million brilliant slogans
and I could paint myself blue and chant them in the town square. They wouldn't
have much impact. The power of the phrase the president of the United States
uses depends on the fact that he's the president and he's saying them. And the
more effective and successful he's been as president, the more powerful his
Presidents have often denounced terrorism in the past. I suspect that many of
the speeches in which they denounced terrorism contained powerful and
compelling phrases we don't remember. And the reason we don't remember them is
because the speeches in the end meant nothing, because in the end, the
president did nothing.
The phrases that President Bush uses when he talks about terrorism are
powerful, because President Bush has proven that he's serious about terrorism,
that ... it's not just words, that he's going to do something about it. And the
speeches are powerful and the words are powerful because they're indications of
what's in his mind. ...
The fact about who was on the White House staff when presidents did and said
things are facts [that] belong so deep in the footnotes that they really are
properly of interest only to the most abstract specialist. What is going to
happen in the Middle East, what is going to happen with Iran, what is going to
happen in Iraq, the decisions that are going to be made, ... those reflect on
the president and his top advisers and the people who are on the staff at the
There are lots of people who contribute and do lots of important things. And
their reward is the knowledge that they've helped the president achieve ends
that they support. But the appropriate person to recognize is the person
without whom it couldn't happen. ...
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