Bush sends clear message to friends, foes

Sunday, February 3, 2002

Americans who watched President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night saw three speeches in one.

And they saw a president who, in his first year in office, has achieved a level of dignity and trustworthiness that many doubters might not have thought possible a year ago.

The first part of Bush's presentation to a joint session of Congress, assembled government officials and foreign dignitaries was an impassioned account of this nation's war against terrorism.

For several minutes, Bush managed to soberly lay out the seriousness of the danger that lurks around the globe. At the same time, he managed to stir up passions for the common cause of defeating evil.

This first portion of his State of the Union message received the broadest support possible -- not just across political lines but over a wide array of ideologies and interests. It was one of the finest moments in modern speechmaking.

The last part of his address was a clarion call to all Americans to step up and be counted as the country continues to maintain the dignity of good over the horrors of evil.

Here too the president spoke with a certain boldness that comes from a solid foundation in American ideals.

And here too his words were met with universal accord.

It was the middle part of his address -- the laundry list of programs and promises that has become so familiar in current political parlance -- that Bush appeared to revert to politicalspeak for a few brief moments.

In that list, however, was a sense of urgency over increasing the nation's military budget (see editorial below).

Taken as a whole, the State of the Union address sent a signal to Americans that the office of the presidency is in capable hands and that a course of action largely set by terrorists in September will not be interrupted.

The speech also sent a signal to those around the globe who share -- and those who do not -- the aim of destroying terrorism.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the president himself, who clearly has overcome many of the foibles of public speaking that were so apparent early in his presidency.

The heavy weight of responsibility that goes with being president has, in many ways, honed Bush's style and presence. It is this air of confidence and assurance that made this State of the Union speech important to so many of his listeners.

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