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Passing the baton

A great many questions are being asked, and sometimes prematurely answered, concerning President George Bush’s ability to effectively lead the nation through the national crisis following the successful terrorist attacks on America. Can he communicate well enough to gain the confidence of the people? Does he have the right rhetorical stuff to inspire and comfort the nation?

Early on, the usual suspects were casting doubts, under the guise of realistic reporting and intellectual analysis. Partisan television anchorman Peter Jennings, knee-jerk predictable as ever, could not resist the opportunity, eyebrow raised, to wonder out loud whether President Bush should have gone directly to the White House immediately following the attacks, rather than to a physically secure place in Nebraska.

Washington Post columnist David Broder reminded us that “As in the past, it fell to the president to express the public’s sense of loss and to affirm the nation’s determination to respond.” Broder continued by defaming President Bush with these calculated words: “After a shaky start, when Bush seemed to be seeking a hideaway from both unknown enemies and his own nerves, he gathered his strength to do just that. … ”

Authoritative reports, characterized as “specific and credible,” made clear that the White House and Air Force One were defined targets. With that in mind and in the presence of a genuine uncertainty about whether the assaults were over, who in his right mind would have wanted the president to paint a bull’s-eye on his chest and puff it up in front of the White House, to inspire the people and confirm to his critics that he is not a coward?

We don’t need uninformed, petty sideline sniping by the liberal media.

As for President Bush’s “style,” I for one am thankful that he does not specialize in wringing tears from mourners, and dazzling politicians and media elites with soaring rhetoric and eloquent phrases. For those impressed with that sort of thing, excellent motivational speakers are abundantly available for a small fee or honorarium.

I am thankful President Bush is not windy, that he speaks directly and clearly to the point and tells the truth. We’ve had enough of beautifully crafted false promises and clanging symbols. This crisis is not a test of the president’s ability to make stirring speeches. It is a test of his ability to frame a smart strategy and execute it. In my opinion, President Bush is a man for his time, as was Truman a man for his.

Our victory in winning the Cold War unleashed ancient animosities that had been frozen in place by the firm hand of the Soviet Union. We did not destroy these forces of evil. We sent them scampering.

The war President Bush has declared has no precedent in history. This enemy is not in one place, with one name, under one command. He lives and connives in the shadows, behind the scenes. He has a parasitic relationship with countries where we have embassies and upon whom we have economic dependencies. What is more, we now know this enemy lives among us. His name is Legion.

It will take a long, relentless campaign to find and destroy him everywhere he exists. It will take consummate skill to do whatever is necessary to assure that countries enabling this evil stop now and stop permanently. There will be no quick victory here.

Another question is whether Americans are capable of sustaining their unity and their commitment to what may well be a long, tough and costly war. Are we strong enough to endure more losses and the dangers of retribution? Do we have the will and the patience to persevere?

The World War II generation is rightly revered as “our finest.” There is a common theme in the letters, cards and e-mails they send me every day. As they approach life’s sunset, they worry about their country: the coarsening, the divisions, the lack of patriotism and government-enforced religious apartheid. They worry there will be no one to whom they may pass the baton.

The conventional wisdom is that the young generation just coming into maturity does not have the interest or starch to defend our freedoms. However, we should keep in mind that it is very unlikely that the Lord has stopped moving in mysterious ways. Perhaps He is not yet ready to remove “Favored Nation” status from America. Perhaps the current assault on our freedoms will ignite a spark, and awaken a new generation of heroes to take the baton from failing hands.