Speech gets high marks from NW legislators
WASHINGTON — Northwest lawmakers rallied around President Bush last night as the commander in chief declared war on Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and threatened to bring the full force of the American military to bear against the leaders of Afghanistan.
In a stirring speech that touched on the grief flowing from the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center and sought to bolster Americans for a protracted counterterrorism campaign, Bush also warned all nations that nurture terrorism that the time has come for them to choose.
"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda," the president told a joint session of Congress, referring to the loosely affiliated network of Islamic terrorist groups guided by bin Laden. "But it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. "This is civilization's fight," Bush said.
"Our challenge," Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, chimed in shortly after the address, "is going to be to unite the civilized world behind this effort, and we're going to have to recognize that this is not going to be easy, and it's going to take a long time."
Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Bellevue, said the speech was unlike anything she had heard during her eight years in Congress.
"He was doing a translation from anger into will," she said. "If I were the terrorists right now and I heard President Bush say — get ready, we're coming — I would be very nervous."
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said that across the country, men and women in uniform "stand ready to take action against terrorism."
"In this new battle, there won't be a quick victory. It will take a sustained effort," she said. "We will hold onto the sense of unity of the past week and fight for the values that make America great."
Bush's speech set lofty goals for what he has called the first war of the 21st century. Even as he took great pains to separate the targets of the mission from the people of Afghanistan, and declared that terrorism was contrary to the tenets of Islam, he compared the mission ahead with the historic struggle between liberty and totalitarianism.
Bush warned Americans that the fight would not soon be over. And he sought to put other nations on notice as well.
"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," Bush said.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said that was "a message that reminds me of World War II, and our approach: Either you're going to fight these kinds of aggression or you're not."
But Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, who gave Bush high marks for "laying out the case for the American people that this is going to be a long, slow process," questioned whether the president hadn't pushed too far for potential allies like China by drawing a line in the sand.
"I'm glad that he didn't get any more bellicose than he did," McDermott said.
Rep. Adam Smith said it was fitting that Bush demanded that nations choose between an alliance with the United States or terrorists.
"This may help nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Syria, or even Iran — give them the support they need to take on the terrorists," the Federal Way Democrat said.
Smith also applauded the president for bracing Americans for a lengthy struggle but assuring them that "your normal lives are going to be preserved."
Immediately after the address, leaders of the Republican and Democrat parties split what is usually reserved as television time for the opposition to jointly declare their support for the president.
"Our greatness in time of struggle is what distinguishes us as a nation," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said. "Tonight our president has called us to greatness."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott appeared by his side. "We stand here united not as Republicans or Democrats," he said, "but as Americans."
McDermott, who sits as far away on the political spectrum from the Bush administration as any member of Congress, added that "I wish him the best."
"It's us that are going to have to be involved in this thing, and I don't want things to go badly."
Democrats and Republicans alike praised the address, which they said was likely to be one of Bush's best ever.
"It established very eloquently the moral underpinnings for this endeavor, because what he said is that these terrorists do not threaten just our lives, but they threaten our way of life," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island. "What drives our enemy here is their distaste for our freedoms of speech and our freedom of religion."