Bush tries to win over skeptics

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 12:37 a.m.
WASHINGTON - With his sweeping, if unproven, charge that Saddam Hussein "aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda," President Bush on Tuesday night delivered his strongest effort yet to convince reluctant allies and anxious Americans that war with Iraq might be unavoidable, and the best way to protect the home front.
At the same time, by outlining an ambitious effort to reshape health care and build "an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job," Bush sought to protect himself from the charges of political indifference that destroyed his father's presidency after the success of the Persian Gulf War a decade ago.
He spoke feelingly of the need for more drug treatment programs, mentors for children and new efforts to combat AIDS in Africa.
But the heart of a speech aimed by turns at Middle America and Middle Europe was a careful campaign to build support for attacking Iraq to rid it of weapons of mass destruction, and to pressure traditional American allies to join the campaign.
There were promises of detailed evidence to come from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, but a clear warning that "trusting in the sanity of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy and it is not an option."
"Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," Bush said.
Like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used his 1941 State of the Union to proclaim the "Four Freedoms" he deemed essential to a nation on the verge of World War II, Bush assured his listeners that America's founding creed "leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men."
Like Lyndon B. Johnson, who insisted in his 1966 speech that the nation was "mighty enough to pursue our goals in the rest of the world while still building a Great Society here at home," Bush said, "We will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people."
Fred I. Greenstein, a scholar of the presidency at Princeton, said, "If it's possible to walk on several tightropes at once, he is."

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