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The Speech Bush Could Make
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Sept. 28, 2001 -- This is a speech that President Bush could make but probably won't.

Fellow Americans, I want to level with you about how the war against terrorism has forced me to depart from some of my most cherished beliefs. First, you know I've always been an opponent of big government, believing that he governs best who governs least. I believed that our national mission was best performed by free enterprise and free citizens. But at least for the duration of the emergency, government must make a comeback.

The government is already expanding its role in airport and airline safety. You will be seeing more of federal marshals and the National Guard. The new Office of Homeland Security will infringe on your privacy in the name of defending your liberty. The government will come to the aid not only of the airlines but of other hurting industries and hurting workers. This is not Big Brother, but a stronger federal government than I would have imagined only a few weeks ago.

Second, that government will have to be a big spender. In coming years to pay for reconstruction, safety and the war against terrorism, the government will have to spend easily a trillion dollars more than we have budgeted. I am proud of the multiyear tax cuts, my first contribution as president, but under present conditions, they must be reconsidered. We must avoid a new era of huge deficits. And so with deep regret, I must tell you that I shall propose canceling the future tax cuts already written into law. This tax relief was meant for normal times, and these are not normal times.

Finally, one other change of perspective. It has long been considered by Republican and Democratic administrations alike to be politically counterproductive to risk American lives. My father told me how much of the planning for the Gulf War went into minimizing American casualties. The battle for Kosovo was almost entirely an air war. As we withdrew our Marines from Lebanon and our Rangers from Somalia in the face of terrorist attacks, our terrorist foes came to count on a president's reluctance to put Americans in harm's way. They can count on this no longer.

I know, and not from opinion polls alone, that Americans support me when I say that from now on, the war against terrorism will take all necessary risks. If our foes think we are too soft to risk lives, they will learn differently.

The speech President Bush could make, but probably won't.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.