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Bush Needs To Be More Candid
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Oct. 24, 2001 -- President Bush has been getting high marks in opinion polls for holding the country together, but he is still on a learning curve dealing with some of the frustrations of threats from undefined sources. His remark yesterday (Oct. 23) after a meeting with congressional leaders, that this country is too strong to allow terrorists to affect the lives of our citizens, has a Pollyanna ring to the many whose lives have been severely affected.

There's reason for administration embarrassment, because of the early anthrax testing for political leaders and media celebrities -- although not for postal workers, two of whom died. But the president did not help that awkward situation when he perplexingly announced, “I don't have anthrax,” refusing to say whether he had been tested or taken Cipro. It is not clear whom he intended to reassure when he said, “I'm going to work tomorrow, too.”

"The president talks of an aggressive campaign overseas to bring al Qaeda to justice and he's providing money to improve safety at post offices around the country. But the grim fact remains that the terrorist conspirators both abroad and at home have so far eluded a massive investigation."

Daniel Schorr

The Justice Department has now released copies of three anthrax-contaminated letters to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, NBC's Tom Brokaw and the New York Post. They all say in block letters “Death to America, death to Israel and Allah is great.” The FBI says that no link has been established between the letters and the September 11th hijackings. But Mr. Bush ventured yesterday that “It wouldn't surprise me if the al Qaeda terrorist organization was behind the letters mailed from New Jersey.”

The president talks of an aggressive campaign overseas to bring al Qaeda to justice and he's providing money to improve safety at post offices around the country. But the grim fact remains that the terrorist conspirators both abroad and at home have so far eluded a massive investigation.

In the face of such aggravation, one can understand Mr. Bush's eagerness to assure Americans that everything possible is being done, but Americans are looking for more candor about a nation's grim situation than word that the president is healthy -- and that even if a remote White House mail facility may show anthrax bacteria traces, the Oval Office does not.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.