Tearful Bush makes pledge
U.S. President vows to lead the world to victory; Congress prepares to approve executive powers
By JOHN IBBITSON, The Globe and Mail
Friday, September 14, 2001
WASHINGTON -- With Congress poised to grant the White House sweeping powers to pursue and punish those who contributed to the devastating hijackings, President George W. Bush vowed yesterday that fighting terrorism "is now the focus of my administration."
At times fighting back tears, the President said: "Now that war has been declared on us, we will lead the world to victory."
Mr. Bush declared today a "national day of prayer and remembrance," urging Americans to pay noontime visits to places of worship in remembrance of those who perished at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Congress is expected to approve an appropriation of $40-billion (U.S.) for rescue and recovery efforts. The amount is double that asked for by the White House.
"There is a unanimous understanding that whatever we do this week is a very minimal down payment to what will be required and what we will do in the days and weeks ahead," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat.
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders also worked throughout yesterday, refining the language of a congressional endorsement of the President's vow to punish individuals, organizations and states that contributed, directly or indirectly, to the attacks. The resolution is expected to pass today.
While maintaining that Mr. Bush already had the necessary authority to carry out reprisals, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said he hoped Congress would pass a use-of-force resolution as "a show of unity."
Congress and numerous presidents have disagreed about what authority a president has to act without congressional authority in military actions that fall short of war.
The authorization that Congress is expected to give Mr. Bush is similar to that given to the President's father, George Bush, during the Persian Gulf war.
But Senate and administration officials were still haggling last night over a clause that would give the President blanket powers to act to deter future threats.
The White House devoted much of yesterday to solidifying international support for a military response, and determining what that response might be.
Arriving for work at 7 a.m., Mr. Bush spoke with the leaders of Japan, Saudi Arabia and Italy, after which he spoke publicly by telephone with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki.
"I weep and mourn with America," he said. "I wish I could comfort every single family whose lives have been affected. But make no mistake about it, my resolve is steady and strong."
Speaking with reporters after the phone call, Mr. Bush affirmed that the United States has put the Pakistan government on notice that it expects total co-operation as Washington prepares its response.
Secretary of State Colin Powell gave the strongest indication yet yesterday that Islamic fundamentalist militant Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan, is the principal suspect. Pakistan has given support to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"We will give the Pakistani government a chance to co-operate and to participate, as we hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable, despicable act on America," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush later went to George Washington Hospital Center to visit burn victims from the attack at the Pentagon. Again, the President appeared visibly moved after talking to critically wounded victims and their families.
"Some of the folks could talk, and they described the horror of the incident, the moment. They talked about escaping, going through fire, crawling through debris.
"It was clear that they were fighting for their survival then, and like every patient up there, they're still fighting for survival."
After his public appearances, Mr. Bush met with congressional leaders and with his national security team. Staff said the President was presented with possible military options against targets that the White House refuses to identify.
Today, the President is to attend a memorial service at National Cathedral, followed by a visit to New York in the afternoon, where he may tour the devastation if it does not obstruct rescue efforts.
Bipartisan support for the President could extend beyond the short-term goal of punishing the attacks on New York and Washington.
House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt suggested on television last night that his party might reconsider its opposition to the administration's proposed missile shield against nuclear attack.
"We've got to look at all of it," he said, adding that counterterrorism must be a first priority. "But we worry about all of it now, and we've got to deal with all of it, and we've got to fund properly the efforts to get this done."