State of the Union - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
State of the Union

President Bush did about as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and obviously there were no big surprises. To me, one of the key parts of the speech, which probably won’t get much attention, was:

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.

Cynics may doubt how serious these plots were, or see it as part of a Bush strategy to play off of people’s fears. But I think it’s worth noting this because any future president will also face the same political problem with fighting terrorism. The heavy costs of fighting this enemy are clear, but the successes cannot be measured as easily as in past conflicts. We are not fighting a war based on gaining territory and forcing our enemy to formally surrender, but to protect innocent Americans from being killed in terrorist attacks. Bush has succeeded in the sense that there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11. While one conclusion could conceivably be that Bush’s policies have been effective, as time goes by and the cost of fighting goes up, people start to conclude that either the terrorist threat isn’t that big of a deal in the first place, or acknowledge terrorism is a threat, but believe that we can alter Bush’s policies and still be able to thwart future attacks. And what ends up happening is that Bush gets all the blame for the bad things that have happened and none of the credit for the tragedies that have been averted.

With that said, at this point, there’s not much Bush can say to alter the sentiment of the American people. The only thing that will allow him to regain their confidence is success in Iraq. It’s as simple as that.

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