A great speech, focused early on the crucial issues facing the world, combining an appeal to the Democrats to return to bipartisan support for national security with a message that even if that bipartisanship is not forthcoming, the president will not be turned from his understanding of the dangers the country faces and his strategy to meet and defeat those dangers.
The key paragraph:
It is said that prior to the attacks of September 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al-Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack ‘” based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute ‘” I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected al-Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have ‘” and Federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed. This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it ‘” because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.
Unfortunately, as Republicans rose to applaud this resolve and the president’s defense of his NSA program, Democrats remained seated and did not applaud. Fox cut to Senator Clinton who shook her head slowly with a tight and disapproving smile.
Notice was served to Hamas and to Iran in unmistakable terms. The direct address to the Iranian people was a brilliant move, but an ominous one as it telegraphs that 2006 will be the year of confrontation that cannot be postponed, and that confrontation could come soon.
The Democrats were enthusiastic and on their feet alone only over the president’s acknowledgement of their successful obstruction of Social Security reform. It was a very interesting moment: They celebrated the failure to fix a growing problem. It was a revealing moment.
There was great urgency in the president’s speech tonight, and a recognition impossible to avoid that one party is serious about the national security and pressing domestic issues and the other is not.