Government's back, big time
WASHINGTON — This is a speech that President Bush could make but probably won't:
"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 have 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, and big time.
"The government is already expanding its role in airport and airline safety. You will be seeing more of federal marshals and the National Guard at airports. The new Office of Homeland Security and the agencies of law enforcement 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. I am still against government as Big Brother, but we need 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 on terrorism, the government will have to spend easily a trillion dollars more than we budgeted before Sept. 11. I am proud of the tax cuts, my first contribution as president. But now these cuts 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. Republican and Democratic administrations alike have long considered it politically counterproductive to risk American lives. My father told me how much of the planning for the Gulf War went into minimizing American casualties. History records how we withdrew our Marines from Lebanon and our Rangers from Somalia after 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 polls alone, that Americans support me when I say that from now on, we'll take all necessary risks in the war on terrorism. If our foes think we are too soft to risk lives, they'll learn differently."
As I say, that's the speech President Bush could make but probably won't.
Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at NPR.