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"Important" Bush address not so important after all

by ... Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2002 at 10:00 PM

AP: "Bush's address drew little interest from the television networks. ABC, NBC and CBS said they would not cover it live. The White House did not ask the networks to interrupt their normal programs for his speech."



After a week of buildup announcements about how the President was going to speak directly to the American people to convince them of the urgent need to wage war on Iraq, the White House didn't even bother to request air time from the networks. As a result, the Bush address was only available on a few cable channels. Guess that tells us how important the American people are to the Bush White House. But I guess we knew that.

AP Story:

********

By RON FOURNIER

.c The Associated Press

CINCINNATI (Oct. 7) - President Bush, seeking warmaking power from Congress and the United Nations, said Monday night that Iraq's Saddam Hussein is the greatest threat to world peace and must be disarmed. ''The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end,'' he declared.

''Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him,'' Bush said in a rare evening address to the nation.

On the anniversary of the first airstrikes in Afghanistan, Bush used an appearance before civic groups in Cincinnati to try to explain why Iraq should be the next front in the war on terror. He hoped to dispel doubts of domestic critics and persuade other nations to support a U.N. resolution ordering Iraq to submit to weapons inspections.

Advisers said the biggest questions Bush hoped to answer were:

Why now? And why Iraq? Critics question whether the threat posed by Saddam is imminent.

''While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place,'' Bush said. ''By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique.''

The address came amid fresh evidence of voter unease as Republicans and Democrats struggled for control of the House and Senate in Nov. 5 elections. While his job approval rating remains high, a new CBS-New York Times poll showed that a solid majority of Americans believe Bush should give U.N. weapons inspectors time to act.

Bush argued that Iraq's capability to attack with chemical, biological - and, eventually, nuclear - weapons poses a grave threat to America and its allies.

Democrats countered that he should focus more on the economy than Iraq.

''The threats posed by Iraq are significant, yet our nation's economic security is just as critical,'' Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe said. ''The president should use the opportunity tonight to address the American people's growing concern about our stalled economy.''

The CBS-New York Times poll showed that more than one-third of Americans fear the economy will get worse if the United States attacks Iraq. Half think military action against Iraq would increase the risk of terrorist attacks.

The House will begin debate Tuesday on the war resolution and probably will vote Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote next week. Both chambers are expected to give the president the authority he seeks.

Bush hopes to win overwhelming victory in Congress to build his case in the United Nations for a tough new resolution forcing Saddam to disarm, by force if necessary. The official policy of the United States to seek a change of government in Iraq.

Bush, sensitive to critics who say he is too eager for war, focused on his efforts to disarm Saddam rather than to oust him and pledged to help Iraq recover if war were necessary.

''Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable,'' Bush said in his Cincinnati speech. ''The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.''

Bush won support Monday from House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, one of the few senior Republicans in Congress who had voiced worries about the president's Iraq policy. Armey said after an exhaustive review of the facts, he now believes Iraq violated terms of the peace agreed after the Persian Gulf War a decade ago. ''I don't see this as pre-emptive at all,'' Armey said.

But Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., urged Bush to exercise the same restraint that Kennedy's brother, President Kennedy, did in refraining from an attack on Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.

A first-strike attack on Iraq ''is impossible to justify,'' Kennedy told the Senate. ''Might does not make right. It is unilateralism run amok.''

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who supports a hard line toward Saddam, nevertheless accused the administration of ''gratuitous unilateralism'' that could undermine the war against terror.

''In word and deed,'' the administration ''frequently sends the message that others don't matter,'' the potential 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Bush tried to soften his tone, particularly toward the Iraqi people.

''America is a friend of the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us,'' Bush said in an address to civics groups at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

At the United Nations, the United States continued talks with other governments, trying to gain their approval for a Security Council resolution accusing Iraq of violating past resolutions, specifying what it must do and threatening force if it were to refuse.

Democrats spent the summer demanding that Bush work with the international community on Iraq, then were caught off guard when the president decided to work through the United Nations. White House officials hope to stagger Democrats again by directly confronting their questions.

In Vienna, Austria, U.N. arms inspectors began four weeks of technical training for their possible redeployment to Iraq for a new assessment of Saddam's weapons arsenal. Bush wants the mission delayed while he presses for a tough new U.N. resolution in Iraq.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said Tehran will not let the United States use its airspace to attack Iraq.

Bush's address drew little interest from the television networks. ABC, NBC and CBS said they would not cover it live. The White House did not ask the networks to interrupt their normal programs for his speech.

AP-NY-10-07-02 1901EDT

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.
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