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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Bush's leadership test
George W Bush meets fire fighters and rescue workers as he tours the damaged areas of the Pentagon
Mr Bush will be judged on his forthcoming actions
By the BBC's Paul Reynolds

The questions have been asked about George W Bush before and now they will be answered.

Has he got what it takes to be President? Will he rise to the challenge as did another underrated figure, Harry Truman, who was suddenly faced with the invasion of South Korea? Or will he dither like Jimmy Carter when American hostages were seized in the embassy in Iran?

Dubya, as he himself encouraged the media and crowds to call him during the election campaign, has appeared a bit nervous in his public performances during this crisis so far. He struggles to be "presidential".

He has to reach a balance between demonstrating toughness and avoiding extremism.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, left, and President Bush prepare for a security meeting
Mr Powell will urge Mr Bush to only act when he is ready

I believe that he can do so. I have interviewed him twice and came to the conclusion that he had the potential to manage a crisis.

He does not make it easy on himself. He affects a jokey attitude and is clearly no intellectual. But he is street smart and has consistently outsmarted his opponents and his critics.

He may seem lightweight, but a heavyweight crisis could change that.

The first thing to watch for is whether he waits for good intelligence about who was behind these attacks. The Americans have lashed out before, to no good effect. This time, they must be effective. And that means being sure about their target.

If it is Osama Bin Laden, then Mr Bush must put pressure on the Taleban government of Afghanistan to hand him over.

Political support

They must line up their diplomatic ducks in the region - Pakistan must be brought onside, the Arab leaders in the Gulf squared.

Just as his father did during the Gulf War, so George junior will have to back up any military action with political support at home and abroad.

Bush is supported by a team that has fought a war before - Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In particular, Colin Powell will not want to be rushed. He invented the Powell doctrine. Only act when you are ready and then only with overwhelming power.

That could be the pattern of this crisis.

George W Bush might never look very impressive on television. He lacks the gravitas of a Roosevelt or even a Reagan. But this situation is too serious for him to be judged by his style. He will be judged by his actions.

See also:

14 Dec 00 | Profiles
George W Bush: Like father like son?
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