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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Analysis: Bush rises to the occasion
President George W Bush addressing Congress
Mr Bush shows badge of policeman killed in the attacks
By the BBC's Gordon Corera in Washington

It was without doubt the most important speech of his life and also one of the most important addresses of a president to a joint session of Congress for half a century.

And it was a war speech - maybe not like any war speech Congress had heard a president deliver before, but a war speech nonetheless.

The reference point - which Mr Bush himself acknowledged - was Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

In that speech, Roosevelt memorably spoke of "a day that will live forever in infamy".

And Mr Bush did rise to the occasion and his moment in history.

He was received by the assembled mass of Senators and Representatives with a bi-partisan roar of approval as his arrival into the chamber was announced.

In tune

At times since the events of 11 September he has seemed faltering and out of his depth, referring to the perpetrators of the attack as "folks" in his first speech and using the term "crusade" in remarks on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday.

The phrase was so heavily loaded with connotations for the Muslim world that he is trying to hard not to alienate, that his advisers must have cringed.

New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani applauds Mr Bush's speech
Mayor Giuliani played a leading role in the hours after the attacks

But Mr Bush's plain-speaking, casual style seems to play well with middle America.

And in his joint address on Thursday night he raised his game considerably, managing to inject some gravitas into his manner and speaking with statesman-like control.

His task was to rally the nation yet also prepare them for a campaign which will not be quick or simple and will be waged on many fronts in many ways.

The language was forceful and determined, reflecting the mood in America at the moment.

Specific action

Across the country, there is a desire for action, but not swift and ineffective action.

Rather, there is an understanding of the need for a degree of patience in the task ahead.

"Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution," he said.

"Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done."

There is an understanding of the need for a degree of patience in the task ahead

And there was more than just rhetoric - a new cabinet-level post for "homeland defence" was announced and Mr Bush clearly laid out a set of demands on the Taleban, warning that failing to meet them would turn that regime - along with all others who did not join the war on terrorism - into enemies of the United States.

There was no doubt about the level of support President Bush received from all sides of the political spectrum and from the public.

The key questions for his presidency are whether he will be able to extend that support into a global coalition and then maintain its intensity and unity, both at home and around the world, for what could turn into a long - and potentially bloody - campaign.

The BBC's James Robbins
"No American president has faced a greater test"
Congressman Joseph Crowley
gives his reaction to the President's speech
Mary Lord, US News and World Report
"It was a brilliant speech"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | Americas
Text: Bush address to Congress
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Chirac: Fighting terror a priority
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Germany backs military action
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
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