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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
The honorary New Yorker
Bush, Pataki and Giuliani outside NYSE
President Bush strolls past New York's stock exchange
Ryan Dilley

On his second visit to New York since the 11 September attacks, President Bush found his strong line on terrorism is winning him support in a city once hostile to his views.

George Bush may feel more at home in Midland, Texas, than on the streets of the Big Apple - perhaps concluding that his Southern charm plays better to those in what he calls "America's heartland" than to the urban sophisticates of New York.

However, the 11 September terror attack has changed New York's political landscape, just as it wrought such horrible change on the city's skyline. In his second visit here since the World Trade Center tragedy, President Bush is being heartily welcomed by some New Yorkers once inclined to despair of their leader.


I voted for Al Gore, but I'm now happy he didn't get in. I think he would have crumbled."

Mike Mulloy
"I didn't want him for president, but I think he has really taken a step up and risen to the occasion," says IT consultant Mike Mulloy, surveying the still smoking remains of the WTC a few blocks across from his workplace.

"Bush is the right guy. I voted for Al Gore, but I'm now extremely happy he didn't get in. I think he would have crumbled."

As well as visiting Wall Street, just a few hundred yards from where Mr Mulloy stands, President Bush also met with many executives of the mighty corporations based in New York's financial district. At a press conference they praised the president for "bringing hope" in the city's darkest hour.

Empire State and Chrysler buildings
New York has not always been natural Bush territory
"I think he can restore hope and we need it," says Mr Mulloy, gesturing to an almost empty restaurant where once lunchtime diners had to fight for a table. Consumer confidence in the city has been badly dented by the events of 11 September, with those relying on tourist dollars facing particularly tough times.

Another quality New York's business elite praised in President Bush was his ability to articulate the "new reality" facing America in the wake of the terror attacks.

The president's verbal skills, once a rich seam for satirists, are no longer deemed suitable fodder for mockery. Talk show host Jay Leno freely observed that it's okay to make jokes at the expense of Osama bin Laden, but that to dwell on Bushisms was inappropriate given the gravity of the current crisis.

War of words?

However, for those hearing President Bush's recent speeches, some may be confused as to whether he has declared war "on freedom and on terrorism" or "for freedom and against terrorism".

Shaking hands with fire fighters
President Bush dons an NY Fire Department baseball cap
"As far as articulating the situation, I don't think he has done a very good job so far," says downtown office worker Dante Davis. "I think he's oversimplified the issues and not offered Americans the global context of what is going on. These things don't just happen in a vacuum."

During the crisis President Bush has also had to fight for the attention of New Yorkers with the almost messianic Mayor Rudy Giuliani. ("Giuliani could run for Pope and win" goes the joke doing the rounds of the city). "Yeah, Giuliani's like the king here now," says Mr Davis.

On the international stage, President Bush also has a rival in the UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair's uncompromising party conference speech received heavy coverage on US TV and saw the premier's picture on the front page of the New York Times.

Heartfelt speaking

"That was a very good speech from Mr Blair," says a police rescue worker finishing his shift at 'ground zero'. "But I think Bush is doing a good job too."

Blair making speech
Tony Blair making his keynote speech on Tuesday
The NYPD officer says he was present when President Bush made his first visit to the WTC site, where the leader stood shoulder to shoulder with the teams then still battling to find survivors under the rubble.

"He really rallied the troops that day. At the beginning of the crisis it seemed like his speeches were too prepared, but now it sounds like he's really talking from the heart. We appreciate that."

During his latest visit the president also buoyed morale with children who witnessed the WTC attack by attending classes at Public School 130 in Chinatown, according to its principal, Lily Woo.

New set of heroes

Mr Bush reassured the young first graders that there were "heroes" all around them to offer protection. He said it was not just the firefighters and police officers who had been heroic, but PS 130's teachers, who had guided the children to safety in the aftermath of the 11 September attack.

Bush at NY school
Dropping in at PS 130
Such words resonate in a city that now considers its "heroes" to reside not in its sports arenas, concert venues or Broadway theatres, but in its more humble fire stations, police precincts and ordinary homes.

Later asked to add his entry to an artwork on which pupils had written their reasons "Why we love America", the president again found he was in accord with New Yorkers.

He wrote "freedom", as had so many of those seated in the class around him.

The children were "so happy", said teacher Debra Nelson, that "they thought the same thing he thought".

See also:

03 Oct 01 | World
Bush package to boost economy
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