On a war footing, a president again turns to Congress in search of national purpose and patience

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Franklin Roosevelt's date-of-infamy address the day after Pearl Harbor spoke of resolve (``We will gain the inevitable triumph''), patience (``No matter how long it may take''), and remembrance (``Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us'').

President Bush, dealing with a far different threat, summoned the same qualities of the national spirit Thursday night in his address to Congress.

Resolve: a vow to devote ``every necessary weapon of war to the disruption and defeat of the global terror network.''

Patience: ``Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.''

Remembrance: ``I will not forget this wound to our country, or those who inflicted it.''

Roars of approval rose from the chamber, Republicans and Democrats alike. A flag pin on his lapel, Bush said modern America had seen war on its own soil but once _ ``one Sunday in 1941.''

From the gallery, Lisa Beamer stood composed. Sadness and a little smile crossed her face as she received an ovation on behalf of her husband, Todd, who died on the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.

He had been among the passengers who apparently attacked the hijackers. Ending a call from his cell phone, he had turned to other passengers and said, ``Let's roll.''

In restaurants in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, customers and waiters flocked to TV sets, four or five deep, cheering Bush on, cheering again when New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was introduced from the gallery.

In a vivid illustration of the peril of the time, Vice President Dick Cheney sat out the speech and went to a different location so that not all the top federal leadership would be gathered in one location.

One Cabinet member also stayed away, as is the tradition.

Pearl Harbor has been on everyone's lips since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the circumstances of Bush's address to the joint session begged comparisons to that epochal event. There were some.

There had been warnings of the dark designs of both Japan then and terrorists now that were not acted upon.

There were fears that death from the sky could come again and nothing could be done to stop it.

There was a rallying around the commander in chief _ around FDR, the veteran leader who had been despised by many Republicans in Congress, and around Bush, the new one whose claim to the presidency rested on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.

Congress gave FDR the declaration of war he sought, with only one member dissenting. Roosevelt spoke for less than six minutes; he had the declaration 33 minutes after his remarks.

Last week, only one member dissented when Congress voted to authorize force.

``We want America to speak with one voice tonight,'' House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said Thursday, giving up a chance to have Democrats make their own televised response to the president's address. Instead, Senate leaders from both parties were making a statement together.

Americans decided because of Pearl Harbor that Japan had to be engaged and beaten. Bush told a so-far receptive America that the menace of terrorism now must be crushed.

It was only his second appearance before Congress and far different from his first.

On Feb. 28, hisses greeted a reference to the Supreme Court before he arrived in the chamber. A few boos escaped here and there. People mainly minded their manners but emotions were raw from the drawn-out postelection struggle over who really won.

The floor then was a seesaw _ Republicans rising to their feet when Bush commented that some consider his tax cut too small, Democrats up and Republicans down when he observed that some think the tax cut too big.

Now Congress stood as one for him, over and over.