Before America gets tired

Posted: Oct 19, 2001 12:00 AM
SACRAMENTO -- "When you strike one American, you strike us all,'' President Bush said yesterday at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. Bush also declared America as "strong and resolved and united.'' He must have been right about the "united'' part because after his speech, Bush met with Gov. Gray Davis, and Davis emerged declaring the tete-a-tete "a very positive meeting.'' The last time Bush was in California, in May, Davis merrily gave Dubya a PR-thrashing as he complained how Bush's energy policies were giving California consumers "a raw deal.'' But on this serene Wednesday, on an Air Force One stop in Fairfield, and Sacramento on the way to China, Davis was Dubya's new best friend. He even talked up Bush's energy policies. He repeated the mantra that America is "united.'' And: "one people, one America.'' Unity was apparent among the 3,800 people who came to see Bush speak in Sacramento. They loudly sang along with "God Bless the USA ... Proud to Be an American.'' Their eyes were misty. They cheered when Bush promised, "We will not tire. We will not falter, and my fellow Americans, we will not fail.'' Bush is aware that the cheering may not last forever. Wednesday morning, the White House released a transcript of an interview Bush gave to Asian journalists in advance of Bush's trip to Shanghai. During the interview, one editor asked if the administration's Korean policy would change if North Korea resumed hostilities and "the war prolongs, as you have expected, one or two years.'' Toward the end of the interview, Bush addressed the time issue: "You mark my words, people are going to get tired of the war on terrorism. And by the way, it may take more than two years. You said one or two years. I envision something taking longer than that.'' No doubt, Bush has a very personal sense of the danger of waging war, then withdrawing too soon. His father's 1991 decision to cease fire on Saddam Hussein's forces after 100 hours of ground operations was true to the international coalition's stated goals, but 48 more hours of fighting might have made a difference in weakening the ring around Hussein and, if not in shortening his tenure, at least in undermining his power and making him less able to wreak havoc on his own people. Bush predicted before the Asian journalists that "some people are going to start to say: We're tired, but President Bush keeps going on.'' He foresees the day when resolve and unity may weaken, but promised to keep fighting "because I think it's the right thing to do.'' Already in one corner of America, there is no resolve and no sense of unity. Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved by a 5-to-4 vote a resolution calling for a stop to the bombing of Afghanistan "as quickly as possible.'' No doubt many Berkeleyites oppose the bombing on some sort of principle or another. Some may be pacifists, others seem knee-jerk anti-American. Still, whether it is their intent or not, supporters cannot deny that their vote sends a message to Osama bin Laden: Don't attack Berkeley -- we're your buds. And: Don't hurt Berkeley. You want Americans to fight. You want our resolve to buckle. This town is where the disunity in America begins.