Saturday, October 05, 2002

Bush puts war spotlight on Cincinnati

President's prime time speech will emphasize reasons for Iraq action

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON - The cavernous rotunda of Cincinnati's Union Terminal becomes the epicenter Monday of the national debate on whether to go to war with Iraq. That's where President Bush will give his prime time speech stressing the threat Saddam Hussein poses to the world. Listening will be 500 invited guests, Congress, and the nation.

        “I think it's a speech that the American people are going to want to watch,” Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday, adding that the speech would be “notable and newsworthy.”

        “People all over the world are going to pay attention to it,” said Lawrence Korb, a Reagan administration assistant secretary of defense and now a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.

        Congress is expected to vote by the end of next week on a resolution authorizing the president to use whatever military force he thinks necessary in Iraq. The House intends to begin debate Tuesday and vote by Thursday. The Senate formally began debate Friday and hopes to vote by Oct. 11.

        Monday's speech is aimed at laying out a case to Congress and the public for giving Mr. Bush authority to use U.S. military might against Mr. Hussein. It comes one year to the day after the United States began its military campaign in Afghanistan.

        “This country next week will be having a big debate on a really important, historic resolution,” Mr. Bush said Friday during a campaign event in Boston. “This is not a political debate. It's a debate about peace and security.”

        To the bishop of the fourth-largest United Methodist conference in the United States, this is a time for the president to listen to the American people.

        Bishop Bruce Ough of the Ohio West conference said Friday that he wants to take the president up on his offer to have a dialogue in America's heartland because “people of faith” have not had an opportunity to discuss the president's call for war.

        In a letter to the president, the bishop notes Mr. Bush's faith as a United Methodist and stresses the region's 1,250 member congregation - from Toledo to Cincinnati - which Bishop Ough has asked to join him in prayer for the president.

        “It is not my intention to say you should not go to war,” he wrote Mr. Bush. “But perhaps this is not the moment to decide. It is premature to insist that the only way is to have a pre-emptive strike.”

        Unlike many presidential trips, this one will have no politicking or fund raising.

        The 8 p.m. speech to about 500 Cincinnati-area residents in the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal will be hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and the World Affairs Council of Cincinnati.

        “Our feeling is that Cincinnati is a great microcosm of the nation,” chamber spokesman Raymond Buse said. “We feel Cincinnati's a great place for leaders and media to get the pulse of the nation. It's fitting for the president to come here at an important time in our history.”

        The president's speech is not likely to contain any major announcement about a possible war, nor any new specifics about the Iraqi threat.

        The White House did not ask for time on the major television networks. For example, CBS spokesman Sandy Genelius said CBS will cover the speech in its newscasts but not break into regular programming. Local TV stations said Friday they will carry the address live.

        Mr. Fleischer likened the speech to a November 2001 speech in Atlanta where Mr. Bush attempted to rally the nation for the war against terror. The president called for citizens to volunteer to fight terror in their communities and urged them to stay as enthusiastic as he was about fighting terror.

        Congress is expected to give Mr. Bush the permission he wants to use force, but not without some dissent.

        On Friday, as the Senate debated the resolution, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., railed against what he said was a blank check for the president, a repeat of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led the way to the Vietnam War.

        He said his office received 1,400 phone calls on Friday alone.

        “Almost every caller has said, "Wait. Slow down. Don't rush this through,”' Mr. Byrd said. “I plead with the American people: Let your voice be heard.”

        Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., who represents Dearborn County, is one of those undecided members of Congress at whom Mr. Bush's speech is aimed.

        “I'm flying out of Cincinnati that afternoon. I'll be back (in Washington) in time to watch it,” said Mr. Hill, who has Monday night votes in the House.

        Jon Frandsen of Gannett News Service and Enquirer reporter Robert Anglen contributed.


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