In the Gothic splendor of the National Cathedral, three days after the events of September 11, George W. Bush made the most stirring-and ominous-declaration of his presidency. "Americans do not yet have the distance of history," he said, "but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Most Americans, perhaps, heard the statement as mere rhetoric of the high pulpit, but as the "distance of history" lengthens, we can see that with that declaration the President redefined his raison d'etre and that of the nation-nothing less than to "rid the world of evil." The initiatives taken by Washington in the last two years are incomprehensible except in the context of this objective. Clearly President Bush meant exactly what he said. Something entirely new, for America at least, is animating its government. The greatest power the earth has ever known is now expressly mobilized against the world's most ancient mystery. What human beings have never before been able to do, George W. Bush has taken on as his personal mission, and he aims to accomplish it in one election cycle, two at most.