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His handling of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks brought [George W. Bush] acclaim for leadership at a time of crisis. But as the nation has moved away from 9/11, Bush's weaknesses as an inexperienced leader have begun to appear. The W we see today, with falling poll ratings, a mess in Iraq, a foreign-policy team at war with itself, and a sputtering economy, is the W many feared when votes were still being counted in Florida: an inexperienced president, not able to control his high-powered cabinet secretaries,
Much can and will change between now and the 2004 presidential election, but as the country emerges from the trauma of 9/11, it appears to be as divided about Bush and his policies as it was during the 2000 election. He has a solid core of support on the right and a solid core of detractors on the left. But the folks who decide elections in this country, those in the middle of the political spectrum, appear to be as divided and unsure about Bush as they were three years ago.
Bush's style and lack of intellectual vigor have been deeply troubling to many. He doesn't let the facts get in the way of his policy predilections. He'll make the case for tax cuts whether the economy is up or down, in deficit or surplus, whether there is a need for short-term stimulus or not. And while this editorial page supported the war against Saddam Hussein, Bush's high- handed use of "facts" appalled us, as did his penchant to go to war alone. His foreign-policy team is experienced and very tough and served him well in the days following the al-Qaida attack. But there is only a belated attempt being made now to coordinate the rebuilding effort in Iraq.