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Analysts look at Bush's speech on war on terror


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Bay Buchanan
George W. Bush
Paul Begala

(CNN) -- After President Bush's speech on the war on terror Thursday, Daryn Kagan discussed the speech with two CNN political contributors, Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.

KAGAN: I want to go ahead and take a closer look at President Bush's speech, from two sharply contrasting viewpoints. And for that, I welcome in Paul Begala, a former member of the Clinton administration. He is now a CNN political contributor, also sharing the title of CNN contributor, Bay Buchanan, a conservative strategist.

Good morning, and welcome to both of you.



KAGAN: Paul, I'm going to go ahead and start with you. We also heard from the president, as he said, "no act of ours has incited terrorists." He's addressing the idea of those who believe that what has taken place in Iraq and the U.S. presence in Iraq has actually led to more violence. He says that is not true. He points out that 9/11 happened before the U.S. was ever in Iraq, and he says appeasement will not work. What did you think of the president's speech?

BEGALA: Well, I thought that the tone was interesting. There he was in the Ronald Reagan Amphitheater. And yet, there wasn't the same Reagan-esque, sunny optimism that President Reagan always gave us in the Cold War. Where, again, we were facing implacable foes, great ideological struggle.

KAGAN: Well, Paul, he wasn't coming here to promise us a rose garden. He was coming here to give us an update in the war on terror.

BEGALA: Right. And this is an important shift in tone. The president, for years now, has -- before the war, supporters said it would be a cakewalk; others said that we'd be greeted as liberators. Vice President Cheney said that. The president himself gave that famous speech with the banner "Mission Accomplished" behind him. This is not that tone.

This is an important shift in tone for the president. Frankly, it's one that I welcome. But it's an important one. There were not very many facts in there. And David Ensor, of course, got right to the news and I'd like to know a whole lot more about the attacks that the president says that we have disrupted. I think it's terrific news for Americans.

But I don't know that this will stop the slide in support that's going on in the war for Iraq. I mean, that's an awfully tall order to ask of just one speech at 10 a.m. Eastern time, at that. But I think the audience sounded a lot more...

KAGAN: Don't go knocking my time slot, Paul. Don't go knocking my time slot.

BEGALA: No, I love your time slot. But it's interesting. I think that perhaps the audience was more the Muslim world than U.S. public opinion. I think that -- I know the president's very close aide, Karen Hughes, who's now at the State Department, has just come back from a tour of the Muslim world. And I see her fine hand in this. I think that the speech may have been more directly aimed at Muslim popular opinion than American popular opinion.

KAGAN: Well, and one of the points the president made, that most of the victims in Iraq have been Iraqi civilians.

Bay, let's go ahead and bring you in. There was a promise from the White House that we were going to hear unprecedented details in this speech. I don't know that we heard that. Also a demand early on from congressional Democrats saying we want an outline, we want specifics about where we go from here. It's not enough to say we're going stay the course.

BUCHANAN: You know, I think what the president did was outstanding. First of all, it was a very strong speech, and he was extremely confident. He came across as the commander in chief. He understands this problem. He's laying it out for us. And I'll tell you what he did that I thought was extremely effective. He gave a face to this enemy. You know, up to now it's war on terrorists, we're after terrorists. And now he actually called it, it was radical Islam. It is a global problem. He gave ideas of what their methods are, how they recruit, what their goals were. And he tied Iraq into it. The goal that would be a base for them, then they would spread out from there.

I think what he did -- then he tied the communism into it, which is something tangible Americans can understand, know that it was a tough battle but that we won it, showing some real hope there. I think it was extremely effective. I disagree with Paul. I think this is possibly a turning point where at least American people will start saying, yes, this, is something we can win, we need to win, but it is going to be a tough battle. And I think his support will start to rise again.

KAGAN: OK, we have one minute left, so I'm going to give about 20 seconds to each of you. Paul, first of all, do you think this is going to change the numbers? And will Democrats actually come up with a plan as an alternative?

BEGALA: It will not change the numbers, because the numbers are being driven by facts on the ground, not words in the air. The president said -- and I'm quoting here -- he said, 80 Iraqi battalions are quote, "fighting alongside our troops." Well, alongside our troops...

KAGAN: You say it's not going change numbers. I have to give Bay the last 10 seconds, sorry.

BEGALA: No, it won't, because...

KAGAN: OK, Bay, are they going to change -- is it going to change numbers, this speech?

BUCHANAN: As I said, I think it will start -- I think people will start looking more positively and I think the president's going to have to stay at it. But I think this is a heck of a good turning point for the president.

KAGAN: And I'm going to make that the last word. Paul and Bay, thank you.

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