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Truly historic moments are usually recognized in hindsight. Rare is the occurrence when participants or witnesses realize at the time that an event is of historic importance.

One of those rare moments came . . . when President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress, and the nation. It was clearly one of the most important presidential speeches in the lifetime of any living American; indeed, one of the most important presidential speeches in American history.

In the lifetime of the current generation, only speeches by John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech after the attack on Pearl Harbor could be considered as significant.

The president did not disappoint. He inspired. Inspiration is one of two main purposes of such a speech. The other is to spell out America's stance on a crisis for the benefit of its citizens, and its friends and enemies abroad. It's hard to imagine that the president could have done better on either count. . . .

Bush's message drew the lines that needed to be drawn. . . . He made clear that we are in the right and were deeply injured by the attack. Americans are not fooled by the pretended piety of evildoers, he said. And he declared most appropriately where God really stands . . . "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." . . .