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Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2001 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Chris Matthews

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The day W. really became president -- GEORGE W. BUSH has an 88-percent job approval rating from the American people. That potent endorsement arises from his mission and the sacramental ritual through which it was assigned.

The mission is to deliver justice to the killers of 6,000 Americans on Sept. 11. It became Bush's mission as he stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm about that older New York fireman.

"We can't hear you!" someone yelled from back in the crowd.

"I can hear you," the president yelled back through his bullhorn, "and the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us very soon."

With that spontaneous retort, George W. Bush became this country's unchallenged leader. His communion with those firemen on that third day after the horror brought him the broadly accepted legitimacy that was denied him earlier.

Those brave firemen, elevated to a kind of secular national priesthood, gave Bush what the oath administered by Chief Justice Rehnquist on Jan. 20 and the 5-4 Supreme Court decision about Florida's votes could not.

Let me try to explain why.

I have spent the last year writing a BOOK that expresses my deepest beliefs about this country. Digging back into my life, I came across my brief career as member of the U.S. Capitol police. I remember a fellow officer named Leroy Taylor. A country boy from West Virginia, he had been a "lifer" in the army. Like a lot of those country boys, Leroy would have done anything to save the U.S. Capitol from harm. They loved and revered the place and knew deep in their souls what it means to the American people.

Leroy was especially eloquent on this point. "The little man loves his country," he said to me one day, "because it's all he's got!"

It was "little" men like Leroy Taylor who raced up those stairs of the World Trade Center while others raced to the bottom and to safety. It was "little" men like him who invested in George W. Bush the American presidency in a way that the men and women in black robes could not.

This is the great untold story that was unveiled by the horror of Sept. 11. Just as we discovered the evil out there in the world, we discovered the good here at home -- the deep, gut love of country residing in the hearts of those working class people who protect us from fire, crime and other daily horrors.

"Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think". That's the name of my book, which comes out next week, and which will be exerpted in JWR. And what I really do think is that we Americans love this country more than we ever knew and more than we were ever comfortable saying.

That is why President Bush is respected today: because he shares that love and because he has accepted the difficult mission of winning justice for this country.

On Sept. 10, he lacked a mission. Now he's got one.

On Sept. 10, we lacked a leader. Now we've got one.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of "Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think". and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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