Did the President's Speech Make the Grade?

FOX Fan Central asked Rich Lowry of the National Review and Ellis Henican of Newsday, who regularly spar on "DaySide with Linda Vester," to evaluate the most important speech in President Bush's Career.

Rich Lowry:

President George Bush capped off a successful GOP convention week with a marvelous speech that will set the terms of the campaign going forward. With the lengthy, policy-thick section at the beginning of the speech, he cast himself as the substantive, forward-looking reformer in the race. He said that many of the things people understandably feel insecure or worried about can best be addressed not by John Kerry's liberal populism, but a conservative-oriented agenda of domestic reform. To a country that overwhelmingly says it wants a “new direction,” Bush said Kerry is the candidate of the tired status quo. He gave a passionate, coherent, and persuasive defense of his foreign policy. His shots at John Kerry stung, without being bombastic or heavy-handed. Toward the end, the rhetoric began to soar as Bush described the overarching theme of his campaign and what he hopes will be his second-term--spreading freedom abroad and at home. Near the end he addressed a few of his vulnerabilities--his tangled syntax and his “swagger”--and attempted to defuse them with humor. It was an undeniably impressive performance, and a politically effective one. There will be ups and downs going forward, of course, but Bush ends his convention on a big up.

Ellis Henican:

As the convention wore on, the Fear Meter danced. Rudy, scary. Arnold, scarier. Dick and Zell, scarier still.

So when George W. Bush stepped up to his podium-in-the-round at Madison Square Garden, a question hung in the air: Would the president sooth us with optimism and hope, the way Ronald Reagan taught Republicans to win elections? Or would he try to ride the fear to Nov. 2?

Oh, he cast a few passing glances at brighter tomorrows: Money for community colleges. Health-savings accounts. But with tax cuts as large as Bush’s and deficits as deep, there’s isn’t the money for much “compassionate” stuff.

It’s fear, Bush made clear last night, that he and Karl Rove are running on. Fear of the terrorists, absolutely. And fear of John Kerry too.

"We are staying on the offensive -- striking terrorists abroad -- so we do not have to face them here at home," Bush said.

By margins approaching 3 to 1, Americans now think his war in Iraq has made us less – not more -- safe from terrorism. Fully half suspect Bush has no clear plan for getting us out. And Usama bin Laden is still on the loose.

But Bush wasted no time on quibbles like that as he previewed the next two months. Be afraid, he told the delegates and the nation. Be very afraid.