Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow
President Bush is facing a major test of his leadership in the wake of Tuesday's devastating terror attacks, his supporters say.
"The president rightly declared this a war, and the president is responsible for winning or losing it, which is why war is the ultimate election," said Angelo Codevilla, a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in Washington. "Call it his final exam. He gets an `A' or an `F' and nothing in between."
How quickly the president meets the test by effectively striking back will make or break him with the public and with his political base.
"I don't know that there is a clock on it," Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times. "But once we know the perpetrators, we will no longer be constrained by the old rules of engagement, the old rules of the criminal justice system."
Public opinion will pressure Mr. Bush to act quickly, his supporters say.
"He has a few weeks at best to act," said Oliver North, who was President Reagan's counterterrorism man on the White House national-security team. "The [conservative voter] base is backing him, but they do not want to wait forever. They want him to strike back. Their patience will wear thin rapidly. And they want Congress to stop pussyfooting around with it."
Republicans and Democrats alike want a response that is not only swift, but also commensurate with the brutality and ferocity of Tuesday's attack on America.
"What I'm hearing from the base is that there has to be a tenfold to a hundredfold retribution," said Robert T. Bennett, Ohio Republican Party chairman.
Those who urge a swift military response of far greater magnitude than any previous U.S. reaction to terrorism acknowledge that such a response risks creating martyrs and more terrorist recruits.
"One can make many theoretical arguments about retaliation encouraging more terrorism," Mr. Gramm said, arguing that "if the wages of sin are death, it tends to thin the ranks" of terrorists and their future recruitment.
The Texas senator noted that Mr. Reagan's 1986 military retaliation against Libya, for example, "was pretty effective."
"[Libyan dictator Col. Moammar] Ghadafi didn't do anything after that," he said.
Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican, thinks the public is ready to give Mr. …