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Selling a long And slow war

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The president's two most trusted White House aides, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, last week quietly began soliciting ideas from G.O.P. consultants and public-relations executives for ways to keep Americans focused on the war effort even as the life of the nation struggles to return to normal. Proposals include everything from benefit concerts to patriotic TV ads to a special website giving up-to-the-minute war-progress reports.

One possibility: a televised megaconcert with performers celebrating American values like freedom and democracy. Bush advisers both inside and outside the White House thought the star-studded telethon that aired Sept. 21 was, as one put it, "very nice, but a little too Hollywood and New York"--i.e., liberal. The White House-sponsored event would be aimed at "educating a new generation of Americans on what war is all about." Think Lee Greenwood instead of Fred Durst, Brooks and Dunn in place of U2, Tom Selleck rather than Brad Pitt. And way fewer candles.

The White House also has to find ways to show that things are happening, that the war is being waged and won. Bush is conscious of the problem. When he discovered the Treasury Department was slated to announce that the Administration had frozen the assets of Osama bin Laden and 27 organizations linked to his terror network--a relatively minor initiative--the President nixed the idea. Instead, Bush himself made the announcement, from the Rose Garden, declaring the move "a major thrust of our war on terrorism."



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Cover Date: October 8, 2001

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