American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call “alarming” intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack,Newsweek has learned. —Newsweek, July 19 issue
TRANSCRIPT OF THE OCTOBER 28, 2004, SPEECH, FROM THE OVAL OFFICE, BY GEORGE W. BUSH
My Fellow Citizens,
Our democracy has flourished for more than 200 years, nourished by the courageous spirit of the American people and the blood of American patriots. Ours is the longest continuous democratic government in the history of mankind. It has been a beacon of freedom, and a symbol of hope, to generations of people the world over. The system by which we choose our leaders today is the envy of the world. Through our process of free debate and open elections, we assure our friends and our enemies alike not only of our continuing stability, but of our strength.
I have no doubt that these are the very virtues that have drawn the most evil forces in the world today to target our system for destruction. The shadowy networks of deadly terrorist groups and the criminal regimes that support them seek to sow doubts that this free and informed debate of issues, and the orderly succession of democratically elected leaders, cannot work. They want to prove that their evil vision of Chaos, Terror and Tyranny will prevail instead.
But they will not succeed. Not on my watch–and not on yours. America is too strong. America is too smart. America is too determined to remain that beacon of freedom in a world where freedom grows more precious every day.
As a citizen of this nation, I am certain you have heard the reports of efforts by the Al Qaeda terrorist network to disrupt the 2004 presidential election, and to disrupt the elections for the United States Congress, the United States Senate and the elections of state and local officials across our land.
Today, it is my solemn duty to inform you that agents of our Department of Homeland Security have confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that these reports are true. Al Qaeda operatives have been apprehended on American soil, carrying plans for placing high-intensity explosive devices and biohazardous materials in strategic voting precincts throughout the United States. These plans reveal intentions to kill and maim American voters at polling places in at least eleven states–in the South, the Midwest, in California and in my home state of Texas.
Diagrams seized with these terrorists show evidence of long-term surveillance of specific homes and places of worship used for voting. Their clear intention is to shift our attention with panic and weaken our morale with fear. They clearly hope to intimidate the American people, and to weaken our confidence in our government’s ability to protect its citizens and our cherished democratic institutions.
We have seen what this kind of intimidation has done to formerly democratic regimes around the world. But they will not intimidate us. We are a peaceful people, but we are not a fragile people. We will not be intimidated by thugs and killers. But we must back up our resolve with more than words. We must preserve our democracy with action.
As Commander in Chief and President of the United States, I have been given responsibility for resolving a historic dilemma. In the short term, we face our commitment to maintaining our schedule of elections across America on November 2, despite Al Qaeda’s threats. In the long term, we face the responsibility of saving our democratic system–for our children and for future generations around the world who will look to us for leadership.
America has never backed down from doing the right thing, no matter how hard. We know the value of freedom better than anyone, because we have paid the highest price to preserve it. In this tradition, I have taken a series of actions to derail this plot by the Al Qaeda terrorist network to disrupt our democratic process.
I have ordered the Director of Homeland Security to elevate our Security Alert Index to its highest level–red.
I have ordered the Attorney General to invoke the emergency measures of our Patriot Act, to quarantine suspected terrorists and protect our people while preserving the most cherished principles of our Constitution.
I have ordered commanders of our military forces in Afghanistan to begin massive bombings of suspected Al Qaeda operation centers in the southern part of the country.
Last, just moments ago I sent to the US Congress a resolution calling for temporary postponement of the 2004 elections until the safety of all our citizens can be guaranteed and the integrity of our electoral process preserved. I have asked for, and have every reason to expect, Congressional approval of this emergency measure by the end of the day tomorrow.
The image of America’s citizens peacefully choosing their leaders, and our orderly transition of leadership, is critical to world peace and stability. Al Qaeda’s plot to disrupt our elections is intended to frighten our people from voting and create the impression in the minds of people around the world that even in America the price of democracy is too high.
Thankfully, democracy does not depend exclusively on elections. It does, however, depend on trust. The trust that people have in their government to protect them and their families from violence and bloodshed. Trust in the integrity and decisiveness of the leaders they select. Trust that the votes that you and your fellow citizens cast will be cast without coercion, intimidation or the threat of consequences.
The most important thing you can do is to continue going about your daily routine and show the terrorists–and the world–our resolve. This strategic postponement of our voting calendar is by no means a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It shows that America is determined to hold its elections on its own schedule–not Al Qaeda’s.
I ask you today to stand with me in this historic battle to protect our families and our freedom. Help me to show the world what American democracy is truly made of.
United, we will win this battle. United, we always do.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless America.