Tim Russert is NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press.  He regularly offers MSNBC.com’s readers his insight and analysis into questions about politics past, present and future.

MSNBC: The death toll from Thursday’s bomb blast in London is now more than 50 and could go even higher. With attacks around the world now — New York, Madrid, Bali and now London — what's the latest on the war on terror?

Russert: It’s numbing and it’s painful.  The question is, “Do we have the resolve to continue to get up every day and keep doing what we’re doing and live in this free society?”  The answer is going to be, overwhelmingly, yes.  But it’s going to be difficult.  It’s going to be painful.  We’re going to have to absorb losses.

There is no way to stop some of the things that have happened and are going to happen.  It is just impossible in a free society to protect every subway car, every subway stop and every bus stop.  We know that.

It seems more and more clear that as long as there’s an endless supply of Islamic extremists willing to trade their lives in order to kill “the infidels,” this is going to continue.

What we hope and pray for and need is some introspection within the Islamic community which asks, “Is this consistent with who we are as a people and our religious beliefs?”

I read a report out of Great Britain that younger Muslims are beginning to reject this form of violence.  We’ll see, because there’s little evidence to indicate that.

MSNBC:  The group claiming responsibility has said this is punishment for Britain's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. What’s the backlash going to be, considering there was already enormous opposition to the war in Iraq among people in Great Britain?

Tim Russert:  This is a key question. Remember what happened to Madrid in 2004. The voters of Spain changed governments and withdrew from participation in Iraq. Tony Blair's challenge is the same as George W. Bush’s: to try to convince the people of their country that this would happen even more times but for the involvement in Iraq. Link Iraq to the war on terror and suggest that this is part of what they are confronting as a war president and prime minister

MSNBC:  Does it put more people solidly behind Tony Blair and the war effort in Iraq or does it mobilize Great Britain’s populace to want to get out of Iraq?

Russert:  I think, in the short-term, Prime Minister Blair gets a small spike, because of people rallying around their leader when difficulties strike at home.  But, long-term, that is the great unanswered question.

The latest polls in the United States show people believe involvement in Iraq has made America more vulnerable.  That’s the challenge for Prime Minister Blair, that’s the challenge for President Bush.

MSNBC:  Tony Blair left the G-8 summit for a matter of hours and went to London to assess the situation there and returned to the summit. What do you think the reaction to that will be?

Russert: I don't think he had a choice. When you have the kind of carnage and disaster you had in the streets of London, the leader of the country must show sympathy and empathy and resolve by flying back. Yet he still can't abandon his responsibilities at the G-8 meeting.

As I said, I believe Blair's standing in the polls will probably go up a bit over the next couple of days, as a result of presenting himself as a forceful leader. But the question raised earlier about Iraq will be central to his long term standing.

MSNBC: Now that America is in Iraq, the populace is still mostly saying stick it out and finish the job.  Is that what’s happening in Europe?

Russert:  Actually, the anti-war movement is a little stronger over there, being in Europe and as the only country on the continent that is really actively involved in a strong, robust way.  The number of people who are against their involvement has been creeping up rather dramatically.  Although, the British are known for being stoic. 

We’ll find out how it plays. But this is a real challenge for both Blair and Bush, as they try to maintain involvement in Iraq – a war that provides a daily dose of bad news.  They hope there will be a glimmer of hope in September when there are elections there, all the while suggesting our involvement there is going to make it safer at home – a difficult challenge.

MSNBC:  After 9/11 it was impossible for Democrats to be at all critical of the administration; it would have been seen as un-American, there was a united front.  But, already in the last 24 hours after the attack in London, we’ve heard Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, being critical of the administration over funding for rail security. So, are the rules different when it comes on foreign soil?

Russert:  I think they probably are in the minds of political leaders. There will be a two-prong attack. One on Iraq, saying it's the wrong war at the wrong time. And two, basically, attacking the president, from the right, saying he is not providing enough funding for rail and transit security.

It’s going to be an interesting dilemma for the president to try to resolve that by saying, “Yes, we have to maintain our forces in Iraq and win that war, and, Oh, by the way, we have to keep our funding at its current level — or minor increases — but not as much as the Democrats want, to protect our people at home.”

The Democrats like this debate. The president, frankly, doesn't mind it either, because when he is talking about terrorism it's a lot easier to convince people than say, something like changing Social Security.

MSNBC:  What will you be talking about on Meet the Press, Sunday morning?

Russert:  We’re going to have Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on the London terrorist attacks, along with a discussion about the Supreme Court with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

So, we’ll discuss the war on terror, the battle over a Supreme Court nominee and Deep Throat, all Sunday, on Meet the Press.


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