Across America, grief and despair is giving way to anger. Fear in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks is dissolving in a flood of patriotism across wide sections of the public, media and political elites. And with it rides President George W. Bush, with an almost unprecedented mandate for strong wartime leadership. Three days of escalating rhetoric have been met by popularity figures for Mr Bush that are topped only by the number of Americans - an estimated 85 per cent - who demand military action, according to various surveys. And of those, even larger numbers would back war against nations supporting terrorists or action that kills innocent civilians - figures as high as any since World War II. The support is solid across age groups, tapering off only among those who lived through World War II and the Korean War. Anyone doubting surging nationalistic sentiment should consider the utter lack of debate over statements from Mr Bush unimaginable before the obliteration of the World Trade Centre and direct hit on the Pentagon. Last Friday, Mr Bush used the National Cathedral's pulpit to warn of a coming conflict to 'rid the world of evil' - a day of mourning filled with thoughts of God, but talk of war. On Saturday, he used his weekly radio address - a traditional statement to the heartland - to declare: 'We are at war.' He added: 'Those who make war on the United States have chosen their own destruction.' There is little political risk here, it seems. Some of America's most liberal newspapers were demanding war - on terrorists and supportive countries - within a day of the attack, claiming America's way of life was under fire. A congressional vote to back military action was overwhelming among both Republicans and Democrats. Just one lone Californian Democrat voiced restraint, invoking warnings of the sort of unplanned engagement that led to the military, social and political swamp of the Vietnam War. A full range of concepts from ground troops to 'surgical' strikes is on the table, with Mr Bush offering few more specifics than 'a series of decisive actions' and the warning that the 'course of victory may be long'. Other previously unutterable concepts are finding widespread favour with little debate. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry - considered a foreign-policy liberal - was yesterday talking up the need to allow America's spies to assassinate terrorist leaders. Such deeds have been outlawed for 25 years, after fierce criticism of the CIA's Cold War excesses in Chile, Vietnam and elsewhere. Attorney-General John Ashcroft is seeking emergency legislation to make phone-tapping easier. On the fringes, comment is even more extreme. Several conservative commentators have demanded the use of nuclear weapons in the desolate Afghan mountain redoubts protecting Osama bin Laden. Another has suggested an invasion of the nation to covert it from Islam to Christianity. Underpinning such comments is an outpouring of nationalism. Drive through a suburb and you will see flags draped from cars, trees and houses. Flick channels on the radio and do not be surprised to hear the Star Spangled Banner. Open a newspaper and you will find a page-sized picture of the Stars and Stripes. Television is particularly influential. The increasingly popular cable channels positively drip with patriotism. CNN advertises the 'Spirit of America'. The Fox network uses the tag 'America United'. Amid the frenzy are constant warnings for Americans not to turn on fellow countrymen of Middle Eastern descent. Islamic shops and restaurants have been targeted in some cities and several beatings have been reported. Quite where it will end remains to be seen. Comparatively little attention has been given to outside voices of restraint. Muslim cleric Muzzammil Siddiqi spoke of both compassion and restraint as he condemned the attacks alongside Mr Bush in the National Cathedral. 'Goodness' could not come to anyone who did not 'exercise peace and restraint', he said. At the Vatican, Pope John Paul on Sunday spoke of being 'heart-broken' over the attacks, but urged America to shun the temptation to respond with hatred and more violence.