Global Policy Forum

Bush Pledges to Spread Freedom


By Peter Baker and Michael A. Fletcher

Washington Post
January 21, 2005

Link to inaugural address

George Walker Bush took the oath of office for a second term yesterday and laid out one of the most expansive manifestos ever offered from an inaugural podium as he dedicated his presidency to spreading democracy and freedom "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

In the first wartime inauguration ceremony in more than three decades, Bush vowed to transform U.S. foreign policy to make human rights the defining priority, arguing that only liberty would "break the reign of hatred and resentment" that led to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that seared his first term.

From now on, Bush said, relations with "every ruler and every nation" will be predicated on how they treat their own people, a profound break from traditional U.S. policy and from the Bush administration's practices in his first term, when it worked with repressive governments in the war against terrorism. In his doctrine for the next four years, Bush presented the United States as a beacon for the subjugated around the world and promised to confront the despots who enchain them.

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors," Bush told tens of thousands of onlookers from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in a 21-minute address in which he used the words "free," "freedom" or "liberty" 49 times. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

On a breezy winter day with a thin layer of snow covering the Capitol grounds, Bush was sworn in by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in the 80-year-old jurist's first public appearance since disclosing in October that he has thyroid cancer. Leaning on a cane and sounding hoarse as he administered the 35-word oath, Rehnquist moved on his own power, but his health may lead to the first vacancy on the high court in a decade and a fierce partisan battle over his successor.

The nation's 55th presidential inauguration took place in a capital wary of the threat of terrorism and swathed in security the likes of which have never been seen for a swearing-in ceremony. About 100 square blocks of downtown were closed to traffic as black-clad sharpshooters kept watch from rooftops, fighter jets and helicopters patrolled, bomb-sniffing dogs searched vehicles, and 13,000 soldiers and police officers manned the parade route and other key locations.

When Bush got out of his armored limousine to walk the final several hundred feet of the journey from the Capitol to the White House alongside first lady Laura Bush, they were surrounded by dozens of Secret Service agents. The protective cordon was so tight, Bush joked that he was surprised his Texas friends "were able to penetrate security."

As Bush dashed through a day that included a church service, a congressional lunch, an inaugural parade and 10 evening events, there were reminders of the country's political divide. A pair of protesters unfurled an antiwar banner during the swearing-in ceremony, only to be removed by police and shouted down by Bush supporters chanting "USA! USA!" Moments later, a heckler pierced the silence of the crowd listening to Bush with a loud "Boo!" Along the parade route were demonstrators bearing signs such as "Guilty of War Crimes -- Impeach Bush."

The omnipresent security forces served as a reminder of how much has changed since Bush's first inauguration four years ago as the nation's 43rd chief executive. A presidency born out of election controversy and focused on domestic issues such as tax cuts was subsumed by the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bush embarked on a bold course that sometimes alienated allies and embittered opponents, leaving U.S. voters deeply divided about his leadership and the continuing conflict in Iraq. In defeating Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Bush became the first president elected to a second term with his party increasing its hold over both houses of Congress since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first reelection in 1936. Yet he won with the smallest margin of any reelected president in more than a century, and his approval rating as he began his second term yesterday was the lowest of any in modern times, with the exception of Richard M. Nixon.

Bush spent little time dwelling on the divisions, instead summoning the legacy of Sept. 11 as a rally to national unity. "We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes -- and I will strive in good faith to heal them," he said as Kerry sat stoically on the stage nearby. "Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack and our response came like a single hand over a single heart."

Bush, 58, appeared a little grayer and a little heavier at his second inauguration, weathered by four years of tumult yet determined, as he said in recent interviews, to use the next four years to achieve historic change. While he shed a tear when he hugged his father, former president George H.W. Bush, at the first inauguration, the president displayed little emotion through a long day of festivities yesterday.

Wearing a dark suit and overcoat, a light-blue tie and a U.S. flag pin on his lapel, Bush started the morning with his parents at the White House where he read from the Bible, according to aides, then headed across Lafayette Square to St. John's Episcopal Church for a 9 a.m. prayer service along with Laura Bush and their 23-year-old twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara.

The Rev. Luis Leon, the rector, delivered a homily calling on Bush to lead the nation beyond fear. "We know what fear does to people," he told the president. "Fear clouds our judgment. . . . I invite you today . . . to exercise your ministry and your vocation . . . to help us overcome our fears."

The extended Bush family later shared the stage at the Capitol, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R). Other guests included former presidents Jimmy Carter (D) and Bill Clinton (D), prominent Cabinet officers, and members of Congress, including Kerry and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). The program projected an air of inclusion as Leon, a native of Cuba, delivered the invocation, mezzo-sopranos Susan Graham and Denyce Graves performed solos, and Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, a black minister from Houston, offered the benediction.

Vice President Cheney took his oath first, administered by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), followed by Bush, who was sworn in four minutes before the constitutionally prescribed noon hour. As he swore to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," the president placed his left hand on a family Bible held open by Laura Bush, the same one that he used four years ago and that his father used 12 years before that.

In his inaugural address, Bush outlined a governing philosophy ambitious in its scope if vague in its execution. Although most presidents include paeans to American liberty in their swearing-in speeches, rarely has one voiced such a full-throated pledge to apply it to policy.

"We have seen our vulnerability, and we have seen its deepest source," Bush said. "For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny -- prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder -- violence will gather and multiply in destructive power and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat."

"So," he added, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

The president assured that he does not intend to achieve this primarily through force: "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way." But he said the issue will become a litmus test for foreign policy: "We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people."

In a message for those fighting dictatorships around the world, Bush added, "Democratic reformers facing repression, prison or exile can know: America sees you for who you are -- the future leaders of your free country." While he named no countries, his secretary of state designee, Condoleezza Rice, identified six "outposts of tyranny" during Senate confirmation hearings this week: Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

The foreign policy architecture Bush articulated expanded on his first-term rhetorical commitment to promote democracy -- particularly in the Middle East -- a vision that faces a key test in nine days, when Iraq is scheduled to hold elections for a new National Assembly. Without using the word "Iraq," Bush asserted that he had touched off a spark in a region historically ruled by dictators and "one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."

Such lofty rhetoric, seen as naive, arrogant or even hypocritical in some nations, strained decades-old alliances during Bush's first term, particularly over Iraq. Bush reached out to estranged European partners yesterday but urged them to fall in line behind him. "We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies."

The president also appealed to young Americans to consider enlisting in the military or to find other ways of joining his mission. "You have seen that life is fragile and evil is real and courage triumphs," he said. "Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself." But he made only passing reference to the far-reaching domestic initiatives that have dominated political dialogue in Washington since his reelection, such as restructuring Social Security, the tax code and immigration policy.

In a traditional Inauguration Day gesture to the president, the Senate confirmed two of his second-term Cabinet nominees, White House domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings as secretary of education and Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (R) as secretary of agriculture.

After the speech, Bush returned to the White House and spent two hours reviewing the parade from a specially reinforced bandstand built on Pennsylvania Avenue in recent weeks. He then planned to stop by an event honoring veterans, followed by all nine inaugural balls, capped by the Commander-in-Chief Ball. In typical early-to-bed Bush fashion, he allocated about 20 minutes to each event in hopes of returning to the White House half an hour before midnight.

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