21 / January
21 / January
W Stands for Woodrow?

I found George W. Bush's second inaugural address an airy speech heavy on platitudes and light on substance. In fairness, this describes most inauguration-day speeches by recent presidents. Where the second inaugural address differed from recent presidential efforts is its inclusion of a "big idea," which exposed in its speaker a faith in government far surpassing any of his immediate predecessors.

Some variant of the word "ideal" appeared nine times in the speech. Bush spoke out on racism (he's courageously against it) and democracy (he's bravely for it). He even genuflected to political niceties by strangely claiming the Koran as a foundational text of the contemporary American experience. (Maybe in a more inclusive time, the followers of Anton LaVey will get their mention in the inaugural too).

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." No, common sense doesn't bring us to that conclusion. Since the founding of this country, liberty around the world has been increasing while liberty in this country has been diminishing. There's no causal relationship between the former pleasant reality and the latter unpleasant reality, but they are realities nonetheless. My own liberty has about as much to do with a Laotian enjoying freedom of speech as it does with a Martian possessing the right to a jury of his alien peers. While Bush is right to wish proponents of freedom well, interlocking our nation's interests with the affairs of other nations is a way of limiting our freedom.

"Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation," Bush opined. "It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time." George Washington ("Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?"), Thomas Jefferson ("peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none"), and John Quincy Adams ("she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy") are rolling in their graves. Inside a tomb in the National Cathedral, Woodrow Wilson smiles approvingly.

posted at 01:34 AM
Comments

Well said, Dan.

Did you see Pat Buchanan last night on Scarborough Country? He was excellent making this very point.

Posted by: Eric Langborgh on January 21, 2005 08:08 AM

Bush mentioned the word 'freedom' 27 times in his address.

Posted by: obi juan on January 21, 2005 09:00 AM

Dan,

How about Michael Savage going off on the Presiden't mention of the Koran with Jewish texts as foundational documents? Who of our founding fathers worshipped Allah or looked to Mohammed for inspiration. Why has Bush become so inclusive in this religious jargon? Why must he try to please everyone? As if some radical Shiite will look at his speech and suddenly decide not to blow himself up and kill Americans? Islam may have a small place in American culture, but it has no historical relevance in our country's history.

I was at the Inauguration, about 50 yards away from the President. Although consumed with cheesy elevator music before and after his speech from the soloists (who chose this music?), I was a little dissapointed that the President spoke in such general terms, and didn't highlight the recent successes in Afghanistan and soon to be history in Iraq.

Posted by: Christopher J. Doyle on January 21, 2005 09:43 AM

I think what Bush WANTS to say is that the "security" of our land increasingly depends on the "defeat of Islamic radicalism" in other lands. But America is not ready or willing to mix politics and religion anymore than it has to. (Seperation of church and state and all that jazz. We like to PRETEND that they are seperate arenas. HA!)

So instead of saying it like it is, Bush tries couching it in more palatable terms: on the home front, he equates security with liberty, and abroad he equates Islamic fundamentalism with a lack of liberty. Close, but not quite on target. (It sounds nice in an inauguration speech - who could possibly be against liberty?

But liberty and security are not the same thing. In fact, the price of liberty is insecurity. (For example, we give citizens the liberty to travel freely from state to state, and pay the price in reduced security.)

And while Islam clearly places a low value on personal liberty (Muslims are called to submit to the will of Allah, and to his rules for proper behavior), I don't think we can conclude that it was a lack of liberty in Afghanistan that lead to the rise of the Taliban. And while Taliban rule lead to reduced personal liberty for most people (especially for women), it lead to increased liberty for Bin Laden and pals.

I like Bush, but this blurring of terms for political convenience sometimes gets him into trouble. But, what can you expect? He is a politician. His job is to compromise, to form aliances, and lead/push people in the right direction. If he were to say what I think is really on his mind (that this war, like all the rest of human history, is a war between good and evil, between truth (Christianity) and lies (Islam, Naziism, Communism, Humanism, etc.)) he would not be doing his job. If the people do not want to hear the truth, it is not the politicians job to tell it to them. That is the preachers job. It is instant death for a politician.

Posted by: Joe T on January 22, 2005 12:31 PM

"Since the founding of this country, liberty around the world has been increasing while liberty in this country has been diminishing."

How about slavery, segregation, prohibition, women's rights? Or are white Christian men the only group that matters? This type of nonsense is starting to drive me away from the right.

Posted by: Ben Litchman on January 25, 2005 01:06 AM
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