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Inauguration 2005

Bush envisions liberty for all

By BILL ADAIR, Times Washington Bureau Chief
Published January 21, 2005

Were you impressed by President Bush's inauguration speech?
Yes. It was moving and inspiring
No. Not much new here.
I didn't listen to or read it.

WASHINGTON - On a chilly winter day of pageantry and protest, President George W. Bush took the oath of office for a second term and vowed to protect freedoms at home and expand them around the globe.

"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," Bush told a sprawling crowd Thursday in front of the U.S. Capitol. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

As his wife and daughters stood with him, Bush placed his hand on a family Bible and, at the direction of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, repeated a 39-word oath. The Marine Band broke into Hail to the Chief. Cannons sounded a 21-gun salute.

For Bush supporters, it was a day for celebration. Many wore "W" baseball caps and stickers that said "Luvya Dubya." They gave hearty applause to the military and cheered when Bush mentioned freedom.

The day included reminders that the nation remains deeply divided. Hecklers tried to disrupt Bush's speech. During the inaugural parade, protesters turned their backs on his limousine to show their disdain.

Likewise, some in the mostly Republican crowd booed Sen. John Kerry, Bush's vanquished opponent, when his face appeared on a big TV screen. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, also were booed.

Bush, who has been criticized for failing to heal the political wounds in his first term, briefly referred to the split in his inaugural address.

"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. But he quickly added that "those divisions do not define America."

Instead, he focused on freedom, mentioning it 27 times in his 21-minute address. He mentioned liberty 15 times.

"There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom," he said.

Bush's soaring rhetoric was out of step with the policies of his first term. His administration has formed close relations with repressive regimes. His allies in the war against terrorism - including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan - are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human-rights abusers.

Bush won a solid victory in November but his approval ratings are weaker than other presidents starting their second term. A New York Times poll Thursday said his approval rating is 49 percent, compared for 60 percent for Clinton and 62 percent for Ronald Reagan.

The former Texas governor said little about his domestic agenda, presumably because he will discuss it during his State of the Union address in two weeks. Instead, the self-proclaimed "war president" spent much of his speech justifying the war in Iraq, though he never mentioned the country by name.

"Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill and would be dishonorable to abandon," Bush said, apparently referring to keeping troops in Iraq.

The war in Iraq remains the biggest uncertainty for his second term. He portrays it as a decisive blow against terrorism, but polls show a majority of Americans believe it was a mistake. Iraq is scheduled to have national elections Jan. 30, but many have questioned whether the nation is in too much turmoil for a fair vote.

Bush was sworn in by Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, who is suffering from thyroid cancer and appeared frail as he walked with a cane to the podium on the West Front of the Capitol. His voice was raspy as he asked Bush to repeat the oath.

The appearance of the chief justice - his first since his cancer was diagnosed last fall - was a reminder that Bush could make at least one Supreme Court appointment in his second term.

The Capitol was decorated with bright American flags and red, white and blue bunting. The day was chilly but picture-perfect. The crowd wore winter jackets and gloves. Some women wore full-length fur coats.

There was tight security throughout the city. Some Capitol police officers carried rifles. A helicopter circled overhead. Although some presidents have walked the route, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush did not get out of their bulletproof limousine until it was close to the White House.

Kerry had a surprisingly prominent seat for the event, in the front row closest to the audience. Several times during the ceremony, he peered out at the large crowd that came to cheer his opponent.

Bush's speech, which was mostly written by his chief speechwriter Michael Gerson, included rich flourishes and religious imagery that Gerson is known for.

"From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this Earth has rights and dignity and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of heaven and Earth," Bush said.

He added: "Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave."

Bush twice invoked the imagery of fire. He called Sept. 11, 2001, "a day of fire" and later referred to a fire of freedom that "warms those who feel its power" and "burns those who fight its progress."

Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was included in this report.

[Last modified January 21, 2005, 00:48:18]

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