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Bush Doctrine: Spread Liberty

At 2nd Inauguration, the President Pledges to End 'Tyranny in Our World'

January 21, 2005|Peter Wallsten and Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — George Walker Bush, taking the oath of office and opening his second term as president, vowed in a sweeping declaration Thursday that the United States would promote democratic movements "in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

With thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and public opinion polarized over the policies that put them there, Bush offered few hints about whether his doctrine would mean military action against other countries. But directing his remarks to the "rulers of outlaw regimes," the president suggested that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were only the start of a global strategy to spread freedom.

"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," Bush, 58, said after taking the oath at the Capitol, as morning sunshine gave way to an overcast sky.

The inaugural celebration, the first since the 2001 terrorist attacks that transformed Bush's presidency and reshaped U.S. foreign policy, was protected by security that turned the nation's capital into a fortress.

More than 100 city blocks were closed to traffic. Concrete barricades and metal police fences were ubiquitous. Antiaircraft missiles were deployed near the Capitol.

But for the 43rd president and his family it was a day to celebrate, coming after an election victory that, unlike his contested win four years ago, rested on a decisive popular vote.

In uttering the 35-word presidential oath, Bush achieved the second term that eluded his father, the 41st president, and enshrined the Bushes as one of the nation's political dynasties.

The scene suggested that the family's mark on politics might not end when Bush left office. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, is often mentioned as a future White House contender and was frequently in view of the TV cameras.

Also in view was the governor's telegenic son, George P. Bush, a lawyer who is thought to be planning a future in politics.

The president was sworn in by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, ailing from thyroid cancer, who used a cane and grasped a handrail to hobble onto the platform from inside the Capitol.

Moments before noon, Bush placed his left hand on the family Bible used to swear in his father as president and brother as governor, and which on this day was cradled by First Lady Laura Bush. Wearing a dark suit and an ice-blue tie, the president raised his right hand and repeated the oath read in hushed tones by Rehnquist. Twin daughters Barbara and Jenna stood a few feet away.

While the justice's frail state offered a reminder of the partisan battles that awaited over judicial nominations and other matters, Bush sought to strike some bipartisan notes. At a luncheon in the Capitol's Statuary Hall after the swearing-in, Bush said that he wanted to work "with members of both houses and both parties."

Polls show that Bush remains a divisive figure. Surveys published this week put his approval rating at 49% to 53%. Other modern presidents elected to two terms -- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton -- enjoyed higher approval ratings as they reentered the White House.

Bush's comparatively low ratings come after a bruising election campaign in which his Iraq policy was the central issue. He was confronted early Thursday with the realities of that partisan divide.

As he sat in the presidential pew at St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, the Rev. Luis Leon offered an appeal to Bush to bridge the nation's cultural and political gaps.

"I hope you will invite us to be a better people ... beyond the confines of red and blue states," said Leon, referring to the electoral map in which Republican states were marked red and Democratic ones blue.

In his address three hours later, Bush framed his vision of global freedom as a rallying point for national unity as the country came together after the 2001 attacks.

"We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes -- and I will strive in good faith to heal them," Bush said.

Still, it was clear that the president would have to offer more than cordial words.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) watched the swearing-in from the platform as a member of the bipartisan inaugural planning committee. But less than six hours earlier, Pelosi had written a fundraising appeal to Democrats that accused Bush of pursuing the "death of Social Security."

"Personally, I don't feel much like celebrating," Pelosi wrote. "So I'm going to mark the occasion by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republicans' destructive agenda."

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