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A speech for the ages

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted January 24, 2005

Bush reads his inaugural speech on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20
Bush reads his inaugural speech on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20

President Bush gave a superb inaugural address -- an historic speech -- which was lofty and poetic, and certainly crafted to appeal "to the better angels of our nature". In fact, it was vintage Bush and pure Americana, brimming with idealism that has practical application as well. In essence, America intends to support freedom and democracy throughout the globe, not only as a moral imperative, but as a means of defeating tyranny that breeds terrorism. And heaven knows, we're focused upon terrorism since it poses a mortal threat to America and other western societies. The secondary theme of the speech underscored America as an opportunity and ownership society, which was uplifting as it promoted a view toward greater prosperity and a brighter tomorrow.

However, on the whole, the inaugural address was clearly a "Big Picture" or "Big Ideas" speech that explained the overarching philosophy of the Bush administration on foreign policy. And it certainly places the invasion of Iraq within the larger context of democratization sought by this administration. To my way of thinking, how can anyone carp about the world's only superpower being a tremendous friend to freedom and democracy around the globe? Isn't that akin to being in favor of motherhood and apple pie? To my amazement, the response to the speech has been a mixed bag. Political commentator Peggy Noonan, who claims to be a friend of the Bush family, whines that the speech was not "nuanced". But it wasn't supposed to be – She should wait for the State of the Union address if she's looking for details in a speech. The Bush inaugural address succeeded as a broad-based, thematic speech that was geared toward inspiring Americans. Yes, it was meant to be somewhat abstract and sweeping in scope rather than concrete.

However, the average American could clearly grasp the content of the speech. For instance, the president stated: "For a half-century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical -- and then there came a day of fire. We have seen our vulnerability, and we have seen its deepest source. 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". Well, of course "the day of fire" is 9/11, and "our vulnerability" is terrorist attacks. And the truth of the matter is that terrorists will always find ways to breach our borders; No matter how diligently we strive to protect our nation, it's only a matter of time before terrorists are able to successfully strike. And I'm fascinated by the phrase "years of sabbatical". Could that refer to the Clinton administration and its "leave of absence" from fighting terror? I would guess that's the case. I think that Noonan and other mainstream journalists insult the intelligence of Americans when they cite a speech as being too "abstract". Bush presented a beautiful speech that adeptly conveyed "big ideas" without being simplistic. The speech was crafted to generate thought.

Peggy Noonan further denigrates the speech, noting that "an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars". Did Noonan have to be that sassy and inappropriate? The average American would not have appreciated that quip. My hunch is that Noonan needs to stop hobnobbing with the New York and Washington elites, who are nothing more than trash-talking cynics. And Noonan also dubbed the inaugural address a "God-drenched speech". I counted five references to God or spirituality, which, in a twenty minute inaugural speech is within acceptable limits, given the make-up of our populace. I guess Noonan is now siding with the secularists. Everyone knows Americans are a God-fearing people, with about ninety percent of the populace avowed believers. In fact, polling demonstrates that the vast majority of Americans really want their presidents to be people of faith.

And Bush further averred: "From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom". Here, Bush is asking America's forbearance in Iraq, and reminding Americans that we've succeeded in freeing tens of millions of people, which patently reflects American ideals, honor and our national ethos.

Moreover, many Americans grasp that President Bush is a true visionary, but then again, the ideas put forth in his inaugural speech are not new for Bush. For those that have paid attention, Bush has been touting the spread of democracy as the long-term solution to terrorism even before the start of the Iraq War. Left-leaning media types, such as NBC's David Gregory, are now propagating the big lie that the Bush administration's "democracy spiel" is just another ruse to justify the invasion of Iraq, particularly since WMDs were not to be found. What drivel! It's been Bush's heartfelt contention for the past few years that terrorism must be defeated on the ideological as well as on the military battlefield. Sure, we can kill or capture those engaging in terrorism. But we also have to tackle the societal dysfunction, which creates terrorists. And that's where the transformative power of democracy comes into play. Democracy not only helps stem the tide of simmering hatred and terrorism, but it unleashes the dynamic forces of hope, opportunity and prosperity that all work in tandem for the good of societies.

President Bush's policy promoting democracy has already generated panoply of negative words or phrases by mainstream journalists such as "overreaching", "unrealistic", "difficult to implement", "arrogant", "imperialistic" and even "hypocritical" (citing our nation's good relationships with oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.). Moreover, journalists are ready to dub President Bush an "idealist" (unduly influenced by his particular moral prism) as opposed to a "realist" who engages in "real politics". Ostensibly, the former is bad, and the latter is good, according to the "old media" crowd. But why the strict political constructs? It seems to me that President Bush operates from a combination of both idealism and realism, which is probably true of most presidents. Former President Clinton certainly reflected a good deal of idealism, and even psychological denial, when he continued to work on an Israeli-Palestinian peace that was doomed to be torpedoed by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. And was Bill Clinton in touch with the real world when he continued to ignore a number of terrorist attacks upon American assets from 1993 to 2000? No, he had his head in the sand and refused to deal with al-Qaeda as a growing threat to American security. In truth, the Left-leaning mainstream media is incredibly biased in favor of other liberals; These journalists are blinded by their own prejudices, which taint everything they analyze. Sadly, they continue to maintain that they are "fair and objective", to the detriment of the public.

As to the fretting and alarmist charges by the mainstream media that Bush would readily use military force to implement his policy of promulgating democracy, I say "hogwash". With the exception of Iraq, which is a complicated situation, the president has already indicated that support of democracy would take many forms, but primarily in the realm of the rhetorical. Illustrative of this point, Bush readily confronted Russia's President Putin when he initially sought to support fraudulent election results in Ukraine. In his inaugural address, Bush stated: "So 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. This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. 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".

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.


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