Bush resolves to spread cause of liberty worldwide
The 'calling of our time,' inaugural address asserts
WASHINGTON -- Declaring an American commitment to "liberty throughout all the world," George Walker Bush yesterday took the oath of office for a second presidential term with a call for national unity in advancing the cause of freedom at home and abroad, and a vow to stamp out tyranny wherever it is found.
Bush, the nation's 43d president, used an inauguration steeped in pageantry to sketch the broad outlines of an ambitious second-term agenda. He addressed those who live under "tyranny and hopelessness," as well as American citizens, in issuing a promise to use US influence to protect the nation and spread the ideals it was founded on, saying that the nation would respond to the "calling of our time."
"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," Bush said. "America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause."
Bush, 58, added, "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."
Standing under the sun-splashed Capitol dome, framed by giant American flags and flanked by members of his family and three former presidents -- including his father -- Bush became the 16th president inaugurated for a second full term at 11:56 a.m. He gave a 21-minute speech that ran four minutes longer than expected and was seven minutes longer than the address he delivered four years ago.
With the Democratic candidate he defeated in November, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, joining his Senate colleagues on the same platform as the president, Bush called in passing for healing the nation's divisions. He committed himself to working toward such healing, but left no doubt about his belief that his administration's course, particularly its muscular foreign policy, should not be altered.
His words seemed aimed at critics of the war he launched in Iraq, though he did not mention Iraq in his speech.
"Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon," the president said. "Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty -- though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals."
Bush linked his appeal for freedom across the world to the major items on his domestic agenda. He touted his call for an "ownership society" as a way to give Americans more power over their own health care and retirement. The president has indicated that a plan to partially privatize Social Security for younger workers will be among the top priorities for his second term. That plan is already facing resistance in Congress from Democrats and Republicans.
"We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings, and health insurance, preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society," Bush said. "By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal."
As he did often as a candidate for reelection, Bush made clear the extent to which he frames his presidency around the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. While not mentioning that date, he spoke of a "day of fire" that shook America from its post-Cold War "sabbatical," and fondly recalled the national unity in response to the tragedies that "came like a single hand over a single heart."
The terrorist attacks, he said, confirmed that tyranny is the source of the hatred that leads to violence, and he demanded a renewed commitment to America's national ideals. In a 2,066-word speech, the president uttered "liberty" 15 times and "freedom" 27 times.
"We have seen our vulnerability, and we have seen its deepest source," Bush said. "Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary, we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
In another passage, he said: "America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof."
Bush, who speaks often of his faith, tinged his speech with references to religion, recalling the faith of the Founding Fathers and the importance of "governing of the self."
"That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people," he said.
Bush was sworn in by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer. Rehnquist's voice was gravelly but clear, and he walked stiffly with a cane to the podium in his first major appearance since his illness was made public three months ago. A few minutes earlier, Vice President Dick Cheney was sworn in by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.
Afterward, the president lunched with members of Congress before a limousine took him down 16 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Supporters and protesters lined the streets of the parade route -- the motorcade picked up the pace when a piece of fruit was thrown toward the vehicles -- and Bush capped his evening by attending nine inaugural balls.
At the swearing-in ceremony, at least six protesters seated in the crowd were led away by police after they began shouting anti-Bush slogans during the president's address. Three protesters, all women, were pelted by snowballs thrown by other attendees after loudly demanding that Bush "bring our troops home now."
Moments after they were led off, two men standing nearby held up a banner reading "NO WAR," and were also led away by security personnel. Near the close of Bush's speech, yet another man began noisily booing the president from his position directly in front of the inaugural podium -- so loudly that his boos were apparently heard by the president and other dignitaries seated on the Capitol steps. Bush appeared momentarily rattled by the disruption but did not pause his speech. As the protester was escorted from the lawn area, he repeatedly shouted, "Hey, Bush, where are the poor? Did you ship them all off to war?"
In the first inauguration since the terrorist attacks, security was tighter than ever in the nation's capital, with 100 blocks shut to traffic, and long lines clogging security checkpoints near the Capitol. Protesters were mostly consigned to designated zones near the Capitol and along the parade route, and while protesters made their points at high volumes, no large-scale confrontations with police occurred.
Bush's speech was received warmly by most Democrats, but several challenged him to match his soaring rhetoric about national unity with action. Kerry issued a statement saying that there "has been a lot of talk over the past four years about uniting Americans. I hope now there will be a real effort to make true bipartisanship a priority."
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, said that while Bush's talk of freedom and liberty was "inspiring," the challenges facing the nation and the world demand far more than flowery words.
"The hard realities and difficult work that confronts us will not be erased simply by a soaring statement of national purpose," Hoyer said. "The true test of national leadership begins where rhetoric alone fails to suffice."
Joseph P. Kahn of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Rick Klein can be reached at email@example.com.