Monday, January 24, 2005


Liberty will prevail

I don't have to quote the people of the press. It was a rhetorical success: President Bush's Inaugural Address.
I've spent the past weekend analyzing the speech and the reactions in the press. And, if you take out the polarized positions that will always editorialize (which to a certain degree is only proper) a speech like this, few dissenters are heard and an astounding majority agree that this was a very powerful speech indeed. Some ranked it as high as a top five presidential speech in the category of inaugural addresses. Delivered with a firm, confident feeling of an ideological resolution. Bush is definitely ideological. Statesman-like. And the speech itself promises some strong positions in politics.

If you haven't already... Listen too it again... and compare it with earlier speeches of its kind. I personally think that it shares a lot of both ideological and rhetorical resemblance with Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech "You and I have a rendez-vous with Destiny" .)

President Bush also made the resolute position somewhat broader and balanced between a libertarian notion (which became obvious when he mentioned The Homestead Act - the historical transformation of public goods into private property) and strong sense of communitarian ideals, as in this passage where he connects "The force of human freedom" founded by "the mission that created this nation..."

It is interesting to see how much of a thematic and semantic space that this speech shares with Bush's 2001 inaugural address. The U.S. is depicted as the good Samaritan. Without apostrophizing Thomas Jefferson as he did last time, it is clear that Bush's visions have more in common with Jefferson than with Lincoln.
Freedom was mentioned 27 times. Liberty was mentioned 15 times. And every single time freedom/liberty was used in its deontological rights/negative form. Talk about rigidity!

So what would make the coming four years more ideological? Why would Bush's address this time around find more fertile ground for the executive agenda? The answer quite possibly lies in the selection of the new cabinet, together with a new Congress dominated by fiscally conservative officials like DeMint, Thune and Coburn. It is fair to estimate that school vouchers, tax cuts for college investments and a strong reform on Social Security are top priorities. (Yes I know, as far as policies goes with the senators mentioned above, Thune didn't run on reforming Social Security. But then again - he was running against Daschle... )

And so the speech turned back to founders, and ultimately, the Founder of liberty. As if Bush had cut and pasted paragraphs out of Second Treatise of Government or Leviathan:
"History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible
direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty."

The linking of domestic and international issues was done in a confident way, when Bush stated in intrinsical value of freedom: "Freedom which is eternally right." And by pointing out: "There is no justice without freedom."
But if the personal freedom part was dominated by Jefferson, the international part became a duplication of James Monroe's address to Congress. Bush's preemptive measurements share a lot of common strategic ground with the Monroe doctrine. This is also where we do find the clash between incommensurable values that dates back to, indeed Jefferson's days: standing army/no standing army, dominance by hegemony/isolationism... but most important of them all is the new openness that distinctly draws a line between the new GOP and the old GOP version of Lincoln. Bush was strikingly humble in taking on the mantle and honor when he declared his doctrine of of preemptive interventions to defend liberty. The task, he stated, is to end "tyranny in our world. [applause] This is not primarily the tasks of arms, though we will defend our freedom and of our friends of arms when necessary. [...] 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 [...] America will not impose it's style of democracy on others [...] Democracy and freedom has to be chosen."
The last sentence in this paragraph makes all the difference. In a world of real clear politics, there are, of course, a fine line to walk and history will tell whether Bush can face up to his promise. But his address on the steps of the Capitol promises that the U.S. has traveled a long way since the days of Fort Sumter.

I will leave this post with the last paragraph from President Bush's address. It will be hard for any coming president to formulate a better stronghold for liberty than in the words of Bush:
"America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength — tested, but not weary — we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

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