Thursday, January 20, 2005

Previewing the second term

After being sworn in for a second presidential term by Chief Justice Rehnquist, President Bush delivered an inauguration speech that was for the most part composed of flowery words with little in substance. Most speeches of this sort tend to be like that, but nonetheless there were still some revealing moments that may predict Bush's agenda over the next four years:

On democracy:
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.

So why are we still doing business with corrupt countries around the world, most of all the Arab dictatorships that rely on oil for their survival? I've not seen the Bush administration do much to support democracy anywhere except in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then only for primary reasons very different from fostering the growth of democracy. I would not be surprised if Bush uses the democracy argument to intervene again somewhere in the next four years. And to think he said he was against "nation building" when he ran four years ago!

More on democracy:

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.

What have we done in the last four years but impose our visions of freedom on others? From Iraq to Afghanistan to free trade, the Bush administration has consistently advocated but a single conception of freedom. Whether this is the best form of freedom is another question altogether, and a very controversial one.

On social security:

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the GI Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time.

To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. 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.

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.

The last sentence in particular comes straight out of the New Deal, when President Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights that would have guaranteed freedom from want and fear. Do not be fooled. By simultaneously harkening back to the New Deal and laying the groundwork to "widen ownership" of retirement savings, Bush is praising social security while preparing to undermine its very foundations.On good citizenship:

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service and mercy and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love.

I haven't heard the term "compassionate conservatism" bandied about much lately, but whenever I hear this phrase, I know that something bad is about to happen to those in need. I think only half-jokingly that rather than describe people who are genuinely compassionate, the term "compassionate conservatism" tends to describe those who are conservative with their compassion. The phrase is a way to try to soften the blow by implying that those in need will still be taken care of, but all the goodness of people's hearts won't help many of those in need. Many of the problems of those in need stem from structural factors that the private sector alone cannot solve, such as the persistence of ghettoes and the more than 40 million people without health insurance.


Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

Let's not forget Ukraine, steel tariffs and quotas on Chinese bras!

1/20/2005 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger sling said...

"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."

i bet bush really wants to openly support taiwan and ruin the lovely status quo between china and the US.

1/21/2005 04:50:00 PM  

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