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Fostering freedom abroad dominates Bush address

WASHINGTON—In his second inaugural address, President Bush declared that America's mission is to champion freedom around the world, and he touched on several sub-themes that will guide his second four-year term. Thumbnail sketches of those themes follow:

SPREADING FREEDOM IMPROVES U.S. SECURITY—"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

Meaning: Bush believes that fostering democracy abroad is necessary to protect America from its enemies, as he's attempted to do in Afghanistan and Iraq. This raises large questions about how he intends to spread democracy to other tyrannies, including such nations as Iran and North Korea and conceivably China, Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

AMERICA WON'T IMPOSE FREEDOM ON OTHERS—"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice."

Meaning: Bush took pains here to reassure the world that he doesn't intend to implant freedom in other nations by military means, but rather will encourage human rights by standing up for them. His pre-emptive war in Iraq alarmed much of the world that his America was a bully, and he was trying to ease those anxieties.

AMERICA VALUES ALLIES—"All the allies of the United States can know: We honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel and we depend on your help."

Meaning: Bush intends to reach out to traditional U.S. allies in his second term who were alienated by his war in Iraq and other actions that many abroad considered arrogant unilateralism.

BUSH DEFENDED HIS WARS—"Because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. ... By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well—a fire in the minds of men."

Meaning: The president contends that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought freedom to millions of people who had lived under tyranny. However, Afghanistan and Iraq remain mired in violence with their futures in doubt. Nevertheless, Bush hopes those examples will inspire people elsewhere to seek democracy. This is a major foreign-policy goal for his second term, especially in the Middle East.

BUSH ASKED THE YOUNG TO BE IDEALISTS—"I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. ... Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself—and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of the country, but to its character."

Meaning: Echoing John F. Kennedy, Bush was trying to inspire young Americans to serve their country, but while President Kennedy formed the Peace Corps as a vehicle for such service, Bush hasn't defined what he means.

LIBERTY MEANS ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE—Bush cited the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act and the G.I. Bill of Rights as illustrations of what he termed "the broader definition of liberty."

Meaning: He's wrapping his second-term domestic agenda in his broader liberty theme here. His plans to overhaul Social Security, mandate education standards and "build an ownership society" aim to serve the conservative Republican ideology of reducing people's dependence on government and encouraging self-reliance.

FAMILY AND FAITH—Bush said the nation's character "is built in families, supported by communities with standards and sustained in our national life by the truths of the Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Quran and the varied faiths of our people."

Meaning: Bush extolled family values and religious faith as the keys to a sound society, and took pains to include references to several religious traditions in acknowledging America's diversity and countering charges that his war against terrorism is a war against Islam.

COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM—"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."

Meaning: A signature rhetorical theme for Bush, he didn't emphasize it much in his first term, in part because fighting terrorism and the war in Iraq took precedence over domestic policy, but it resonates well with voters as he seeks to build an enduring Republican majority.

BUSH PLEDGED BIPARTISAN OUTREACH—"We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes—and I will strive in good faith to heal them."

Meaning: Bush recognizes that to achieve many of his domestic goals—especially overhauling Social Security—he must cultivate Democrats. He knows that his public support is weak for the start of a second-term presidency, and that his leverage over Congress will be greater if he can win favor from citizens who are cool to him.

BUSH DISAVOWED THAT HE KNOWS GOD'S WILL—"Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as he wills."

Meaning: Some Bush critics suspect that his religious faith may lead him to believe that God directs his decisions. Bush was trying to rebut such concerns by echoing Abraham Lincoln, who said, "The Almighty has his own purposes," in his second inaugural address, in 1865.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): INAUGURATION

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