Bush’s Inaugural Speech: “Political Preaching” Full of Religious Enthusiasm
Source: Xinhuanet, January 23, 2005
Ideas As Opposed to Reality
Because of the many controversies over Bush’s domestic and international policies during his first presidency, it has been widely expected that President Bush’s inaugural speech would stress the unity of American people, suggest reconciliation with their allies, and strive to establish the amenity with the rest of the world. Instead, in the twenty-one minute speech, Bush not only continues to build up the momentum of the new conservative values by the White House policy team, but also, in his systematic hardliner approach, paves the road for turning the world upside down. Throughout the speech, there is no trace of reconciling with the rest of the world. Instead, the speech is full of American-style arrogance and prejudice: America is always correct.
In his carefully prepared inaugural speech, President Bush talks about “freedom.” The word “freedom” occurs as many as forty-nine times. As President Bush stressed, during his second presidential, he will strive hard to spread democracy and freedom around the world, “in order to fulfill the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” He vowed to “change” the United States diplomatic policies to make human rights the “decisive priority matter” in U.S. diplomacy. He suggested that only freedom can “break the hatred and chains that led to the 9-11 terrorist attack.” Bush said that from now on, the relationship between the United States and the governments of various nations would, to a great degree, depend on “the decent treatment of their own people.” In this regard, Bush praised the United States as the lighthouse in the “dark world,” and he promised to fight the dictatorships that “bind the people in own their countries.” “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know that the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you,” Bush said. Even in the inauguration speech by former President Carter, who was elected mainly for his human rights diplomacy, there was never a speech full of such an intense “ideological emotion.”
With regard to the difficulties the United States is currently facing in the reconstruction of Iraq, Bush stressed that the American people must have some “idealism.” Now what is the “idealism” that Bush calls on the American people to cherish? The key point of Bush’s speech is still to spread “democracy” and “freedom” around the world. Moreover, he requested that the American people not avoid the difficulties, but instead sacrifice for world “democracy” and “freedom.” Whatever difficulties arise in this process require “idealism” to resolve. Nevertheless, Bush did not mention anything on how to accomplish this world “democracy” and “freedom,” or how to let people in every country better enjoy this democracy and freedom.
More “Lip Service” Than “Actions”
To the European allies who are longing for the United States to extend their enthusiastic arms, their disappointment in Bush’s speech is apparent. Instead of any new proposal to improve the relationship between the United States and its European allies, the inaugural speech continues to emphasize that any disagreement between the United States and its allies will be exploited by terrorists. It implies that unless Europe and other U.S. allies follow on the heels of Americans, the global anti-terrorist collaboration will be weakened, and the anti-terrorist goal will not be accomplished. Such a tone is reminiscent of the very logic that Bush followed in his first term of Presidency: on the issue of anti-terrorism and Iraqi war, failing to follow the United States or accept the American standards and conduct is equivalent to sabotaging anti-terrorism.
Throughout the whole speech, there is no trace that the Bush Administration is ready to weaken or change its “unilateralist” policy.
In his speech, Bush stressed that the United States “sees its own fragility as well as the root cause of America’s fragility.” Then what is the root cause? In Bush’s answer, it is the “hatred and tyranny” that the world is unable to get rid of. This is obviously an ideology of “deepening hatred and pardoning murderers.” To this end, Bush claims that it is the policy of the United States “to seek and support ¡®democratic movements’ in every nation and culture.” The problem is, however, that the very choice of the government system of each nation is the result of its particular culture, its particular tradition, and its specific level of development. The understanding of freedom is, too, is deeply rooted in various cultures and development. Given that the American President asserts that the “American-style” democracy is the sole solution to dissolving hatred and eliminating violence, one may ask, where is the path to that goal? Since the end of World War II, the international community has been striving to seek harmony, freedom, and democracy for sixty years. While Bush denies the differences among nations and claims that democracy and freedom will solve every problem the world is presently facing, what are the conditions and foundations that the growth and strengthening of democracy and freedom rely on?
In the chilly wind of January 20 in Washington D.C., President Bush did not shout, nor did he show his great enthusiasm, although he was talking about the topic that is supposed to inspire Americans and the people in the world—the freedom and democracy of mankind. With graying hair, the fifty-eight-year-old former Texas governor attempted to keep the tone of his speech as mild as possible. Nevertheless, the message he was delivering to the whole world is strong and crystal clear: after the controversial first term of his presidency, he will not be changed by the world; it is impossible for the world to change America, either. The world can only await the American President to make changes in the way that he deems worthy of pursuit. In Bush’s inaugural speech, what we can read are not only the hardliner languages full of ideological coloring by the new conservatives, but also the strong religious flavor that is characteristic whenever the U.S. government interprets “freedom” in its diplomatic policy, as is illustrated by the frequent reference to the “Bible” in the inaugural speech.
If the core of the diplomatic policy in the second term of the Bush Administration is the new conservatism, which was released in the inaugural speech as frantically as in religions, what is the future goal of American diplomacy? Is it “enforcing the rules in accordance with heaven’s decree?”
By and large, Bush’s inaugural speech on January 20 can be summarized as follows: there isn’t anybody else in the world.
(By Zhu Feng, Professor and Adviser of PhD students at the College of International Relations, Beijing University; and an expert in the studies of international relations, American affairs, and the Missile Defense Shield.)
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