Inauguration Day 2005
President Bush appeared calm, rested, and dignified for today's ceremonies, with just a touch of the typical Bush unease. He has a tough rhetorical task: to reassure the public that the nation is reasonably safe, while exhorting the citizenry to stay on their guard and persevere in the long campaign against our shadowy foe. In case anyone hasn't been paying attention, he drilled home once again the central theme to justify his administration's forward policy in the struggle againt the Islamic terrorists, without quite naming them as such. A key passage in his inaugural address came fairly early:
We have seen our vulnerability, and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny -- prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder -- violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat.
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.
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. ... [SOURCE: cnn.com]
The speech was remarkable for its tight focus on this one driving theme. The President reminded Americans of the need for patience, but he stopped short of asking for across-the-board sacrifice. Instead, he appealed to the idealism and sense of honor of those citizens who have heard the call to duty, in or out of uniform. As for the inaugural festivities, some people suggested that celebration is not appropriate in a time of war, citing FDR's curtailment of parties for his fourth (!) inauguration in January , but that probably reflected the fact that he was gravely ill by that time. Solemn reflection is surely called for. It was appropriate that our armed forces were given special honors at one of the inaugural balls, and President and Mrs. Bush even danced with soldiers, probably setting a unique precedent.
In the streets of Washington, hundreds of dissenters assembled in hopes of drawing attention or disrupting the ceremonies, but apparently achieved very little. The minimal level of violence is something to be thankful for.
Bill Thomas on Social Security
An article in Wednesday's Washington Post suggested that a defection may break out within the Republican Party over the Social Security issue. They quoted Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA) as saying that the President's plan is "a dead horse." (What "plan"? Bush has only laid out the general direction he wants to go thus far.) Thomas stated his main point in blunt terms:
"What I'm trying to get people to do is get out of the narrow moving around of the pieces inside the Social Security box," Thomas said at a forum on Bush's second term sponsored by the National Journal. "If we miss this opportunity . . . I think we will have missed an opportunity that may not present itself for another 20 years."
I happened to see most of that forum sponsored on C-SPAN yesterdat morning, and I came away with a somewhat different impression. I too have stressed how important it is to seize that "window of opportunity," before it vanishes, and Thomas seems to be one of the most committed to tackling tough issues on the Republican side. Also present at that forum was Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist who has earned a reputation as a political bruiser in Washington. Norquist emphasized the goal of enabling individual Americans to achieve their own financial freedom, as part of the vision of an "ownership society." Thomas noted that Norquist seems not to care whether the Social Security system goes belly up, and Norquist didn't try to deny it. My sense is that Norquist's focus on tax cutting blinds him to the urgency of other structural reforms, such as tort liability. The other discussants were Gene Sperling, a top economist under Clinton who agreed that some changes in Social Security are needed, and Celinda Lake, an activist from the Democrats' obstructionist wing who could scarcely contain her gleeful anticipation of regaining a majority in the House in the 2006 elections if, as she hopes, the Republican reform agenda crashes and burns. To his immense credit, Thomas emphatically scolded her irresponsible, hyperpartisan indifference to the public interest.