American Proscenium

Loaded With Dynamite

According to his most fervent supporters, George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address has already taken its place among the great speeches of modern American politics.  Whether history confirms that verdict remains to be seen.

For the present, it is not the quality of the oratory but the implications for U.S. policy that deserve attention.  On that score, the outlook is far from encouraging.  For embedded in the speech like an IED buried alongside an Iraqi highway is the following assertion: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.”  At first glance, the sentiment could hardly appear more benign: Protective of their own freedoms, Americans will support freedom for others.  Who could find fault with that?  On closer examination, however, the perniciousness of this new Bush Doctrine becomes evident.

If President Bush intended, on January 20, merely to offer up frothy bromides suitable for a state occasion, we could disregard his conflation of American interests and values just as we ignore his claimed insights into the will of God.  But those closest to the President caution against doing so.  Mr. Bush, they emphasize, means what he says—albeit selectively.  The project that he has outlined is not of a moment; it is the work of generations.  In this context, the President’s melding of American interests and values takes...

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