Tuesday, January 25


I finally read Bush's inaugural speech. What a load of codswollop. "Freedom this and freedom that blather blather blather." It's alternately frightening and boring. Did someone say the rhetoric was "soaring"? Yeah, soaring as in over the top. I found it puerile. I wrote a better speech for the D.A.R. competition (which I won) in the ninth grade.

EJ Dionne:

But the Freedom Shuffle is a terrible mistake for Bush, because the greatest barrier to Bush's success in his second term is the intense cynicism he has inspired about his motives. [emphasis mine] This cynicism affects the near majority that voted against him at home but also a vast number of citizens in nations around the world that were once American allies. It is a cynicism that, if it spreads further through the Muslim world, could doom the very best aspirations of Bush's policy.

Bush supporters see this cynicism as mean-spirited. In fact, it is the bitter fruit of bitter experience. A war originally justified in the name of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction is transformed with some well-chosen phrases into -- presto! -- an episode in the long struggle for freedom. The shifting rationale is never acknowledged. His disquisition on this struggle did not even mention the central theater of battle in Iraq. No need to mire grand dreams in grim realities. A nation that should be the world's leading advocate of human rights gets caught up in a torture scandal, and the president has yet to hold himself or high officials accountable for this deep stain on his country's reputation.

And now we learn that we should not read too much into the president's enchanting freedom talk. He just wants to look "bold."

For his own sake and ours, Bush and his advisers should not be making it easier for adversaries and skeptical allies to dismiss freedom as an advertising slogan used to justify whatever foreign policy the administration decides to pursue. All presidents need a dose of realism, but surely this president doesn't want it said that his willingness to stand up for freedom depends on what the definition of "freedom" is.

You can spin a lot of things. Freedom shouldn't be one of them.

UPDATE: Dan Froomkin has a good wrapup of reaction to the speech.


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