God Bless America

Hey, this one is for our american visitors. I couldn't resist posting a note on the New York Times forum this morning after reading William Safire's editorial on Bush's reelection speach. Safire is a professional, excuse my french, provocateur, and he sometimes hits the nail where it hurts. Painful, but necessary. Unfortunately over the years, as it usually happens, he tended to become an old fart. This time I think he strayed way into flattering nonsense, which makes you wonder if every soul is for sale. Anyway, here is the material

Published: January 21, 2005 By WILLIAM SAFIRE

On his way out of the first Cabinet meeting after his re-election, President Bush gave his longtime chief speechwriter the theme for the second Inaugural Address: "I want this to be the freedom speech."

In the next month, the writer, Michael Gerson, had a heart attack. With two stents in his arteries, the recovering writer received a call from a president who was careful not to apply any deadline pressure. "I'm not calling to see if the inaugural speech is O.K.," Bush said. "I'm calling to see if the guy writing the inaugural speech is O.K."

Yesterday's strongly thematic address was indeed "the freedom speech." Not only did the words "freedom, free, liberty" appear 49 times, but the president used the world-watched occasion to expound his basic reason for the war and his vision of America's mission in the world.

I rate it among the top 5 of the 20 second-inaugurals in our history. Lincoln's profound sermon "with malice toward none" is incomparable, but Bush's second was better than Jefferson's mean-spirited pouting at "the artillery of the press."

In Bush's "second gathering" (Lincoln called it his "second appearing"), the Texan evoked J.F.K.'s "survival of liberty" phrase to convey his central message: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." Bush repeated that internationalist human-rights idea, with a slight change, in these words: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."

The change in emphasis was addressed to accommodationists who make "peace" and "the peace process" the No. 1 priority of foreign policy. Others of us - formerly known as hardliners, now called Wilsonian idealists - put freedom first, recalling that the U.S. has often had to go to war to gain and preserve it. Bush makes clear that it is human liberty, not peace, that takes precedence, and that it is tyrants who enslave peoples, start wars and provoke revolution. Thus, the spread of freedom is the prerequisite to world peace.

It takes guts to take on that peace-freedom priority so starkly. Bush, by retaliatory and pre-emptive decisions in his first term - and by his choice of words and his tall stance in this speech, and despite his unmodulated delivery - now drives his critics batty by exuding a buoyant confidence reminiscent of F.D.R. and Truman.

He promised to use America's influence "confidently in freedom's cause." He jabbed at today's Thomases: "Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty, though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt."

Bush has seen the enemy and it is not us. Nor is it only a group of nations (the "axis of evil"). Nor is the prime enemy the tactic of terrorism.

The president identified the enemy (and did not euphemize it, as Nixon's writers did, as "the adversary") a half-dozen times in this speech. The archenemy of freedom, now as ever, is tyranny.

That's thinking big, with history in mind. That comes from reading Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident, and sends a message of hope to democrats jailed by despots in places like China, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia. Bush embraced "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world," but added that our active encouragement of reform "is not primarily the task of arms."

That was also a reference to Iraq, where the greatest danger to postelection democracy is less from Zarqawi's terrorist murderers than from the legion of Baathists who want to re-impose Saddam's brand of tyranny.

A metaphorical nitpick: he said our liberation of millions lit "a fire in the minds of men ... and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world." I would have replaced "this untamed fire," which could be dangerous, with "the light from this fire," which would have illuminated the "darkest corner." (Once a speechwriter ...)

Evidence that Bush's "freedom speech" was tightly edited for time was in his concluding evocation of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell. Cut out of a near-final draft was the line on the side of the bell from Leviticus that rings out Bush's theme: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof ..."

Well... Here is what I posted in my righteous outrage !

I have two explanations for Mr Safire incredible lack of perspective in his analysis of Mr Bush's speech. Either we will discover in a few months that he is, as today's fashion demands it, getting money as a "journalist" from the administration to promote its ideas. Or he became so infatuated with himself (quite likely) that he is ready to believe any pompous ass who repeats liberty and freedom 50 times in a row. Mr Bush's first presidency has witnessed a sharp decrease in civil liberties in America, and a global disrespect for any country in the world that didn't stride along his illiterate and agressive lines of thinking. Mr Bush doesn't like freedom. He doesn't like contradiction (remember : swedes have no army). Mr Bush likes MONEY. Mr Cheney likes MONEY. This whole administration is based around that principle. What is obviously behind this Social Security preposterous debate is the possible option for Wall Street to get a grip on all this good MONEY, and possibly, well, keep a nice chunk of it. Hey, Kenneth Lay is looking for a job, I'm sure he would do wonders in that area. The genius of this administration is to combine the worst of America's greed with the most repelling propoaganda tools of Brejhnev's era. So what do you think ? Is William Safire an active or a passive propagandist ? In any case, he deserves a red star and a one way trip to Moscow And good luck with W. The next four years are certainly not going to be peaceful. We all know he'll do the only thing he did his whole life : mess things up, use his big mouth and let somebody else pay the tab.

ven 21 jan 2005

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