- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

President Bush opens his second term at noon today with one eye on an ambitious domestic agenda and the other on his legacy as a leader of the free world seeking to establish freedom and democracy in the Middle East and beyond.

His 17-minute inaugural address, which by late yesterday already had gone through 20 revisions, will reflect the soul of a man who sees freedom as God’s gift to mankind and the spread of democracy as an unstoppable force for good.

“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,” he will say, according to excerpts released last night by the White House.

“America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home ? the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty,” he will say.

Mr. Bush, whose agenda includes making his tax cuts permanent, reforming the Social Security system and revamping U.S. immigration laws — all while overseeing 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq as commander in chief — knows Americans are skeptical.

“You’re probably sitting there saying, ‘Has the guy bit off more than he can chew?’ The answer is, we will work as hard as we can to get as much as we can get done, as quickly as possible,” the president told The Washington Times in an interview in the Oval Office last week.

In the nation’s first presidential inauguration since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, security will be tight as an estimated 500,000 people flock to Washington for the noon swearing-in on the West Front of the Capitol and the traditional afternoon parade along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

The weather — forecast to be cold and breezy with occasional light snow — also is expected to play a factor in what some officials predict will be gridlocked roads and even more packed public transportation.

By evening, even before Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush head out for a night of dancing and revelry, the weight of the presidency will be upon him again. Tomorrow, he will awake to begin work on a massive agenda that he will begin pursuing inside a frenetic schedule for the next 30 days.

After today’s speech — expected to pound home the message that, as Mr. Bush says, “Freedom is powerful” — the president and his team of advisers will prepare for the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

Soon after, Mr. Bush will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. That speech will be heavy on domestic agenda items, including revamping Social Security and trimming the deficit. Later next month, he will submit his fiscal 2006 budget, expected to hold an increase in discretionary spending to less than 2 percent.

Also in February, Mr. Bush will take the first overseas trip of his second term, making several stops in Europe and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He will do all this while searching for someone to take the powerful new position of national intelligence director and working to re-establish the Israeli-Palestinian peace process after this month’s Palestinian elections.

For Mr. Bush, that is just the way he likes it.

“The president does have an exceptionally ambitious agenda — some say too ambitious — but that only makes him push harder,” said a former administration official who asked not to be named. “This is a guy who loves winning the fight everyone says can’t be won.”

Mr. Bush, whose annual physicals show a 58-year-old man in superb health, approaching that of a world-class athlete, says he is ready for the tough work ahead.

“My enthusiasm is high for the job and looking forward to it,” he told The Times. “I put a good team together in the first four years; I’ve got a good team this second four years, and ready to lead.”

Although the president has spent the past two days attending inaugural balls and thanking his supporters for working to return him to office, he also has been putting the final touches on his inaugural speech.

With his busy schedule — Mr. Bush had popped in on nearly a dozen inaugural events by late last night and he spent lunchtime with his 146 members of his extended family at the White House — the president has had little time to run through his address.

Still, he knows what he plans to say.

“I see the fact that people want to be free, they long to be free, and that freedom is beginning to take hold. I’m going to talk about this in my inaugural address,” the president told Fox News this week.

“It speaks to the values and hopes of our country. And I guess the best way to summarize it is: Freedom is powerful,” he told NBC News.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “He will talk about his hopeful vision for America and the world. He will be addressing the American people and the world in his remarks. It is a liberty speech. The president will talk about the power of freedom. Peace is secured by advancing freedom.”

Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that he plans to enjoy his inauguration more this time around, saying his last parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in 2001 was a blur.

“I think I’ll have a different perspective this time,” he told NBC News this week. “I feel like I’ll be participant and observer. I look forward to soaking in much more of the atmosphere and the environment. It’ll be a proud moment.”

Mr. Bush took time yesterday to seek inspiration for his inauguration by viewing some of America’s founding documents.

The president and first lady went to the National Archives in the morning for a look at George Washington’s handwritten 1789 inaugural address, the Bible on which the country’s first president placed his hand as he took the oath of office, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Asked whether he was feeling the history of the moment, Mr. Bush turned to reporters and said, “Absolutely.”

Mr. McClellan said, “The weather and the fragile nature” of the Washington Bible will prevent Mr. Bush from using it when he takes the oath of office. Instead, he will place his hand on the Bush family Bible that he used in 2001, which also was used by his father in 1989 and for his brother’s gubernatorial inaugural in Florida.

By the time Mr. Bush finishes his second term in 2009, he might have transformed Social Security and the tax code while reshaping the Supreme Court and American foreign policy.

“He has presided over the most sweeping redesign of U.S. grand strategy since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Yale University history professor John Lewis Gaddis writes in the latest issue of Foreign Policy.

Although Mr. Bush is mindful of his place in history — just 16 of the 42 previous presidents earned second terms — he says he is not concerned with his legacy.

“You know, first of all, I don’t think I’ll be around to really see the history,” he said on CBS this week.

Then, quickly writing the first draft of history in his head, he added: “How about this: that George W. Bush used the great influence of America to spread freedom at home and abroad.”

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