Inauguration Address

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(HOST) While trying to read between the lines of the President’s inauguration address, commentator Bill Seamans has come up with an interesting prediction.

(SEAMANS) So far this week, 44 of our troops have been killed in Iraq – 6 on Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday 30 Marines and a Navy medic perished in a helicopter crash. Elsewhere, six other troops died in ambushes – the deadliest day since the war began.

The details were coming in as President Bush was giving a morning news conference. He expressed his profound sympathy to the families and said it was “very discouraging” for the American people. But, he said, the long term spread of freedom was vital. Another Marine was killed this morning.

Meanwhile, this continuing American tragedy again directs our attention to the dichotomy in our society: the multitude living as if nothing has happened and the relatively few bearing the burden of the war in Iraq.

Hardly noticed are the calls for the American public to really support the war by sharing the sacrifice involved. The Washington Post said, “The Iraq war risks are being sustained by a systemic inequity – if the cause in Iraq is as vital as President Bush insists, all Americans should contribute….” And then we recall the recent statement by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey who said, “We need to put the country at war – not just the armed forces.” If the terrorism threat here at home is as extreme as President Bush says it is, then we, the people – that is, all of we the people – should, among other things, be organized into a serious volunteer civil defense force to back up our overwhelmed First Responders.

But President Bush took a leap beyond domestic security problems and offered a broad new vision in his Inaugural address when he said his goal was to end tyranny around the world. The after-speech pundits noted that Bush mentioned “freedom” 27 times and “liberty” 15 times in a 21 minute talk. His speech was called “noble,” “soaring,” “grandiose” and even “historic.” It sounded like Bush was setting out on a new aggressive foreign policy course beyond Iraq, but that the details were hidden in nuance.

Then Bush the elder issued an unusual clarification. President Bush 41 said that President Bush 43 was not changing his foreign policy and that the speech was about “ideals” and “freedom.”

So, why did Bush – while engaged in a questionable preemptive war – make the worldwide spread of peace, freedom and democracy the core of his inauguration speech? I suggest the Orwellian possibility that President Bush has the enhancement of his legacy in mind and that perhaps his inauguration address was aimed, not only at future historians, but also at Oslo, Norway and the keepers of the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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