Below is my running commentary on Bush's inaugural speech. Too bad heckling the president is a federal crime.
....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.
And have you notified the leaders of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Uzbekistan that you're going to make bringing liberty and freedom to their lands the number-one national security priority for your administration?
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government.
Is that why we overthrew democratic governments in Iran and Chile and cozied up to the racist regime in South Africa? for years.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
What have you done lately to support the democrats of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia, or China?
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen.
Did Iraqis choose to be invaded and occupied in a fashion that has led to tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths?
America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
So why did your administration impose its choice for Iraqi interim president upon the UN official in charge of selecting the person for that post?
The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.
After the first Persian Gulf War, the Kuwait government promised to implement democratic reforms. It has not kept its promises, Have you used his considerable influence to promote freedom and democracy there?
We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people.
Does Pakistan "President" Pervez Musharraf know about this?
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty.
Please, Mr. President, name someone who has. You often say this, but you never tell us who you have in mind. We cannot hound these people out of polite society until you tell us who they are.
Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals.
Should they be surprised by the fact that America's standing abroad is at an all-time low?
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Mr. President, if a fellow were to stand in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square after hearing this speech, what precisely would you do for him?
Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.
Will US ambassadors in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and elsewhere demand access to imprisoned dissidents and political opponents, explaining to the governments of those countries that the United States recognizes these people as the "future leaders"?
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
You neglected to mention that Alabama voters in November rejected a measure that would have erased provisions in the state's constitution that support segregated schools and the use of poll taxes.
The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them.
When American citizens wanted to know which energy industry executives were advising Vice President Cheney's energy task force, you weren't keen on trusting them. You and Cheney refused to share this information with the "people." Do you have trust issues?
And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel.
But we will dismiss your counsel--and even deride it--if it does not accord with our own views.
Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies.
Yet in 2003 you showed no concern that your decision to short-circuit the inspections process in Iraq and launch an invasion without the support of the UN and key allies would lead to "division among free nations."
Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens: From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure.
But you have not dared asked the wealthiest among us to pay a dime extra for our defense in these difficult times. In fact, you have not even asked them to pay the same tax rates under which they got rich in the first place.
Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom.
Perhaps more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead because you have "acted." How about compensation for their families?
And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well--a fire in the minds of men.
The National Intelligence Council notes that the war in Iraq has created a breeding ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists. Did you read its report?
All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself -- and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.
But you're not going to ask your kids to go over there, right?
In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character -- on integrity....
Such as leaders telling the truth about national security threats?
...and tolerance toward others.
But apparently not gay people who want to live in legally-recognized, committed, stable relationships.
Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self.
Unless, of course, the issue is reproductive rights. In that case, we do not believe in self-government of the self.
That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people.
By the way, do you still believe, as you once said, that God does not hear the prayers of Jews?
In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak.
Which is why your administration has been considering cutbacks in programs for low-income Americans.
Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth.
But we can execute those who commit a crime--even if they have lousy lawyers.
And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes -- and I will strive in good faith to heal them.
How? By continuing your practice of saying untrue remarks about your political opponents?
Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart.
And why was it that you could not maintain that unity as the grand leader of the nation? Why did you claim during the 2002 congressional campaign that Democrats put their own political self-interest about the national security of the nation?
America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength -- tested, but not weary -- we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
When--and, more importantly, where? Please tell us.
David Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation magazine, has spent years analyzing the policies and pursuing the lies that spew out of the nation's capital. He is a novelist, biographer, and television and radio commentator who is able to both decipher and scrutinize Washington.
© 2005 The Nation