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Balkin [Yale]: Bush's Second Inaugural Address

Jack Balkin, Yale Law School:

"I liked Bush's second inaugural address, which argued for the cause of freedom around the world, very much. I also liked his first inaugural address, which sounded very moderate, spoke of justice, tolerance, and aid to the poor, and pledged to work together with everyone. However, I also remember that his performance in is first term reflected very little of his pretty words.

My view about Bush's second inaugural is quite similar. Who could be against promoting the cause of liberty around the world? There were phrases in this speech that could have come from Woodrow Wilson or, for that matter, Jimmy Carter. The real questions are (1) whether Bush means what he says, and (2) whether he has the competence to carry out his promises.

After all, we are currently in a very difficult war in Iraq because Bush insisted that he knew what he was doing in responding to a threat from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, weapons that turned out not to have been there. As it became increasingly clear that the weapons were nowhere to be found the President shifted gears and informed us that all along his primary and real goal had been to bring democracy to Iraq and hence to the Middle East.

But let us assume that the President is completely sincere, and that the experience of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown him the light, so that he truly does understand that the promotion of freedom around the world is and should be his primary goal. Good for him. Still, if I were to trust anyone to carry out this goal, I would not choose George W. Bush based on his first term performance, a performance that has sufficiently stretched our economic and military capacities that we are practically unsuited to make realistic threats of force anywhere else in the world that would make our diplomacy effective. The problem is that because of Iraq, all we can do is talk big, but do little. Very much, I fear, like Bush's second inaugural itself." [January 21, 2005; Balkinization has the post]

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