(20 January 2005)


Shawn J. Parry-Giles

University of Maryland


In the aftermath of a contentious election situated within a wartime context, President George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Address received considerable attention from journalists and political pundits eager for news on the next phase of the war on terrorism. Surprisingly not mentioning Iraq by name, the president delivered what some in the press noted was an unprecedented inaugural address. The day after, Washington Post editorialists commented on the "expansive idealism" and "breathtaking ambition" of what has become known as the "freedom address." Bush had proposed an "extraordinary escalation of national aims," they concluded.[1] Other Post writers gave voice to critics' complaints that the speech represented a "major and potentially mistaken expansion of U.S. foreign policy goals."[2] William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, also called the speech "rare" and "historic" while the president's own staffers referred to the address as "bold."[3] Even President Bush accentuated the originality of his own words in the speech, noting in one instance that the nation, through him, "speaks anew to the peoples of the world" (14) just as he also "speak[s] anew to my fellow citizens" (20).[4] In the aftermath of the speech, the president, his staffers, and even his own father worked to downplay its interventionist implications, which incited what the USA Today called, "alarm, skepticism, and defiance" among "[f]oreign governments and commentators."[5]

The post-inaugural reaction clearly suggested that President Bush's Second Inaugural Address represented an historic speech that expanded the parameters of U.S. foreign policy.[6] Despite such sentiment, just how unprecedented was this inaugural address, especially when compared to the ceremonial and wartime discourse of other presidents? This essay addresses this question and demonstrates the ways in which the president's Second Inaugural Address articulated a unique foreign policy yet simultaneously reflected the historical, ideological, and linguistic precedents of other wartime presidents delivering a second inaugural address (and, in the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a third and fourth inaugural address). As Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson remind us, "Presidential use of the principles, policies, and presidencies of the past suggests that, in the inaugural addresses, memoria . . . is a key source of inventio."[7] Bush's wartime inaugural reflected many of these past commitments, yet it also departed from past foreign policy precedents, as Bush articulated a doctrine of unilateralism and seemed to contribute to the erosion in the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Before turning to an analysis of President Bush's Second Inaugural Address, however, a history of presidential war doctrines will help contextualize this speech.


Presidential Doctrines of War


Precedents were established early in U.S. history that vested decisions over foreign policy in the office of the presidency. Although Congress was granted the power "To declare war" in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2 determined that "The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." In negotiating this balance of powers, Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese contend that President George Washington "set a few precedents for unilateral executive action" with his issuance of the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 without congressional consent. Accordingly, they conclude, "Congress willingly conceded to Washington most of the executive powers he exercised, especially those in foreign policy matters." To lessen "monarchical fears," however, presidents often showed deference to Congress, with most assuming "only necessary executive powers." Because the majority took a "prudent" course, presidents were given latitude on international matters.[8]

Presidents found themselves embroiled in many external conflicts early on and this external focus helped fashion U.S. foreign policy precedents. Publicly, several presidents committed themselves to neutrality on matters of foreign policy unless such affairs affected the United States directly. Washington called for "holding a neutral conduct" on European matters because of the dangers associated with "a passionate attachment of one nation for another [which] produces a variety of evils."[9] In addition to large scale wars like the War of 1812, where President James Madison declared that Great Britain "Abandon[ed] . . . . respect for the neutral rights of the United States . . . on the high seas,"[10] there were smaller military excursions that often involved battles at sea over trading and piracy.[11] Such conflicts, while designed to protect U.S. economic interests, can be viewed as the initial stages of U.S. internationalism.

As a further reflection of both U.S. neutrality and internationalism, the Monroe Doctrine, issued by President James Monroe on December 2, 1823, declared America's "neutrality" in European skirmishes and worked to dissuade against future colonialist actions in the "Americas." As Monroe announced, "any attempt" to "extend their [Europe's] system to any portion of this hemisphere [was] dangerous to our peace and safety" and would be viewed as an invasion of U.S. "rights."[12] The Monroe Doctrine, Jeremy Rabkin contends, has long been "considered the cornerstone of American foreign policy" even as its dictates have been altered over the course of time.[13]

Even before and certainly after the United States declared its protectionist interests in the Americas, presidents exhibited expansionist tendencies. By the beginning of the Civil War, the United States had acquired new territory from the Louisiana Purchase (1803), and the Mississippi (1804), Orleans (1804), Michigan (1805), Illinois (1809), and Indiana (1809) territories. The Texas Annexation occurred in the same year as the acquisition of the Oregon territories (1845), and the Mexican cession followed three years later (1848). Albert K. Weinberg links America's expansionist activities to "the evolution of American nationalism."[14]

By the time of the Spanish-American War, when the United States battled Spain for control over Cuba and ultimately Puerto Rico and the Philippines, presidential discourse reflected most visibly the ideologies of U. S. internationalism. In the war's aftermath, President William McKinley embarked on a four-year long war to govern the Philippines--what many often view as the nation's first international battle outside of the circumference of the Monroe Doctrine. McKinley also expanded presidential war powers by sending troops to defend against the Boxers in China without congressional approval.[15]

Even though McKinley faced formidable opposition from political leaders like William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt expanded the interventionist tendencies of the United States after McKinley's assassination through what has become known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. During his "Annual Message to Congress" on December 6, 1904, Roosevelt justified enhanced U.S. involvement in Latin American countries when economic and military exigencies warranted it, turning the United States into an international police force of sorts. In defining this new international role for the nation, Roosevelt declared:


If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may . . .

ultimately require intervention . . . . and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.[16]


As John Higham claims, Roosevelt's vision of U.S. internationalism "sounded the tocsin of a new era."[17] Toward such ends, Roosevelt deployed U.S. troops and/or military and economic administrators to places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua "not because certain Latin American states harbored intent to harm" the United States, "but because he believed that economic and political instability in the region would invite European creditor nations to collect debts by force, which would be detrimental to American hegemony and security."[18]

The power of the executive branch continued to expand throughout the twentieth century, especially in relation to the presidential activities surrounding World Wars I and II. Forrest McDonald argues that Presidents Woodrow Wilson's and Franklin D. Roosevelt's "war powers" during both world wars exhibited more "dictatorial powers."[19] Of Roosevelt, Erwin C. Hargrove writes that his views of "international relations were a blend of the realism of Theodore Roosevelt, who recognized the importance of national power in a lawless world, and the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, who envisioned the United States as the apostles of peace and law among nations." FDR evinced an ability to "misuse the powers of the presidency," as in the case of the Lend-Lease program of World War II, which he implemented secretly by sending weapons to the Allied forces before obtaining congressional approval.[20]

The presidential doctrines of the Cold War era justified further intervention in the affairs of nations throughout the world in order to forestall the spread of communism and ultimately to protect U.S. security interests. In his March 12, 1947, Truman Doctrine, President S Harry Truman justified the financial support of Greece and Turkey as a means to prevent communist expansion to these war-torn regions. Reflecting the philosophical underpinnings of his Cold War doctrine, Truman asserted: "The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedom. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world."[21] With the Nixon Doctrine, President Richard Nixon announced to the world that the United States expected its allies to assume primary responsibility for their own defense. "Vietnamization" put that doctrine into effect in Vietnam, where the "primary mission" of U.S. troops became "to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam." By providing supplies and training to the Southeast Asian soldiers, the Nixon administration hoped to enable them to take over their own fight against the North Vietnamese communists.[22] As the Cold War came to an end, President Ronald Reagan's doctrine sought to provide both covert and overt military and economic aid to countries in order to overturn unfriendly governments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On March 23, 1983, Reagan declared in his "Star Wars" address that "It's up to us, in our time, to choose and choose wisely between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day."[23] Within three years, Reagan justified what he defined as a "preemptive action" against Libya on the grounds that "When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world on the direct orders of a hostile regime, we will respond."[24]

The assertion of presidential war powers by issuing a doctrine is thus commonplace in U.S. history. Reflecting the importance of the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, however, Louis Fisher rightly explains that while "the President can initiate policies on his own . . . those statements of national policy survive only with congressional support or acquiescence."[25] And while such doctrines are often attributed to one particular speech or document, the explication of those ideals takes place across multiple public statements of a given presidential administration. The Bush Doctrine, traced to the president's Graduation Speech at West Point on June 1, 2002, is also further illuminated over two years later in his Second Inaugural Address of January 20, 2005. As the U.S. war in Afghanistan approached its fourth year and the U.S. war against Iraq neared the end of its second year, almost 1,500 U.S. soldiers had lost their lives by the time that President Bush took his second oath of office. Such a context raised expectations about the Bush blueprint for war as his second term commenced.[26]


The Internationalism of George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Address


In many ways, the fact that George W. Bush would become president and lead the nation in the war on terrorism is not too surprising given his family history. In tracing his mother's side of the family back in time, Barbara Pierce Bush's great-great-great uncle was Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States (1853-1857); her grandfather on her mother's side was also an Ohio Supreme Court justice.[27] The president's paternal grandfather, Prescott Bush, served as a U.S. Senator from Connecticut during the earliest years of the U.S. war against communism; and his father, George H.W. Bush, helped bring to an end the Cold War as the 41st president of the United States (1989-1993). Even though Prescott Bush was viewed by many as a possible Republican heir to President Dwight Eisenhower, he opted to leave the U.S. Senate and politics for health reasons in 1962; two years later, Bush's father would make his first Senate bid, embarking on a life of politics. And fourteen years after that, Bush himself would enter the political process for the first time, running as the Republican nominee for Congress from west Texas in his unsuccessful congressional bid of 1978. It would be another sixteen years before Bush would seek elective office again, when he successfully defeated Democratic Governor Ann Richards in 1994 during a contentious Texas gubernatorial race. He had entered his second term in office before becoming the 43rd president of the United States on January 20, 2001--only nine months before the September 11 terrorist attacks.[28]

While the Bush family's political background likely impacted his ultimate bid for the presidency, the historical and political assumptions surrounding the first Persian Gulf War (1991) undoubtedly helped frame Bush's responses to the attacks against the United States in 2001. George H.W. Bush, of course, served as the commander-in-chief of the Persian Gulf War, also known as Desert Storm. As Jack S. Levy asserts, the notion of "preventative logic," or what others have often defined in terms of a doctrine of pre-emption, was instrumental in the U.S. war against Iraq in the early 1990s. During Desert Storm as well as the war on terrorism, the fear of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iraqi leaders functioned as a public justification for war and arguably propelled both Bush administrations to react militarily. For Levy, the "preventative war logic," most significantly, served as an "important . . . rationale" for the wars in the Middle East that occurred at the turn of the twenty-first century.[29]

Even though presidential inaugural addresses are typically understood as ceremonial speeches that fulfill the ritual of a presidential transfer of power,[30] Campbell and Jamieson contend that they can also "lay the groundwork for policy initiatives."[31] For Bush's Second Inaugural Address, the underlying policy initiative involved a reaffirmation of the Bush Doctrine. For some, the aggressive connotations of the speech were worrisome; civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, for example, framed the president's foreign policy as "democracy forged at gunpoint."[32] Defining the reach of the nation's authority under the Bush Doctrine, President Bush proclaimed: "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" (5). This internationalist perspective, of course, was reaffirmed in the aftermath of September 11. Reminding his listeners of the terrorist attacks, President Bush warned: "We have seen our vulnerability . . . violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat" (4).

The commitment to promote freedom around the world was reminiscent of manifest destiny--the belief that America had a God-given duty to spread its ideals and way of life. As historian Reginald Horsman explains, "Since the seventeenth century the idea of the Americans as 'chosen people' had permeated first Puritan and then American thought."[33] The term manifest destiny is often attributed to John O'Sullivan,[34] who as editor of the Democratic Review, declared in 1839 that, "The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness . . . . Its floor shall be a hemisphere--its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation [a] Union of many Republics . . . governed by God's natural and moral law of equality."[35] Reflecting such commitments, President Bush proclaimed in more than one instance that "This liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity."[36]

During his Second Inaugural Address, however, President Bush was more cautious in uttering more overt expressions of manifest destiny. He expressed his faith in meeting the goals of freedom, asserting: "Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills" (30). Yet, early on in the speech, vestiges of manifest destiny were reflected in the president's suggestion that "From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights . . . . Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation . . . . Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time" (6).

A key feature of the rhetoric of manifest destiny is the notion of forward progress, which Max Boot describes as the nineteenth century spirit of "restless Yankees" expanding "across the North American continent and beyond."[37] Walter Russell Mead elaborates on the link between manifest destiny and forward progress, noting that "the United States has both a moral obligation and an important national interest in spreading American democratic . . . values throughout the world."[38] The forward movement of President Bush's rhetoric is unmistakable as he talked of the movement of freedom. In recalling the past four decades, for example, he noted the "swiftest advance of freedom ever seen" (13). He also characterized the world as "moving toward liberty" (24); and he proclaimed that "We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom" (30).

A key metaphor for the Second Inaugural Address that likewise connoted a sense of freedom's expansion is the president's reference to the "fire of freedom" (21). Such symbolism reinforced the naturalized connotations of the Bush Doctrine, which he grounded in images of not only God but also nature. The fire that the president spoke of at once offered a sense of danger as well as hope. President Bush referred to September 11 as the "day of fire" (3), whose threat continued as "whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny" (4). Yet for the president, "hope kindles hope," as the United States had "lit a fire . . . a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world" (21).

The combination of these themes--manifest destiny and the forward movement in the progress of freedom--likewise reflected the rhetorical remnants of the New Frontier. The New Frontier, for Bush, was not western expansion in the contiguous United States or space exploration, but rather the forward reach of the country throughout the world. When forecasting the closure of the frontier in 1894, Frederick Jackson Turner had talked of the connection between "the advance of the frontier" and the "line of most rapid and effective Americanization."[39] Bush paid homage to such Americanization as he declared at the close of his speech: "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" (31). For Bush, as for Turner, Americanization was synonymous with democracy. As Turner contended: "…the most important effect of the frontier has been in the promotion of democracy here and in Europe."[40] Similarly for Bush, the U.S. role worldwide involved helping to "raise up free governments" (22) and to "support the growth of democratic movements" (7).

This call, then, for a more internationalist perspective is a key tenet not only of the Bush Doctrine but also of presidential discourse throughout the twentieth century. As Woodrow Wilson declared in his Second Inaugural Address of 1917, delivered less than a month before the United States entered the Great War, we are "citizens of the world. There can be no turning back."[41] FDR argued similarly in 1945 during his Fourth Inaugural Address: "We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away . . . . we must live as men and not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger."[42] And in his Second Inaugural Address of 1973, Richard Nixon charged that "a time of retreat and isolation . . . invites new danger abroad,"[43] which is a key rhetorical feature of President Bush's war discourse as well.

Images of manifest destiny likewise have permeated the presidential inaugurals. As FDR argued in 1945: "The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways . . . . He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world."[44] When Richard Nixon closed his speech in 1973, he called for "America," on its "200th birthday" to "be as young and as vital as when it began, and as bright a beacon of hope for all the world. Let us go forward from here," he proclaimed, "confident in hope . . . sustained by our faith in God who created us, and always to serve His purpose."[45]

Vestiges of the New Frontier were also visible in certain inaugurals, as were references to the nation's forward progress. In the midst of the U.S. war in the Philippines, William McKinley noted in his Second Inaugural Address of 1901 that "The Republic has marched on and on, and its step has exalted freedom and humanity." In reflecting a discourse of forward movement and the spread of democracy, President McKinley talked about the "path of progress," which was "seldom smooth."[46] Quoting one of his childhood school teachers, FDR argued in 1945 that "'the trend of civilization itself is forever upward.'"[47] Speaking more specifically of democracy, Roosevelt concluded in his Third Inaugural Address (just months before the country entered the war) that "our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy . . . ." Like President Bush, FDR suggested a sense of inevitability of democracy "spreading on every continent--for it is the most humane, the most advanced, and in the end the most unconquerable of all forms of human society."[48]

Metaphors of fire naturalized democracy in the inaugural addresses. In his 1941 inaugural, FDR suggested that "democratic aspiration . . . blazed anew in the Middle Ages." He also cited George Washington's first inaugural and the first president's expression of the "'sacred fire of liberty.'"[49] Using the fire metaphor in a somewhat different way, to reflect the dangers that lay ahead, President Wilson warned in his 1917 Inaugural Address that the "fires that now blaze throughout the world," required a sense of "new unity."[50]

Bush's Second Inaugural reflected all of these rhetorical and foreign policy legacies of past wartime inaugurals, which evidences to a certain extent the sense of rhetorical and historical amnesia apparent among political pundits and journalists. While the similarities are visible, however, there also were unique qualities to Bush's Second Inaugural Address that furthered the contestation surrounding it.

One apparently unique feature of Bush's speech is related to what Campbell and Jamieson describe as the presidential acknowledgement of the "limitations of the executive office." As Jamieson and Campbell explain, "[t]o the extent that [presidents] promise strong leadership, they risk being seen as incipient tyrants," which results in an affirmation of the "balance of power" and the location of "executive initiatives in the mandate of the people," offering some evidence of "humility."[51] Contained within such limits is a recognition of shared governance domestically as well as the need for military restraint internationally. Most previous wartime presidents went out of their way to assure the country that they recognized the limits of presidential power. Bush, however, departed from this tradition.

As we look again to the past for examples of this rhetoric of limitation, President McKinley, for instance, talked about the role of Congress in providing funds for the Spanish-American war in 1901.[52] In 1917, President Wilson spoke of being the "servant" of the people as he asked God that the people "sustain and guide" him "by their confidence and counsel."[53] President Roosevelt paid homage to the Constitution in his Third Inaugural Address of 1941, specifically mentioning the "freely" functioning "branches of government."[54] In his Fourth Inaugural Address of 1945, Roosevelt showed some semblance of humility by acknowledging that "we have learned lessons" and "We may make mistakes" even as "We shall strive for perfection."[55] And Richard Nixon, even as he talked of "building a structure for peace," recognized the limitations of U.S. foreign policy, arguing: "It is important that we understand both the necessity and the limitations of America's role in maintaining that peace." "The time has passed," Nixon elaborated, "when America will make every other nation's conflict our own, or make every other nation's future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs."[56]

The rhetoric of limitations and American humility were less visible in the Second Inaugural Address of President Bush. Although the president recognized the importance of the Constitution and expressed humility in the eyes of God, there is no mention of Congress (apart from the salutation) or the balance of power in government. Over the course of the twentieth century, wartime presidents have becoming bolder leaders on matters of U.S. foreign policy, lessening the role of Congress in wartime policy making.[57] In his Second Inaugural, Bush assured the world that America would not "impose our own style of government on the unwilling," and he promised to help other nations "find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way" (8). Yet the reach of the Bush Doctrine still appeared limitless, and Bush had little to say about the responsibility of Congress or the American people in the foreign policy-making process.

The President declared: "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" (7). The words "policy" combined with its scope--"every nation and culture"--to articulate a new doctrine of decisive and total victory worldwide--"ending tyranny in our world." This sentiment helped set Bush's speech apart from other presidential inaugurals, creating a unique epideictic moment in a wartime context. As in his other foreign policy speeches since 9/11, President Bush personified a presidency committed to manifest destiny, one ordained by God to lead the nation in the divine mission of spreading freedom, not only across the frontiers of this nation or hemisphere, but in "every nation and culture" (7). With unabated confidence in the rightness of his actions and the inevitability of victory, Bush offered comfort to those looking to the president to protect the nation. Yet Bush's rhetoric provoked anger and fear in others who viewed such rhetorical bravado as overstepping the boundaries of presidential authority.


The Legacy of the Second Inaugural Address and the Bush Doctrine


Scholars Stanley A. Renshon and Peter Suedfeld maintain that they are five central features of the Bush Doctrine. The first involved the promotion of "American Preeminence," which suggested that even as the United States recognized its limits of power, it still represented the "most powerful country in the world." The second tenet involved the idea of "Assertive Realism," which assumed that within the war against terrorism--a war different from past wars--the United States had to act preemptively in order to protect the nation's security. The notion of the "Strategic Stand-Apart Alliances" represented the third characteristic of the Bush Doctrine, which recognized that allied nations may not always support U.S. foreign policy actions, necessitating a go-it-alone attitude reflected in Bush's war on terrorism. The fourth feature of the doctrine pertained to the idea of "New Internationalism: Selective Multilateralism," which required that the United States help reform international institutions in strategic locations as a means to strengthen the nation's security. Finally, the authors claimed that the Bush Doctrine also reflected a notion of "Democratic Transformation," which represented Bush's "strategy of using democracy as a tool to transform or neutralize now-dangerous countries," what Renshon and Suedfeld argue, represented a new foreign policy tactic for the U.S. government.[58]

As this essay has shown, several of the tenets that Renshon and Suedfeld accentuate are reflected in the foreign policy discourse of past presidents. The idea of preventative war or preemptive actions is visible in Theodore Roosevelt's assertion of police powers in Latin America and arguably functioned as the foundational logic of the Truman Doctrine. The latter was designed as a means of war prevention, obstructing the spread of communism into Greece and Turkey and neutralizing its impact in other Asian countries. Ronald Reagan's address about Libya likewise exuded a rhetoric of preemption. In assessing Bush's and Reagan's pre-emptive discourse, Carol Winkler argues that in the process of justifying preemptive acts of force, "their rhetoric did comply with the conventional expectations of the genre of war discourse," including such features of casting the enemy as the "aggressor" and depicting war as the last resort.[59]

Beyond the legacy of preemption, the Bush Doctrine also assumed that national security was predicated on the stability of governments in pivotal points of the world, which echoed the foreign policy arguments of Theodore Roosevelt. The sense of the nation's exceptionalism also is traceable to its origins and permeated the rhetoric of most all presidents. And, As Renshon notes, "President Bush is not the first president to want to make the world safe for democracy."[60] Such similarities among the inaugural addresses are not all that surprising, of course. Addressing the notion of presidential "imitation," Philip Abbott argues that the chief executives often "systematically emulate other presidents."[61]

Yet Bush's critics have complained that he greatly expanded America's foreign policy commitments. First, the critics charged that Bush's foreign policy deviated from past tradition by not seeking widespread allied or global support, particularly from the United Nations. Although the Bush administration repeatedly talked about the coalition that supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he also was critiqued for what David Zarefsky noted was the "seeming unilateralism of the war."[62] The American public also appeared troubled by the lack of United Nations' support for the U.S. war in Iraq. Douglas C. Foyle reveals, for example, that the U.S. public "preferred authorization" from both the United Nations and NATO "before acting," which elevated the controversy surrounding the war.[63] President Bush's expressed sentiment--"you are either with us or you are against us in the war against terror"[64]--departed from even his father's rhetorical and political actions during the Persian Gulf War. For the elder Bush, achieving the support of the United Nations in particular represented a key prerequisite to military engagement in the Middle East:


The military action, taken in accord with United Nations resolutions and with the consent of the United States Congress, following months of constant and virtually endless diplomatic activity on the part of the United Nations, the United States, and many, many counties.[65]


In further accentuating the differences between the discourse of the Persian Gulf War and the war on terrorism on matters of international support, George W. Bush boldly declared during his 2004 State of the Union Address: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."[66]

Beyond a limited regard for acquiring international support, the Bush Doctrine, as elaborated during the Second Inaugural Address, also failed to pay homage to the legislative branch's role in foreign policy--a commonplace for presidents taking the oath of office in a wartime context. Fischer is critical of both the president and Congress in their handling of the war in Iraq, concluding that Congress "left the decisive judgment" over the war "with the President," as its members typically endorsed every legislative initiative put before them by the Bush administration. In the end, Fisher concludes, "[p]lacing the power to initiate war in the hands of one person was precisely what the framers hoped to avoid when they drafted the Constitution."[67] Reinforcing the importance of such balance of power on wartime matters in particular, Cronin and Genovese point out that "[w]hen presidents have involved Congress and the people in the shaping of new foreign policies, those policies have generally won legitimacy and worked."[68] The perceived erosion of the balance of power between the legislative and executive branch, thus, may help explain the controversy surrounding the Bush Doctrine and the Second Inaugural Address.

Bush's Second Inaugural, though, was even more controversial outside of the United States. As Peter Baker of the Washington Post reported, "the inaugural speech reflected a worldview dramatically at odds" with the views of those "in many parts of Europe and the Middle East, where it has only confirmed the image of Bush as an American unilateralist pursuing his own agenda with messianic fervor."[69] This "anti-American" sentiment expanded as the war on terrorism waged on, arguably eroding the perception of the United States as a beacon of democracy and moral action. Adam Wolfson contends that the Second Inaugural Address exhibited a unique assumption, one that set Bush apart from previous presidents: that this nation's "self-interest" was "simply synonymous with our ideals." This suggested that "the disregard for justice . . . in order to secure" the "community's basic survival" had been transformed into an American ideal, Wolfson added, fueling the perception of America's selfishness.[70]

Campbell and Jamieson conclude that the presidential inaugural address constitutes "a major part of the presidency as an institution and of individual presidencies."[71] At one level, Bush's Second Inaugural upheld the tradition of that institution, as revealed in comparisons to past presidential inaugurals. At the same time, however, Bush's speech was unique in terms of its expressed unilateralism and its failure to acknowledge the balance of power with Congress. This rhetoric of unilateralism only exacerbated the turbulence surrounding Bush's speech and the Bush Doctrine, both domestically and globally. Abbott contends that when presidents enter office, they "are driven by the simple desire to overcome or transcend their strong predecessors." Yet, Abbott also cautions that "[t]he president who succumbs to the challenge is thus a president who does not succumb to culture but who 'forgets' his predecessors and thus fails to participate in community."[72]


Last Updated: August 2007


Shawn J. Parry-Giles is a Professor of Communication, Director of Graduate Studies, and the Director of the Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership at the University of Maryland. She would like to thank Bjorn Stillion Southard for his support in locating and retrieving many of the presidential speeches cited within this essay. She would like to thank Julia Torres for her research support on behalf of this unit.



[1] "The Rhetoric of Freedom," Washington Post, January 21, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.

[2] Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei, "Bush Speech Not a Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say," Washington Post, January 22, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.

[3] Balz and VandeHei, "Bush Speech Not a Sign of Policy Shift," online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.

[4] All passages from President Bush's speech are taken from: George W. Bush, "Second Inaugural Address," Official White House Website--George W. Bush, January 20, 2005, (video version). All of the remaining passages from Bush's January 20, 2005, speech are cited with reference to paragraph numbers in the text of the speech that accompanies this essay.

[5] Jill Lawrence, "Inaugural Speech Greeted With Skepticism Abroad," USA Today, January 24, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.

[6] Many scholars believe that the Bush Doctrine was first explicated in President George W. Bush's Graduation Speech at West Point on June 1, 2002. It was then further expounded within the report entitled, "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America," Official White House Website--George W. Bush, September, 2002, (Accessed on August 10, 2007.) For more on West Point speech and the Bush Doctrine, see Susan C. Jarratt's essay in the Voices of Democracy.

[7] Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric and the Genres of Governance (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 20.

[8] See Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese, The Paradoxes of the American Presidency (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 69-70.

[9] George Washington, "Farewell Address," A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, Volume I (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896), 221, 224.

[10] James Madison, "War Message to Congress," A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, Volume I (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896), 502-502.

[11] Forrest McDonald explains that in February of 1802, Congress empowered President Thomas Jefferson to use armed vessels to attack ships near Tripoli, an act that helped Jefferson fight piracy in Algiers and Morocco. See The American Presidency: An Intellectual History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994), 264-265; and Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 2002).

[12] James Monroe, "Seventh Annual Message," A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, Volume I (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1896), 218 (emphasis added). Hardt and Negri characterize imperialism as imposing "hierarchical territorial boundaries, both to police the purity of its own identity and to exclude all that was other." In the process, imperialist countries establish a "territorial center of power" and rely more on "fixed boundaries or barriers." See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), xii. It is also important to understand that Monroe's secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, was the primary author of the Monroe Doctrine. See Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995), 59.

[13] Jeremy Rabkin, "American Founding Principles and American Foreign Policy," in Modern America and the Legacy of the Founding, eds., Ronald J. Pestritto and Thomas G. West (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 314.

[14] Albert K. Weinberg, Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1958), x.

[15] Vincent L. Rafael calls President William McKinley's war in the Philippines "benevolent assimilation," which involved "making native inhabitants desire what colonial authority desired for them" while portending that the efforts were munificent and devoid of violence despite the death of over a hundred thousand Filipinos. See "White Love: Surveillance and Nationalist Resistance in the U.S. Colonization of the Philippines," in Cultures of United States Imperialism, eds., Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 186. The Filipinos sought independence after the United States won control of the Southeast Asian country in the Treaty of Paris that was signed on December 10, 1898, in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. The United States eventually turned back the Filipino insurrection and took control over the country. The United States also became involved in the Boxer Rebellion after "foreign . . . embassies" were seiged in Peking, holding many foreigners, including Americans hostage. The hostages were eventually freed after the United States and other countries sent troops to battle the Boxers. Yet, many Americans were killed during the rebellion. See Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace, 69-128.

[16] Theodore Roosevelt, "Message of the President of the United States," December 6, 1904, U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, 58 Cong., 3rd sess. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904), 33.

[17] John Higham, "The Reorientation of America Culture of the 1890's," in The Origins of Modern Consciousness, ed., John Weiss (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1965), 26.

[18] Christopher C. Burkett, "The American Founding and Conservative Foreign Policy Today," in Modern America and the Legacy of the Founding, eds., Ronald J. Pestritto and Thomas G. West (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 249.

[19] McDonald, The American Presidency, 402.

[20] Erwin C. Hargrove, The President as Leader: Appealing to the Better Angels of Our Nature (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 101, 107.

[21] Harry S. Truman, "Special Message to the Congress on Greece and Turkey: The Truman Doctrine," March 12, 1947, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--Harry S. Truman, January 1 to December 31, 1947 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1963), 180.

[22] Richard Nixon, "Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam," November 3, 1969, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--Richard Nixon, 1969 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1971), 906.

[23] Ronald Reagan, "Address to the Nation on Defense and National Security," March 23, 1983, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--Ronald Reagan, 1983 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1984), 442.

[24] Ronald Reagan, "Address to the Nation on the United States Air Strike Against Libya," April 14, 1986, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--Ronald Reagan, 1986 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988), 469. Carol Winkler asserts that the George W. Bush administration sought to provoke an attack from Iraqi leaders in order to justify a U.S. military response. See "Parallels in Preemptive War Rhetoric: Reagan on Libya; Bush 43 on Iraq," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10 (2007): 322-323.

[25] Louis Fisher, Presidential War Power, 2d ed. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 22.

[26] Will Dunham, "U.S. Military Death Toll in Iraq Approaches 1,500," San Diego Union-Tribune,, February 25, 2005, (Accessed on August 2, 2007.)

[27] Myra Gutin, "Barbara (Pierce) Bush," in American First Ladies: Their Lives and Their Legacy, ed., Lewis L. Gould (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996), 609.

[28] George W. Bush, A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House (New York: Perennial, 1999), 167-177; Fitzhugh Green, George Bush: An Intimate Portrait (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1991), 64-66; and Bryan Hilliard, Tom Lansford, and Robert P. Watson, eds., George W. Bush: Evaluating the President at Midterm (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004).

[29] Jack S. Levy, "Preventive War and the Bush Doctrine: Theoretical Logic and Historical Roots," in Understanding the Bush Doctrine: Psychology and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism, eds., Stanley A. Renshon and Peter Suedfeld (New York: Routledge, 2007), 188-190.

[30] Denise M. Bostdorff and John M. Murphy both note how President Bush's early rhetoric regarding the war on terrorism integrated epideictic features with deliberative characteristics. See Denise M. Bostdorff, "George W. Bush's Post-September 11 Rhetoric of Covenant Renewal: Upholding the Faith of the Greatest Generation," Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 293-319; and John M. Murphy, "'Our Mission and Our Moment': George W. Bush and September 11th," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (2003): 607-632.

[31] Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words, 29.

[32] Jesse Jackson, "Democracy at the Point of the Gun," Chicago Sun Times, January 25, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.

[33] Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 3.

[34] Charles L. Sanford explains that the ideology of manifest destiny is historically rooted in documents like Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" pamphlet of the revolutionary era. See Manifest Destiny and the Imperialism Question (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1974), 26.

[35] John L. O'Sullivan, "The Great Nation of Futurity," The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, November, 1839, p. 427. The essay most often attributed with creating the phrase "manifest destiny" was published in 1845 by O'Sullivan. See John L. O'Sullivan, "Annexation," The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, July, 1845, p. 5.

[36] George W. Bush, "President Rallies Troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa," Official White House Website--George W. Bush, March 26, 2003, (Accessed on September 1, 2006.)

[37] Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace, 39.

[38] Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World (New York: Routledge, 2002), xvii.

[39] Frederick J. Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," Annual Report of the American Historical Association (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1894), 201.

[40] Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," 221.

[41] Woodrow Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, March 5, 1917, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, Volume 41--January 24-April 6, 1917, ed., Arthur S. Link (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 334.

[42] Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, January 20, 1945, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944-45 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), 524.

[43] Richard Milhous Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1973, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--Richard Nixon, 1973 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1975), 12.

[44] Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524-525.

[45] Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, 15.

[46] William McKinley, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1901, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Volume XIII (New York: Bureau of National Literature, n.d.), 6467.

[47] Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524.

[48] Franklin D. Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, January 20, 1941, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), 6, 4.

[49] Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, 5, 6.

[50] Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, 335.

[51] Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words, 15, 25.

[52] McKinley, Second Inaugural Address, 6465.

[53] Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, 335.

[54] Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, 4.

[55] Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524.

[56] Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, 13.

[57] Importantly, Congress did try to reassert some of its powers during wartime by passing the War Powers Act of 1973 in the aftermath of the Vietnam conflict.

[58] Stanley A. Renshon and Peter Suedfeld, eds., Understanding the Bush Doctrine: Psychology and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism (New York: Routledge, 2007), ix.

[59] Winkler, "Parallels in Preemptive War Rhetoric," 325.

[60] Renshon and Suedfeld, Understanding the Bush Doctrine, ix.

[61] Philip Abbott, Strong Presidents: A Theory of Leadership (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996), 1-3.

[62] David Zarefsky, "Making the Case for War: Colin Powell at the United Nations," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 10 (2007): 277. The Bush administration typically referenced "coalition forces" to accentuate the collective response to the terrorist threats in Iraq and elsewhere in most of its discourse on the Iraq War. For example, see: "Fact Sheet: The Protect America Act of 2007," Official White House Website--George W. Bush, August 6, 2007, (Accessed on August 10, 2007.)

[63] Douglas C. Foyle, "The Convinced, the Skeptical, and the Hostile: American and World Public Opinion on the Bush Doctrine," in Understanding the Bush Doctrine: Psychology and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism, eds., Stanley A. Renshon and Peter Suedfeld (New York: Routledge, 2007), 82-84.

[64] "President Welcomes President Chirac to White House," Press Conference, Official White House Website--George W. Bush, November 6, 2001, (Accessed on August 3, 2007.)

[65] George Bush, "Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf," January 16, 1991, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States--George Bush, 1991 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1992), 43.

[66] George W. Bush, "State of the Union Address," Official White House Website--George W. Bush, January 20, 2004, (Accessed on August 3, 2007.)

[67] Fisher, Presidential War Power, 235.

[68] Cronin and Genovese, The Paradoxes of the American Presidency, 186.

[69] Peter Baker, "Bush Doctrine is Expected to Get Chilly Reception,", January 23, 2005, (Accessed on August 4, 2007.)

[70] Adam Wolfson, "The Bush Doctrine: New Ways for a New World," in Modern America and the Legacy of the Founding, eds., Ronald J. Pestritto and Thomas G. West (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 294-295.

[71] Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words, 36.

[72] Abbott, Strong Presidents, 237, 239.