GEORGE W. BUSH, SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS
(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
Post writers gave voice to critics'
complaints that the speech represented a "major and potentially mistaken
expansion of U.S.
foreign policy goals." 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." 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). 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."
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. 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." 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
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
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." 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
were smaller military excursions that often involved battles at sea over
trading and piracy. Such conflicts, while designed to protect U.S. economic interests, can be viewed as the
initial stages of U.S.
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."
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.
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."
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
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
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
however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the
exercise of an international police power.
As John Higham claims, Roosevelt's vision of U.S.
internationalism "sounded the tocsin of a new era."
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
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." 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
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." 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. 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."
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."
assertion of presidential war powers by issuing a doctrine is thus commonplace in
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
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
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. 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.
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.
Even though presidential inaugural
addresses are typically understood as ceremonial speeches that fulfill the
ritual of a presidential transfer of power,
Campbell and Jamieson contend that they can also "lay the groundwork for
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." 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." The
term manifest destiny is often attributed to John O'Sullivan,
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." 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."
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." 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." 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." 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." 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." 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." And
in his Second Inaugural Address of 1973, Richard Nixon charged that "a
time of retreat and isolation . . . invites new danger abroad,"
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." 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."
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
one of his childhood school teachers, FDR argued in 1945 that "'the trend
of civilization itself is forever upward.'" 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."
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.'" 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."
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." 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
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
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." President
Roosevelt paid homage to the Constitution in his Third Inaugural Address of
1941, specifically mentioning the "freely" functioning "branches
of government." 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." 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."
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. 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
The Legacy of the Second Inaugural
Address and the Bush Doctrine
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.
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.
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."
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
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." 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. President
Bush's expressed sentiment--"you are either with us or you are against us
in the war against terror"--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
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."
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." 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."
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.
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." 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
and Jamieson conclude that the presidential inaugural address constitutes
"a major part of the presidency as an institution and of individual
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."
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.
 "The Rhetoric of Freedom," Washington Post, January 21, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis
Academic, September 1, 2006.
 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
 Balz and VandeHei, "Bush Speech Not a Sign of
Policy Shift," online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.
 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, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050120-1.html
(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.
 Jill Lawrence, "Inaugural Speech Greeted With
Skepticism Abroad," USA Today,
January 24, 2005, online at Lexis Nexis Academic, September 1, 2006.
 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, http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf.
(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.
 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Deeds Done in Words: Presidential Rhetoric
and the Genres of Governance (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press,
 See Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese, The Paradoxes of the American Presidency
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 69-70.
 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.
 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.
 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
Basic Books, 2002).
 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.
 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.
 Albert K. Weinberg, Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American
History (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1958), x.
 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
 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.
 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.
 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.
 McDonald, The
American Presidency, 402.
 Erwin C. Hargrove, The
President as Leader: Appealing to the Better Angels of Our Nature
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 101, 107.
 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,
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Louis Fisher, Presidential
War Power, 2d ed. (Lawrence: University
Press of Kansas,
 Myra Gutin, "Barbara (Pierce) Bush," in American First Ladies: Their Lives and Their
Legacy, ed., Lewis L. Gould (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996),
 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).
 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.
 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,
and Our Moment': George W. Bush and September 11th," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (2003): 607-632.
 Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds
Done in Words, 29.
 Jesse Jackson, "Democracy at the Point of the
Gun," Chicago Sun Times, January 25, 2005, online at
Lexis Nexis Academic, September
 Reginald Horsman, Race
and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 3.
 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.
 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.
 Boot, The Savage
Wars of Peace, 39.
 Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the
World (New York:
Routledge, 2002), xvii.
 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.
 Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in
American History," 221.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524-525.
 Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, 15.
 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.
 Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524.
 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.
 Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, 5, 6.
 Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, 335.
 Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds
Done in Words, 15, 25.
 McKinley, Second Inaugural Address, 6465.
 Wilson, Second Inaugural Address, 335.
 Roosevelt, Third Inaugural Address, 4.
 Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address, 524.
 Nixon, Second Inaugural Address, 13.
 Importantly, Congress did try to reassert some of its
powers during wartime by passing the War Powers Act of 1973 in the aftermath of
 Stanley A. Renshon and Peter Suedfeld, eds., Understanding the Bush Doctrine: Psychology
and Strategy in an Age of Terrorism (New
York: Routledge, 2007), ix.
 Winkler, "Parallels in Preemptive War
 Renshon and Suedfeld, Understanding the Bush Doctrine, ix.
 Philip Abbott, Strong
Presidents: A Theory of Leadership (Knoxville: University of Tennessee
Press, 1996), 1-3.
 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, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/08/20070806-5.html.
(Accessed on August 10, 2007.)
 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,
 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.
 Fisher, Presidential
War Power, 235.
 Cronin and Genovese, The Paradoxes of the American Presidency, 186.
 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.
 Campbell and Jamieson, Deeds
Done in Words, 36.
 Abbott, Strong
Presidents, 237, 239.