PAUL GIGOT: Welcome to THE JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT. President Bush's second inaugural address was an extraordinary statement of his belief that his mission -- and the nation's -- is to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. It was also a declaration of U.S. foreign policy.
PRESIDENT BUSH: America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. No one is fit to be a master and no one deserves to be a slave. [APPLAUSE] Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now, it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time. 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. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL GIGOT: With me to discuss the president's speech and what it may tell us about the next four years: Dorothy Rabinowitz, a columnist and member of our editorial board; Jason Riley, a senior editorial page writer; James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com; and John Fund, who writes for OpinionJournal.com.
James, what does this speech the president made tell you about his plans for the second term?
JAMES TARANTO: It tells me that the first term, with the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, is not an aberration, that this president intends to pursue a revolutionary foreign policy. The talk about spreading democracy in the world is not that unusual for inaugural speeches. If you go back and read JFK's speech in 1961, it's famous for that. If you go back and read Bill Clinton's speech in 1993, he sounds a lot of these same themes. What's different about this, what makes this revolutionary, is the statement we heard at the top of the show: "the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."
There's always been this tension in American foreign policy between realism and idealism. What President Bush is saying is, this is a false choice. Our national interests depend on our pursuing our national ideals. That's what's changed.
PAUL GIGOT: The lesson of September 11 being that you cannot ignore turmoil in the rest of the world because it landed on our shores that day, and will again unless we pay attention to what's happening in other places.
JAMES TARANTO: September 11th is the product of the stability that you get when you accommodate tyranny.
PAUL GIGOT: That's right. Dorothy, given that goal, ambition, how effective do you think the speech was in helping the president accomplish that?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: It was an effective speech. It was a strong speech in the sense that he said everything in the strongest possible terms. I think that it failed in terms of rhetorical power. And rhetorical power is not nothing. It is what advances ideas. There's a very good reason that we remember Lincoln's mystic chord of memories and Roosevelt's "we are the arsenal of democracy." Which isn't to say that it isn't workmanlike. It's just that this is a special day. This is a special occasion. We need the fire and the ceremony that we grant in all of the stuff that surrounds it -- the pomp and pagentry. The ideas need that, too.
PAUL GIGOT: So no memorable phrases?
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: Indeed.
PAUL GIGOT: Jason, what do you think?
JASON RILEY: Well, one phrase I'd like to call attention to is what wasn't shown in the clip. And it's what he said after the line about ending tyranny in the world, because that line's being used by critics of the speech who want to call it a sort of valentine to neo-conservatives who want to use the U.S. military to go around the world democratizing the planet.
And what he said after that is, "This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary." And he went on to say that freedom must be chosen by the people, and that we will support the people who make that choice. And that strikes me as much more of a realist sentiment in terms of the use of our military.
PAUL GIGOT: Yeah, it's being criticized in some circles as a real bow to the idealists. But I agree with you. I don't think it was. But one thing that is interesting to me, I think only an American president could have delivered this speech. No European leader would ever have delivered this, with their history of balance of power and calculation and real politic. But that blend, that idealist extreme runs through American history and American foreign policy.
JOHN FUND: Yes, and we have a president, not a prime minister leading a coalition government, so he can speak with one voice. The background of this, Paul, is George Bush was thrust into asserting America's role in the world by accident and horror, because of 9/11. Now he has to lay out a real plan on how to accomplish America's spreading the freedom message. And I think he's going to do that in some very unusual ways. It's not going to be, as the European's fear, through military force so much. It's going to be through the levers of diplomacy, and I think broadcasting. We're got to take the Iran service into four hours of television programming a day, tripling how much message we send into Iran.
Now, in addition, if you look at the actual reality in the State Department, the State Department is going to be staffed by a lot more people who used to work for Brent Scowcroft, who was George Bush's National Security Advisor, than it is neo-cons. Nicholas Burns is going to be the director of political affairs. He is someone that John Kerry and Richard Holbrook had picked to serve in their administration. So this is going to be a much broader approach, and I think a much more multi-lateral approach than people suspect. But, it's going to have a clear message.
PAUL GIGOT: What about the critique that this is over-reaching? That in saying, "we're going to promote democracy throughout the world and guide our foreign policy with nations based upon how they treat their people" -- Dorothy, take that on.
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: Well, I've been thinking about that. I wondered, what is the objection to a large statement of idealism forcefully expressed, and why do we need to lay out these details? That was exactly what the complaint was. Well, you can't really make such a complaint. Is it not enough, and do we not remember Churchill saying, "We will prevail." I mean, these are the forces that go into a speech like this, to emphasize our will.
JAMES TARANTO: On the over-reaching point, the president has been criticized by some people for saying our ultimate goal is to end tyranny worldwide. Well, that is a very ambitious goal. But he said ultimate. This is a goal for generations. And he cited slavery a couple of times as an analogy, which he didn't fully develop. But I think an interesting point about slavery is, slavery was once an accepted fact of life. We had it hear in this country until a bit over a century ago. It is now virtually abolished worldwide. It's illegal everywhere. It's only practiced in a few places. If we can get rid of slavery, why not in the next century get rid of tyranny?
PAUL GIGOT: Okay, there was part of the speech, domestic policy. Not too much. But I think we have a clip of that, one of those lines the president directed on domestic policy.
PRESIDENT BUSH: To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools and build an ownership society. [APPLAUSE] We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance, preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society.
PAUL GIGOT: John, why so little on domestic affairs? And do you think that was a mistake?
JOHN FUND: No. The State of the Union message is going to be where you go into detail. And there will probably be more policy verbiage there than people will want to take, and it will be everything from increasing home ownership to updating Social Security, to enhancing school choice.
PAUL GIGOT: In its dominance of foreign over domestic, was it the sign that this is in fact where the president's own personal priorities are? That when, if there is a choice that he has to make between expending capital on the foreign goals versus domestic, really he considers his mission the foreign.
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: There's no question about it. Anybody listening to that speech, and listening to anything he said before that -- this token inclusion of domestic policy is just exactly what is sounded like, a token, so no one should criticize him.
PAUL GIGOT: James?
JAMES TARANTO: Well, what this tells us is that America is a successful, rich country. We need some reforms in the way we do things, but the rest of the world needs -- or parts of the rest of the world -- need a revolution.
PAUL GIGOT: But there is a connection in his freedom, the use of freedom between foreign and domestic, spreading it overseas. But also, his agenda is a liberty agenda in part at home, which is the theme that he tried to extend.
Okay, I'm going to -- go ahead, Dorothy.
DOROTHY RABINOWITZ: I was just thinking, I don't know why anyone would complain about over-reaching. What did they expect him to say? We're for partial freedom in the world? We're for half freeing of slavery. It makes no sense.
PAUL GIGOT: Okay Dorothy, you get the last word. Next subject.