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Dubya Diplomacy

Freedom, Yeah!

“America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” Really? Well, dang, that was easy. But who’s going to break the news to China, Russia, and the Saudis, for starters? As per many of Michael Gerson’s Big-Moment speeches, Dubya’s Second Inaugural was a well-crafted piece of prose with some nice rhetorical flourishes and an eye to history. But, stylistic flair aside, Dubya might as well have been declaring himself the President of Mars, for all the grounding this speech had in contemporary reality.

“The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” Freedom…I can dig it. Reminds me of the end of Braveheart. But, as Slate‘s Fred Kaplan already aptly questioned, “What is this thing called ‘freedom’?…Does ‘freedom’ always mean a Western-style, or pro-American, democracy? Whatever freedom is, how do we go about spreading it?” And, for that matter, isn’t this the guy who once told us there “ought to be limits to freedom?”

I know we shouldn’t expect nuance from this president, but today’s speech was even worse than usual (as well as being somewhat distasteful, given the very real problems with “freedom” Iraq is facing right now.) The only things I learned from Dubya’s speech are that freedom rains down like a benediction (in fact, exactly like a benediction) on the peoples of the world, and, whatsmore, that evildoers hate them some freedom. And that was about it. Seriously, he sounded like he was kicking off that goofy rave in the second Matrix.

On the domestic side, I was somewhat surprised that Bush didn’t push the Ownership Society meme a little harder — he only mentioned it once — but I guess that’ll probably get more run in the upcoming State of the Union. (Perhaps he didn’t want anyone reminded of Colin Powell’s “You Break it, You Own it” Pottery Barn rule when they were supposed to be drinking in the sweet, sweet freedom.) That being said, Bush did manage to squeeze in some Grade-A chum for the pro-lifers — “always remember that even the unwanted have worth” — which he then half-heartedly tried to mask with a plea to end racism. (Freedom, yeah! Bigotry, no! Serenity now! I think I got it.)

All in all, the inaugural wasn’t an embarrassing speech as delivered — Gerson’s too good at his job for that. But, like too much in this administration, it was all style and no substance, offering false simplicity and sanctimony in the place of good ideas or hard-won truths. In short, it was just like Dubya.

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