The American Dream holds that the lives of the children should surpass those of the parents and at noon on January 20 George Walker Bush is about to fulfill that dream and do something George Herbert Walker Bush never did. He will take the oath of office for the second time. And his theme "Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service" will be hammered home over and over all week.
Bush won re-election by besting John Kerry on the issue of who could best handle the terrorist threat and by casting his arguments in moral and religious terms. Both of these hallmarks of his victory will dominate his second inaugural.
"We are a nation at war, and it is fitting that the inaugural events reflect not only the great sacrifices made by our troops everyday to protect our freedom, but also the cherished ideals that make our nation so unique," said Jean Johnson Phillips, the co-chair of the 55th Inaugural when she announced the theme and schedule of events.
The schedule begins with a Military Gala on Tuesday, January 18th and ends with a National Prayer Service on Friday, January 21st. Bush's Inaugural address in 2001 surprised people with the heavy use of religious imagery ("an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm," "a power larger than ourselves, Who creates us equal in His image") although his speechwriter Mike Gerson and other Bush advisors believe it was more alien to the beltway crowd than to the American people. Most expect more of the same in 2005.
Patriotic language and symbols are woven throughout the week. The inaugural balls are named Freedom, Liberty, Independence, Democracy, Patriot, Constitution, Stars and Stripes and Commander in Chief. The ninth bears two truly sacred words, the Texas- Wyoming ball. The music is a blend of patriotic and religious. Senator Trent Lott personally selected "Let The Eagles Soar," a song written by Attorney General John Ashcroft and sung by Guy Hovis, a vocalist from Tupelo, Mississippi. who performed on "The Lawrence Walk Show."
Is Freedom Just Another Word?
President Bush has said his priorities over the next four years are winning the fight against terrorism, spreading freedom and democracy, enacting tax and tort reform and overhauling Social Security.
The details will be spelled out in the State of the Union address but this week is thematic and the word that may dominate all others is Freedom. Republican strategists think that by wrapping the Bush foreign and domestic policy goals in the concept of freedom, he will be able to appeal to people's sense of American patriotism and honor.
The Second Term Angst: What's My Legacy?
Bill Clinton was obsessed with legacy and during his second term he was concerned that he would not be remembered as a great President, in part, because few great events occurred on his watch. That was not to be George W. Bush's fate.
Republican pollster David Winston says that Bush's place in history is already set. "9/11 has defined his legacy," Winston says, but his second term gives him the opportunity to focus on what's left to do, tax reform, tort reform and most importantly making Social Security solvent. Taking on Social Security, the third rail of American politics is a high risk but Bush wants to do "something substantive and big" and be remembered for fixing a critical problem, Winston says.
Just How Much Capital Does He Have?
The President came out the day after the election and announced he had gained "political capital" and was looking for where to spend it. Social Security seems to be the answer, although the Democrats have screamed that he did not campaign on it and doesn't have a consensus on how and when it needs to be fixed.
President Bush's pollster, Matthew Dowd, was convinced that if Bush's job rating reached 50 percent he would be re-elected. It did and he was. But despite the deep funk of Democrats, President Bush's job rating isn't much higher than the low 50s after the post-election détente. He is just about tied with Richard Nixon as having the lowest approval rating of any modern President going into a second term. Here's a list compiled by the Pew foundation and CBS News based on results from the Gallup Poll.
Second-Term Approval Ratings (1957-2005)
Bush (Jan. 2005)
Clinton (Jan. 1997)
Reagan (Jan. 1985)
Nixon (Jan. 1973)
Johnson (Jan. 1965)
Eisenhower (Jan. 1957)
President Bush's approval rating is almost exactly where it was at the beginning of his first tem while his disapproval rating has doubled. In January 2001 Pew found 53 percent approved, 21 percent disapproved and 26 percent didn't have an opinion. It's as if all of those who were undecided have decided they disapprove.
Bush does have a solidly Republican Congress to help him spend that capital. To demonstrate the commitment to those Republicans, Vice President Cheney (who has been taking an interest in domestic issues of late) has asked House Speaker Dennis Hastert to swear him in. Republican pollster Linda DiVall says that Cheney has talked about what a great speaker Hastert has been, "a man of his word and a man of great integrity," she has heard him say. In 2001 Chief Justice Rehnquist swore in Vice President Cheney as well as President Bush.
Security Isn't Just Social
The first inauguration since 9/11 will have unprecedented security procedures. More than 13,000 law enforcement officials and military personnel will be on hand. "Our goal is that any attempt, on the part of anyone or any group, to disrupt the inaugural will be repelled by multiple layers of security," said outgoing Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge. Party-goers will be watched eating their rattlesnake nachos at the Ritz-Carleton by rooftop snipers and will walk over sealed manhole covers on the way to the balls.
Some of the anti-war protestors who have been given "official bleachers" from which to protest have accused the Bush administration of "privatizing the parade route" making Pennsylvania Avenue accessible only to the Inaugural committee and the D.C. government is complaining that they will be force to divert $11 million from their Homeland Security budget to pay for inaugural security.
After A Billion Dollar Campaign What's Another $60 Million?
The budget for the Inaugural is $60 million; $40 million raised from private donors for the celebration itself, with another $20 million from the federal and D.C. governments for security. Lest people worry about influential big money, the Presidential Inaugural Committee put a cap on donations. However, recognizing that time marches on they raised the $100,000 cap from 2001 to $250,000 this year. Unlike federal campaigns, the inaugural committee can accept donations from corporations and labor unions and so far 43 "underwriters" have maxed including Bristol Myers Squibb, Exxon Mobil and Altria which owns Phillip Morris.
The co-chair of the inaugural, Mercer Reynolds was also the chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign and many of his Rangers and Pioneers are digging deeply once again. The Washington Post identified Roland and Dawn Arnells of Ameriquest and their companies as having given $12.5 million to the Bush's since 2002.
The underwriters get lots of goodies for their generosity including two tickets to a lunch with the President and Vice President, two tables at a candlelight dinner with the happy pair, lots of parade tickets and invites to the inaugural ball. For those who want to pay piecemeal, a ball ticket costs $795 although the Texas Black Tie and Boots ticket is up to $2,000 on E-Bay. Parade tickets are a better deal. Bleacher seats were available for as little at $15 dollars thought the VIP seats were at $495.
To the critics of the big spending on the festivities at a time of war and natural disasters, the Bush folks say this is a "celebration of democracy" and even Bill Clinton told the party-poppers to cool it. Laura Bush will be decked out by Oscar de la Renta and the Bush twins will wear glitzy gowns, which despite some plunges and jeweled spaghetti straps, will not "malfunction" promise the designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka.
The Bush family has become a certified American dynasty and, in true Texas style, they plan to party hearty.
By Dotty Lynch