Bush Turns To Ambitious Agenda

President Bush set forth Friday on an ambitious second-term agenda of reshaping Social Security and sparking democracy in the Middle East after wrapping up his inaugural with moments of prayer and reflection.

His Republican allies said they were eager to begin, as well, while Democrats vowed to resume their fight against "extreme" GOP policies.

Four days of celebrations surrounding Mr. Bush's inauguration culminated with a National Prayer Service at Washington's National Cathedral on Friday, following a tradition set by the nation's first chief executive, George Washington.

The prayer service was the only thing on the president's public schedule for the first day of his second term.

But there will be little time for him to rest, with all the tasks he has named as priorities for himself and the nation:

  • Win a war on terror against shadowy, deadly networks.
  • Establish stability and democracy in Iraq, a deeply divided country where the American casualty rate has even fellow Republicans urging Bush to say more about how he will get the United States out.
  • Add private investment accounts to Social Security, through an as-yet-undefined plan that has many deeply skeptical.
  • Simplify a tax code bloated by thousands of provisions that special-interest patrons will be loathe to relinquish.
  • Limit medical malpractice and class-action jury awards.
  • Push a "guest worker" immigration plan opposed by both conservatives in his own party and liberals who favor some form of amnesty for illegal aliens.

    For the immediate future, President Bush's list of most-pressing duties include naming someone to the powerful new post of director of national intelligence, watching the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq and mending still-frayed relations with Europe during his first overseas trip of his second term.

    "I'm looking forward to putting my heart and soul into this job for four more years," he told congressional leaders at a post-swearing-in luncheon.

    "We're ready to go to work," replied Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., chairman of the congressional inaugural committee.

    Eager to begin, the GOP-controlled Senate convened at mid-afternoon Thursday and confirmed Mike Johanns as secretary of agriculture and Margaret Spellings as secretary of education, the first of the president's nine new second-term Cabinet officers to win approval.

    Senate Democrats are delaying confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, originally expected on Thursday, until next week. The inauguration, they said, was only a brief respite in their battle against the GOP majority.

    Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told supporters in a fund-raising e-mail that "when the inauguration bands stop playing and Congress comes back into session, we Democrats will be on guard and ready to fight against the Republicans' extreme policies once again."

    Mr. Bush's inaugural address was light on specifics and heavy on high-minded symbolism.

    He pledged to reform great institutions to serve the needs of our time. He talked of fighting terrorism by both bearing arms and spreading democracy. He promised that U.S. relations with other countries will turn on how decently they treat their own people. He used the word "tyranny" five times, "liberty" 15 and "freedom" 27.

    "We are led, by events and commonsense, to one conclusion," Mr. Bush said. "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."

    The only reference to Iraq was indirect. "Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill and would be dishonorable to abandon," he said, mindful of impatience on Capitol Hill and in the public.