Second Term Begins With A Prayer

President Bush attends The Freedom Ball at Union Station in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005. The Freedom Ball represents Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Diplomatic Corps.
AP
President Bush, head bowed in prayer, on Friday opens an ambitious second term in which he boldly promises to reshape Social Security and spark democracy in the Middle East. His Republican allies say they're eager to begin, while Democrats vow to resume their fight against "extreme" GOP policies.

Four days of celebrations surrounding the Bush inauguration end Friday with a National Prayer Service, a tradition that dates back to the inauguration of George Washington. The service, Mr. Bush's second visit to church in two days, is to bring together 3,200 invited family, dignitaries, administration officials and other guests in the majestic Gothic-style sanctuary of the Washington National Cathedral.

On the program are instrumental and choral music and an interfaith lineup of Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy, all to help celebrate through prayer the events of the day before, when President Bush placed his hand on a family Bible at the U.S. Capitol and swore a second time to faithfully execute the office of president and uphold the Constitution.

On Thursday the president was on the go all day, from an early morning church appearance to hours in the cold watching the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to a late night dash through 10 black-tie inaugural balls. The only thing on the president's public schedule for the first day of his second term was the prayer service.

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 said, making no mention of the legislative battles ahead over taxes, expanding immigration laws, Social Security, the burgeoning budget deficit, judges and more.

    "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."

    Bush opponents used the inauguration itself as an occasion for protests - both in Washington and across the country - of policies including the war in Iraq.

    Some Democrats took things a step further and held political rallies and fundraisers at "counter-Inaugural" balls and parties.

    Washington's Alternative Inaugural Ball, with headliners including liberal satirist Al Franken and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, raised $65,000 for Independent Action, a political action committee for Democratic candidates.

    Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who's in the running to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, held what he called an Un-auguration party in Burlington, Vermont. "The darkest hour is before the dawn. We've had our darkest hour - January 20, 2001," said Dean, surrounded by his political supporters. "It's all uphill from here, baby."

    President Bush's inaugural address was heavy on high-minded symbolism, as he pledged to reform "great institutions to serve the needs of our time."

    He talked of the spread of freedom and liberty as the oldest ideals of America, and said, "Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time."

    He promised that U.S. relations with other countries would 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 common sense, to one conclusion," said Mr. Bush. "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.

    The president will use his State of the Union address, due for delivery to the nation in less than two weeks, and his new federal budget, due to Congress on Feb. 7, to flesh out in more detail his second-term goals and how he intends to achieve them.

    The president retakes office in uncertain times. There are record federal budget deficits, fears of violence marring Iraq's official transition to democracy, and the ongoing threat of terrorism at home.

    Iran and North Korea are the source of growing nuclear tensions. Russia's move away from democratic reforms presents a challenge.

    But the economy's recovery is on solid ground. And President Bush won an expanded Republican majority in both the House and Senate.