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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 08:24 GMT
Ambition marks Bush's second term

By Rob Watson
BBC News, Washington correspondent

George and Laura Bush
George Bush will go on surprising supporters and opponents alike
As George W Bush prepares to be sworn in as president of the United States for the second time, he is a man who has already made clear he has big plans for the next four years.

"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now, I intend to spend it. It is my style," he said.

And there are plenty of voters intending to hold President Bush to his word.

At an impromptu prayer service outside a federal court in Washington, evangelical leader the Reverend Pat Mahoney leaves no doubt that he and other Christians are expecting the president to deliver on such issues as banning gay marriage and abortion.

"We have an expression in America: 'Dance with the person you brought to the dance'," he said.

He believes that conservative, evangelical Christians were the cornerstone of President Bush's re-election.

"We would hope that the president would follow through on many of his commitments that energised his base," the Reverend Mahoney said.

Move to the middle

Despite the high hopes of conservative Christians, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute believes the president is likely to disappoint them.

"The history of second term presidencies is disappointment on the part of the base," Mr Ornstein said.

Ultimately, this will be multilateralism but on the Bush administration's terms
John Hullsman,
Heritage Foundation
President Bush wants to focus on tax reform and a tough battle to overhaul Social Security, the public pension scheme in the US.

"It is not like now that Bush has won suddenly we are going to establish a Christian nation," Mr Ornstein said.

"Politics still matters even if you are not running for re-election, and to get most things done, he is going to have to move to the middle," he added.

Foreign policy unchanged

If the president may end up disappointing conservatives at home what about those around the world hoping for a more multilateralist US abroad?

Despite promises from the president and his foreign policy team to rebuild frayed alliances, those close to the administration like the Heritage Foundation's John Hullsman say the world should not expect fundamental changes.

He says the tone will be more soothing, but the bottom line will not change:

The US will not give up pre-emption, and it will not change policy towards Israel, Iran, or North Korea.

Nor will it change policy on free trade or the war on terror.

"Ultimately, this will be multilateralism but on the Bush administration's terms," Mr Hullsman says.

History will judge

In Washington the once-every-four-year inaugural jamboree that turns this city into a party town is already well under way.

Whether the mood will be as jolly at the end of four more years of George W Bush is impossible to say.

With his ambitious plans for economic reforms at home and the democratisation of the Middle East abroad, commentator Tom Mann says, Mr Bush is one of those presidents who is unlikely to be forgotten soon.

"I think that George Bush will go down in history as one of the most consequential presidents in American history," Mr Mann said.

He has done more in the way of major, indeed radical policy change, with less in the way of public support than any other president, he said, adding, "What we do not know is whether it will be for good or for ill".

Experience would suggest history is against the president - after all, most second terms have proved a disappointment, sometimes even a disaster.

But then President Bush has something of a track record of surprising his supporters and opponents alike.

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