In the run up to the 2004 American presidential election we asked a panel of voters to share their views and predictions ahead of the outcome. Here, on Inauguration Day, they look ahead to President George W Bush's second term.
MEET THE PANEL
Name: Shankar Iyer
Lives: Fairfax, Virginia
Works: Business Professor
In 10 words or less: "University Professor, humanitarian, Democrat"
The president has taken the mandate of the majority to be a vindication of his policies and an absolution of all his errors.
The departures of even the feeble voices of conscience from the cabinet and their replacement with more strident sycophants does not auger well for debate and reasoning.
Domestically, the Republican majority will mean a concerted effort to reshape the Supreme Court, and rewrite many progressive liberal legislations to be more conservative and aligned with Christian fundamentalism.
It will mean tort reform favouring the physicians and the insurance industry (who have paid well for the election and the coronation), tax reform to favour the well-to-do, and weakening of eco-friendly legislation to favour industries.
An extension of the Patriot Act is also likely, as is a repeal of prisoners' rights.
Budget deficits may balloon but this may not get much attention as the nation is still 'at war' and fighting terrorism.
There is also a high probability terrorists will strike within the US, or somewhere in the world in a major attack.
In the global arena there will likely be a pre-emptive strike by the US against Iran, possibly with Israel's help.
Iraq will continue to be strife-ridden, providing the additional rationale to invade Iran.
This will escalate the risk of terrorist strikes aimed at US interests.
In sum, there seems to be more causes for concern. I pray that my fears prove to be wrong, but I fear I am more likely to be right. God bless America.
Inauguration Day 2005 is a good day because the best man won. The only people who should have cause for concern are the Axis of Evil countries. I would support action taken against North Korea or Iran because the world is better without their current regimes. Mr Bush is a man who believes everyone should have the right to be free and to vote for their government. You are either with him, or with the terrorists and the rogue regimes of the world.
Chris Chambers, Ipswich, England
Totally depressing day! God only knows what destruction this administration is capable of, being left to their own devices for the next four years. They have no regard for any other country, are never held accountable for their actions by any country, and use God as their excuse for everything.
Ann Fleming, Alexandria, VA, USA
Prof Iyer has my sentiments exactly. This next four years is going to put America back another 100 miles in global opinion. The global view of the US right now is at an all time low but wait another year or two when Bush takes on another war. God bless America indeed!
Fred Moore, USA
I believe these are all very likely realities, and ones that most Americans on both sides of the political spectrum would agree on in private. Of course, elected officials and those who work for them would never dare voice most of these sentiments, but it is indeed where we are heading and the president is not shy about admitting this is the course he wants to chart.
Greg, Baltimore, USA
I'm afraid I have to agree with Shankar. America is well on its way to writing some dark history. All we can hope is that W's re-election serves as the warning bell. Americans must wake up and realise what their government has been permitted to make of this beautiful country.
Marie Fisher, Hillsdale, NY, USA
I would love for the US to pull out of Iraq. If we leave by way of Iran, so be it. As a country we need to decide if we want to be an empire or a republic. As a republic you need a strong navy with a quick strike force for land battles, as an empire you need lots of troops to control the local population. Right now we're trying to be a republic and empire and doing neither well.
David Richard, Springfield, IL, USA
My question for Mr. Iyer is what is so wrong with someone who has won an election to do what he has promised? The left in the USA thinks it is wrong from Bush to have a conservative agenda, a conservative cabinet, and have a conservative base. They even say they are afraid that there will be no dissenting views in his cabinet. But doesn't every President have the right to leave his mark on the government? Doesn't every president have the right to fill government with like-minded people? It seems to me the left is fine with this when their people are in office, but when it is the other side they are up in arms. The last I checked, Clinton had no Christian Right cabinet members. Perhaps instead of complaining the left should come up with an agenda of their own and become a viable voice in America again.
Kyle A Moore, Quincy, IL, USA
You will see how Bush will up the ante on Iran claiming they are supplying all the 'insurgents' in Iraq and how they want to launch a nuclear war. And the American public will swallow it all. Shankar is right to be afraid. God help America - and the rest of us.
I fully believe that President Bush will launch another military strike, most likely against Iran. Critics of Bush, half of the US and the entire world, should fully expect the irresponsible right-wing policy of the US to continue on as long as they hold office. Sadly, America has lost all credibility in the world and I think many bad things will continue to happen under their watch. Almost all Republicans strictly support policies that make the rich more wealthy and the poor more desperate. In addition, their ridiculous foreign policy endangers the security of the US and the world. I feel some very bad events will be the only thing to turn this downward spiral around. The Democratic Party seems to be inept.
Travis Kuecken, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
I am afraid that Shankar is so right. The next four years of the Bush administration will be disastrous.
Mireille Leonard, New York, USA
Of course President Bush is trying to get rid of the last forty years of liberal domestic morals. You can not stand as a nation in the long run if don't stand for alienable rights granted by God. Once your laws go against these rights - you go against God. I say, get rid of those that do go against God's laws and get back the roots of the Christian nation as we were founded. Paul Engineer
Paul, Irving, USA
I agree with Mr. Ayer's assessment. One issue I must raise, however, is Ayer's saying that Bush's re-election means he has a mandate. George W. only received about 51 percent of the vote. Kerry I believe received 48 percent and Nader received one percent. A two-percent margin of victory does not a mandate make. I'm concerned that Ayer, along with the rest of America, is letting Bush's spin doctors reshape the terms we use in politics. Bush's use of the word "mandate" and the rest of us going along with the gag is enabling Bush and his ilk to lie to us again... Just like he did in the ramp up to the Iraq war.
Robin, San Pedro, Calif., USA
My deepest fear is four more years of potential hypocrisy and propaganda. As is commonly known, the president frequently uses buzz words like "freedom", "liberty", "tyranny", and "terror" in an attempt to persuade his audience (mainly the American public) to support his agenda. I am not certain of his intentions, but I worry that the current administration's usage of such terminology is intentionally manipulative. Despite the good words, I haven't seen too many good deeds to back them up. The action doesn't seem to fit the message. Americans will need to pay close attention to what's really happening at home and abroad in the years to come.
John, Massachusetts, USA
I share all the same fears as Shankar. The Republicans are leading this country down a very dark road that has no light at the end of the tunnel. All the people who voted for Bush as a war President seem not to care that he was not much of a warrior himself.
Lee Rebuffoni, Minneapolis, MN
Shankar, your analysis of the situation matches my own, although you seem better informed than I. What worries me about this administration is its apparent ability to take actions which work to the material benefit of a small part of the population that is already too rich and dressing up these actions in a way that makes them appear morally justified in the eyes of about half the American people. It really has been an incredible propaganda success - to the detriment of almost everyone. The worst likely result of Bush's international policies is, as you suggest, a terrorist act which would lead to an even greater US military response and an almost inevitable escalation of hostilities. God bless America - and everyone else too!
Thomas Hunsberger, Canadian in Mexico
I have to agree. President Bush and his cabinet do not strike me as people in touch with reality. On one hand they seek to Americanize the world with the promise of freedom while subtly undermining freedom within this country. I think if our country continues like this for another eight years, the middle class will disappear. The US will begin to resemble one of those third world countries our government keeps talking about.
R. M. Paulus, Florida, USA
Four words...those are real concerns!
Munir El Kadi, Iraqi in the UAE
With the departure of Colin Powell, the Bush team's sole voice of moderation will be missed dearly. At least when he was around you felt reasonably safe and he showed he was caring and intelligent. Now with his departure we look at the Bush cabinet and advisers with a great deal of trepidation. Let us hope they realise that humility is an essential quality of leadership. As the old-guard are basically neo-conservatives with no real compassion for the middle-class, the poor and the down-trodden and cannot match Powell in humility, depth, compassion and intelligence. Let us hope for miracles and that a softer and more caring cabinet emerges in due course!
Pancha Chandra, Brussels; Belgium
I guess I have been reading Science Fiction as based on most of the postings. It seems that there is no real bad guys out there wanting to kill anyone who is not a radical Islamic terrorist and that the US and many other nations have it all wrong. I guess we should not have taken the 9-11 attacks so seriously, I mean really was it that bad? Maybe if we all just stop fighting then all the bad guys will stop being so bad and no one will ever need another weapon because once the naughty US stops taking bad guys to task, then everyone will stop being power hungry, radically motivated, racially prejudiced, and so forth. Come on people, wake up and look around you!
James Throckmorton, VA, USA
Interestingly, I am more concerned about Bush's relative apathy towards environmental issues than his, admittingly worrying, 'war on terror'. Many scientists believe that this is the bigger danger, and if he is adamant about stepping out threats to humanity, perhaps he should redirect some attention to this growing problem.
Michael Wallace, Glasgow, Scotland
Shankar is right. In fact, he is being optimistic. Bush suggests that the U.S. spread its ideologies by force; we are to believe that the ends justify the means. Bush's foreign agenda is nothing less than a crusade. This is not, however, a Christian crusade. Christ taught that if you are hit, offer the other cheek. To spread liberty with war, -this is the worst kind of perversion.
Mark Katakowski, Rochester, Michigan, USA
Americans are divided. The rest of the world is looking on in either hate or disapproval. The administration is desperate, a tired boxer swinging hard and wildly. We are truly vulnerable.
Joseph Kinnett, Indiana, USA
The Republicans' hubris will likely result in the end of the "American century," not a repeat. In 20-40 years time I expect us to be hoping China and the EU will help bail us out of the spot we will have gotten ourselves into - massive national debt, crumbling infrastructure and education systems, a depleted military, and inability to compete for investment with Europe's and Asia's carefully maintained business environments. Bush has sold us off, and has been sold himself to the Christian Right for some useless anti-abortion, anti-gay rhetoric.
Chas Parker, Dayton, Ohio, USA