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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 20:06 GMT
Bush plays variations on freedom theme
By James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

George W Bush's inauguration is broadcast on a large screen in Times Square, New York
Bush made clear there will be no change in the direction of his policy
President George W Bush's second inaugural address can probably be summarised in one word - freedom.

It is a word that cropped up 27 times during the 16-minute speech - mostly with reference to international relations, but also - in what the president called "a broader definition of liberty" - in the context of his domestic political agenda.

On the home front, he spoke of his goal of creating an "ownership society" - a reference to his ambitious plans to make his first-term tax cuts permanent and to overhaul the US social security system, giving citizens the obligation and the opportunity to invest in their own future, rather than relying on state benefits.

But while his supporters may well see these as expressions of personal liberty, many in his own Republican Party are wary of such radical plans - from both an economic and a political point of view.

And the signs coming from Congress suggest that the president will have quite a fight on his hands if he is to get approval for these plans.

But this was the first inauguration since the 11 September attacks and the declaration of a war on terror, so - while the speech was predictably short on specifics - it was shot through with references to the global situation.

No turning back

One thing seems clear: this is not a president who intends to turn back from his doctrine of taking pre-emptive action, in the interests of American security (or, as he would put it, American freedom).

He spoke of America's commitment to advancing the cause of democracy throughout the world, yet made it plain that this was from a self-interested point of view, as well as from an ideological one.

In one of the most telling phrases, he said: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."

And there was a stark message to regimes which have already found themselves players in the president's rhetoric.

Anti-Bush protester in Tokyo, Japan
Bush's foreign policies have united much of the world against him
Quoting from one of his predecessors, Abraham Lincoln, President Bush said that the rulers of outlaw regimes should remember that "those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it".

The warning bells will be ringing in foreign capitals such as Tehran and Damascus.

So this is a speech which has set the tone for George W Bush's second term - a term that begins with thousands of American soldiers still fighting in Iraq, a huge budget deficit and a weak dollar, but with a president who remains as driven by idealism as ever.

Across the world, governments are waiting to see how this idealism will manifest itself in US domestic and foreign policies.

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