The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Sunday, January 23, 2005

On this first weekend after the inauguration, there are a number of articles reviewing Bush's inaugural speech and its significance. For the Democratic media organs (The New York Times, NPR, MSNBC) the speech was "simple-minded", and avoided mentioning the key issue of the day - Iraq. Both of those criticisms are simply wrong and themselves simple-minded.

The speech truly was revolutionary. Robert Kagan shows Bush's transformation from a "realist retrenchment" when he first came to office, to a "moralistic policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East derived from hard-headed calculations of American security interests", and with this speech to a revolutionary idealism of spreading democracy for the sake of democracy, "unmoored...from the war on terrorism".

Michael Barone traces the idea of the "fire of freedom" from George Washington to Lincoln to Bush.
Bush is not the first president to liken liberty to fire. George Washington in 1789 said, "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered . . . deeply, . . . finally, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the American people." In 1941 Franklin Roosevelt quoted Washington and went on, "If we lose that sacred fire--if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear--then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish." Bush chose to quote Lincoln. "The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.' " There is a narrative here: Washington established liberty in America, Lincoln extended liberty to the slaves, Bush means to spread liberty around the world. And by force of arms when necessary.
The one disagreement that I have with this analysis is that while Washington was a revolutionary, and Bush is setting himself up to be one, Lincoln was not. Lincoln was in essence a reactionary - trying to preserve the status quo of the Union.
|| Nudnik 5:30 PM
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