The American President

I thought that George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural was a very good speech. I haven’t historically thought much of his policies, and I’ve thought even less of his grammar, vocabulary, speaking skills and such, but thought that this speech was quite good both from the point of view of his oratory (better than it’s been in a long time) and his policy. The devil is in the details, but I think there’s much to be proud of in policy, which is basically committed to democracy throughout the world. I’ve been so focused on what a crappy administration it’s been (deceitful, naive, and mean-spirited all seem to fit the bill) that I haven’t thought as much about democracy worldwide on the merits.

I’ve been thinking about it some lately, as you see the interviews with Iraqis that are planning to vote (or to stay home). And while there’s a lot to criticize, many of these people are getting to vote on how they’re governed for the first time in their lives — the first time in generations. And I keep coming to the conclusion that whatever the outcome, that’s a wholly good thing to enable. It won’t be perfect, and it will have tragic costs in countless ways, but it’s a start.

Here’s a bit of what he said: “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: 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.” More to the point: the best hope for peace is both political and economic freedom in all the world.

This is not my own idea, take a look here for Thomas Friedman’s full essay. Here’s the bit that I think is exactly right: “So I don’t want young Muslims to like us. I want them to like and respect themselves, their own countries and their own governments. I want them to have the same luxury to ignore America as young Taiwanese have – because they are too busy focusing on improving their own lives and governance, running for office, studying anything they want or finding good jobs in their own countries.”

When you net out W’s speech, he said that democracy is an undeniable good, and one that we should spend time & money & other types of capital to foster. Thinking about it historically, this is pretty much the opposite of conservative policy (which are traditionally isolationist) — it’s practically a left-wing, improve the world philosophy. The differences, I suppose, are two: (1) we’re pursuing this policy not because it’s the right thing in the world, but because it protects our liberty at home, and (2) the means of getting their may not be something to be very proud of.

In any event, I was encouraged by his words and tone and posture — he is, at the end of the day, our American President, and I’m happy to be at least a little hopeful.

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