Soaring Rhetoric Grounded By Reality

For those of you who weren’t counting at home, President Bush used the word “freedom” 27 times and the word “liberty” 15 in his inaugural address. Conspicuous by their absence, however, were the words “order” and “safety.”

Such pedestrian references don’t make for soaring rhetoric. All they do is address the real-world priorities of people who fear for their lives and increasingly wax nostalgic for the bad old days when they knew the despotic rules and had more electricity. A people for whom anarchy and civil war remain too high a price for “liberation.” A people for whom “occupation” is a pig that can never be perfumed enough.

The president’s “F word” overuse also holds the U.S. hostage to hypocrisy. That’s a reflection on our pragmatic relationships with countries – such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt – that are hardly the embodiment of democratic values.

And how ironic that Bush chose to paraphrase some of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural sentiments. Most notable was the updating of “bear any burden”and “pay any price.” Recall their use as rhetorically rationalizing America’s ever-escalating involvement in Vietnam.

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