Bush Inaugural Embraces Liberalism

If President
Bush achieved nothing else in his

Inaugural Address last
week, he at lest provided
fodder for media pundits to chew on for a solid week or

This is an
unusual accomplishment, even for inaugural addresses,
most of which are endured and then ignored by those
whose job it is to listen to them and talk and write
about them.

It was
predictable that Republicans would like the speech, but
what was notable about responses to it was what the
neo-conservatives had to say. "Say" is perhaps
not quite the word.

reaction was less one of verbal articulation than the
kind of gushing one hears in tidal waves and mud slides.
The neo-cons liked the speech. They should have, since
they essentially wrote it.

neo-conservative influence on the inaugural address is
obvious from its text. The president`s unqualified
endorsement of pop utopianism, the Wilsonian principle
that "it is the policy of the United States to seek
and support the growth of democratic movements and
institutions in every nation and culture, with the
ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world"
exactly what neo-cons have been peddling for decades.

It reflects
their breezy assumption that "democracy" and "liberty"
are virtual synonyms (an idea largely foreign to both
classical political theory and the

Founding Fathers
, who thought they had established a
republic that mixed forms of government, not a pure
democracy).  It accepts without question the assumption
that "freedom" as the West understands it is a universal
value for the whole world and can be institutionalized
only in Western political forms.

And from
those flawed premises, it draws the non sequitur that
American foreign policy should therefore export freedom
(meaning "democracy") everywhere. The premises, the
flawed logic, and the reckless conclusion are all
neo-conservative commonplaces.

But the
speech not only reflects neo-conservative ideology; it
was in large part the work of neo-conservative hands.
The Washington Post noted that neo-cons like Bill
Kristol, editor of the

Weekly Standard
and "a leading
neoconservative thinker,"
advised the president and
his speechwriters on the address.[Speech
Not a Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say
Washington Post,
Jan 21, 2005]

So were

Victor Davis Hanson

Charles Krauthammer,
and so was Israeli politician
(and neo-conservative) Nathan Sharansky, whom the
president invited to the White House in November to talk

his own book
on exporting democracy.

the neo-cons not only helped write the speech but
managed the gushing about it afterwards. "It was a
rare inaugural speech that will go down as a historic
speech, I believe,"
Mr. Kristol swooned to the
. "His importance as a world leader will turn
out to be far larger than the sort of tactical issues
that are widely debated and for which he is sometimes
reviled," neo-conservative kingpin Richard Perle
solemnly pronounced a few days later. "Put this in a
historic perspective: He`s already created profound
change. All around the Middle East, they`re talking
about the issue of democracy. They`re talking about his
agenda. It`s an extraordinary thing."

The neo-con
domination of the inaugural address of course reflects
their own continuing domination of the administration
itself, now entrenched even more powerfully than in Mr.
Bush`s first term. Just as the first term brought us war
in Iraq, so the second we can expect to bring us
wars—well—just about wherever the neo-cons want to wage
them. By the logic of Mr. Bush`s speech, that could be
almost anywhere that doesn`t conform to what he and they

As yet
another neo-con gusher,

Jonah Goldberg,
affirmed, Mr. Bush`s foreign policy

"truly revolutionary."
In that description he
concurs with liberal

Robert Kagan
of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, who writes that the president`s

"goals are now the antithesis of conservatism. They are

That`s OK,
you see, because "the United States is a
revolutionary power,"
and Mr. Bush has now "found
his way back to the universalist principles that have
usually shaped American foreign policy, regardless of
the nature of the threat."

What is
interesting here is not the flawed analysis of what has
"usually shaped" our foreign policy but the
convergence of neo-conservatism and liberalism. It`s
interesting because for a generation it has been the
constant theme of Old Right criticism of
neo-conservatism that it is largely

just liberal wine in a new bottle.

Woodrow Wilson

Franklin Roosevelt

Harry Truman,

John F. Kennedy
and Lyndon Johnson were liberals,
and all remain

neo-conservative heroes.

foreign policies,
and the words with which they
defended and explained them, were barely distinguishable
from what Mr. Bush wrapped himself and the nation in
last week. The president perhaps accomplished something
else in his address: He confirmed once and for all that
the neo-conservatism to which he has delivered his
administration and the country is fundamentally
indistinguishable from the liberalism many conservatives
imagine he has renounced and defeated.



Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,

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