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"The National Day of Mourning"

I recently saw a bumper sticker identifying Jan. 20, 2005 as the “National Day of Mourning.” I greatly appreciated the sticker’s reference to Inauguration Day, but not for the same reason the car’s owner did. What I mourned last Thursday was not the supposedly “dangerous” direction President George W. Bush has our country headed in, but instead the reality that his time as our president is now more than half over.

The difference between America’s two parties could not have been clearer this week. While President Bush was outlining and immediately beginning work on an ambitious and clear-cut agenda derived from strong convictions and principles like freedom and ownership, his opponents were, like usual, strategically changing their positions on important issues in an already-begun contest to attain power in 2008. Take especially the recent actions of Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

In case you missed it, Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., last week articulated two positions that would ordinarily make her party’s base cringe. The night before Inauguration, Clinton spoke at a fundraiser in Boston and offered resounding support for faith-based initiatives, which Democrats often criticize Republicans for supporting. Said Clinton: “There is no contradiction between support for faith-based initiatives and upholding our constitutional principles.” As she also told the crowd of clergymen, the religious need to be able to “live out their faith in the public square.”

Just five days after voicing this support for faith-based initiatives, Clinton made comments even more head-turning and inconsistent with her past positions. This time, they dealt with abortion, which she now calls a “sad” and “tragic” choice for many. The usually avid supporter of abortion rights even called for “common ground” on abortion, in a speech that The New York Times reported was received by some audience members as “politically calculated.” Seeing that Clinton has already taken a hard-line stance on immigration and hired a high-ranking DNC official as a fundraiser, it seems unlikely that her sudden shift on social issues is coincidental.

The other Democrat who seems more focused on winning caucuses in 2008 than solving America’s problems today is none other than John Kerry. Last week, John Kerry, D-Mass., engaged in two blatantly political maneuvers aimed at securing votes in ’08. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the senator made phantom accusations of “suppressed” voters in Ohio when speaking to African Americans. Later, he cast a pointless “No” vote against Condoleezza Rice’s nomination for Secretary of State in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry’s behavior jives well with other preparations he has made to run again, preparations which led one of his own aides to tell Newsweek: “He thinks he’s the front runner for ’08 without recognizing that he needs to do some soul-searching. If he wants to come back, he’ll have to come back as a different candidate, not the stiff who plays it safe and takes four sides of every issue.”

Amid all this political maneuvering, President Bush stood before the nation last Thursday and pledged to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution. He then presented a deeply thematic and philosophical argument for freedom as a cure for oppression, pledged America’s support to those who rise up against oppressors and declared that foreign rulers can only serve their people if they trust them. The president also pledged to rework government programs like social security, further reform the education system and attack the remnants of racism that still exist in America today. As he put it: “Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals.”

Had the president’s speech been delivered word-for-word by Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, everyone from Ted Kennedy to Dan Rather to Barbara Streisand would have noted its brilliance, poignancy and historical significance. There was literally not a word in the president’s address that liberal elitists would have called “far right” or “jingoistic” were it coming from the mouth of someone other than George W. Bush. Yet for liberals still bitter and angry at the president for winning re-election, attacking anything and everything he says or does is just routine.

At the conclusion of his Inaugural speech, the president met with Congressional leaders, watched the Inaugural parade and then made brief stops at all nine of the Presidential Inaugural balls. He was home at 10 p.m. and promptly in bed, just as he is every day, be it New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl Sunday or in this case his final Inauguration. As one attendee of Inauguration put it: “He’s a machine.”

In President Bush, Americans currently have a leader who is driven, dignified, principled and obsessed with protecting them from harm. His re-election showed that Americans prefer resolute leadership over political flip-flopping, and history will one day prove us wise.

Nathan Carleton is a Trinity senior. His column appears on Thursdays.



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