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Ken Masugi is the Director of the Claremont Institute's Center
for Local Government.
Its purpose is to apply the principles of the American Founding
to the theory and practice of local government, the cradle
of American self-government. Dr. Masugi has extensive experience
in government and academia. Following his initial appointment
at the Claremont Institute (1982-86), he was a special assistant
to then-Chairman Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. After his years in Washington, he
held visiting university appointments including Olin Distinguished
Visiting Professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Dr. Masugi
is co-author with Brian Janiskee of both The
California Republic: Institutions, Statesmanship, and Policies (Rowman & Littlefield,
2004) and Democracy
in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State (Rowman & Littlefield,
2002). He is co-editor of six books on political thought,
Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism with
Branford P. Wilson, (Ashbrook Series, 1997); The
Ambiguous Legacy of the Enlightenment with William Rusher,
(University Press, 1995); The
American Founding with J. Jackson Barlow
and Leonard W. Levy, (Greenwood Press, 1988). He is the editor
Tocqueville's Democracy in America, (Rowman & Littlefield,
to Masugi index]
George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Addess...
[Ken Masugi] 1/21/05
Inaugural Address is the most fascinating one of recent
times. It projects grand ambitions for the nation, domestic
and foreign. Its greatness as a speech comes from its Lincolnian
themes, not its Wilsonian ones, as commentators are maintaining.
Its ambition involves the world and American politics, and
the relationship between the two. In foreign policy its ambition
was quite plain, calling for the overthrow of tyrannies and
the establishment of democracies. Domestically, it responds
1944 State of the Union Address, which called for a
second, economic Bill of Rights and still serves as the touchstone
of contemporary liberalism.
of human freedom" working its way through history, a history
with "a visible direction set by liberty and the author of
liberty," is the theme that dominates the second inaugural.
Self-government rests on the principle that "no one is fit
to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave." This truth
applies to all nations, especially our own. Now the "imperative
of self-government" is "the urgent requirement of our nation's
security and the calling of our time." "So 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." Tyranny
would be put "in the course of ultimate extinction," to use
Lincolnian language about slavery.
page and a half of Bush's speech are as universal as the opening
of Declaration of Independence, addressing the peoples of the
earth. He quotes Lincoln (who was then addressing Bostonians): "Those
who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and,
under [the rule ofBush insertion] a just God, cannot
long retain it" (letter
to Henry Pierce, April 6, 1859). Yet there is an abstract
quality (possibly Kantian?) about the beginning as well: No
mention of specific nations or causes, not even Iraq, other
than our own. Instead, it articulates universal principles.
prelude Bush notes his change of focus: "Today, I also speak
anew to my fellow citizens." Echoing his opening lines about "a
day of fire," he calls on Americans to light "a fire in the
minds of men." The youngest citizens should note "duty and
allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers." "America
has need of idealism and courage because we have essential
work at homethe unfinished work of American freedom.
In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show
the meaning and promise of liberty."
the most problematicand ambitiouspart of the speech,
translating our world commitments to the "essential work at
home." Here he sees a "broader vision of liberty" behind Lincoln's
Homestead Act and FDR's Social Security Act and GI Bill of
Rights. That vision leads to "reforming great institutions
[e.g., Social Security] to serve the needs of our time." Moreover, "by
making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we
will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and
fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal." Is
Bush captured by FDR ("freedom from want and fear" and the
use of "equal," hinting at the legitimacy of redistribution)
or does his means, the focus on individual rights, subvert
FDR by appealing beyond him to the Jeffersonian-Lincolnian
understanding of the Declaration?
Is this an
extension of FDR's "second bill of rights," one assuring security,
which he proposed because the Founders' political rights "proved
inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness"?
FDR asserts, "We have come to the clear realization of the
fact that true individual freedom cannot exist with economic
security and independence. 'Necessitous men are not free men.'" Sixty
years ago FDR concluded, in his January 11, 1944 address to
Congress, "unless there is security here at home there cannot
be lasting peace in the world."
should be read as a reply to FDR and an attempted reversal
of the process he started domestically, why affirming its international
presence but bypassing the United Nations FDR supported. Bush
would maintain America as a force in the world and use that
commitment to bring more freedom to America.
to be aiming at a grand
political realignment here, one that questions the
very basis of the Progressivism that undermined American constitutionalism.
What does such a realignment involve?
preeminent Lincoln scholar Harry
V. Jaffa has argued (see Equality and Liberty),
the American political landscape has been transformed by three
critical elections that have produced realignments: the elections
of Jefferson in 1800, Lincoln in 1860, and Franklin Roosevelt
in 1932. Further, Jaffa maintains, each of these realignments
has been based on reinterpretations of the meaning of the Declaration
of Independence. For Jefferson, his election meant the Declaration's
vindication of limited government. For Lincoln, the Declaration's
principle of equality truly would apply to all men and self-government
would be legitimated. FDR (aided by Woodrow Wilson) transformed
the earlier understanding of equality by making the Declaration
an instrument of class warfare and a means of overthrowing
is to overthrow the FDR legacy. It appears he knows what he's
doing. In his New
Yorker profile of Bush advisor Karl Rove, Nicholas
Lemann concludes that "Rove's Republican-majority America would
be not just pre-Great Society, and not just pre-New Deal, but
pre-Progressive era…. Rove's intellectual hero is James Madison."
understands the domestic culture war. And while starting with
another anti-modern liberal notion, that of self-government,
he appears to concede too much to multiculturalism:
ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private characteron
integrity and tolerance toward others and the rule of conscience
in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the
governing of the self.
of character is built in families, supported by communities
with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths
of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran and
the varied faiths of our people…." Does America's attempt to
free the world of America require the recognition of Islam
in our national celebrations? Will this world-mission of democratization
wind up flattening our souls? But Bush did stress the "words" of
the Koran, not the practices it fosters: A fine point but possibly
a distinction that makes a difference.
reference to abortion was so subtle it doubtless escaped the
notice of many, because, again, he was focusing on principles: "Americans,
at our best, value the life we see in one another and must
always remember that even the unwanted have worth."
In his concluding
paragraphs the President underlines the freedom of the individual
and the spiritedness it brings forth. Note his examples, each
recalling the principle of equal natural rights:
confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind,
the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our
Founders declared a new order of the ages, when soldiers died
in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty, when citizens
marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now"they
were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled.'
continues: "History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history
also has a visible direction set by liberty and the author
of liberty"might we paraphrase "by the laws of Nature
and of Nature's God"? He concludes with explicit reference
to the Declaration:
Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the
Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It
rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something
in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the
world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strengthtested,
but not wearywe are ready for the greatest achievements
in the history of freedom."
Bush has set the stage for what may be a remarkable second
term. How it actually plays out is far more difficult to predict.
After all, his success depends greatly on the ability of his
enemies. Having set his goals so high, Bush should remember
FDR's admonition in the State of the Union Address he is answering:
'One of the
great American industrialists of our daya man who has
rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisisrecently
emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this
Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed,
if such reaction should developif history were to repeat
itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of
the 1920'sthen it is certain that even though we shall
have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall
have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.'
In the midst
of WW II FDR was calling his conservative Republican opponents
Nazis. If President Bush wants realignment he will have to
pay his Democratic
opponents back in kind, as he sets about creating freedom
abroad and restoring it at home. Such are the means by which
the truths of the Declaration of Independence will be revived.
I eagerly await his State of the Union Address. tOR