We speak with Matt Rothschild of The Progressive Magazine who analyzes President Bush’s second inaugural address. Rothschild finds that in addition to the many explicit references to God, Bush’s speech contained even more hidden allusions to the Bible. [includes rush transcript]
The speech given by President Bush last Thursday at his second inauguration in Washington DC has generated a significant amount of attention worldwide, as well as in this country among some of Bush’s most consistent supporters.
Former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that the speech was “startling,” “over the top” and “left me with a bad feeling.”
She called the speech “heavenish” and wrote, “It was a God-drenched speech” adding that his declaration to end tyranny “seemed to me to land somewhere between dreamy and disturbing.”
Former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson said the speech was “wide open for interpretation,” and to him “felt like quite an overreach.” Internationally, the speech was also criticized. The Star of London had a headline the next day that said “Bush: I swear it’s Iran next.” Britain’s Telegraph newspaper decried what they called Bush’s “muscular foreign policy,” and the Times of London slammed him for a mission to “end tyranny on Earth.”
London’s Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper described the speech as “pretentious and meaningless,” and called “the democracy which President Bush is heralding” to be a “bloody democracy which cost the lives of 100,000 Iraqi martyrs.”
The White House was quick to try and recast the speech, saying it represented no significant shift in U.S. foreign policy but instead was meant as a crystallization and clarification of policies he is pursuing in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere. Former President George Bush told reporters at the White House Friday that critics were overreacting saying people were reading too deeply into the speech. The elder Bush also represented a change in US policy. Today, we are going to look closely at this speech. In a moment, we will hear from Gore Vidal. But first, we turn to Matt Rothschild.
- Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine. His latest piece is called “The Hidden Passages in Bush’s Inaugural Address.”
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re going to look closely at President Bush’s inaugural address.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens. From all of you I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’ll go to Gore Vidal, respected American thinker and writer, but first to the editor of The Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Matt. You wrote a piece called, “The Hidden Passages in Bush’s Inaugural Address.” Can you talk about them?
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Sure. What struck me about the speech first off, as in many of Bush’s speeches, were the explicit references to God, which I find offensive but I also know that he embeds in his speeches very hidden messages to his evangelical base, and so I wanted to go hunt those down, and I did so. You know, this speech was just coated with messages to his base, and also suggested he believes them, that he is somehow deluded in thinking that God put him in the Oval Office and he is God’s agent. The clip that you just played with the words, “good measure,” Bush was thanking the American people, really, for giving him time, ridiculous amounts of time for that matter, to go after Osama bin Laden, but he was echoing Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure.” And then there are a whole range of other ones. I mean, he talked and you played a passage there about — at the beginning — “Freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.” Well, that’s almost straight out of Psalm 107. “He satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness.” If you look at these passages carefully and compare the text of Bush’s speeches with the Biblical references, what Bush is doing is he is cloaking the best parts of American civic values or civic values of freedom and liberty and justice, he is cloaking those in distinctly Christian garb, and he’s making all sorts associations. I mean, if freedom is the hope of mankind and Jesus is the hope of mankind freedom and Jesus are one and the same. That’s not what we should have here in this so-called secular democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: What other examples did you see of these — what you call — hidden passages in the speech?
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, there are a lot. Here is one. Bush talked about the — this was probably the creepiest section in the whole speech — the untamed fire of freedom, where Bush was almost rubbing his hands together when he said, “This untamed fire will burn those who fight its progress.” That’s pretty lurid, isn’t it? Anyway, he talked about the untamed fire of freedom in a passage that included the phrase, “hope kindles hope.” And this echoes a couple passages in Jeremiah. “I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem.” Or, “I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her.” This is just all over the place. I mean, Bush talked about the day when the captives are set free. In Ephesians, it says, “He led the captives free.” The closer you look at it, the more you can see these parallels, and they are very disturbing to me.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine. The response of the White House, they had to issue a clarification, saying that this is not new, that these are the policies that President Bush is pursuing in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and elsewhere.
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, it’s certainly true. It’s not new, the Bush policy of messianic militarism, nor is it new the way that he phrases it. I mean, he has said in speech after speech, Amy, that we are delivering the gift of freedom to the people of Iraq, but it’s not our gift to deliver; it’s the gift of God almighty. And so he sees himself as God’s efficient little delivery boy, God’s UPS man, replete with brown shirt. He talked about God as the author of liberty in his inauguration address, and if God is the author of liberty, Bush thinks he’s that author’s agent, because he talks about America as the one that is going to bring liberty to the people all over the world.
AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, the national prayer service that President Bush and Mrs. Bush attended, Reverend Billy Graham said that God is behind President Bush’s re-election. Graham said, quote, “Our father, we acknowledge your divine help in the selection of our nation’s leaders throughout history, and we believe in your providence, you have granted a second term of office to our president, George W. Bush, and our vice president, Richard Cheney.”
MATT ROTHSCHILD: And that’s nothing new. Bush himself thinks that God put him in the Oval Office. After 9/11, he gave a speech by the same speechwriter, Michael Gerson who wrote this inaugural address, and after the speech Gerson called up Bush and said, “Oh, you gave a great speech, Mr. President. I knew right then that God wanted you to be in the Oval Office.” And Bush responded to Gerson, “God wants us all to be where we are.” And during the campaign just past, he told, Bush did, some people in Pennsylvania, some Amish people that “God speaks through me.” This is a man who is so deluded, it goes back to almost divine rites of kings. That’s how far back this delusion goes. And at the prayer breakfast that you mentioned, Amy, Bush also said, “We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.” I mean, he really does believe that he is on a crusade. Finally, the White House has got him not to use that word, but that’s what he’s talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to ask you about the situation in Iraq. Latest news out of Baghdad, a senior Iraqi judge has been assassinated, fierce clashes have left at least 11 policemen, Iraqi policemen, dead. Also, a video has emerged showing an American named Roy Hallums pleading for his life. He was kidnapped last November while working in Baghdad for a Saudi company.
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, it’s a mess there. It’s just a terrible mess that Bush has made. There’s no reason the U.S. should be there. There are some messes that the mess-maker is incapable of cleaning up, and that’s where a lot of liberals need to understand who don’t want the United States to leave there. “We have got to clean up the mess.” There’s no way the United States can clean up the mess. The pyromaniac doesn’t make a good firefighter, and Bush is a pyromaniac here. In today’s newspaper, it says that U.S. troops, 120,000 of them, are going to be there at least until the end of 2007. There’s been a lot of talk about these elections being a turning point, Amy, but there’s not going to be a turning point here. I mean, we have always been told there’s a turning point. When Saddam’s sons were killed, that was a turning point. When Saddam was caught, that was a turning point. When Fallujah was retaken or Najaf, or when Bremer handed over power, all those were turning points. There’s not going to be a turning point until the United States turns around and leaves.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, nine hours of floor debate on the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, though she is certainly expected to be confirmed. Only two people opposed in committee, that was John Kerry and. Barbara Boxer. Your comment?
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, thank god for Barbara Boxer, both in Ohio and on Condoleezza Rice. I was also happy to see John Kerry finally stepping up to the plate here. There’s no reason that U.S. senators should confirm Condoleezza Rice for all of the lies that she told and the propaganda that she peddled before the Iraq war. On top of that, she has been a prime defender of the torture policy of the U.S. government and got the House and Senate to agree after the Senate voted 98 to 1 to prevent U.S. soldiers from torturing anybody, to strip that out of the language of that bill. So she is not someone who is qualified for this job. I would hope that the democratic senators would finally stand up on their own two feet and start opposing this Bush administration for its reprehensible policies in Iraq and on torture.
AMY GOODMAN: One more question, and it does have to do with torture and Alberto Gonzales. Latest news is Human Rights Watch has come out with a report saying Iraqi security forces are committing systematic torture at prisons, and the ACLU has gotten more government documents revealing Iraqi prisoners lodging at least 90 complaints of abuse against the U.S. are being held at a little-known U.S.-run jail.
MATT ROTHSCHILD: This is the most shameful thing that the Bush administration has done in its litany of shameful acts. It has besmirched the reputation of the United States and it is violating one treaty after another, not only the Geneva Conventions but the convention against torture and mistreatment and abuse. By violating those conventions and treaties, Bush is violating Article VI of the Constitution, which says treaties are the supreme law of the land. Bush should be impeached for this.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, Matt Rothschild, I want to thank you for being with us.
MATT ROTHSCHILD: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: The Progressive editor. Thank you, Matt.