Self-assured Bush begins 2nd term

Ceremonies: The president appears as a somber leader, but one who can also enjoy himself, at his inauguration.

The Inauguration Of President George W. Bush

January 21, 2005|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - On his second Inauguration Day, President Bush presented himself as a serious, confident leader, but also as a man able to laugh at a joke.

At times, President Bush projected the air of gravity that seemed appropriate for a day that coincided with more bloodshed in Iraq and continued recovery efforts in tsunami-ravaged South Asia.

As he walked the corridors of the U.S. Capitol, on his way to deliver his inaugural address from steps overlooking the Mall, he looked stern, eyes focused, lips pursed. His 21-minute speech was delivered with few if any smiles.

At other moments, he looked like he was enjoying himself. After his speech, he sat down beside Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, and at one point flung his head back in laughter.

Such were the differing faces of the president as he navigated a packed schedule, rising before dawn to attend church and ball-hopping into the night.

Like most wartime presidents before him, Bush chose to let the party go on, planning a lavish celebration at a time of turbulence in the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for one, canceled many inaugural events in 1945, the final year of World War II.

Bush began his day with a prayer service at St. John's Church, a 190-year-old Episcopal house of worship that is across Lafayette Park from the White House and is known as "the Church of the Presidents" because every White House occupant since James Madison has worshipped there.

George H.W. Bush, his wife, Barbara, and other family members, including the president's sister, Dorothy (Doro) Koch of Montgomery County, accompanied him to the service. All day, the elder Bush watched his son at the epicenter of a national celebration that eluded him when he lost his own bid for a second term in 1992.

Seated in Pew 54, the one reserved for presidents at St. John's, the younger Bush listened to the Rev. Luis Leon speak directly to him as the rest of the congregation listened. Leon, a Cuban immigrant who has become close to the president and who has been invited to the White House for dinner, said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, "we lost our known world."

"We know what fear does to people - fear clouds our judgment," Leon told Bush. "I want to invite you today ... [to] exercise your ministry and your vocation ... to help us overcome our fears."

Leon went on to tell the president, "I hope you will invite us to be a better people, beyond the confines of red and blue states." The priest stressed that he meant for Bush to focus on all people, including those who are "rich or poor" and "gay or straight."

Parishioners said Bush looked at ease. "He was smiling," said Paul Barkett, an administrator at George Mason University in northern Virginia. "He participated and was definitely engaged, singing all the hymns."

Added attorney Christopher Wall, "This was a very serious occasion, but he looked absolutely relaxed and very comfortable."

On CNN, Ari Fleischer, the president's first press secretary, recalled Bush telling him a few years ago that he was growing "more aware of how he holds himself, how he stands" because "the camera is always on him."

Indeed, the cameras were on Bush yesterday even more than usual, from sunup to sundown and well into the night.

Shortly after returning to the White House from church, about a 60-second ride in an 18-vehicle motorcade, Bush was off again, heading for the Capitol.

With his father and two other former presidents - Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter - seated nearby, Bush took the 35-word oath of office from a fragile Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is battling thyroid cancer and came to the ceremony walking with a cane.

Bush repeated Rehnquist's words quickly and moved eagerly to his address.

The speech was full of lofty, ambitious language about protecting freedom in America by spreading liberty around the world, delivered in a direct, no-nonsense tone.

After, at a luncheon with members of Congress, Bush said he was "touched" by the appearance by Rehnquist, who was determined not to let poor health get in the way of his traditional duty.

"That was an incredibly moving part," Bush said.

He also told lawmakers that "we have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us."

"As leaders, we have a common duty to achieve results for the people, regardless of our political parties," Bush said. He added, "I'm looking forward to putting my heart and soul into this job for four more years."

Bush descended the Capitol steps with his wife, Laura, Vice President Dick Cheney and Cheney's wife, Lynne. Leading the parade to the White House, Bush saw from his limousine window something he had rarely seen for months: protesters.

Through the 2004 campaign and on recent foreign trips, protesters were kept far from the president. But yesterday, Bush came within feet of them for five straight blocks on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Among the placards they flashed at him:

"Evil Rules in the Land of Fools."

"Bush Hates America."

"Jesus Christ Is Not the God of War."

"The Search for WMD is Not a Faith-Based Initiative."

Bush and the first lady climbed out of the limo and walked the final stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue - a section where spectators had to go through metal detectors - joining the crowds in the bitter cold. Mrs. Bush equipped herself with hand warmers in her gloves.

Last night, the First Couple set off on a sprint around the city, where nine inaugural balls awaited them.

Bush will be on the run early again today, attending a prayer service at the National Cathedral and beginning the first full day of four more years.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.