President Bush's call for an end to tyranny worldwide should not be interpreted by foreign governments and the American people as a prelude to a more aggressive and bellicose foreign policy in his second term, the president's father told reporters yesterday.
"People want to read a lot into it -- that this means new aggression or newly asserted military forces," former president George H.W. Bush said. "That's not what that speech is about. It's about freedom."
After George W. Bush's second inaugural address, in which he promised to defend those who seek freedom everywhere, there has been confusion overseas and in the United States over whether he was signaling a shift in foreign policy. Some interpreted the speech as presaging a more confrontational relationship with Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other nations that are allies in the war on terrorism but also have records of abusing human rights.
White House officials said in interviews Friday that Bush was not signaling a shift in policy but rather seeking to clarify what administration officials call the "Bush doctrine of liberty" that the president feels should guide policy well after he leaves the White House. The president's father reinforced that message yesterday.
People "certainly ought to not read into [the speech] any arrogance on the part of the United States," the former president said during an impromptu visit to the White House briefing room. White House officials said the president plans to detail the policies that will flow from the inaugural address in the upcoming State of the Union address.
In his weekly radio address, Bush returned to the issues that he has signaled will dominate his second term: Iraq, the war on terrorism and restructuring Social Security. "We will strive to keep the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of terrorists and tyrants," he said.
"As I stated in my inaugural address, our security at home increasingly depends on the success of liberty abroad. So we will continue to promote freedom, hope and democracy in the broader Middle East -- and by doing so, defeat the despair, hopelessness and resentments that feed terror."