Jan 22, 2001
"And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." So said George W. Bush in his inaugural address on January 20, in rhetoric that we have all come to recognize as the typical inaugural address of Republicans and Democrats alike.
In short strokes, the speech contained an entire sermon in words meant to inspire. Of course, what counts more is what was hidden behind the "inspiring" words. But that was left unsaid.
First, Bush called for unity, a call that conveniently masks the growing class divisions in the society and the growing gap between rich and poor, capitalist and worker, exploiter and exploited.
Bush, like those who held the office of president before him, is a representative of the capitalist class. His job is to get the workers to identify with the interests of the capitalists. His aim is to tie the workers behind the capitalist class.
Bush called on the government to deal with big problems that everyone can even agree with. But he was very vague, allowing everyone to read whatever they want into his words.
Thus Bush decried the conditions of the schools and called for educational reforms. But he didn't reveal that his reforms aim to open the public schools to greater control by private companies so that they can make more profit off them.
Bush said that he wants to "reform Social Security and Medicare." But Bush did not propose to raise Social Security benefits, so that the elderly could retire in comfort, security and dignity. No, his plan is to hand these funds over to Wall Street, so that big financial companies can whittle and chisel away at the huge reservoir of Social Security money through their high fees and commissions.
Bush said he wants to reduce taxes, to "reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans." Sound familiar? Just eight years ago, Clinton too came into office promising a "middle class" tax cut, only to raise working people's taxes, while cutting the capitalists' taxes –in two major tax packages. Bush intends to do the same.
Finally, Bush spoke of "building our defenses beyond challenge." This is another way of saying that he intends to funnel ever more tax money to the big military contractors. But beyond that, the core of the government is the military, which in the name of protecting freedom is used to protect the U.S. corporations' interests all over the world, from the Persian Gulf to Latin America, from the Pacific to Africa. And who fights and dies in these wars and conflicts, but the sons and daughters of the working class?
When Bush said that we "will confront weapons of mass destruction," he forgot to mention that most of those weapons are held by the U.S. military, and they are used to terrorize ordinary people all over the world.
Under the guise of defending idealism, education, retirement and health care, Bush defends raw profit. When he speaks of preparing for peace and freedom, he means building up the instruments of war and destruction. And he does it all, while wrapping himself in both the flag and the altar cloth of the church. Like presidents before him, he wants us to believe it is the sacred duty of the capitalist class to exploit us, and the rest of the people of the world.
Many commentators claimed that Bush's speech was a command performance. It was. And the capitalists must be pleased and proud that they have a brand "new and improved" president to do their bidding.
But no one says that the working class has to follow obediently.