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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Pledges He'll Fight for Freedom

APPresident Bush taking the oath of office from Chief Justice William Rehnquist, right, with first lady Laura Bush and their daughters at his side at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.
WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush swore the U.S. presidential oath for a second term in turbulent times Thursday and issued a sweeping pledge to spread liberty and freedom "to the darkest corners of the world."

"Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill and would be dishonorable to abandon," said the president, who led the nation to war in Iraq in a first term marked by terrorist attacks on the United States.

In a speech delivered before a vast throng of fellow Americans spilling away from the steps of the Capitol building, Bush said he would place the United States on the side of the world's oppressed people. "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, ailing with thyroid cancer and the subject of retirement speculation, administered the oath of office. The 58-year-old president placed one hand on a family Bible and raised the other as he recited an oath as old as the republic.

The weather was cold; security extraordinarily tight for the nation's 55th inauguration, first since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Sharpshooters dressed in black scanned the vast crowd from rooftops and hundreds of police stood shoulder to shoulder along the route of the mid-afternoon inaugural parade.

Newly sworn in, Bush offered an implied rebuttal to critics of his foreign policy and the war in Iraq.

"Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty," he said, "though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt."

"We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom," he said in remarks that were shorn of all but the most glancing references to the dominant political issues of the day.

Instead, he packed the first speech of a new term with multiple references to freedom and liberty, references to God -- and a reminder of Abraham Lincoln's long-ago admonition.

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it," he quoted the 16th president.

The spread of freedom and liberty were the oldest ideals of the United States, Bush said.

"Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time."

Bush, his family and congressional leaders moved into the Capitol following the midday swearing in and speech, joining other members of the U.S. political elite for lunch.

The Republican-controlled Senate was convening later, with confirmation of the first of Bush's second-term Cabinet offices were on the agenda.

Bush awoke before dawn in the White House, then traveled a few blocks with his wife, Laura, and their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, to a pre-inauguration prayer service. A few hours later they journeyed 16 blocks along historic Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where Bush stood four years earlier to take the office for the first time.

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Coffins draped with U.S. flags lining Malcolm X Park in Washington as part of a protest to remember American casualties in Iraq.

That was before terrorists struck the United States, plunging America into a challenging new era, and prompting the president to order the invasion of Afghanistan and -- controversially -- Iraq. The inaugural pageantry unfolded half a world away from that conflict -- a war and messy aftermath that has claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Americans and was a key fault line in last fall's election.

Bush's victory made him the 16th president in American history to win a second term after a full first four years -- an accomplishment denied his father in 1992. In the process, he led Republicans to larger majorities in the House and Senate, and has outlined a conservative second-term domestic agenda that includes major changes in Social Security and taxes. But with the war a concern, he begins his new term with the lowest approval rating at that point of any recent two-term president -- 49 percent in an Associated Press poll this month.

Many around the world are nervous about the intentions of a leader they regard as cocky, shallow and dangerous.

The U.S. Constitution commanded that Bush take the oath of office at the stroke of noon. Tradition dictated the Capitol as the setting, curiosity and celebration accounted for the throng that traditionally spilled down Capitol Hill toward the historic National Mall and the monuments beyond.

The day was the culmination of a hard-won victory for Bush and fellow Republicans, and they were in a mood to celebrate. Elsewhere, there were small demonstrations at scattered locations, including one several kilometers from the Capitol where anti-war protesters carried coffin-like cardboard boxes to signify the death of U.S. troops in Iraq.