|January 21, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
George W. Bush For A Second Term: How Will Puerto Rico Fare?
Yesterday at noon, amidst the tightest security that the nations capital has ever seen, with stinger missile launchers ringing the city, and legions of uniformed and plain-clothes police scattered among the huge crowds gathered around the Capitol Building and lining the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue, President George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist. Minutes before, Vice-President Richard Cheney also took the oath of office for a second term.
The inauguration closed down Washington for a day with federal government employees excused from work and most everyone except Bush supporters and scattered protestors avoiding the citys center core. Reportedly the most expensive inauguration on record, the tab for security was three times greater than any yet staged. Twelve-foot barrier walls cordoned off the public parks along the parade route with personal access for on-lookers strictly limited to pre-approved Bush supporters with color-coded passes. Surveillance cameras mounted on light posts flashed images to a control center in near-by Northern Virginia, staffed by monitors alert to any sign of danger to the President.
From a specially built platform backed by the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, the President addressed the estimated 100,000 shivering spectators in attendance and millions watching the address on television. His speech, which began promptly at noon, was mainly devoted to the themes of freedom and security both at home and abroad.
Not surprisingly, there was no mention of Puerto Rico or any of Americas other territories in his twenty-one minute address, although there were abundant references to his administrations commitment to the democratic process.
After a quick review of Americas role in the defense of freedom around the world, "standing watch on distant borders," the President came quickly to an implicit reference to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which he referred to as "a day of fire." In defense of his decision to take the war on terror to Afghanistan and Iraq, he told the assembly that "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
On the domestic front, the President stressed his preference for individual initiative over government action as an approach to the alleviation of social ills and his desire to enshrine private institutions into government solutions to Social Security and health care. "In Americas ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character on integrity, and on tolerance towards others," he proclaimed. "Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love."
In concluding thoughts, President Bush tied his aspirations for the countrys future to the will of God and the founding principles of American democracy. He referred to the comment of a bystander in 1776 when the liberty bell tolled at a reading of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. "It rang as if it meant something," the onlooker extolled. Bush continued on the theme by paraphrasing the actual words embossed on the cherished bell, "In our time it means something still. America in this young century proclaims liberty throughout the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength tested but nor weary we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
The speechs emphasis reflected the themes used by the Bush reelection campaign and also inscribed in the Republican Party (GOP) platform entitled "A Safer World and a More Hopeful America," hammered out by Party activists in the weeks before their national convention last August in New York. That platform stressed American strength and expanded opportunities for its citizens. It predicted that a second Bush administration would presage four years of stability for the nation and the advance of freedom and democracy throughout the world.
The same document welcomed "greater participation in all aspects of the political process" by Americans residing in U.S. territories. Regarding Puerto Rico specifically, the platform supported the right of the island to become a state of the Union "after they freely so determine" and the obligation of Congress to provide Puerto Ricans with "constitutionally valid options to achieve a permanent non-territorial status..." Such a referendum, it stated, should be "sponsored by the United States government."
The question for Puerto Ricans on this second day of George W. Bushs second term is if GOP platform assurances on a status process for the island will translate into political action or if the 4-year stall that marked the first Bush administration will carry over into its second.
The President has the mechanism in place to move the issue forward if he chooses. His Presidential Task Force on Puerto Rico Status, composed of representatives from key federal agencies, has had meetings and hearings over the past year and could accelerate their deliberations should Mr. Bush give it the word. They are tasked with defining the range of status options available to Puerto Rico under the U.S. Constitution. Their conclusions, presumably, would be put into a White House legislative initiative and presented to the Congress for implementation.
Such accelerated movement on Puerto Rico self-determination would contribute to Mr. Bushs legacy as one who finally backed up with deeds his and his familys words favoring sovereignty for Puerto Rico.
Establishing a legacy, it is said, is an unspoken priority for every second-term President.
This week, readers may venture a prediction on that question. Will or will not President George Bush, in his second term, support Puerto Rican self-determination?