Today we have the inauguration of George Bush for his second term. As a consequence we'll hear dozens of comments about what kind of president he has been and what kind of man he is.
There seems to be one point that almost everyone is agreed upon, whether they oppose the president or admire him. He is, according to overwhelming opinion, a man of simple thought who makes decisions without agonizing over them and is virtually incapable of imagining that some of his decisions may be wrong. He doesn't worry about mistakes because he doesn't think he makes mistakes. For him, the world is an uncomplicated place, made up of people who are good and love freedom and people who are bad and hate freedom. It is the duty of freedom-lovers to subdue freedom-haters. That subjugation is the policy of the government of the United States. Everything else is secondary.
I've heard people say that this is the kind of mind we need at the head of national affairs in this age, a mind that stays on task and is never tempted by subtlety.
I've heard others say that the president's childish view of the world is leading us to disaster.
The next four years give us an opportunity to weight these two viewpoints and to decide which of them will best serve our interests over the next generation. And I suspect we'll make the decision based on what we come to think about American exclusiveness. Are we a chosen people, destined to lead the world to settled systems of economics, religion and politics? Or, are we simply one people among many, who need to converse with all the people of the world, learn from them, and understand that they too have their goals, visions and intelligence?
You could put these questions in a way that fits better with Mr. Bush's speech: are we to be the leaders of the world or citizens of the world?
Some might say there's no conflict between the two roles. But I think they're mistaken. There's no doubt that Mr. Bush has been successful in one thing. He has made America the world's issue. That being the case, we have little opportunity to return to what used to be called normal diplomacy. Either we've got to make extraordinary efforts now to show the world's people that we regard them as our equals. Or, we'll remain isolated and have little option but to try to impose our will on all other nations.
That's the choice President Bush has bequeathed to us.