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GOD Belongs in Presidential Inaugural Addresses

By Michael J. Gaynor

Having bought a ticket, Michael Newdow thought he was entitled to have prayer barred from President Bush's second inauguration.

But Newdow failed to stop prayer there.

Secular extremism could not accomplish that.

Even United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declined Newdow's invitation to "protect him" from prayer at the inauguration.

And today President Bush is at the National Cathedral for an interdenominational service.

Having given a stirring inaugural address reflecting his religious devotion.

Newdow must have been disappointed, but...Peggy Noonan?

A wonderful speechwriter, to be sure.

Ms. Noonan was moved to write that the inaugural address had "Way Too Much God" and to ask, "Was the president's speech a case of "mission inebriation"?

A cheap shot, considering that President Bush gave up alcoholic beverages long ago.

Ms. Noonan recently had been inconvenienced.

As she put it:

"In my hotel the night before the inauguration, all the guests were evacuated at 1:45 in the morning. There were fire alarms and flashing lights on each floor, and a public address system instructed us to take the stairs, not the elevators. Hundreds of people wound up outside in the slush, eventually gathering inside the lobby, waiting to find out what next. The staff--kindly, clucking--tried to figure out if the fire existed and, if so, where it was. Hundreds of inaugural revelers wound up observing each other.... I remembered my keys and eyeglasses but walked out without my shoes. After a while the 'all clear' came, and hundreds of us stood in line for elevators to return to our rooms."

That was unfortunate, Ms. Noonan, but don't blame God and President Bush.

Ms. Noonan conceded that "[t]he inauguration itself was beautiful to see--pomp, panoply, parades, flags and cannonades," but then groused: "whoever picked the music for the inaugural ceremony itself--modern megachurch hymns, music that sounds like what they'd use for the quiet middle section of a Pixar animated film--was . . . lame."

Hymns are good, Ms. Noonan.

And your distress with an inaugural address that was a great success is shocking, I must confess:

"The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike....the president's evolving thoughts on freedom in the world....seemed marked by deep moral seriousness and no moral modesty.... To the extent our foreign policy is marked by a division that has been (crudely but serviceably) defined as a division between moralists and realists--the moralists taken with a romantic longing to carry democracy and justice to foreign fields, the realists motivated by what might be called cynicism and an acknowledgment of the limits of governmental power--President Bush sided strongly with the moralists, which was not a surprise. But he did it in a way that left this Bush supporter yearning for something she does not normally yearn for, and that is: nuance."

According to Ms. Noonan, "some things are constant, such as human imperfection, injustice, misery and bad government," and '[t]his world is not heaven.

Not cause to accept injustice, misery and bad government, when something positive can be done, Ms. Noonan.

Ms. Noonan wrote, with apparent displeasure:

"The president's speech seemed rather heavenish. It was a God-drenched speech. This president, who has been accused of giving too much attention to religious imagery and religious thought, has not let the criticism enter him. God was invoked relentlessly. 'The Author of Liberty.' 'God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind . . . the longing of the soul.'"

A God blessed speech, Ms. Noonan, by a man who will not be cowed by secular extremists and people imagining shades of gray in pure white and pitch black.

Of course, Ms. Noonan understood what she heard.

"It seemed a document produced by a White House on a mission. The United States, the speech said, has put the world on notice: Good governments that are just to their people are our friends, and those that are not are, essentially, not. We know the way: democracy. The president told every nondemocratic government in the world to shape up. 'Success in our relations [with other governments] will require the decent treatment of their own people.'"

It was President Kennedy who said that on earth, God's work must truly be our own.

President Bush agrees.

And rightfully so.

But Ms. Noonan is wary:

"Ending tyranny in the world? Well that's an ambition, and if you're going to have an ambition it might ...

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