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Bush prepares to take oath of office
Updated: 2005-01-21 00:42

WASHINGTON - President Bush prepared to take the oath of office for a second term on Thursday and will tell Americans "the survival of liberty in our land" increasingly depends on advancing freedom abroad, in an allusion to his hotly contested Iraq policy.

Three hours before his swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill, Bush, who has considerably less popular support than other recent incumbents after their re-election, attended a morning church service with his family at St. John's Episcopal Church, attended by presidents since it was organized in 1815.

At noon (1700 GMT), Bush will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on a wintry day with a coat of snow on the ground before perhaps 100,000 people, put his hand on a Bible used for his 2001 inauguration and repeat the brief oath to uphold the Constitution administered by ailing Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

After a 21-gun salute, Bush is to give a lofty 17-minute speech that will promote liberty abroad and offer to work with Democrats stewing over their defeat in November and angered by an Iraq policy they consider flawed.

But the rest of the world is watching his inauguration with anxiety. Many leaders, alienated by Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy and the Iraq war, would have preferred the Republican incumbent to lose. Since his victory, they have been urging him to listen and consult more.

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands," Bush will say, according to White House excerpts.

"In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty."

First lady Laura Bush told ABC's "Good Morning America" that her husband's speech "will be a very nice philosophical speech about the importance of democracy and how we stand at this crossroads."

Bush emphasized a unity theme in remarks to supporters on Wednesday night, saying, "An inauguration is a time of unity for our country."


But Democrats are suspicious of Bush's talk of unity and say the proof will be in how he acts. They are already gearing up for a fight over his proposals for revamping the Social Security retirement system and other domestic goals.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, said he hoped Bush would reach out to the minority party.

"I think we were all excited four years ago when the president said he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider. It didn't work out that way. This time he doesn't have to run for re-election, and I hope he follows through on that theme, a uniter, not a divider. This city needs some unification," Reid told CNN.

A number of "counter-inaugural" protests were being planned for Thursday, such as an anti-war march at Malcolm X park. Along the route of the inaugural parade, there were plans by protesters to turn their backs on Bush.

Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed last April while serving the U.S. military in Iraq, came from her home in California to protest the inauguration and said she strongly disagreed with the celebratory tone.

"It's the most inappropriate time right now, I believe, to celebrate. We could have an inaugural but let's tone it down a little bit because there will be people dying elsewhere as they are partying tonight," she told ABC.

But Mrs. Bush disagreed that the $40 million inaugural celebrations were too lavish. "It's been focused on the troops. I think there is a tone for this inauguration that recognizes what our situation is in the world and that we have troops in harms way," she said.

Security was extremely tight for the festivities, with police erecting steel barricades and shutting down about 100 blocks of the city.

Many downtown streets were deserted, while out-of-towners wearing Stetson hats and wrapped up in scarves and woolly hats were spotted at some subway stations.

Bush, the 43rd U.S. president, starts his second term with an approval rating in the 50 percent range. That is well below the support enjoyed by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Analysts see Bush as offering a far more vigorous agenda than in his first term, which became dominated by his response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Iraq war.

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