The healer in chief

Published January 20, 2005 7:03PM (EST)

There was a lot of singing about healing during today's inaugural ceremony, but precious little talk of how any healing might actually be done.

One singer beseeched God to "heal our land, heal our land, and help us understand that we must put our trust in thee if we would be free." Another, reprising John Ashcroft's "Let the Eagle Soar" -- a number that bears an uncanny resemblance, melodically and metaphorically, to the theme from "The Poseidon Adventure" -- prayed that the eagle would soar over America "with healing in her wings."

But if that little bird whispered any words of healing in the president's ear today, it's not at all clear that he heard them. Bush acknowledged that Americans "have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes." He said he will "strive in good faith to heal them."

But he didn't say how he would do so, and his inaugural speech didn't make for much of a start. Rather than acknowledging that Americans might have different ideas about how best to secure the blessings of liberty, Bush dismissed those who disagree with his foreign policy as freedom doubters. "Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty -- though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt," Bush said. "Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals."

Of course, it's not the power of American ideals that has surprised a lot of Bush's opponents -- it is the way in which Bush has sacrificed those ideals, and so much more, in a war sold on false premises. If Bush could begin to acknowledge the division created by that, a lot more of his countrymen might feel like singing today.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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