WASHINGTON — George W. Bush embarked on an ambitious second term as president Thursday, telling a world anxious about war and terrorism that the United States would not shrink from new confrontations in pursuit of “the great objective of ending tyranny.”
Four minutes before noon, Bush placed his left hand on a family Bible and recited 39 tradition-hallowed words that every president since George Washington has uttered.
With 150,000 American troops deployed in Iraq at a cost of $1 billion a week and more than 1,360 killed, Bush also beseeched Americans for patience.
“Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill and would be dishonorable to abandon,” the president said in the first wartime inauguration in more than three decades.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80 years old and frail with thyroid cancer, administered the oath in his first public appearance in three months — a gesture Bush called “incredibly moving.” Rehnquist’s ill health may give Bush a second-term opportunity to nominate the Supreme Court’s first new justice in nearly 11 years.
It was the first inauguration since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the capital was enveloped in a security blanket of thousands of police and miles of metal barricades. Snipers lined rooftops, while bomb-sniffing dogs toiled on the ground.
Bush spoke before a shivering throng at the West Front of the Capitol, the monuments of American government — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln — stretched before him on a snowy landscape. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who had battled Bush for the presidency, watched along with other lawmakers.
The nation’s 55th inauguration celebration began with a 40-minute morning prayer service at St. John’s Church and ran late into the night at 10 black-tie balls. Bush began the evening at a Salute to Heroes party honoring Medal of Honor recipients.
“I can’t tell you how much confidence I have in the members of our military,” Bush told the crowd, which cheered him with “hoo-ahs.” At the next stop, the Constitution Ball, the president and his wife delighted the crowd by dancing.
Bush rode in an armored limousine, behind police on motorcycles in a “V” formation, to lead the inaugural parade 1.7 miles down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The license plate read USA 1.
Hundreds of anti-war protesters, some carrying coffin-like cardboard boxes to signify the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq, stood along the parade route. They jeered and shook their fists as Bush rode past.
“Worst president ever, impeachbush.org” one sign said. Another read: “Guilty of war crimes.”
Rows of law-enforcement officers stood between the protesters and the parade, and Bush’s motorcade sped up as it passed the demonstration area. The president and his wife, Laura, got out of the car to walk the last two blocks to the White House.
Democrats attended the inauguration but didn’t hide their unhappiness.
“Personally, I don’t feel much like celebrating,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “So I’m going to mark the occasion by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republicans’ destructive agenda.”
Entering his second term with one of the lowest approval ratings of any recent two-term president, Bush was unapologetic in his speech about the course he had set over four tumultuous years.
He challenged critics of his quest to spread democracy across the Middle East, saying that now “is an odd time for doubt.” And he voiced eagerness to confront oppressive rule around the globe in the name of spreading freedom.
“All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore oppression or excuse your oppressors,” Bush said. “When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”
The United States’ policy is to promote democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture “with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world,” he said.
“This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force when necessary,” the president said.
The spread of freedom and liberty are the oldest ideals of America, Bush said.
“Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time,” he said.
After the inauguration, Bush joined congressional leaders and other dignitaries at a Capitol luncheon of scalloped crab and lobster and roasted quail.
“I’m looking forward to putting my heart and soul into this job for four more years,” he said, making no mention of the legislative battles ahead over taxes, expanding immigration laws, Social Security, the budget deficit, judges and more.
“We’re ready to go to work,” replied Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., chairman of the congressional inaugural committee.
Eager to begin, the GOP-controlled Senate convened in mid-afternoon and confirmed Mike Johanns as secretary of agriculture and Margaret Spellings as secretary of education. They are the first of Bush’s nine new second-term Cabinet officers to win approval.
White House chief of staff Andy Card accused Democrats of “petty politics” for blocking the swift confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. Card swore in Spellings in a private ceremony.
With his oath, Bush began a new chapter in a presidency transformed by the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
A president who had come to power in a disputed election and had battled low expectations became a symbol of confidence and resolve in the war against terrorism.
But Bush also angered many allies with what they perceived as an arrogant approach to foreign policy and an unwarranted war in Iraq, based on the erroneous belief that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction.
The president did not mention Iraq in his inaugural address, but he said the United States had helped tens of millions of people achieve freedom.
He said U.S. efforts have lit “a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress and, one day, this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”