WASHINGTON – Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation generally praised the uplifting rhetoric and sweeping themes of President Bush’s inaugural address Thursday, but Democrats said they want to see the details behind his designs.
“He didn’t fill in the blanks and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, who said he wanted to hear specifics on how the president planned to accomplish his goals.
“It was a speech that struck . . . themes of freedom and defense,” Van Hollen said. “The difficulty, of course, is in translating themes into governing.”
But the state’s two Republican congressmen praised the ideas behind the speech, and said they were not worried about the details of his plan on a day dedicated to symbol and ceremony.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said in a prepared statement that Bush’s speech “was a motivating salute to human freedom and liberty that was unifying for all Americans and people around the world.
“President Bush’s speech supported the principles of American and the principles upon which he was elected with motivating and unifying words,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone anywhere in the world who could have been offended by what he said.”
As he relaxed at a reception for constituents in his Capitol Hill office after the speech, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, praised the speech for its directness.
“It was bold, it was direct, there was no dancing around the issue of thuggery and brutality in the rest of the world,” Gilchrest said.
While Democratic legislators also praised Bush’s oratory and the themes of his address, however, they expressed skepticism and concern about the specifics of his governance.
“This unequivocal description of our national commitment to freedom and liberty by President Bush was inspiring. However, the hard realities and difficult work that confronts us will not be erased simply by a soaring statement of national purpose,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a prepared statement.
“The true test of national leadership begins where rhetoric alone fails to suffice,” he said.
Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said the president must show a commitment to bipartisanship in his second term.
“That is a challenge that he failed to meet in his first term, and I am hopeful that he will see the wisdom of embracing it in his second,” Hoyer said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, is “hopeful” that Bush will keep the pledges in his speech to protect civil liberties and promote racial equality, but the congressman also pledged to work toward compromise when Republicans and Democrats do not agree.
Van Hollen admitted that the details he felt were missing from the inaugural address might be more suited to the president’s upcoming State of the Union address. But he said he was still concerned about subjects that were not mentioned in the address.
While the president talked about exporting liberty to the rest of the world, for example, Van Hollen said he should have acknowledged that this country will first have to repair relations with many other countries.
He also said that he had hoped to hear more from Bush, who came to office promising to be “a uniter,” on how he planned to heal partisan rifts in the government and the country.
“That clearly didn’t make the cut,” Van Hollen said.
-30- CNS 01-20-05