George Bush's $30 million, privately financed inauguration last week bought him more than just a good time.
Its carefully orchestrated images and themes also gave Americans the impression that he is a man of faith, family and compassion, and also likely brought him at least a short honeymoon with a potentially hostile Congress.That happened as Bush used publicity through his five days of inaugural festivities to make himself strong where he was weak, and to mend some fences where they were falling.
For example, to patch things up with Democrats who complained that Bush's campaign had been too bitter, Bush offered a conciliatory tone - especially in his inaugural address where he called for political parties to work together anew.
"A new breeze is blowing - and the old bipartisanship must be made new again," he said. "I am putting out my hand to you, Mr. Speaker. I am putting out my hand to you, Mr. Majority Leader. For this is the thing: This is the age of the offered hand. . .. Let us negotiate soon - and hard. But in the end, let us produce."
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said he and other Democrats saw such gestures as meaning that bitterness would not be the tone of the administration, and that Bush is willing to work in concert with Democrats in Congress - not always against them.
Bush and his Republican Party had also been attacked during the campaign as not having compassion for the needy. But during the inauguration, he led the call for action to help them - and may have converted such a traditionally Democratic issue into a hallmark of his administration.
"America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral purpose. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world," Bush said, as he called for work to overcome drugs, welfare, homelessness, crime and illiteracy.
Of course, Bush realizes that many say it is not possible for his administration to both help the needy AND comply with his "read-my-lips" promise of no new taxes.
Bush had a message for such critics: "The old solution, the old way, was to think that public money alone could end these problems. But we have learned that is not so. And in any case, our funds are low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have more will than wallet; but will is what we need."
Talk about such one-time Democratic-only issues potentially might worry "new right" conservatives who have always suspected Bush of being too moderate. But Bush had lines and images prepared to keep them happy too, when he said "a new breeze is blowing" for freedom in the world, that the day of the dictator is over and that America should extend freedom worldwide.
"We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state."
Maybe the most successful part of Bush's inaugural was that it helped common Americans see him as one of them - and once and for all kill his one-time image as a wimpy, aloof Ivy Leaguer.
Inaugural images of him included playing with grandchildren on his lap at opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial, giving a speech there in front of "common man" Lincoln and standing watching fireworks to the music of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."
He took the oath of office in a business suit, not a tuxedo. Stories were told how he was up early his first day in the White House caring for a sick grandchild, who recovered well enough that she even "ate two pancakes."
Bush became a man of faith for Americans when he was shown praying as his first act in office. The first document he signed declared a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
Bush has made a kinder, gentler image of himself through his inauguration. Any bitterness in the campaign has been offset by his outstretched hand and peaceful tone. He managed to clear the slate and ride a new fresh, breeze into office - where he must now convert his themes and images into reality.