Washington, Jan. 20: Cloaked by unprecedented security, America's first wartime President in 30 years was sworn in today amidst festivities that cost at least $40 million.
'In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty,' George W. Bush said in an inaugural address after he was sworn in at the historic Capitol building here by an ailing chief justice William Rehnquist, 80, who was seen in public for the first time in several months.
Also sworn in with Bush was his vice-president Dick Cheney, who was administered the oath of office for a second term by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Bush is only the 16th President in America's history to win a second full term. America's capital woke up to inaugural day in a thin blanket of snow after a night of fireworks just north of the White House. A rare, but spectacular rainbow appeared over the presidential mansion in what Republican party supporters hoped was a good omen.
After the inaugural address, Bush is to go on a two-hour parade, led by 350 horses through the capital's streets, watched by about 100,000 people. Among those who assembled for viewing the parade were a few thousand protesters, but their number was smaller than earlier expected.
There were scattered protests all over the US, particularly in California, a stronghold of Democrats, a state which has suffered 25 per cent of casualties in Iraq.
The swearing-in was attended by Bush's election rival, Senator John Kerry. Although Democrats put on a show of national unity at the swearing-in ceremonies, their disappointment at having lost not only the White House, but also the two chambers of the Congress in the November election, was visible beneath the veneer of political correctness.
'Personally, I don't feel much like celebrating,' Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, wrote in a fundraising appeal to party supporters.
'So I am going to mark the occasion by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republican destructive agenda.'
Such resentment did not, however, dampen the enthusiasm of the Republicans, who gathered in large numbers for inaugural festivities here, especially from the President's home state of Texas and Ohio, which sealed his second term victory. About 55,000 of them are expected to attend the nine official inaugural balls, at which 100 gallons of red, white and blue ' the US national colours ' popcorn will be consumed.
At the Willard Hotel near the White House, chefs were working on 1,000 pounds of chocolate, preparing chocolate cowboy boots, chocolate elephants, chocolate sculptures and white chocolate medallions bearing the presidential seal.
Also in preparation were creme brulee with a sugar coating heated by hand with a blowtorch and sugar-crusted yellow rose petals, dipped in chocolate.
As expected, Bush referred in his 17-minute inaugural address to the terrorist attacks of September 11, which have come to shape his presidency.
'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,' he said. 'The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world'.
On the eve of the swearing-in, Bush held out a hand across America's political divide in the light of a bitter election. 'Inauguration is a time of unity for our country,' he said a pre-inauguration event. 'With the campaign behind us, Americans lift up our sights to the years ahead and to the great goals we will achieve for our country. I am eager and ready for the work ahead.'