Split U.S. finds hope on eve of term No. 2or: here's some propoganda to make you feel good, and it doesn't cost 40 mill
By Nancy Benac
Washington — You can only stay livid for so long. Or elated, for that matter.
On the eve of President Bush's second inauguration, the deep divisions that played out on Election Day remain. But that all-American tendency to find cause for optimism is at play — for some of the most disgruntled, perhaps only by anticipating that change may be only four years away.
"I've got to say I feel optimistic," says Kevin Considine, 46, an electronics store owner in Rochester, N.Y., who voted for John Kerry. "But," he says, pausing for a chuckle, "there are plenty of things about living here that can cause you distress if you allow it to."
Worries about the daily tick-tock of casualties in Iraq, Social Security, health care, lost jobs and other issues are part of the inaugural outlook for even some of the most solid Bush supporters. But don't look for too much doom and gloom — hopeful is their watchword even if their excitement has ebbed somewhat since the elections.
"Things seem to be pretty good to me," says 74-year-old Edward Korajczyk, a Chicago retiree and Bush supporter who says he's been around long enough to see that life inevitably has its ups and downs. "I just think, give it some more time and things will be better."
In his inaugural address today, Bush will tell the country that events and common sense have led him to one conclusion: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
The White House on Wednesday night released excerpts of the speech Bush will give after his swearing-in at the Capitol.
The threat of terrorism prompted what authorities promised would be the tightest inaugural security ever deployed. A half-million people were expected to throng the city for the swearing-in and the traditional parade along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.
Critics seem resigned
Tom Patterson, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the transition after any election softens hard feelings. But he said this time that process is moving more slowly than normal in a nation that divided itself so firmly on Nov. 2.
"It was the type of election where, whoever lost, there was going to be some lingering anger," says Patterson.
For Phil Novack-Gottshall, 31, a geology professor at a college outside Atlanta, that meant he and his wife avoided TV news altogether for a while after Bush won re-election. Even now, he says, "we still have that visceral kind of fear and, I guess, almost embarrassment when he speaks."
As for the inauguration, he says, "I'll probably watch it a little bit, but my wife will run away from the television."
There is a sense of resignation among even some of the most ardent of Bush's critics.
You can hear it in the voice of Laura Dickens, 42, a full-time mom and part-time waitress in Kingman, Ariz.
"After my initial sense of debilitating depression for about a week, I don't know," Dickens says. "If everyone's agreed that he won the election fair and square, then we'll just have to live with it."
Hope with reservations
Many an American — 60 percent in a recent Associated Press poll — approaches the inauguration feeling hopeful about the next four years.
For 54-year-old Cheryl Schmit, of rural Penryn, Calif., that optimism is grounded in the improving financial outlook for the nation and her family. She and her husband, Mike, recently began investing more in their retirement accounts.
"Just seeing your money grow makes you feel good about the economy," she says.
Charles Hahn, a homeless Army veteran who spends much of his time at the library in Nashville, Tenn., singles out Bush's leadership as commander in chief in confidently pronouncing the nation to be on the right track.
"I'll back him until the day I die," says Hahn, 50. "If we weren't over there (Iraq), they would have been over here within the next few years, and I damn sure would rather fight them on their grounds than ours."
Even among the optimists, though, there are crosscurrents of concern.
Andrew Kendja, a doctor from Ghana who's been unable to find work since bringing his family to New York two years ago in search of a better life, reflects both the optimism and worry that ripple through the national psyche.
"I think things are getting better here," he says. "At the same time, I feel unsettled about every issue — Iraq, the economy, health care."
Donna Buckley, 77, sits in the lobby of her apartment in West Des Moines, Iowa, and sizes up the challenges facing the nation.
"Sometimes I think it's quite frightening when I think how many problems there are," says the retired nurse. "There should not be a whole lot of celebrating. I don't see how you can go from dancing to the latest casualties in Iraq."
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