President Bush Hails Condoleezza Rice, Iraqi Elections

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - "Over the past four years, America has benefited from the wise counsel of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and our family has been enriched by our friendship with this remarkable person. We love her," President Bush said at Dr. Rice's formal swearing-in ceremony on Friday. "I don't know if you're supposed to say that," he joked.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg administered the oath to Rice. She was sworn in privately by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on Wednesday, shortly after the Senate confirmed her nomination.

In his remarks at Friday's ceremony, President Bush also praised former Secretary of State Colin Powell for his bravery, dignity and integrity. "He left our nation a better place than it was when he began his career in public service as a second lieutenant in the United States Army," Bush said.

The president thanked the various people who turned out for the ceremony, including State Department staffers: "It's a good thing to come and honor your boss," he said to laughter. "Good diplomacy."

Iraqi elections

Turning serious, the president called Sunday's election in Iraq "the first step in a process that will allow Iraqis to write and pass a constitution that enshrines self-government and a rule of law." The elections will change the world, he said -- serving as a "powerful example to reformers throughout the Middle East."

"On Sunday, the Iraqi people will be joining millions in other parts of the world who now decide their future through free votes," President Bush continued.

He mentioned that Afghanistan has just held its first free presidential elections ever; the people of Ukraine have shown their desire for democracy; and the Palestinians have just elected a president.

"Freedom is on the march, and the world is better for it," he said.

"Widespread hatred and radicalism cannot survive the advent of freedom and self-government. Our nation will be more secure. The world will be more peaceful as freedom advances. Condi Rice understands that. And the terrorists understand that as well."

President Bush applauded the courage of ordinary Iraqis who are refusing to surrender their future to the terrorists.

And as the president spoke, cable TV stations cut in with news that three senior aides to terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have been arrested in Iraq in recent days. Iraq's deputy prime minister indicated that the noose is tightening on Zarqawi himself.

In his final remarks on Friday, President Bush urged the State Department to get with his program -- saying he knows the men and women who work there will "join with Condi Rice to face the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.""