57th Presidential Inaugural Preparations

Downtown DC is battening its hatches. Not for the expected snow, although we are rumored to be facing 3-5 inches tonight, but for something much worse – the Inauguration.

Inaugurations are always a big deal, shutting down the Federal city not only in terms of traffic and security issues, but also psychologically. For some reason, closing streets, businesses, and government offices has a big effect on the mood here. It’s not entirely festive; although there’s definitely celebration, a significant percentage of people one meets are varying degrees of disgruntled because their side isn’t being inaugurated, and everyone finds something sobering about barricades and bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol.

Last time was The Big One – I don’t know if this city will ever see anything like that one again. Not only historic, the event meant so much to so many residents, people really took it personally. The energy in town was really something. My sister, who is politically connected, got some really close-in tickets for us – we could actually see the tiny dot that was the President’s head! Strangers talked to each other! We had a fantastic time.

This one is much more typical, if not mundane, but it’s a double whammy – because the 20th falls on a Sunday, they’re doing it again on Monday, the 21st. I don’t understand the rationale behind that – the government offices in DC close for EVERY Inauguration, but so it’s not like moving it to Monday because it’s a workday, and this Monday is already Martin Luther King’s birthday and the government is closed ANYWAY. Is there some constituency who wants to attend THIS Inaugural, keeps Sunday reserved for the Sabbath, but doesn’t care about Martin Luther King?

This past weekend the fundamental infrastructure was put in place. I’m talking about infrastructure to support one’s fundament – portable toilets! Long rows of them linked together, giving a vague impression of some massive industrial process, have been pre-positioned on the sidewalks in front of my office and other buildings around here. Concrete jersey wall at selected corners followed this week. Yesterday, more ominously, long sections of steel crowd-control barriers were unloaded and stacked on the sidewalks, and today they’re erected to prevent access to storefronts and office buildings – currently with sections removed so that I can get in to work. These are not the waist-high aluminum “bicycle rack” style barricades one sees at regular events – these are eight-foot-tall black panels of mesh considerably tighter than anchor chain fencing, strongly set on broad metal feet to resist tipping, and look like they could ward off angry European soccer hooligans. They add a frankly totalitarian atmosphere to the proceedings; maybe later someone will tie some limp red, white, and blue bunting in them in a misguided attempt to liven them up, and inadvertently create an ironic political image.

The snipers come later, just before the marching bands.

I have Monday off – for the Inauguration and/or King Day – and I’m not inclined to try to cram into town for this one, unlike the last one. But Inaugurations, however old-hat they may become, even second-term ones, are supposed to be about beginnings. That’s where the word comes from – inaugurate, “to begin.” Jaded as I am, I can’t help but peer through the steel barriers, over the cement roadblocks, past the armed men, and look for the possibility of something new and better amid the fluttering red, white and blue.

I just read a news article about the Purple Tunnel of Doom.

I’m bummed I won’t be there. I was out of the country for the first one and will be out of town for this one. My friends tell me that our street was like one big party with people just out and about. I do get a little freaked out in big crowds though, so it’s just as well.

Awww! I’m verklempt. Well done, well done! :cool:

There’s been quite a bit of press coverage this week about people who get tickets to the inauguration ceremony free from their senator or congressman, then try to sell them for big bucks on eBay or craigslist. Those websites are now taking down ads for those tickets, which I don’t totally agree with, but it doesn’t really bother me, either.

However, some congressmen are going further and want to institute criminal penalties for selling inauguration tickets. Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, in an interview today, said that scalping those tickets is “one of the ultimate crimes” and is “exploiting that which belongs exclusively to the American people.” In response, I am declaring that hyperbole is one of humanity’s ultimate crimes.

**57th Presidential Inaugural Preparations **

There is plenty of time to plan the 57th Inaugural. Since Barack Obama is only the 44th President.

But the oath of office has been taken 57 times. (you can tell because we’re on the 113th Congress. 113/2=56.5)

Some presidents are inaugurated more than once. (Actually, you could argue that there have been more than 56 inaugurations since that number doesn’t include people who have taken over in the middle of a term. I would. Others wouldn’t.)

I imagine circumstances where a VP was sworn in didn’t have any associated inagural ceremonies. Don’t know that for a fact, though.

In any case: the US senate says its #57, so #57 it is.

Yeah, it’s not like I got the number 57 off a ketchup bottle. I looked it up before posting – a practice I heartily recommend.

We avoided the Purple Tunnel of Doom last time, possibly because we had better tickets? I’m not sure. But that sort of thing is embarrassing – inaugurations are the sort of thing one would expect will eventually be perfected. The street layouts don’t change much, and there have been plenty of opportunities to figure out how to run things.

I’ve been in Washington twice for a Presidential inauguration. The first was in 1985 for Reagan’s. I was in a Washington Center college program on foreign and defense policy and inauguration seat tickets were supposed to be provided, but it was so cold that year that the outdoor events were all cancelled, and we students were out of luck. Then, in 1993, my wife and I came for Clinton’s (much more to our liking, politically). We were standing waaaaay down the Mall but could just see the podium, and hear the Marine Band play Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell” (best known as the Monty Python theme). Had a very good time on both occasions.

Hope this inaugural weekend goes very smoothly and safely for all, and may the President have a productive and accomplished second term.

(He’s got a new official portrait for the occasion, BTW. Definitely grayer than four years ago: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/obama-portrait_n_2501916.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl1|sec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D258846).

A CNN.com article on inaugural security measures: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/16/politics/inauguration-security/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

I believe that Obama is the first president since Roosevelt to take the oath of office four times.

1.) First ceremony but the Chief Justice bobbled the words.
2.) Private ceremony in the Oval Office to make sure all the words were right
3.) Official swearing in on Jan 20
4.) Public ceremony on Jan 21.

You know, I think you’re right! Cool Presidential factoid.

But the do-over was in the Map Room, not the Oval Office: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/the-weight-of-obamas-do-over-of-oath-of-office/1271206

In DC and this would be my first inauguration, but I’m feeling under the weather and not enthused about the cold. I hope everyone else has fun out there!

Well, the private ceremony in the Blue Room at noon today was a bit too brief and unceremonial for my tastes, but at least they didn’t muff the oath. It’s official, and the President has begun his second term. Huzzah!

I liked that Roberts read the oath of a piece of paper this time. Good to know we have a Chief Justice that learns from his mistakes.

Quite right.

Another nice Inaugural custom - the flags hung on the West Front of the Capitol all have some meaning for the occasion: 13 stars (the “Betsy Ross” flag) from the beginning of the republic; 21 stars, since Illinois was the 21st state; and 50 stars, both because it’s the current flag and because Hawaii was the 50th state. See here: http://www.wnyc.org/i/620/372/c/80/1/2013InaugPreparations.jpg

What I found hilarious about the first time President Obama took the oath was that he did a double-take. :smiley:

And today he slightly swallowed the “s” at the end of “United States,” but it’s all good. And they got the oath right again.

Some other random observations:

The Armed Forces honor guard just inside the Capitol didn’t salute Vice President Biden by presenting arms when he arrived. The honor guard in the corridor leading out to the West Front did so, however. They also presented arms, properly, for Carter and Clinton as former Presidents.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee was one of just nine Republicans who voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Nice that it fell to him to introduce the Justice for her to then swear in the Vice President.

Justice Scalia looked like a Renaissance doge in his hat: http://cdn.theatlanticwire.com/img/upload/2013/01/21/rendered/a7474383b5a383d0a05858b6fc837f7b_521x675.jpg

I liked the Inaugural Address. Short, concise, hearkening back to what makes America great but explaining what still needs to be done to fulfill the commitments of the Framers. He used some phrases from Lincoln’s “House divided” speech, the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural, and of course repeatedly invoked “We, the People.” The alliterative reference to “Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall” as to the continuing fight for civil rights was clever. Wonder if he’s the first to pick up on that.

Both the opening and closing prayers were waaaaaaay too long.

Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce both nailed their songs. Brava!