Inauguration Day Update

As noted yesterday, I attended President Bush’s second inaugural and the Constitution Ball. We got last-minute tickets to the parade, but decided fighting the crowds wasn’t worth it, especially since it would have made getting changed for the ball rather hectic.

The view at the swearing in was somewhat disappointing but it was a good experience overall. We had tickets in the Red section, which was the best of the standing areas. The chief advantage of the location turned out to be much shorter security lines than those in the larger, less close sections had. There simply were not enough stations to get half a million people through a security screening process tighter than we have at the airports. Unfortunately, our views were obscured by the press bleachers so we mostly watched the event on the giant television screen. Still, being part of the sea of people and experiencing the crowd reaction was a different experience than watching on television.

I enjoyed the ceremony, especially watching the former presidents come in. Watching the ailing Chief Justice Rehnquist was rather melancholy. I could certainly have done without the singers. The second song was godawful and, frankly, I don’t understand the attraction of having opera singers screetching non-operatic songs. Further, the choice of Trent Lott as the MC was rather odd, given that he’s not exactly the face the Republican Party wants to put on itself. The president’s speech was quite good, although a bit too Wilsonian for my policy preferences.

As we were getting ready to leave the swearing in, we got tickets to the parade handed to us by people who decided they’d had enough of the cold weather. Unfortunately, the security lines for getting down to the parade were ridiculously long. People stood in line for two to three hours and still missed the parade. Whoever planned that system should be taken out and shot. We quickly assessed the situation and decided tha discretion was the better part of valor and headed home to get cleaned up for the night’s event.

The Constitution Ball at the Washington Hilton was actually better than I expected it to be. It was President Bush’s first stop of the night. He arrived promptly at 7:45, his scheduled time, despite having been delayed for over an hour by a late-starting parade. He didn’t stay long, speaking for less than ten minutes and then doing the ceremonial dance with the First Lady. The Bush daughters were in attendance as well. Later in the evening, Vice President Cheney appeared and said a few words and then danced with his wife. The entertainment, other than a band, was comedian-impressionist Rich Little. I hadn’t seen him in years and presumed he’d retired. He was a huge celebrity when I was very young. He looked great, though, and the crowd enjoyed his two performances. What really surprised me about the event was the relatively low security. We had to show tickets at two outer cordons and then pass through a metal detector right before entering the ballroom, but this was less rigorous than the process for getting to the swearing-in. Indeed, there was more security getting into the White House gift shop–which is not particularly close to the White House–than for an event with the President and Vice President in attendance.

I’ll post pictures later this evening.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, Media, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sugah says:

    Seeing as you were there at the Constitution Ball and witnessed the Rich Little routine, is it true, as reported in the following Washingont Post article that the predominantly Republican audience “went crazy” with laughter at Little’s joke baout the “poor losing” the war on poverty?

    A Globe News article painted an entirely different picture claiming that few of the Republicans in attendance laughed.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Almost certainly the latter. The accoustics in the room weren’t very good. Except when Bush and Cheney spoke–and everyone else therefore shut up and listened–it was hard to hear anything. I couldn’t make out much of what Little was saying, except that he was still doing the same impressions he did on Carson in the 1970s.