January 18, 2005


Bush opts for costly bash in wartime: FDR scaled back event, but there's no clear precedent (Edward Epstein, January 18, 2005, SF Chronicle)

Beneath the festivities surrounding the 55th presidential inauguration, there is a current of unease. Washington is capital of a nation at war, with 150,000 Americans serving in Iraq and 18,000 in Afghanistan. So far, more than 1,500 military personnel have been killed in the two countries, with more than 10,000 wounded.

Some critics have suggested scaling back Thursday's inaugural, which will cost $40 million in privately raised funds for the parties, parade, dinners and entertainment events. It will cost tens of millions of dollars more in public money for an unprecedented security effort that will involve about 6, 000 people who will cordon off a large chunk of downtown.

"Precedent suggests that inaugural festivities should be muted -- if not canceled -- in wartime,'' Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York City, wrote to Bush last week. He suggested putting some of the money toward helping the troops.

Weiner, who is mulling a run for mayor of New York, cited the example of an ailing President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in January 1945 limited his inaugural celebration in the midst of World War II to a simple ceremony on the White House balcony, followed by a spartan buffet lunch featuring chicken salad, pound cake and coffee.

However, there is no clear precedent for whether wartime inaugurals should be gala or solemn.

In 1865, crowds overran the White House for President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration as the Civil War was drawing to a close. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first inaugural was the biggest staged up to that time, and President Richard M. Nixon's 1969 and 1973 inaugurals -- held amid the divisive Vietnam War -- weren't scaled down.

FDR was too ill to have conscionably run for re-election during wartime and it goes without saying he wasn't much for dances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 18, 2005 2:06 PM

Did a single Democrat, including especially John Kerry, suggest that the inauguration should be low-key before the election when they thought they might win it? It's not like we weren't involve din the same war then. In fact, the only substantial difference is we know who won and who will be celebrating.

Posted by: MG2 at January 18, 2005 2:10 PM

Bah. Wonder if any of the critics have seen how much Clinton's inaugration in 1993 cost in today's dollars, back when the US was recovering from a recession.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at January 18, 2005 2:30 PM

Noooo! We can't let privately raised money pay for things that those private individuals want it to pay for! Ooooooh the Injustice! The Humanity!

Posted by: John Newquist at January 18, 2005 2:59 PM

This is not wartime. We have a thin green line out somewhere east of Suez. We may never not have such a situation. It is combat, it is honorab le, it is heroic, but it is not war.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 18, 2005 3:39 PM

Another example of how today's Left falls back on mid-20th Century nostalgia when they've run out of rational arguments.

They're retrogressive and aggressive, but progressive they ain't.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 18, 2005 4:00 PM

How dare Bush celebrate, when Democrats are in mourning.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 18, 2005 5:50 PM

There are going to be 8 inaugural balls this year. Think that's excessive? Clinton had 14.

Posted by: George at January 18, 2005 7:09 PM

Lincoln, Eisenhower, Nixon (notice no mention of LBJ or Kennedy) Gee I never realized Republicans were such party animals in the midst of War. If I had known that I would have become a Republican sooner.

Posted by: h-man at January 18, 2005 7:42 PM


Thanks for posting -- some wackos have been writing in to the Omaha World-Herald demanding that Bush scale down the inauguration. I had been curious as to whether this reflected the thoughts of a few locals or truly nationwide nuttiness.

As usual with the Democrats, the latter.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 18, 2005 9:52 PM

This reminds me of the one about the young pioneer who's just staked out his forty acres. He doesn't even know he's got neighbors until an old sodbuster shows up one morning.

"Howdy, neighbor!" says the old coot. "I'm havin' a little party at my place over yonder. Should be a fine 'do -- there's gonna be eatin', drinkin', dancin' , card playin', prob'ly a fight or two, an' maybe even some romancin'. Why don't you show up around sundown."

"Sounds great!" says the youngster. "Who all's coming?"

The old timer grins: "Jest you'n'me, neighbor."

Posted by: joe shropshire at January 18, 2005 10:05 PM

I believe Robert hit the nail squarely on its head. Democrats believe that its only appropriate to celebrate is when they say that it's time to celebrate. In thinking about this, I'm reminded of what I said to my 5 year old earlier today; "It's [your sister's] turn to choose a movie to watch. If you don't want to watch what chose, you can go to your room and sit there by yourself quietly."

Posted by: Dave W. at January 18, 2005 10:52 PM