As the coronation of Barack Obama was about to get under way in the nation’s capital Tuesday noon, a chap from across town who abhors large crowds as much as I do rang me up to inquire as to how much I might enjoy being wedged into the midst of a million-plus people on the National Mall.
To me, the televised scene represented pure claustrophobic and portable-toilet hell, I assured him, and I would be hard-pressed to name another place on earth that I would rather not be than on that mall at that moment, thank you very much.
Nothing against those stalwarts, including many from Maine, who showed up for the ordeal, I told my caller. They made an excellent backdrop for the historic proceedings and doubtless gave oratorical inspiration to the republic’s well-spoken 44th president in delivering his inaugural address.
I marveled at the endurance of these million-plus unpaid extras in the made-for-Hollywood scene. All the same, I was content to join the many millions of viewers who went into couch-potato mode to watch the spectacle on television from the comfort of home and hearth, business establishment or favored watering hole.
I began my marathon viewing session tuned to the Fox Network. But when commentator Chris Wallace fawningly referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s mother as being “92 years young,” that was the end of that transaction.
Having long ago learned never to trust anyone who believes he can transform an old person into a young person simply by proclaiming the individual to be young, I abruptly parted company with Fox. (We all have our peculiarities of temperament. Hearing someone say that a person is “92 years young” has the same fingernails-scraping-the-blackboard effect on me as does someone calling a fire a “blaze” or snow “white stuff.” When I run into the latter abominations in newspaper headline or copy, I quit reading and place a curse on the offending reporter-editor. Not that it has ever worked worth a damn, mind you.)
Thus it was that I flipped to the Cable News Network to view the bulk of the coverage of the event, anchor Wolf Blitzer’s nagging monotone delivery notwithstanding, and watched as Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts flub-dubbed his way through administering a jury-rigged oath of office to Obama.
As Obama paused at one point to give the Chief Justice an opportunity to correct himself and seemed about to proceed with the correct version on his own, unimpeded by Roberts, I could fairly imagine the thoughts of the two men had the tableau been portrayed by a cartoonist.
“Whoa, Big Guy. Just who is running this show — you or me?” might be the question posed in a balloon floating over Roberts’ head. The response in the balloon above Obama would be, “And you wonder why, as a United States senator, I voted against your confirmation?”
On Wednesday, the first full day of the Obama presidency, the two participated in a do-over at the White House at the behest of skittish lawyers. This time neither thought to bring along a Bible, but so far no one is talking of having a third go at getting it right.
The seriously sober Secret Service guys, all business all the time, encircling Obama and wife, Michelle, on their brief walk down Pennsylvania Avenue after the first swearing-in ceremony were fun to watch. Especially the nervous mother hen in charge of the lash-up. The man’s relief was palpable as the Obamas climbed back into their state of the art tank that masquerades as a limo and continued on to the White House. The presidential Secret Service detail seems to me to be a grim job, which may account for the fact that agents don’t smile a whole lot. Still, I’m glad they are on our side.
The piece de resistance of America’s quadrennial midwinter bash for many viewers likely was the inaugural parade that followed this sea change in administrations. If there is one thing inaugural planners have honed to perfection it is the ability to throw a memorable parade, and Tuesday’s extravaganza was no exception to the rule.
Now comes the hard part …
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.