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Published: Sunday, 1/16/2005

President's bash takes shape in tight security

BY ANN McFEATTERS
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

WASHINGTON - At noon Thursday, President Bush will become the 20th president to take an oath of office for a second term. The solemn occasion of swearing to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution will be accompanied by a $40 million, four-day blowout of parading, partying, and praying.

Amid what officials say will be the tightest security of any event thus far in American history, florists will arrange 250,000 flowers, musicians will provide millions of notes of music for marching and dancing, caterers will dish out billions of calories, and even zoo animals will have a role.

Some had demanded because of the ongoing war in Iraq and the Asian tsunami that festivities be canceled this year, noting there is no requirement that there be inaugural celebrations. In 1853, Franklin Pierce had no parties because he was mourning his dead son. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson banned partying because his wife was dying. Franklin D. Roosevelt, ill in 1945, made a six-minute speech and had no parties because of World War II.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) said that if John Kerry had been elected, inaugural festivities would have been low-key, although Mr. Kennedy said he does not begrudge Mr. Bush his party.

Planners for the inauguration said there was no discussion of canceling the nine balls, the three-hour parade, or the dozens of affiliated parties.

Inaugural chairman Jeanne Phillips of Dallas noted the inaugural's theme - "Celebrating Freedom; Honoring Service" - and stressed that events such as a national prayer service will take note of the fact the nation is at war. And, she said, the Commander-in-Chief Ball at the National Building Museum will be for 2,000 servicemen and their guests.

Critics charge that another theme of inaugural week is money. Tickets to watch the parade from a bleacher seat cost $15, $60, and $125. A ticket to one of the nine balls is $150 per person, although the military ball is free to those invited.

A ticket to the private Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Ball Wednesday night featuring such musical groups as Lyle Lovett and Asleep at the Wheel can cost upward of $1,400. Animals including armadillos and an alligator from the Fort Worth, Texas, zoo will be featured at that event.

The inauguration committee has sanctioned nine official balls. Ohio and Florida are the only two states that will hold inaugural balls by themselves. Other states will share with neighboring states.

Ohio's event, named the Patriot Ball, will include a tribute to the armed forces. It will be at the Washington convention center downtown Thursday, hours after Mr. Bush takes the oath of office and begins his second term.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee seeks to cover the $40 million tab, not counting at least an additional $20 million in security costs, with private contributions. The cost is the same as Mr. Bush's first inauguration in 2001, which was up from $33 million spent by the Clinton inaugural committee in 1997. This year's committee has set the maximum contribution at $250,000, which entitles donors to ball tickets and lunch and dinner with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

On Tuesday at the MCI Center, an official patriotic pageant and concert in honor of "those who serve" will feature Kelsey Grammer and Gloria Estefan. That night, Mr. Bush's daughters, Jenna and Barbara, will host an official youth concert featuring JoJo and Kid Rock.

The schedule for Thursday includes a 9 a.m. service at St. John's Episcopal Church, the swearing-in ceremony at the West Front of the Capitol, followed by the congressional lunch for Mr. Bush in Statuary Hall, the 2:30 p.m. inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and the nine balls from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Because Mr. Bush is serving his second term, one of the miracles of Washington will not take place this year. That occurs during the swearing-in ceremony when the previous president's Oval Office contents and the family's possessions are whisked out and the new president's goods are moved in and unpacked.

Tradition is a hallmark for inauguration day. Mr. Bush is expected to follow his father and their namesake, George Washington, in adding, "so help me God" to the 35-word oath and kissing the Bible. This President, however, is certain not to adhere to the shortness of Washington's second inaugural speech, only 135 words. Four years ago, Mr. Bush spoke 1,584 words in 14 minutes.

Mr. Bush, the nation's 43rd president, is expected to be sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is ailing from thyroid cancer, while Mr. Cheney will be sworn in by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.).

Marvin Kranz, an historian with the Library of Congress, says the importance of tradition is to show the nation and the world that every four years, since 1789, no matter how much political dissension the election has caused, the president takes office peacefully with those from the opposition party in attendance.

"I would say that this is one of the great events in what we might call civil religion in this country. Even though most of the presidents have talked about being inaugurated under the auspices of Almighty God, nevertheless it is basically a very civil ceremony and it is something that takes place every four years, war or peace, no matter what," Mr. Kranz said earlier this month.

Guests to this year's inauguration are being warned that security and checkpoints will abound. They will face long lines, canine squads, metal detectors, and searches of any bags they carry. With many streets and Metro stations to be shut down, limousine gridlock is widely predicted. About 250,000 people are expected at the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony, which is free.

Even many Republicans willing to spend money and face the hassle and probable cold weather are being disappointed at the paucity of tickets. Nebraska's Republican Party reportedly learned about a week ago that it would receive only 12 tickets for the Independence Ball, which is where Nebraska and several other states are to celebrate. Four years ago, the Nebraska GOP says it got 70 tickets, but four years ago, state parties had a much bigger role in the inauguration arrangements.

The Bushes are expected to make brief stops at every ball, and there is great interest in seeing the First Lady's dress, which eventually will go to the Smithsonian Institution. Sketches of Laura Bush's ball gown and those her daughters will wear were released by the White House this past week. Designed by Oscar de la Renta, couturier to the wealthy who designed Hillary Rodham Clinton's second inaugural dress, Mrs. Bush's size 6 dress is described as "a silver-blue tulle gown, embroidered with bugle beads and outlined in Austrian crystals." Four years ago, Mrs. Bush chose a red-lace gown made by a Texas designer.

Jenna Bush's dress is a "figure-hugging sheath in emerald silk crepe, accented by jeweled insets and metallic leather banding." Her twin sister, Barbara, is wearing an aquamarine ruffled silk chiffon dress with a bare back.

The social events will be attended mainly by Republican revelers, but there are more than a dozen sites on the Internet urging such forms of protest against Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq as fasting and not spending any money on Jan. 20, wearing black, calling in sick to work, and displaying anti-Bush messages. One site, www.counter-inaugural.org says "hundreds of thousands" organized by a coalition of social, political, and religious activists will be protesting in the streets of Washington on Thursday, but police say they have seen no signs there will be that many.

Some protesters are bitterly angry over a decree that among items forbidden are crosses any larger than can be worn. Also, no one may bring strollers, Thermoses, or umbrellas inside the security perimeter. Most protesters will be kept blocks away from the parade route, especially the large reviewing stand behind bulletproof glass erected in front of the White House. But some protesters will be permitted in one section of bleachers and say they will turn their backs to the President as his motorcade passes by.

In order to keep traffic manageable, police are counting on Thursday being a federal holiday for workers in the Washington area. About 500,000 people are expected to line the parade route.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said there has been no intelligence that terrorists are planning any form of attack. But because this is the first inauguration since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush will not walk the parade route, although he may get out of his limousine as the parade nears the White House.

Thomas Jefferson walked to and from his inaugural, and for years, presidents rode in open carriages. But after President Kennedy's assassination, presidents have ridden - at least part of the route - in bulletproof limousines with Secret Service agents running alongside. Police will ring the parade route for added security.

City officials are furious because for the first time there will not be a special appropriation to help with $17.3 million in anticipated police overtime and other security costs the federal government says the city must bear.

The White House Office of Management and Budget says the city received more than $200 million in homeland security funds and should use part of that money to pay for security for the inauguration.

Contact Ann McFeatters at: amacfeatters@nationalpress.com or 202-662-7071.


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