The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 5, 2012

Obama’s inauguration seems almost an afterthought

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, Barack Obama’s swearing-in drew a record crowd to the National Mall. There were 1.8 million people eager to witness history: the country’s first black president taking the oath of office.

Now, as Obama prepares for his second-term kickoff, the capital is pre-occupied with a looming economic crisis, exit from war and a reshuffling in Congress. Ticket demand is lower. Hotels are far from booked. And from Capitol Hill to the White House, the upcoming festivities seem to be barely on anyone’s radar.

More muted inaugural celebrations are typical with every second presidential term. But it’s almost as if Obama’s swearing-in, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, is a been-there-done-that afterthought around town.

Perhaps Obama is a victim of his own historical significance. Perhaps it’s a sign of how far the nation has come, some 50 years after the March on Washington that drew a multitude of people calling for civil and economic rights for blacks.

Although inaugural planning and preparations are well under way, Obama’s advisers say they aren’t yet focusing on the swearing-in as they negotiate over the “fiscal cliff” automatic tax increases and budget cuts that will occur in January unless the White House reaches a compromise with Congress. Party planners haven’t made even the most basic of announcements yet, such as who will serve on Obama’s inaugural committee and how they will raise money. No plans are in the works for a star-studded concert like the one four years ago that kicked off the inaugural festivities.

The inauguration is thought of so little these days that there was even some confusion around the White House about when it would be held. Some aides said it would be Tuesday, Jan. 22, after the federal holiday observing King’s birthday.

In fact, the public ceremony will be on the holiday, Monday, Jan. 21 — a day set by a joint resolution of Congress months ago, before it was known who would be taking the oath. Obama’s second term automatically begins at noon on Jan. 20 under the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, and he’s planning a private swearing-in at the White House.

There’s precedent for the two-pronged approach: The public ceremony in the past has been postponed for a day when Jan. 20 fell on a Sunday, such as the second inaugurations for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which stages all activities for the day on the Capitol grounds, has set a theme of “Faith in America’s Future” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Capitol Dome during the Civil War. And work has begun on the platform where Obama will deliver his inaugural address. It will be the same design as in 2005 and 2009. It has 1,600 seats for members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, governors, ambassadors representing nations around the world, military leaders and the families of the president and vice president.

Beyond that, the planning is at such a preliminary stage that members of the Presidential Inaugural Committee haven’t been officially announced. They include some of the same staffers who worked on Obama’s campaign and his first inauguration. Those involved this year say to expect a similar celebration as 2009, but smaller.

Now like then, it will be up to Obama to set the tone for the day, an important moment for him to capture the world’s attention in the midst of a vigorous debate over the country’s economic future, a looming fight over immigration and conflicts across the globe.

Congressional offices will distribute roughly 250,000 tickets for people to watch in front of the podium, with members of the public able to attend without tickets down the National Mall.

Demand for tickets is predictably down on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who oversaw the congressional inaugural committee four years ago, introduced legislation back then trying to prevent scalping of the free tickets online. She said her office received 8,000 requests for tickets the first day after the 2008 election. This time, her spokeswoman said she’s received 8,500 a month later.

Last time, the ticketed crowd included scores of celebrities, with Oprah Winfrey, MTV and Nickelodeon holding special broadcasts from the capital city. An inaugural weekend concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 2009 featured appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx and Tiger Woods. No such event is planned this time.

Questions remain about how the inaugural committee will handle fundraising to put on the parade, balls and other celebratory events.

Four years ago, the committee tried to make good on Obama’s campaign promise to change the way business is done in Washington by refusing contributions from corporations, unions, political action committees and lobbyists and by limiting individual donations to $50,000. But some on his team want to lift that self-imposed restriction this year to make fundraising easier at a time when there’s less hype to fuel it.

Those who want to attend will find an easier time than those who came four years ago, starting with greater hotel availability.

At this time in 2008, 89 percent of rooms in Washington were rented at an average rate of $605 a night, according to Smith Travel Research. At least some desperate travelers resorted to camping outside in the winter cold or trying to find a couch for rent. This time, hundreds of ads on Craig’s List offered space for rent and hotels were still hawking their rooms, albeit at inflated prices with four-night minimums.

The Ritz Carlton, which sold out within a week of Election Day in 2008, still had nearly half its 300 rooms available a month after Obama’s re-election, putting this year on par with typical inaugural bookings.

Inaugural guests there will receive special amenities including an edible chocolate photo of the president and commemorative inauguration pillow cases, or for $100,000, they can buy a package that includes four nights in a luxury suite, a private tour of Washington and other VIP access and a one-of-a-kind diamond and ruby eagle pin that retails for $35,000.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week.
    The actions of the man, whose mother said he had a mental disorder, rattled nerves as Boston prepared for the annual race, but authorities said they did not consider it a security breach.

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing anniversary

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014

  • Couple: Truck was on fire before deadly bus crash

    A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
    Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

    April 13, 2014

  • ‘Obamacare’ under attack as conservatives eye 2016

    Republicans eyeing the 2016 White House race battered President Barack Obama’s health care law and nicked each other Saturday, auditioning before a high-profile gathering of conservatives that some political veterans said marked the campaign’s unofficial start.

    April 13, 2014

  • Finance officials: Global economy turns the corner

    The world’s top finance officials expressed confidence Saturday that the global economy finally has turned the corner to stronger growth. This time, they may be right.
    Despite challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying slowdown and global tensions over Ukraine, policymakers said they believe there is a foundation for sustained growth that can provide jobs for the millions of people still looking for work five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    April 13, 2014

  • There’s a new ‘face,’ but old problems for health care law

    Abruptly on the spot as the new face of “Obamacare,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell faces steep challenges, both logistical and political.
    Burwell, until now White House budget director, was named by President Barack Obama on Friday to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the messy rollout of the health care overhaul.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads