Team Bush plans to party on

By Mark Follman

Published January 3, 2005 11:07PM (EST)

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times paid a recent visit to the Washington headquarters of President Bush's inaugural committee, where 450 paid staff members have been busy planning concerts, balls and other events for the three-day swearing-in extravaganza.

The Bush camp has been taking some heat for the estimated $40 million it will raise and spend on the big party; such criticism seemed especially apt before the White House upped its initial paltry sum of $15 million for tsunami relief to $35 million, and then again later to a more worthy $350 million. (Though there are still plenty of ways to measure even the latter as modest at best.) Others had already taken note of what the $40 million could buy for some of the woefully underfunded U.S. troops in Iraq.

Nonetheless, Bush's legion of party planners were ready to defend their cause. Gordon C. James, a deputy director of inaugural events, pointed out that a presidential inaugural has never been canceled, even during world wars. He double-checked the history books to make sure: "The celebrations went on," he told Bumiller, "that's the lesson we learned."

Technically speaking, James is correct, though according to this recent AP piece, at the height of World War II in 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt "opted for a low-key inauguration to mark the start of his fourth term, with a simple swearing-in ceremony, a brief speech from the South Portico of the White House to a small crowd and a modest luncheon."

Meanwhile, another "senior inaugural official," who according to Bumiller "asked not to be identified," called the unflattering comparisons regarding the $40 million a "political shot." The official added that "people are not going to demand the cancellation of the Rose Bowl parade or the Oscars."

A few questions pop into mind here.

  • Has anybody actually called for the cancellation of the inauguration? (For a related thought, see FDR above.)
  • Do presidential administrations normally tap key resources, fundraisers and hundreds of other people to stage the Rose Bowl or the Oscars?
  • Is it a bad idea to call for some hard thinking about why the richest, most powerful nation on earth isn't doing more to help ease the suffering of the much poorer, weaker nations of the world? (Or to consider that doing so might actually be in our own best interests, security and otherwise?)

    Why the unnamed official at Bush party HQ felt the need to comment anonymously remains unclear to us here at War Room. Then again, we're pretty sure we wouldn't want to own his or her sorry analogy, either.

  • Mark Follman

    Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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