Washington Times cooks the books on inaugural costs

By Eric Boehlert

Published January 20, 2005 9:10PM (EST)

Coming to a last-minute defense of President Bush and the unprecedented cost of his lavish inauguration, the right-wing Washington Times today informs readers the cost is no big deal because President Clinton was guilty of spending more on his '97 inauguration. That's flat-out false. But the Washington Times being what it is, the paper charges right ahead in an effort to defend the White House.

First, the Times reports Bush and his team of supporters are spending $40 million in private funds to pay for the inauguration, making it the most expensive in history. The $40 million figure is interesting because just nine days ago the very same Washington Times reported that the Bush team hoped to raise $50 million for the parties and parade. Today, seeing Bush under fire for spending too much against the grave backdrop of events in Iraq, the Times conveniently chops off $10 million from its very own inauguration estimate.

Second, the Times claims that Clinton's second inauguration cost $42 million, and adjusted for inflation, that means it cost $49 million in 2005 dollars. And voila, Clinton spent more than Bush. The only problem is, according to a vast array of news accounts (Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Newsday, St. Petersburg Times), Clinton's 1997 inauguration cost $30 million or, more precisely, $29.7 million. Even adjusted for inflation, that puts the '97 cost at less than $35 million, well behind the $40-$50 million the Bush camp will spend.

The only way the Times can boost the Clinton cost to $42 million is if it adds in the approximately $12 million spent in '97 by the Defense Department, the National Park Service, the General Services Administration and the government of the District of Columbia, which traditionally chip in to cover inauguration costs. But then the Times would have to add the roughly $20 million being spent this week by the federal government, which would boost Bush's tally toward $60-$70 million. Any way you look at it, the Times' lame defense does not add up.

Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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