The political process was just as bizarre at Thursday’s inauguration as it was during the strangest moments of last year’s presidential campaigns.
People waiting at the Capitol South Metro station begged visitors coming up the escalator for any extra tickets in a display that seemed more like an NFL playoff game than a political event.
While waiting for the festivities to get underway, a camera focused on prominent political figures attending the event and broadcast their image on an oversized video screen. Citizens donning cowboy hats and fur coats seated in the Capitol grounds’ best seats (their tickets were blue, red or orange) booed with all their hearts every time the image of John Kerry appeared. But this Kerry was not the Democratic presidential candidate – he was the senator who is not running for any office. The attendees were beating a dead horse, or in this case, a dead donkey.
At the very moment Bush was espousing his views on the importance of democracy, security officials apprehended several female protesters who made their opinion of the president well known during his address. As they were led away from the seating area, Bush supporters screamed angrily at the women a most unusual cheer: “USA! USA!”
Even the music at the swearing-in-ceremony had political undertones. Singer Wintley Phipps belted out one of the Bush campaign themes singing, “We must put our trust in thee, if we would be free.”
Another singer performed the tune “Let the Eagle Soar,” written by Attorney General John Ashcroft, and made popular by a video of him singing that circulated around the Internet.
In his inaugural address, the president laid out a rather ambitious plan for the next four years: the “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” He did not explain whether this would include oil-rich Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, both U.S. allies. The views espoused by Bush were a departure from his campaign promises in 2000, when he pledged not to involve America in costly nation building.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell closed the ceremony with a benediction in which he prayed that Americans of all political ideologies could unite toward a common good – or at least until Bush names his first Supreme Court nominee.
On the other side of the aisle, the opposition was out in full force, protesting the president’s policies, though some seem to have just been protesting the fact that their candidate lost.
Some protesters wore badges on their chests indicating they had thought long and hard about the political and socioeconomic state of the nation and had come to a rather nuanced conclusion: “George = Douche and a Half.” Some younger Americans – middle school students who were born during the Clinton administration – asserted that given their knowledge of political affairs, it’s clear that Mr. Bush is the “worst president ever.”
Bush opponents, the majority of whom were protesting the Iraq war, interrogated nearly every Republican they could find as to why he had not volunteered to serve in their president’s war.
At a demonstration near 4th and D streets, one opponent of the war asked a Republican why he hadn’t joined the Army if he supported invading Iraq.
“Why don’t you?” the Republican asked the liberal.
One of the most bizarre scenes of the afternoon occurred when dozens of protesters booed both the Continental Army and the British redcoat re-enactors in some sort of attempt to display their dissatisfaction with the Iraq war.
Some critics have said the president’s policies have been harmful to the economy. To protest these policies, one group of liberal organizers urged Americans to do exactly that – hurt the economy – by not spending money on Inauguration Day. That sort of logic is almost as bad as “fucking for virginity,” which some protesters compared to bombing for the sake of peace.
Of course, after listening to both protesters and counter-protesters, we can gleam a pretty good understanding of the state of politics: All Democrats are Communists, and all Republicans are Nazis.