President Bush wants to party. Too bad there is nothing to celebrate. On Jan. 20, with the whole world watching, now-again-President Bush will raise his right hand, repeat a few lines and be inaugurated as the leader of the United States.
At the same time, thousands of miles from the capital, on the opposite side of the globe, a war rages on in Iraq.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday in Iraq, bringing the number of American deaths to 1,369, even though the main argument behind the war, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be shockingly wrong. All right, where’s the champagne?
You cannot truly be stunned by this impudence. As we have seen numerous times in the past, this administration does as it pleases. It is as obstinate as they come. They’re right. You’re wrong. Period.
This time, though, it is clearly misguided. To save himself and America some face, Bush and his administration need to drastically tone down the inauguration ceremonies. We will see it flaunting its affluence just as American troops sleep in sandy tents in the hostile deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. Undeniably, the circumstances here outweigh the pomp and humility is in order.
With a price tag of about $40 million (about the same as his 2001 inauguration), it seems Bush (and his high-spending donors) could have spent the money more wisely. Perhaps this money could have bought body armor for the troops. Or maybe it could have been sent to a tsunami relief agency, to which the administration donated $350 million only after it came under intense criticism for its initial donation of only $15 million.
Bush, who with 52 starts a second term with the lowest approval rating ever, would rather worsen his image and widen the gap between himself and those that see him as unlikable.
It has not been all bad for Bush, though. By dedicating his inauguration to the troops stationed in Iraq and around the world, Bush stopped some of the bleeding. It was the right thing to do and actually, anything less would be unacceptable. But just the idea of such excessive celebration at this point in history seems inappropriate and disrespectful.
In the past, other presidents realized this. On the eve of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson anchored a somber event with a parade and no inaugural balls.
In 1945, during World War II, the inauguration for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth term took place on a White House balcony. There was no parade, and there were no balls.
There are nine inaugural balls planned this year. Guilt and tact don’t mean much to this president.
As a result, there is an unprecedented anti-inauguration movement taking place. Thousands of protesters ar epreparing to line the parade routes. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) has secured an area along the route that can hold roughly 10,000 protesters and another group, named “Turn Your Back on Bush” is urging activists to turn their backs on the president’s motorcade as it passes. The D.C. Anti-War Network plans to carry 1,000 coffins draped in black in remembrance of American casualties in Iraq. Overall, about a dozen different groups plan to protest the proceedings.
The message seems clear. But this administration, with its confusing thirst for this impractical and grossly exaggerated lavishness, is just too foggy to see it.
It has chosen to be extravagant and wasteful when it had the perfect opportunity to show the country (and the world) it could be modest and respectful.
Upon completion of the inauguration, donors will gloat, crowds will cheer, fireworks will crack and Bush will smile widely, having not thought of a good enough reason to soften the festivities.
I can think of at least 1,369.
John Calkins is a junior majoring in journalism.