In just a few short weeks the Bush-Cheney era will be drawing to a close. It’s a pretty exciting time; lots of Americans are making plans to visit Washington DC to participate in some fashion in the inauguration of the forty-fourth President of the United States.
The biggest inaugural crowd historically appears to be the 1.2 million people who are said to have attended LBJ’s 1965 inauguration. This year’s crowd has been predicted to be as high as 5 million—although estimates in recent days have been trending towards the 2.5 million person level. Nonetheless, we’re talking about a LOT of people.
Only 250,000 people will get official tickets, perhaps getting close enough to actually witness this historic event; the rest will be stuck further down the national mall watching on jumbotrons. These official tickets are given to individual Congressmen to distribute among their constituents as they see fit. Some have publicly announced they are handing them out first-come, first-served. Others have announced they will be holding a lottery in which everyone who asks for a ticket has an equal chance of getting one.
In past years these tickets were seen as something of a political perk, to be handed out like candy. However, this time around, the interest in the tickets has been overwhelming. Most Congressional offices have stopped even taking requests. Almost immediately after Obama was elected, “inaugural tickets” started appearing on sites such as eBay, for prices up to $40,000 each. Every single one of these was fake, since the tickets won’t even be handed out until January. eBay and other web sites are now “cooperating” with the Congress and have voluntarily banned the listing of these tickets, faced with proposed legislation that would have made their re-sale a crime.
The 95,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan DC area have been sold out for a while now. Thousands of basements, spare rooms and sublet homes and apartments are available for inauguration-goers, thanks to the D.C. government’s decision to suspend all housing rules on rentals for the week. The residents of the Washington area are proving that capitalism is alive and well, with weekly rentals listing for to $10,000 to $40,000 during the inauguration.
Something about the ad asking for people to wire money made Craigslist suspicious. The Nigerian Embassy denies that it had anything to do with this ad.
If you’re unable to find a place to stay, at least the bars will be open for most of the night. The DC City Council passed an ordinance allowing bars to stay open until 5 am during the inauguration. That closing time was later amended to 4 am after Congressional objections were made public and the Washington Post got snippy. In any case, there are thousands of illegal “after-hours” clubs around DC, and just about any cab driver will be glad to find one for you.
The streets of our nation’s capital will be patrolled by about 5,000 members of the military and 4,000 additional officers from 93 law enforcement agencies across the country. That does not count the dozen or so police agencies that already “serve and protect” the fine citizens of our nation’s capital.
(For those of you who have never lived in DC, here’s a quick list of agencies that I can remember: The Metropolitan Police Department, Federal Protection Service; Capitol Hill Police, US Park Police, Metro Transit Police, US Mint Police, US Supreme Court Police, National Zoo Police, US Pentagon Police Department, US Marshall’s Service, AMTRAK Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.)
Chances are IT WILL BE COLD in DC. It’s January. A Jillion people are coming. The city was nearly shut down for JFK’s 1961 inauguration after eight inches of snow fell into early morning. It took more than 700 troops from Fort Belvoir with flame throwers to clear the parade route. And we all know that Barack Obama is at least as cool as Jack Kennedy, right? Hell, let’s just go ahead and predict snow served up with a side of freezing rain. This will be Rush Limberger’s ultimate revenge: thousands of Obama supporters getting frost bite. He’ll be on the air shortly afterwards, reminding the faithful that this is proof that global warming is something Al Gore made up after he got through inventing the internet. So dress warmly, please.
Oh, and do be aware that there will loads of security. You can leave your umbrellas, baby strollers, tents, silly string, back packs, thermoses and placards behind if you happen to get in close. So far only a handful of right wing kooks have made noises about “patriotic Americans” doing “the right thing”, but the Secret Service is taking no chances. Technology so super secret on the order of “If I told you about it, I’d have to kill you” will be utilized to scan the crowds that day.
The actual ceremony will only take a couple of hours (see here for official program), but the pre-parties, after parties, official and unofficial balls will take four days to complete. The whole thing is being kicked with a national day of service, honoring the late Rev. Martin Luther King. President Elect Obama will be sworn in just days before the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, and his inauguration theme will reflect the timing: “A New Birth of Freedom,” a phrase from the Gettysburg Address. He will be sworn in using the same bible as Lincoln used for his 1861 inauguration.
If all of this sounds like it’s too much for you, or if you simply can’t stand the cold, the right-wing World Net Daily gang have planned a lovely Caribbean cruise to get together and whine about being sore losers. As an extra added bonus they’ll “explore together how to identify and combat the many immoral and atheistic influences that are attempting to subvert our core institutions and convert the greatest nation on earth into a Sodom-and-Gomorrah freak show.”