President Obama’s Chicago machine is kicking into high gear to plan and fund his massive, unprecedented inaugural festivities. He just appointed an inauguration planning committee that includes his hometown cronies William Daley and Penny Pritzker. They’ve got a campaign-style website counting down the days to the massive party in Washington. To deflect attention from the costs, the One’s party planners are patting themselves on the back for limiting inaugural donations to individual contributions of $50,000 — a move they say is historic. But Bill Clinton also refused corporate money for his second inaugural and capped donations at $100. (Bush raised $42 million for his second inaugural, mostly from corporate donors, capped at $250,000.) The DC Examiner recently reported that the Inaugural Celebrations of Hope and Change will strain the district’s beleaguered pocketbook:
Soaring costs expected to accompany huge crowds in town for the Jan. 20 inauguration of Barack Obama could stick cash-strapped Washington, D.C., with a record-breaking bill for services. Security and capacity measures recommended by the District’s congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and others will almost certainly surpass the $15 million the federal government gives to the District each year to defray the cost of events, Norton said.
In 2005, with an estimated 300,000 in attendance, the second inauguration of President Bush cost the city more than $17 million, some of which was reimbursed with federal funds. This year, officials estimate nearly five times that many people for the swearing in of President-elect Barack Obama.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier expects to use an additional 4,000 police officers from all over the country in addition to her 4,000-member force, she said earlier this month. The city’s inaugural budget allows for only 3,000 extra uniformed officers. “There will be an additional amount necessary to handle the unprecedented crowds, and I am now working with my colleagues to deal with that amount,” Norton said, adding “it’s an outrage to have costs incurred for federal events.”
All of which reminded me of the unhinged Left’s protests in late 2004 before the Bush inaugural. He was bashed for continuing the American tradition in a time of war and for holding parties so soon after the southeast Asian tsunami disaster.
Critics are calling on U.S. President George W Bush to scale back the glittering multimillion dollar parties planned this week in honor of his second-term inauguration, saying lavish festivities are unseemly at a time of war.
Bush is to be sworn in Thursday and feted with four days of pomp and party-going at a price tag of about $40 million.
An unprecedented military presence and other security measures will add another $100 million to the cost, to pay for everything from police overtime wages to reviewing stands stretching from the U.S. Capitol building to the White House.
But critics insist that with U.S. troops dying daily in Iraq, the tone surrounding this year’s inaugural celebration should be more modest.
“I would have hoped they would have followed the traditions of President Wilson and President Roosevelt, who at a time of war had a very muted celebration,” said Democratic Representative Robert Menendez, speaking on CNN.
“I think when young men and women are dying we should think about the reality of how we conduct ourselves here at home.”
His comments echoed those of Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner, who, in a letter to Bush, urged the president to redirect some of the $40 million “towards a use more fitting to these somber times — bonuses or equipment for our troops.”
Inaugural committee officials however, point out that the theme of the inaugural fete — “Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service” — already honors the U.S. military, as well as the president’s role as commander-in-chief.
Bush told reporters last week he sees no problem with either how the money is raised or how it is spent, noting that it has all been raised with private donations.
“There’s no taxpayer money involved in this,” the president said, brushing aside calls that some of the funds be channeled to South Asia for tsunami relief.
“A lot of the people who are coming here to the inauguration have given” to tsunami victims, Bush said.
“I think it’s important to celebrate a peaceful transfer of power. I’m looking forward to the celebration,” he told reporters.
In fact, let me reprint Democrat Rep. Weiner’s entire protest letter from January 11, 2005:
REP. WEINER’S LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH ASKING THAT INAUGURAL FUNDS BE USED FOR THE TROOPS
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The festivities surrounding your inauguration later this month are slated to cost $40 million – making this the most expensive inauguration in history. I urge you to re-direct those funds towards a use more fitting to these sober times – bonuses or equipment for our troops.
Precedent suggests that inaugural festivities should be muted – if not cancelled – in wartime. In the midst of World War II, President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake. During World War I, President Wilson did not have any parties at his 1917 inaugural, saying that such festivities would be undignified.
Furthermore, $40 million could provide substantial support for our troops overseas. For example, we could buy armor for 690 unarmored humvees or provide a $290 bonus for each member of the armed services station in Iraq.
Please re-direct all the funds raised for the inauguration to our brave men and women in uniform.
With an estimated 1.5 million people expected to descend on Washington for the Obama festivities and a federal tax bill alone of at least $50 million, next January’s inauguration will dwarf Bush’s inaugural events and expenses. We are still at war. And, as the Democrats remind us, economic times are tough and average Americans are hurting.
Will Democrat Rep. Weiner demand that Obama go the “cold chicken salad and plain pound cake” route and redirect all the money Obama’s Chicago team is raising to the troops, too? Or has he stopped caring about the brave men and women he exploited in 2005 to score Bush-bashing points with the nutroots?
Will billionaire Mark Cuban, who demanded that Bush donate his inauguration funds to Indonesian tsunami victims, call on Obama to fork over the inaugural funds to victims of the Mumbai terrorist bombings or to distressed American homeowners under water on their mortgages?
Where are all the anti-Inauguration critics now?
While we’re talking about Jan. 20, 2009: It is not just the date of Obama’s inauguration. You’ll recall, as I reported in September, that it is also the release date of PBS anchor/debate moderator Gwen Ifill’s book celebrating the Age of Obama.
Where, pray tell, will Gwen Ifill be on Inauguration Day? Will she be covering the event with the rest of the Obamedia itippy-toeing to get a glimpse of the Obamessiah? Or will she finally do what needs to be done and officially join his White House communications team?