Written by In These Times intern Christopher Burrows. The inauguration of President George W. Bush to his second term in office will be the most expensive such event ever organized. A London newspaper referred to the proceedings as a “coronation” reminiscent of France’s Louis XIV. The editor of a Texas paper has called the spending “obscene.” We are a country at war. President Bush campaigned as a wartime president. USA Today reported that the inauguration “will heavily emphasize the ongoing conflicts and sacrifices by U.S. forces with the theme, ‘Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service.’” Yet, in that distinctly Dubya way, the purported theme is hypocritical to the reality of what is taking place. First of all, the ‘celebrating freedom’ will take place amid security that “will be the highest levels it has ever been for any inauguration," according to Tom Ridge. The security personal will number close to the amount of soldiers that are currently serving in Afghanistan, (about 17,000 troops) although Ridge acknowledges that he knows of no specific threats to the inauguration and the National Security alert level will remain yellow. Even with all the armed personal, fighter planes and Blackhawk helicopters flying overhead, Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman, who commands the Army's military district of Washington said, “I don't think people will notice kind of an encampment mentality here." But the half of the voting country that did not choose Bush will find their voices squelched by the heightened security. Secondly, while we have had inaugurations during times of war (Roosevelt held no parties and served cold chicken salad and rolls without butter at a modest post-inaugural luncheon) this inauguration surpasses any peacetime inauguration. The Office of Personnel Management estimates the taxpayer costs at $66 million. All of this extravagant celebration while our ill-equipped troops are dying in Iraq hardly seems to be “honoring their service.” Especially when the existence of WMDs and Saddam’s link to Al Qeada have been proven to be wholly without merit.
Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.