Bush inaugural schedule crams a week's celebrations into 4 days
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This past year's protracted presidential election has been to blame for cutting a good number of regularly accepted and traditional practices short, and the harried atmosphere following the late resolution of the election has affected this year's inaugural ceremonies to a great degree.
The transition effort of President-elect George W. Bush lost 36 working days as lawyers battled over the vote count in Florida. Holiday breaks were curtailed and the period between Christmas and Inauguration Day has been abuzz with activity as the new administration prepares to take over in Washington.
With the trappings, preparations and attendant difficulties of newly installed power to be attended to, this year's inaugural ceremonies also have been compressed, with festivities traditionally set for the week prior to Inauguration Day scheduled to begin two days before Bush is sworn into the presidency January 20.
And for such a monumental event, the Republican president-to-be is treating the return of his party and his family name to the White House as a relatively low-key affair.
Washington likely won't see the caliber of pomp, circumstance and high-profile activity it experienced when President Clinton came to town in January 1993 to take up residency in the White House. Inaugural week began in 1993 days before the actual swearing-in ceremony, with Clinton, his wife Hillary and their daughter Chelsea crossing Washington's Memorial Bridge on foot.
The Memorial Bridge traverses the Potomac River, linking the District of Columbia with Northern Virginia. Clinton's symbolic walk deposited him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -- the same structure that will play host to the opening of the 2001 inaugural program Thursday.
The Bush inaugural team has scheduled a ceremony to open their four days of events at the Lincoln Memorial, which is simply described as the official "Presidential Inaugural Opening Celebration." Events are scheduled to commence at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Friday dawns with the first official solo appearance of incoming First Lady Laura Bush, who will host a "Celebration of America's Authors" that morning at Washington's Constitution Hall.
The ceremonial salutes will continue throughout the day, with Vice President-elect Dick Cheney hosting a tribute to veterans at the Washington Convention Center early in the afternoon, and a concert to "celebrate America's youth" scheduled at Washington's MCI Center sports arena for late Friday afternoon.
That night, Republican groups from the states that birthed the 2000 ticket of Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney will fete both men on their last night as private citizens.
The Wyoming State Society will hold a ticketed party for Cheney in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hall of Flags. Cheney, who served as the defense secretary in the administration of the president-elect's father, is a Wyoming native who served the state during multiple terms in the House of Representatives.
And the Texas State Society will hold the first ball of the inauguration, with its "Black Tie and Boots Ball" scheduled for 8 p.m. at a downtown hotel in honor of Bush, the Lone Star State's former governor.
With Inauguration Day falling on Saturday this year, legions of extra tourists and local curiosity seekers are likely to descend on the expansive National Mall, which stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building -- where Bush will take the oath of office late in the morning.
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Their numbers, combined with an expected large number of protesters and the shutting down of a number of central thoroughfares, should make for an exhilarating day in the most picturesque sector of the nation's capital.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee 2001 estimates some 500,000 people could be on hand for the day's events. This number does not include estimates for protesters. The Washington metropolitan police department is bracing for a crush of 700,000 people or more.
The Bushes will begin the day with a church service at St. John's Episcopal Church on Washington's Lafayette Square. George W. and Laura Bush will then be whisked over to the White House, where they are scheduled to enjoy coffee with outgoing President Clinton, whose two-term tenure will come an abrupt halt at noon, when Bush takes the oath of office.
The ceremony itself will kick off at 11:30 a.m. EST, with a call to order by Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The Rev. Billy Graham will offer the inaugural invocation before Vice President-elect Cheney is sworn into office by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Shortly thereafter, Rehnquist is scheduled to administer the oath of office to Bush with the same Bible used for President George Washington's inauguration April 30, 1789.
That Bible, a King James version printed in 1767, was also used to the swearing in of Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and Bush's father, George Bush, in January of 1989.
Bush will then deliver his inaugural address.
Meanwhile, protesters are expected to fan out across the Mall's expanse. Not since 1973, when 60,000 protesters entered Washington to express their displeasure with the second inauguration of Richard Nixon, have so many activists been expected to try to get their divergent points across on a new president's day of anointment.
Many of those expected to make some noise on that day were present in Seattle for the raucous 1999 demonstrations against the World Trade Organization, the 2000 protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund here in Washington, and at the Republican and Democratic conventions last summer.
They'll be on hand to protest Bush's election victory -- with many preparing placards reading, "Hail to the Thief."
"Thousands of people are coming to protest on a host of issues, but they're all interconnected," said Brian Becker, a director with the New York-based International Action Center, which received permits last Tuesday to hold demonstrations at three locations near the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The inaugural parade is set to get under way at 2 p.m. EST. Bush transition spokesman and incoming White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said last week that he hoped the protesters would accord the new president some respect.
"Even with the protests, President-elect Bush has said his job is to be president to all the people, and that what he intends to do," Fleischer said. "We've been very respectful of them, and we expect they'll be respectful of the President-elect."
Eight inaugural balls are scheduled to commence within two hours of the end of the parade up Pennsylvania Avenue, which should tail off at approximately 5 p.m. EST.
The inaugural balls are perhaps the most scrutinized events of an inauguration day, with celebrities and national luminaries expected to attend each event.
Each will open up at 7 p.m., in various portions of the city, and will be hosted by celebrities yet to be named. Musical entertainment will be provided for guests, each of whom will have paid $125 to attend. As for food -- so-called heavy hors d'oeuvres will be available, but all will have to pay cash at the bar.
"The inaugural balls will be a fitting end to a day filled with history, celebration, and patriotism," said Jeanne Johnson Phillips, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Bush and Cheney will make stops at all eight venues, entering to the strains of "Hail to the Chief" for Bush, and "Hail Columbia" for the new vice president.
On Sunday, Bush will attend a service at the National Cathedral, before presiding over an open house at the White House.
Come Monday, he'll settle in for the first official full business day of the Bush administration.