CNN NEWSROOM reporter Jason Bellini has been in Washington covering the inauguration and transition of power from the Clinton to the Bush administrations. Bellini discusses the changes afoot with CNNfyi.com.
CNNfyi: What was the scene like in Washington for the inauguration?
Jason Bellini: It was that really nasty weather, with rain coming down that's just a few degrees away from being snow. It fluctuated from a light, frigid drizzle to a downpour.
I was out on the Mall with a band from Omaha, Nebraska, and they looked like they were freezing to death. I don't know if they were more excited about the parade beginning or the parade ending. Still, like most of the people involved in the inauguration festivities, they thought it was a huge honor to be there. They were looking forward to being seen as the best of the best.
CNNfyi: What were the protesters saying? And did they have any real impact on George W. Bush or the festivities themselves?
Bellini: There was a really remarkable picture that stood out to me, of an egg hitting the presidential limousine. It is amazing that, with all that security, an egg actually hit the limo -- and a sign that Bush won't be immune to critics, no matter what he does.
The protesters themselves were cordoned off, most of them a ways away from the parade route. ...
The protesters came from so many different groups and organizations, and some were just individuals who wanted to be heard. ... Most of them were protesting specific issues -- the death penalty, abortion, civil rights. Others were furious about the election itself. I saw a sign that said, "Hail to the thief" -- that kind of summed up that perspective.
CNNfyi: Did you see much "civility" and "unity," as Bush stressed in his inaugural address, or just the opposite?
Bellini: There is a lot of division out there. Even though Saturday was meant as a celebration day, it was obvious that a lot of people didn't want to be a part of the national celebration.
My brother Jared, who is 21 and an American University student, was out on the Mall to watch the inauguration. He told me that when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were introduced, they got boos from large pockets of people out there watching. When Bush was making his way down the parade route, people were booing him, too.
... It was a day for us to celebrate the fact that there was a peaceful transition, but it was clear that there were a lot of people either still bitter about the last eight years or the last few months.
CNNfyi: So does President Bush have his work cut out for him?
Bellini: If Bush was expecting the Inauguration Day to be all sweetness and light, he would have gotten a strong indication early on that he was mistaken. There's a lot of people out there with a lot of strong misgivings about him and his being in office.
He can't just push through whatever legislation he wants. Rather, he's going to have to spend a lot of his time as president convincing the country that his agenda is the right one. He won't be able to lead with just the support of the people who were cheering him on Saturday.
CNNfyi: Do the people at the inauguration -- Bush supporters and protesters alike -- really represent the whole country?
Bellini: Most of the country isn't quite as passionate as the people out there for Inauguration Day. You get the people who are the staunch supporters and the staunch critics. I don't think you can look at the inauguration ceremony and judge based on that how easy or hard a job Bush will have. Still, the day's festivities certainly did give ample indication of some of his biggest challenges in the next four years. ...
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