Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Inauguration Day 2009 -OR- Watching the World Wake Up From History

This entry is an account of my day featuring pictures that I got off news Web sites and that I took with my (crummy) cellphone camera, as well as a few pictures I took last night on a walk with my friend Chris T. down to the National Mall. The ones I took should be obvious and are mostly in the second half of the entry.

Yesterday was a historically powerfully good day for America and, yes, the world.

Here is a 21:50 YouTube clip of the C-SPAN footage of President Barack Obama taking the oath of office and giving his powerful inaugural speech. The oath was actually screwed up a little by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, which caused Pres. Obama to stumble a bit.

**Updated 01/22/2009: Pres. Obama retook the oath Wednesday evening, Jan. 21, 2009, courtesy Chief Justice Roberts just to make sure everything was correct. Already the more fevered rightwing swamps of the blogosphere had been darkly ruminating that "Obama really isn't president."**

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Despite myself and my morning foul and panicked mood notwithstanding over unrelated personal issues, it was a good day for me since living here in Washington D.C. allowed me to be a small part of it with my friends as Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America and the 1st African American to hold that penultimate position of power on this planet.

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Here President Obama takes the oath of office at 12:05PM EST Jan. 20, 2009 as administered by Chief Justice Roberts while his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, watch.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are standing behind Malia and Sasha.

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Pres. Obama was sworn in using the same Bible Pres. Abraham Lincoln used in 1861.

Although this formal oath of office was administered at 12:05PM (and apparently there is an informal one earlier in the morning), the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution unambiguously states that the outgoing President's term ends at noon precisely on Jan. 20th. It has never been clear to me if that means the new President de facto assumes office at noon or only once the oath of office is administered.

If the latter, then who was President for those five minutes??


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Another image of Pres. Obama being sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts with his wife and daughters, as well as outing Pres. George W. Bush looking on.

I walked down to the National Mall starting at 11AM with Gary and Kristof (I've no idea where Gerry was yesterday) on a circuitous route around the White House to the vicinity of the Washington Monument. By the time we got to H St., NW, it was mobbed in a sea of humanity flowing slowly down toward the Mall in the bright winter sunshine. We were near the Monument and within sight and sound of a jumbotron screen by 11:45AM.

Actually, there were many jumbotron screens (or whatever make and model of large screen outdoor television screens they were) and as a result of the multiple, seconds-out-of-phase audio delays, it made for a slightly jarring experience listening to the speech if did not concentrate on just one source.

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President Obama delivers his Inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 2009.

While it was mostly sunny, it was cold and blustery with temps. in the upper 20s with 30F the official high for the day at nearby Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

However, for some reason, the observations from nearby DCA indicate it was "overcast" or "mostly cloudy" most of the day, when that was most definitely not what I experienced.

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President Obama waves to the crwod after giving his first Inaugural address.

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I'll avoid my existential bitterness and angst about our utter, total, and perpetual snow drought in D.C. and near-in environs that has run for years now. Even crummy Raleigh, N.C., 200+ miles south of D.C., had 7+ inches of snow last night. We got squat OF COURSE.

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Pres. Obama gets a hug from now-former Pres. George W. Bush while now-former Vice Pres. Dick Cheney stands next to them looking on.

You can just feel the evil pulsating out from Cheney's dark heart as he peers out from under that fedora that makes him look more like an aging mafia don than Darth Vader. As for Bush, he was emotional and oddly deferential and uncharacteristically graceful. As much as I can't stand him, I suppose this was a difficult day for him.

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Here the Obamas and the Bushes walk together ahead of the former President and First Lady's departure from Washington, D.C., for Texas "for good" (Bush's words).

This is how we still manage to transfer power peacefully and legally in the United States -- even after an 8 year nightmare that we've been through, and despite the fact that Bush and his crowd seized power by Supreme Court fiat in 2000 even though Gore actually won in Florida (and thus the Electoral College vote), to say nothing of the national popular vote.

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Ciao. That's Italian for buh-bye.

Please just disappear into obscurity.

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Aretha Franklin sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in only that way she can. No comment on her choice of head ware. I'm not gonna make snarky comments like some folks have about how that hat made her look a tad like Aunt Jemima. No, I won't say that.

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A view of the mass of humanity stretching westward from the U.S. Capitol Building along the National Mall.

I was with Gary and Kristof just behind the Washington Monument -- the base of which is visible in the distance down the axis of the Mall -- about 1.2 miles away.

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Speaking of the crowd size ...

Official crowd estimates from the National Park Service are not yet available, and the act of estimating crowds in political events is inherently controversial and, well, political. Indeed, Congress banned the NPS in 1996 from estimating crowd sizes, although it is expected to do so for this event.

Some estimates for yesterday's crowd size were in the 1.8 million ballpark, and my own anecdotal experience of being among the throngs suggested this was in fact the case. That would be a record crowd. Here is a list of biggest National Mall crowds on record, not counting the LBJ 1965 inauguration. That crowd estimate is put at 1.2 million, the biggest ever on the Mall. The July 4, 1976 bicentennial event crowd was put at 1.0 million (see list link).

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Here is a high-resolution image taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite with my route clumsily sketched in. The granular brown clusters represent throngs of people. There were also people on the adjoining downtown streets, so it does not capture everyone there. I'm assuming by the angle of the Sun -- see the shadow from the Washington Monument -- that it was taken an hour or so before the noon hour.

We were in the yellow dot area within site of a jumbotron screen at the Noon hour and 12:05PM swearing in. The Inauguration was at the Capitol West Steps where the light blue dot is -- about 1.2 miles east of the Monument.

Here is the GeoEye Web site gallery that includes the picture. The first three of the gallery are of the National Mall with the image above being the second one. The CNN version is here (in case the GeoEye gallery changes). (The CNN link is rather slow as it takes a while for the various image components to come in clearly.)

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The "sparse" areas on the Mall in the satellite image above between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument and west of the Monument (where we were) suggests to one expert a figure closer to 1 million rather than 2 million. However, it should be remembered that the city streets leading to the Mall were also jammed and the crowd was not a static thing but in constant flux.

**UPDATED, 01/22/2009: Read this article in the WashPost on the crowd estimate, the GeoEye-1 image limitations, and why the LBJ '65 estimate is probably too high.**

Here is an image I took around 1130AM while walking down to the National Mall to the Obama Inauguration. This was on 18th St., NW, near the World Bank. This gives a sense of the throngs of people pouring down there.

The kitschy stuff being hawked everywhere from Obama hand warmers to Obama bottled water to Obama hand puppets, as well as Obama t-shirts, calendars, posters, and other stuff, was astonishing.

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The view as Gary, Kristof, and I approached the Washington Monument from 17th St., NW, and Constitution Ave., NW.

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The view looking north from near the Washington Monument across just a small portion of the crowd toward the White House and downtown D.C. beyond.

This is about where we were when Obama was inaugurated at 12:05PM. I was surprised to see that air traffic into / out of DCA was continuing as normal. The jets were doing the upriver landings and take-offs, and there was a jet that departed at noon and 12:05PM. The folks on the right side of those jets must've seen an extraordinary site.

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More crowd scenes that I took, same perspective as above picture.

We did not actually remain for the Inaugural address since it was so blustery, gusty, and cold. Instead, we began a circuitous walk around the White House and through downtown to Chris T's office to watch the Inaugural parade.

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Here is the view of part of the parade route along Pennsylvania Ave., NW, between 12th and 15th St., NW, as seen from Chris's office.

Chris works at a high-end law firm and this is the view from his 9th floor office. We had to enter through a back entrance off E St., NW. It was an unusual day at this office with the families and friends of associates and partners. This included lots of children. There was also a reception on the 11th floor that kept us in hors d'oeuvres AND wine and beer. Yay.

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The actual Inaugural parade was delayed approximately a half hour, though it seemed longer. It may have been because the formal luncheon lasted longer than scheduled, and there was also Sen. Kennedy's health scare.

The parade started moving past us around 4PM. We were actually near the end of the parade route since the White House is at Pennsylvania Ave., NW, and 16th St., NW (hence the "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" address it has).

Here the actual limousine carrying President Obama and his family slowly rode past. It is the one with the four Secret Service agents walking with it.

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Needless to say, all the office buildings and hotels lining Pennsylvania Ave. were jammed with people, as well as at street level. I think a gaggle of New Jersey State Troopers were standing along the parade route -- looking out at the crowd, not at the parade -- near the building. Security was very, very tight. Sharpshooters were on all the building roof tops.

Here is another view of President Obama's limousine at the center of the "bubble" he and his family will now live in for the next 4 or 8 years.

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The Obamas actually got out of the limousine farther down Pennsylvania Ave., NW, but had gotten back into their vehicle by the time they were abreast of where we were.

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The remaining pictures were taken by me the night before (Jan. 19, 2009) while with Chris T.

Dinner at City Lights of China on Connecticut Ave., NW

Chris T. and I had dinner at City Lights of China where I had not gone in about 10 years. The menu had improved quite a bit, including a "healthy" one with sauces on the side (rather than drowning the meal and rendering it a gooey, unhealthy blob of nothing). The place was actually NOT mobbed when we got there, unlike the other places we attempted to go but filled up.

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Thereafter, we took a night walk down to the National Mall.

Here a series of port-o-potties portable toilets line Henry Bacon Drive with the Lincoln Memorial glowing behind them. Henry Bacon Drive runs between the Lincoln Memorial and Constitution Ave., NW. No, this isn't a Mr. Sirius reference.

There were hundreds of portable toilets everywhere along the Mall and the nearby city streets. Everywhere was mobbed with people with security fences in abundance, not to mention police, police, police, and more police.

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We walked to the Washington Monument along the north side of the Reflecting Pool.

Here is the Reflecting Pool that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and 17th St., NW, near the Washington Monument, Jan. 19, 2009. The shallow, stagnant pool of swampy, mucky, dirty water was frozen over, and the klieg lights set up everywhere created a nice effect.

This picture was taken just before a mob of black youngsters from the "Mighty" school band something or other coming the other way overwhelmed us. There was a lot of "N-word" screaming among them.

That was probably the only "bad" thing -- other than the small cadre of redneck-looking (white) insane religious fascist fanatics the next day standing at 17th St. and Constitution Ave., NW, with their "ASK ME WHY YOU DESERVE HELL" shirts and placards.

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Speaking of fascism, the National World War II Memorial encircling what used to be called the Rainbow Pool along 17th St., NW, has more than a hint of it in its design. And I say this even though I think the memorial design is actually nice with its pillars, arches, bas-relief panels, fountains, night lighting, and open "plaza" expanse. The Wikipedia article on the memorial is well written and comprehensive.

This is the overhead sculpture inside the "Pacific Arch" on the south side of the memorial.

The fountain geysers were all turned off and the fountain itself was empty.

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An image of me silhouetted against the Washington Monument, Jan. 19, 2009.

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Chris T. and I walked to the subterranean Stan's at Vermont Ave., NW, and L St., NW. I've mentioned this place -- and the big liquor and food portions its serves -- before.

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And with that I conclude this entry, except for one more miscellaneous YouTube clip. It features former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, TOTALLY dissing former President Bill Clinton while Secretary of State - Designate and former First Lady Hillary Clinton looks on.


The Carters are seen talking to an aging former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of now former President George W. Bush just before taking their seats outside at the Obama swearing in. The Carters go OUT OF THEIR WAY to ignore Bill Clinton. Not sure what that's about.

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Anyway, my next entry probably won't be until the weekend.

--Regulus

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope Obama will change USA... and maybe the world ! Yes we can !

Regulus said...

Agreed. And thank you for stopping by and your comment.

Bryan said...

Excellent post.

I understand the signifigance of using the "Lincoln" bible. Freedom and all that, but I think it might have been better it they used a brand new one. That one might have some "bad ju-ju" stuck to it somehow.

re: Aretha's hat? What is up with that thing? Does that bow recieve transmissions from space?

From all the video and pics I've seen I'll go with the 2 mil # as well.

Mrs Obama, while pretty, needs a fashion advisor. I thought the dress was not so good.

I see the facist thing with the monument.

Yes, what is up with the clip at the end? Hillary looks bewildered. Couldn't the Carters put up a good front just to seem cordial? Maybe religion and the fact that Clinton "did not have sex with that woman".

Anonymous said...

I watched the event on CBS, and the commentators said that for those five minutes Mr. Biden was President because he was already sworn in. But I have no idea whether it's true or not.

Anonymous said...

The Constitution sez the new President is in power at noon Jan. 20, oath or not, late/flubbed or not.
The oath is a ceremonial assurance, like any Fed employee takes. Roberts and Obama wanted to make up and be friendly with the 2nd oath.
-- Per one source, Carter and Clinton have mutual disregard; The Lewinsky affair for one, and Clinton blames is 1980 Ark. governor loss on Carter's loss. - L of S

Regulus said...

Bryan: By "monument," I was referring to the stone pillars that ring the old Rainbow Pool fountain, not the Washington Monument, which is what I surmised what you meant by "monument."

As for Michelle Obama, I didn't think her dress was bad. But as for Aretha's dress and hat, that was over the top.

Quill: I'm not sure what's what with the oath of office and when the president takes office (see below).

L of S: But the way I read the 20th Amendment, it simply states that the outgoing president's term ends at noon on the 20th of January, not that the new one's term begins. That could be an important distinction.

Is it the case that for a new president, the oath of office is actually required, although I'm not sure if that is a constitutional obligation.

Why would the White House redo the oath if they thought it wasn't sufficiently important? Or do you think it was just -- as you say -- "to make up and be friendly."

I didn't know the source(s) of the Carter - Clinton animosity.

Regulus said...

Furthermore, Article II, Section I states: "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Combining that and the fact that Amendment 20 does not state anything about the NEW president taking office, I think it means the Oath is in fact required.

See text of U.S. Constitution here.

Bryan said...

Sorry, I meant the Rainbow Pool, I need a copy editor darn it!

Anonymous said...

A great post! Thanks so much for that perspective. I enjoyed all the pictures & the commentary. I really liked the satellite picture.

I should have more to say for all the effort you put out with this post & maybe i will later, but real life with all of it's obligations is beckoning...

Regulus said...

Thank you, Rita. I'm glad you liked my entry. I apologize I haven't been by your blog in a while. I will try to visit later today.

fifi said...

Great commentary,
here is a little snippet about Arethas hat for you via Ampersand Duck via Sorrow at Sills bend...


"just imagine that you are in the audience at this momentous occasion. Imagine what those huge (12mm) Swarovski stones look like in the bright winter sun. Imagine being so far away that you can’t actually see her, but you can hear that voice and the rhinestones are flashing in your eyes while she’s singing. You cry because they are so bright and it hurts but also because of the emotion in the moment. Aretha was the Statut of Liberty, her brilliant hat was her crown and the microphone was her torch." Isn't that lovely? http://thesewingdivas.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/freedom/

Regulus said...

Rita, When you put it that way, I guess it was an appropriate dress!

krzysztof said...

This is a very good post, I think

Regulus said...

Oops -- that comment was from Fifi. I'm sorry, Fifi!

Regulus said...

Kristof -- Are you meeting me/us for happy hour?

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected re. oath. Pays to do one's homework, eh? ... Aretha's signing of ...'Tis of thee was in my head for several days! - L of S

Regulus said...

Again, I am not clear on whether the NEW president is constitutionally authorized / empowered to take off at noon precisely on Jan. 20th irrespective of whether (s)he takes office. All that I read in Amendment 20 is that the outgoing president's term ends at noon on Jan. 20th.

Bryan said...

I realize this sort of thing is vandalism and destruction of property, not a good thing. Kind of funny though.

Rita said...

Uh, Ok, well it's about time you visted my blog.

Regulus said...

OK, Rita, will do. I hope you're doing well. I love your new avatar.

Anonymous said...

Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter hate each other. Don't know why. Just know that they do, and CNN and MSNBC were happy to tell the whole world so without explaining the backstory.

Love the quote that Fifi found above about Aretha's hat (which I also loved.)

Anonymous said...

Agreed. And thank you for stopping by and your comment.





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Regulus said...

Huh?