Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A coronation or inauguration?

For a "wartime" commander-in-chief, George W. Bush shows scant inclination to be a model of sacrifice and self-denial, even as killed-in-action reports trickle into the Pentagon from Iraq and U.S. soldiers' next-of-kin are notified.

Most unseemly of all is the splendor that Republican planners have arranged for the president's inaugural festivities—including cozy upclose get-togethers with George Bush for moneyed supporters doling out $250,000 each for the privilege of getting the presidential ear over an intimate lunch.

The goal is to raise $40 million. Is this, heaven forbid, what this regal fete will cost? Or is this merely the selling of the president, another dodge to raise funds for some future political operation?

How many armored Humvees would $40 million buy?

One wonders if the Republican elites with expensive tastes in ceremonial majesty have the good sense to invite—at no cost, mind you—a few soldiers grievously wounded in Iraq to rub elbows with the president and his elegant friends over lunch and get an earful of what sort of camaraderie goes on between this president and his flush backers. After all, GIs gave their limbs, which amounts to far more than dollars peeled off by millionaires.

Republicans are creating what appears to be a monarch's coronation, not the inauguration of Everyman's president.

This trend had been shared by Democrats, too—staging opulent lunches, dinners and dazzling presidential balls that price ordinary folks out of attending.

For common folks, inauguration means enduring freezing temperatures or rain to see the presidential oath on the Capitol steps through binoculars, maybe a curbside view of a parade later in the day.

Simplicity once reigned over inaugurations. There was the simple oath taking and, in early days of the nation, Americans strolled over to the White House to shake the president's hand and hobnob with political leaders.

Those bucolic yesteryears can't be revived. The president is doomed by modern circumstances to living in a bubble of security that isolates him from the public and, sadly, from realities that Americans face and endure every day.

At a very minimum, however, decency should compel political parties to collect only enough donations to cover actual costs of a few inaugural festivities, then limit the celebration to more modest parties within reach of more people.

A little sacrifice by political parties is not much to ask while other Americans and their families are sacrificing far more in a war that President Bush started.

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