Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1-19 Obama & Clinton Inaurural Similarities

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- In many ways, the inaugurations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton bear striking resemblances. Obama is a cool dude, delivering a message of hope. Clinton was a cool dude delivering a message from Hope, Arkansas, his birthplace.
My wife, Jeanette, and I attended Clinton's first inaugural in 1993. Jeanette worked for First Lady Alice King so we had the opportunity to purchase VIP tickets to many events. We figured it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Gov. Bruce King had become a good friend of Clinton's during the many years both had been governors. And since Bruce didn't want a job, primo tickets for his entourage was about all he asked.
We went back to Washington early. The feeling was much the same as it is now. We had a new, young president whose appeal extended much wider than previous Democratic candidates. It was supposed to be the biggest inaugural ever and we wanted to see it up close.
The night before the inauguration, we went with friends to a fancy Washington restaurant. As the meal was ending, our waiter said we would have to hurry because a private party was taking over the place in 15 minutes.
Somehow we didn't hurry fast enough so we got caught up in the rush of partygoers coming in the door. So we stayed. Oh, darn.
The party was thrown by James Carville, who had been the chief strategist for the Clinton campaign. Soon after it started, Carville's girl friend, Republican strategist Mary Matalin made the statement to friends that she was going to switch her registration to Democrat.
I happened to be very close by and told her I overheard her remark and asked if I could print it. She said yes and then came back later to say, "Go right ahead."
Maybe it was the euphoria pervading Washington at the time that overcame Matalin. She didn't become a Democrat. She's still a top GOP strategist. But she did become Carville's wife and they now have two children.
The next morning, we got up early and walked 20 blocks to a Senate office building for a stand up breakfast sponsored by the New Mexico Society, a bipartisan group of displaced New Mexicans in the Washington area.
At 10 a.m., we walked the short distance to the Mall to find our area to watch the swearing in. The gates had opened at 9 a.m. for the 11:30 event so even though we were in one of the closest areas to the stage, we were far from it.
After standing in the cold for over an hour, we decided we wouldn't be able to see enough to be worthwhile so we left and headed along Pennsylvania Ave. toward our parade viewing bleachers. We found a small restaurant with a TV, where we could sit down, warm up, eat and watch the swearing in on TV.
When the program ended, after 12:30, we continued on toward the White House. Our tickets said to be in our seats by 1 p.m. Our bleachers turned out to be in front of the White House, next to the president's tent, a large, clear, heated, plastic enclosure.
It was the seating area for governors. Even though it was after 1 p.m., we were some of the first there because we didn't have as far to walk. It felt good to sit. Most parade viewers would have to stand. We were up about 15 feet, with a great view but the breeze, beneath the bleachers made it even colder.
The front of the parade, with the Clintons, didn't get to us until nearly 4 p.m. It was dark by the time the parade ended and time for a 10-block walk down 16th St. to our hotel.
We'd been on our first ocean cruise the previous week. We joked that if we froze to death, our bodies would be the best tanned in the morgue.
We donned our formal attire and managed to catch a cab to the Arkansas Ball. It was too crowded to get near the food, drinks, coat check or a chair but we'd scored tickets to the most prestigious ball in town. And we heard the president play his sax.
MON, 1-19-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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