As if the jubilation from the Democratic National Convention, where Barack Obama made history winning the Democratic Party Nomination for President, has never ended, more than two million Americans are expected to travel to Washington DC to witness what might be the most historic Inauguration in our nation’s history; while many more millions are expected to watch on television and the web. But massive parties come at a massive cost. CNN Money,, Politico and many other news outlets are reporting that Inaugural festivities will exceed $150 million by the time the galas and streamers are all cleaned up—down to the last piece of confetti. This enormous price tag just begs the question: Should we be spending so much money, even for a historic inauguration, when our economy is deep in a recession?

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is responsible for the events surrounding the actual ceremony, expects that its budget will run about $45 million, but could edge slightly higher, according to Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the group.

Among the events sponsored by the committee are Tuesday’s inaugural parade and 10 official inaugural balls. It has also paid the Smithsonian Institution $700,000 for its museums to remain open longer and handle the crowds on Inauguration Day.

But the $45 million comes completely from private donations, not the government. The organization is not accepting funds from corporations or lobbyists, said Douglass. In addition to private individual donors, who can give a maximum of $50,000, the committee has been raising money by selling merchandise.

“The President-elect made very clear in the campaign and continued to emphasize that he is committed to ending business as usual and breaking the grip of the special interests,” said Douglass.

As for the ceremony itself, The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has a budget of $1.24 million to pay for the actual swearing-in ceremony, according to spokeswoman Carole Florman. The ceremony happens directly out in front of the U.S. Capitol. The budget, which is $10,000 less than the budget from the 2005 inauguration, is an appropriation, which means it is federal taxpayer money that has been set aside for the event. Another $3.5 million was going to cover the actual construction of the platform in front of the Capitol and the rental of the chairs, according to Stephen Ayers, acting Architect of the Capitol. Furthermore, the U.S. Capitol Police has budgeted $1.5 million to pay for staffing events around the ceremony, NOT including the 42,500-strong Security Force being mobilized for the event (which is half the size of the entire troop count in Iraq), according to assistant chief Dan Nichols.

The taxpayers really end up paying for the various law enforcement officials on duty. The security for the inaugural celebrations is a complex matter, involving not only the Secret Service, but other Federal law enforcement agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Office of Federal Protective Service (ICE-FPS), all five branches of the Armed Forces, the Capitol Police, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC). Federal law enforcement agencies also sometimes request assistance from various other state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. One issue is the ability of protesters to engage in free speech while providing protection for the government officials at risk for assassination or bodily harm.

While officials said they haven’t received any credible threats, they have prepared an unprecedented security effort. It will be overseen by the U.S. Secret Service and will include 7,500 active-duty soldiers, 10,000 National Guard troops and 25,000 law-enforcement officers. On Inauguration Day, the city will be honeycombed with communication command centers staffed with officials from the Secret Service, FBI, police and fire departments, intelligence agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Army will have a brigade at Fort Stewart, Georgia, ready to respond to a chemical and biological attack. Within 48 hours, hundreds of planes and helicopters could fly to the Washington region if needed. The security effort will include inspectors, behavioral experts, air marshals and canine teams from the Transportation Security Administration, who are usually deployed at airports. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is sending bomb experts and dog handlers. The 16 U.S. Intelligence Agencies are providing a constant stream of information on overseas terrorist groups.

Obama supporters drawn to the president-elect’s promise to make government more transparent and welcoming may be jarred when they see the Mall, which in the days preceding the event is beginning to resemble a fortress wrapped in fencing and fortified with concrete jersey barriers necessary because of the record crowds expected to attend.

The total cost of the inauguration to the federal government is $49 million, according to Abigail Tanner, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget. That $49 million includes a $15 million appropriation which has already been appropriated to the District of Columbia to help pay for the inauguration expenses. It also includes money to pay for the Secret Service during the inauguration and the military personnel during the parade following the swearing-in ceremony.

Meanwhile, the governors of Virginia and Maryland, and the mayor of Washington sent a letter to the federal government estimating that the inauguration was going to cost them a combined $75 million – $47 million for the District alone – for transportation, law enforcement and security costs.

The District may be eligible for more federal money beyond the $15 million appropriated. President Bush announced Tuesday that the District was in a state of emergency, making more funding available for “emergency protective measures that are undertaken to save lives and protect public health and safety.”

Other costs of the event that people don’t necessarily realize include upgrades necessary in our communications networks. While these costs won’t be charged to “taxpayers,” they WILL be passed along to the consumer. The New York Times reports that The largest cellphone carriers, fearful that a communicative citizenry will overwhelm their networks, have taken the unusual step of asking people to limit their phone calls and to delay sending photos. The carriers are also spending millions of dollars to temporarily and substantially upgrade their networks in Washington.

Dropped calls, lost photos or delayed text messages are always a risk during spikes from sporting events and concerts. People often feel compelled to share these events with others, and that takes bandwidth. Cellphone cameras are taking better pictures all the time, and sending those high-resolution images quickly floods the airwaves. The Obama crowd — which could exceed two million — is expected to be mostly young, just the group accustomed to staying in touch by uploading photos, blog posts and tweets on Twitter. To limit problems, the carriers are adding radios to the cell towers to pick up more signals and adding landlines to carry those signals from the towers to network centers. They are bringing in trucks costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each that can transmit signals, some of which also have on-board generators in case of a power failure. One carrier, AT&T Mobility, said it was spending $4 million to upgrade its networks. The company said that it was adding 80 percent to the capacity of its 3G network along the parade route, and is improving its slower 2G network by 69 percent and increasing staff by 60 percent. It has also increased coverage at 11 major hotels.

Knowing that such security, infrastructure upgrades and associated expenses are necessary for such an historic event, we ask again, is all this spending justified within the current economic climate? Of course, $150 million is just an asterisk on a footnote with the $1 trillion “economic stimulus plan” soon to be before Congress. Still I can’t get my mother’s proverbial wisdom out of my head: penny wise/pound foolish. The question is, which are we?

The swearing-in of the President of the United States occurs upon the commencement of a new term of a President of the United States. The United States Constitution mandates that the President make the following oath or affirmation before he or she can “enter on the Execution” of the office of the presidency:

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.

The newly elected or re-elected President traditionally adds “so help me God” to the constitutionally mandated statement.

The swearing-in traditionally takes place at noon on Inauguration Day at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., with the Chief Justice of the United States administering the oath. From the presidency of Martin Van Buren through Jimmy Carter, the ceremony took place on the Capitol’s East Portico. Since the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan, the ceremony has been held at the Capitol’s West Front. The inauguration of William Howard Taft in 1909 and Reagan in 1985 were moved indoors at the Capitol due to cold weather. Until 1937, Inauguration Day was March 4. Since then, Inauguration Day has occurred on January 20 (the 1933 ratification of the Twentieth Amendment changed the start date of the term).

Since Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth swore in President John Adams, no Chief Justice has missed a regularly-scheduled Inauguration Day swearing-in. When Inauguration Day has fallen on a Sunday, the Chief Justice has administered the oath to the President either on inauguration day itself or on the preceding Saturday privately and the following Monday publicly. Eight presidential deaths and Richard Nixon’s resignation have forced the oath of office to be administered by other officials on other days. The War of 1812 and World War II forced two swearing-ins to be held at other locations in Washington, D.C.

From 1789 through 2005, the swearing-in has been administered by 14 Chief Justices, one Associate Justice, three federal judges, two New York state judges, and one notary public. Though anyone legally authorized to administer an oath may swear in a President, to date the only person to do so who was not a judge was John C. Coolidge, Calvin Coolidge’s father, a notary whose home the then-Vice President was visiting in 1923 when he learned of the death of President Warren G. Harding.

Inaugural ceremonies
The inauguration for the first U.S. president, George Washington, was held on April 30, 1789, in New York City. Inauguration Day was originally set for March 4, giving electors from each state nearly four months after Election Day to cast their ballots for president. In 1937, the day of inauguration was changed by the Twentieth Amendment from March 4 to noon on January 20, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term in 1937. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the first to be sworn in as president in Washington, D.C., which did not officially become the federal capital until that year. The Inaugural Parade on Pennsylvania Avenue passes the Presidential reviewing stand in front of the White House.

Since 1901, all inaugural ceremonies at the United States Capitol have been organized by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The U.S. military have participated in Inauguration Day ceremonies since George Washington, because the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Since the first inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, that participation has been coordinated by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee (now called the Joint Task Force-Armed Forces Inaugural Committee). The United States Marine Corps’ “President’s own” band is the only band that plays in the inauguration ceremony.

The oath of office is traditionally administered on the steps of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The vice president-elect takes the oath of office at the same ceremony as the president-elect, a tradition which began in 1937; before then, the vice presidential oath was administered in the Senate. The Vice-President-elect takes the oath first:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same: that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

This is followed by four ruffles and flourishes and “Hail, Columbia.”

At noon, the president-elect becomes president. At about that time, the president-elect takes the oath of office, traditionally administered by the Chief Justice of the United States, using the form mandated in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution.

According to a single source, Washington Irving’s biography of George Washington, in the first inauguration President Washington added the words “so help me God” after accepting the oath, although there is no contemporary evidence of this. However, the only contemporaneous source that fully reproduced Washington’s oath completely lacks the religious codicil. The first newspaper report that actually described the exact words used in an oath of office, Chester Arthur’s in 1881, repeated the “query-response” method where the words, “so help me God” were a personal prayer, not a part of the constitutional oath. The exact time that the current procedure, where both the Chief Justice and the President speak the oath is unknown.
Given that nearly every President-elect since President Franklin Roosevelt has recited the codicil, it is likely that the majority of presidents-elect have uttered the phrase (as well as some vice presidents, while taking their oaths). However, as President Theodore Roosevelt chose to conclude his oath with the phrase “And thus I swear,” it seems that this current of tradition was not overwhelmingly strong even as recently as the turn of the twentieth century. Only Franklin Pierce has chosen to affirm rather than swear. It is often asserted that Herbert Hoover also affirmed, because he was a Quaker, but newspaper reports prior to his inauguration state his intention to swear rather than affirm.

Immediately following the oath, the bands play four ruffles and flourishes and “Hail to the Chief”, followed by a 21-gun salute from howitzers of the Presidential Salute Battery, 3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The President delivers an inaugural address, setting the tone for the new administration. Should January 20 be a Sunday, the President is usually administered the oath of office in a private ceremony on that day, followed by a public ceremony the following day.

Since 1937 the ceremony has incorporated two or more prayers. Musical works and poetry readings have been included on occasion.

Since 1953, the president and vice president have been guests of honor at a luncheon held by the United States Congress immediately following the inaugural ceremony. Other than at State of the Union addresses, the Red Mass, and state funerals, it is the only time the president, vice president, and both houses of Congress congregate in the same location.

Since Thomas Jefferson’s second inaugural on March 4, 1805, it has become tradition for the president to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The only president not to parade down Pennsylvania Avenue was Ronald Reagan. He paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue during his first inauguration, in 1981, amidst the celebrations that broke out across the country because of news just minutes into his term that the 52 American hostages held in Iran for the previous 444 days had been released. Reagan did not do so in 1985 due to freezing cold temperatures made dangerous by high winds. In 1977, Jimmy Carter started a new tradition by walking from the Capitol to the White House, although for security reasons, subsequent presidents have only walked a part of the way.

The inaugural celebrations usually last ten days, from five days before the inauguration to five days after. However, in 1973, the celebrations marking Richard Nixon’s second inauguration were marred by the passing of former president Lyndon Johnson two days after the inauguration. The celebrations came to an end as Washington began preparations for the state funeral for Johnson. Because of the construction work on the center steps of the East Front, Johnson’s casket was taken up the Senate wing steps of the Capitol when taken into the rotunda to lie in state. When it was brought out, it came out through the House wing steps of the Capitol.

Inauguration Day is a Federal holiday observed only by federal employees who work in the District of Columbia; Montgomery or Prince George’s Counties in Maryland; Arlington or Fairfax Counties in Virginia, or the cities of Alexandria or Fairfax in Virginia, and who are regularly scheduled to perform non-overtime work on Inauguration Day. There is no in-lieu-of holiday for employees and students who are not regularly scheduled to work or attend school on Inauguration Day. The primary reason for the holiday is to relieve traffic congestion that occurs during this major event.

Inaugural addresses
Newly sworn-in presidents give a speech referred to as an inaugural address. Four presidents gave no address: Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Arthur. In each of these cases, the incoming President was succeeding a President who had died in office, and was not elected as president in the next election. Gerald Ford addressed the nation via broadcast after taking the oath, but he characterized his speech as “Not an inaugural address, not a fireside chat, not a campaign speech–just a little straight talk among friends.” Fifty-four addresses have been given by thirty-seven presidents. George Washington’s second address was the shortest (135 words), and William Henry Harrison delivered the longest (8,495 words).

Use of the Bible
There is no requirement that any book, or in particular a book of sacred text, be used to administer the oath, and none is mentioned in the Constitution. Use of the Bible being customary for oaths, at least in the 18th and 19th centuries, a Bible was generally used. Several Presidents were sworn in on the George Washington Inaugural Bible. On some occasions, the particular passage to which it was opened has been recorded. Only one president, Franklin Pierce, is definitely known to have affirmed rather than sworn; there are conflicting reports concerning Herbert Hoover, but the use of a bible is recorded and suggests that he swore in the usual fashion. President-Elect Barack Obama will be using the Lincoln Bible for his swearing in.

Thanks for reading.

-Matthew S. Urdan

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