Let's see if I can put this in perspective: Approximately one out of every twenty dollars the federal government has given Washington, D.C., for homeland security in the three years since 9/11 will have to be used for one event -- Bush's inauguration.
D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.
Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack....
Williams estimated that the city's costs for the inauguration will total $17.3 million, most of it related to security. City officials said they can use an unspent $5.4 million from an annual federal fund that reimburses the District for costs incurred because of its status as the capital. But that leaves $11.9 million not covered, they said....
Sorry, D.C. residents and workers -- you thought the top priority should be the security risks faced by the District every single day? To the curb, peasants! The king approaches!
The large print giveth and the small print taketh away: Shortly before Christmas, The New York Times reported that the D.C. area is slated to receive $91 million in the two major homeland security grants for fiscal year 2005 (which began on October 1, 2004). That's a nice increase over previous grants. But now D.C. has to pony up $11.9 million -- 13 percent of the year's outlay for one day's* festivities.
It's unprecedented ("This is the first time there hasn't been a direct appropriation for the inauguration," a deputy mayor reminds us in the Post article), and it's not comparable to how the cities that hosted the 2004 conventions were treated ("New York City and Boston-area lawmakers were able to obtain $50 million from Congress for each of those two jurisdictions to cover local security costs for the national political conventions," the Post notes.)
As Barbara at the Mahablog has noted, other presidents have chosen to forgo inaugural festivities in times of war, and for financial and other reasons.
Yes, there were inaugurations during the world wars, but according to this New York Times article from 1989, “Franklin Roosevelt held no ball in 1937, 1941 and 1945 in recognition of the Depression and World War II.” Woodrow Wilson held no ball for either of his inaugurals, because he thought dancing inappropriate for a solemn occasion.
War? Debt? We have both -- and we're about to have the most expensive inaugural ever.
I also like what Barbara says with regard to the effort by Michael Newdow to ban prayer from the inaugural (Newdow's the guy who sued over the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance):
Personally, I would think an atheist would approve of the religious trappings of the Bush inaugural. If Bush takes the oath of office with his hand on a Bible and is not struck by lightning, that's proof there is no God.
*UPDATE: This New York Times editorial reminds me that we're talking not about a one-day round of inaugural celebrations, but a "four-day extravaganza." Apologies for overlooking that fact -- not that it makes the management of W-stock any less appalling.