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Nancy Smith

American Inauguration, Always a Bargain

January 18, 2013 - 6:00pm

This is the time I should be grousing about the cost of a second-term liberal president's inauguration. Have at those hypocritical Democrats, right? Wrong. I'm not going to do it.

Inaugurations may be partisan undertakings at close range, but for a moment, take the long view. They are a celebration of everything America is.

Even for those who don't think the best man won.

I'm sorry as all get-out that the world economy teeters on the brink. I'm sorry about Greece, sorry about the fiscal cliff, bitterly sorry about what Obamacare is likely to do to my Medicare. Most of all, though, I'm sorry to see chatter on the Web calling for the White House to come out in sympathy by canceling the inauguration.

It's un-American.

How is it going to help the world economy to reduce the inauguration to an Obama swearing-in followed by a pizza party for the first family and close friends on the East Portico of the Capitol? (That's actually been one of the straight-faced suggestions on Twitter.)

Is it somehow inappropriate for Americans to have a good time when our troops serve in harm's way, and in the aftermath of hurricanes and other national and world tragedies?

No presidential inauguration has ever been canceled. Not during the world wars. Not during Korea or Vietnam.

You want to parade democracy and freedom before the rest of the world? This is it. Right here. This is our chance.

I lived abroad for 10 years. I can't tell you more ardently than I am right now what a jaw-dropping spectacle, what an envy maker an American presidential inauguration is to people who live lashed to oppression. There are few better marketing tools for selling what America represents than one of our inaugurations, any inauguration -- choose one.

Deep-sixing a 200-plus-year-old national celebration of this country can do nothing to strengthen the economy. The United States is a lively, competitive two-party democracy that fights a grueling presidential election every four years -- after which the winners understandably wish to celebrate their victory.

Inaugural festivities are attended by tens of thousands of people. Unsurprisingly, they are expensive. But the taxpayer does not pay the bill for all the hoopla: the parties do, with funds they raise from willing donors. The taxpayer does pay for security -- and there will be more of that than ever in 2013 -- to enable peaceful demonstrators to come and express their views. That's part of the ritual of democracy, too.

In 1993, war raged through Bosnia. Massacres and mass rapes -- every manner of ethnic cleansing forced Muslim Bosnians to flee their native towns. Republicans were aghast at "the tastelessness" of Bill Clinton, who wanted a soup-to-nuts first inauguration. But the fun went ahead anyway, to the tune of $33 million, before security was factored in. And who remembers any of that?

In 2005, the Democrats complained and the media hit the roof because George W. Bush spent $30 to $40 million -- again, before security -- on his second inauguration. How dare he, in the aftermath of the terrible tsunami that killed thousands? He dared, I'm glad to say, and afterward -- in the light of America's overwhelming generosity to the people of South Asia -- no one cared.

The 2013 presidential inauguration on Monday coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The swearing-in ceremony launches a week of celebration that includes the inaugural address, the parade and all kinds of balls -- including some for $10,000 a ticket.

The inaugural theme this year is Faith in Americas Future. It commemorates the United States perseverance and unity and marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the placement of the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome in 1863.

I ask you, is this a great country, or what?

The inauguration expensive frivolity? Not on your life.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews or at (850) 727-0859.

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