For a scaled-back inauguration

A blogger calling himself Bull Moose (in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt) is urging that next month’s festivities surrounding the inauguration of President Bush be canceled. I agree; at the very least, they should be sharply curtailed.

I hate to be a killjoy, but this is wartime. Many of us are not directly affected by this, but many others are. By refusing to roll back his tax cuts for the wealthy when he requested an extra $87 billion for the war and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush made clear he thinks the only sacrifices required in this war are those of soldiers and their families. He should take this opportunity to send a different signal.

Next month’s inaugural activities– including a vast array of lavish balls– are estimated to cost around $40 million, mostly paid for by people trying to buy political influence and social status. (Tickets to the most prestigious event– the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball– are going for just under $1,500.) All the feel-good tributes to the armed forces don’t change that. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to use that money to help soldiers and their families get through these difficult times?

And yes, I would be urging the same thing if John Kerry was to be sworn in on January 20.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration in 1945, a few months before his death, also occurred at a time of war. Perhaps because that war was a genuine national effort, in which almost everyone sacrificed to some degree, the inaugural celebrations were markedly low-key.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was writing a newspaper column at the time, described the modest events. And she added:

Even during the purely social features, one carries a constant sense of the solemnity of an occasion such as this, occurring as it does while we are in the midst of war. Knowing the constant anxiety which thousands of people are going through day by day, and the tremendous problems that lie ahead of us, one feels the need for dedication to his task on the part of every elected or appointed servant of the people serving in government during this period.

Isn’t a mood of selflessness and dedication more appropriate to these times than one of ostentatious celebration?