Contemplating my disappointment with this last November's election, yet publicly condoning the actions of two fellow Democrats, Barbara Boxer and John Kerry in regard to the confirmation of Condie Rice, I thought seriously about skipping this year's inauguration, but as always, somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered my duty to history.
It is our duty to history to absorb the moments in which we live, hoping to one day share them with future generations. Our duty to history and to our country is to actively take part in the political process. So... for a poor college kid in Idaho, this morning I did my best-- I watched on CSPAN the 2nd inauguration of our 43rd president, George W. Bush.
These are "consequential time," as President Bush stated. We live in a time of war-- a foreign war in Iraq and a domestic war on our home soil against the perils of terrorism. We live in a time with an ailing Supreme Court justice and an ailing former president. We live in a time of political division amongst ourselves and amidst our Congress. Indeed, these are "consequential times in which we live."
Let me highlight a few moments and then I will comment briefly on the address itself. If you would like to read the transcript it is available here. (For other commentary I would suggest checking out NDN.) It was interesting to see the attempt at bipartisanship. Though they may have gone a bit too far sending Clarence Thomas and Ted Kennedy in to the luncheon together. It was the entrances and exits that I found so interesting. The entrance of the former presidents and their wives, Jimmy and Rosilyn Carter, George and Barbara Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, was quite refreshing and often reminiscent of former times--times of peace, times of war, and times of scandal. The entrance of an undefeated and poised Condie Rice was one that certainly deserved a standing ovation and the entrance of soon-to-be departing Colin Powell was one of the several moments where thoughts of 2008 escalated. (Other moments of 2008 speculation included the entrances of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and inevitably John Kerry.)
It is always interesting to see the vast diversity of those sitting near the platform and interesting to see where the camera is attracted. Near George H.W. Bush sat Colin Powell, behind the Bush daughters sat Trent Lott, and the camera was somehow drawn to the utterly washed up politicians. I expected to see Michael Dukakis or Tom Daschle at any moment...
But the most important moment of the day and one that I felt most inclined to watch was the entrance of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist has in the last six or so months been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, undergone surgery, and most recently has been receiving chemotherapy. It is amazing what wise men will do for the sake of history. His entrance reflected an old man, visibly sick and strained with a cane, but his words reflected that of a man indebted to his country and ever knowledgeable of the presence of history being made. His entrance left me teary-eyed. This, I assume, was our last opportunity to view Rehnquist administer the oath of office to a president. Of the justices on the bench, despite his highly conservative nature, Rehnquist has been my favorite since the day I knew what the Supreme Court was.
With the inauguration came great speculation about the confirmation hearings of the cabinet members, the 2008 election, and the nearing changes of the judicial branch. I am amazed at the time in which we live. No generation since Vietnam has faced the controversy and no generation since FDR has had the opportunity to influence such great change. It was truly a historic day in Washington today and despite my liberal reservations, Bush did a fine job. I will leave you with one quote:
"America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength--tested, but not weary--we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
I look forward to The State of the Union...