Armed Inauguration

January 18, 2009

In an uncertain age, President-Elect Obama’s inauguration Tuesday is a security nightmare — more than three million people expected to attend, creating an armed camp around the US capitol.


(Illustration found here).

A big, frightful pause in Obama’s security is the obnoxious, cadaverous head of the obnoxious Homeland Security apparatus, Michael Chertoff, who really could have stepped quick to accelerate action on Katrina, spoke of his “gut feeling” on terrorism, and in general has been a flake.
Chertoff in change makes us wonder at how real are the security measures for this Tuesday’s big event.
CNN took a tour with the Homeland Security chief:

  • “I don’t anticipate anything disruptive. Part of my job is to hope for the best and plan for the worst,” Chertoff said during a final tour of key sites across Washington.

    “We are constantly scrubbing and rescrubbing intelligence to see if there is a threat that we should be concerned about. And that is going to continue, frankly, through the inauguration itself,” he said. “We are literally going to be watching this every minute between now and the conclusion of events on the 20th.”

    “Everyone has a common picture of what is going on,” Chertoff said. “If something arises, we know who has the ball. We know who plays a supporting role. If an issue that is not anticipated comes up, we are in the room; we can figure out what do; we can make a decision.”

Be afraid, be afraid.

A comparable event, at least to me, was JFK’s inauguration, Jan. 20, 1961, a bitter, cold day, but one without much concern for security — only about 50,00 had attended the ceremony in front of the Capitol — and Kennedy was late for the show (a notorious glad-hander and off-schedule guy) causing a 20-minute delay in starting the program.
Security was way different in 1961.
One dream-like, odd scene in Kevin Costner’s other JFK movie, Thirteen Days, was a public appearance Kennedy made just as the Cuban mission crisis was unfolding.
An attention to detail: Security seemed so-near non-existent as crowds gathered around JFK, even while riding in a automobile.
I saw him in person once — During some presidential trip to Eglin AFB in the Florida panhandle sometime (best I can recall) about 1962. The local school district had taken the day off, so a friend’s aunt got me and him on base to maybe catch a glimpse, positioning ourselves along the route right where the street narrowed to a single-lane, alley-like road to pass between two brick sheds which housed loud-gurgling air-conditioning units.
And sure enough, Kennedy cruised right by, standing up in his limo, passing just a few feet away.
I think he saw us, waved as he passed — can’t remember, only in the eighth-grade, about 14-years-old.
He was a big guy, that I do remember.
Although Kennedy never really did accomplish much other than be the icon of us boomers (Bay of Pigs, missiles in Cuba notwithstanding), he did create an historical illusion at the heart of the mega-delusional American dream, the short, weird ‘Age of Camelot,’ which coincided with my own personal best-time growing up — the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, 1960 to summer 1963 — but ended near-abruptly, first with a hernia operation that ended my Pony League season, second, Kennedy getting shot, and third, the Beatles.
All this in the space of a few months — really don’t know if I’ve ever recovered.

Security in 1961 was way different than now.
The big horror was nuclear war — security wasn’t anything personal, it was from faraway to be delivered by rockets.
Terror was all mental — scared the Reds would nuke us into the Stone Age.
From the Associated Press Jan. 20, 1961:

  • WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (AP) A deadly serious John F. Kennedy became President today in deadly times with an eloquent plea for the Communists to join him in a quest for peace lest all humanity be destroyed.

    The simple, impressive ceremony took but a moment, and Kennedy immediately plunged into the world problems that will occupy most of his thoughts during the next four years.
    The President began his inaugural address with a vow that this nation would remain strong.
    “Let every nation know,” he said, “whether it wish us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend or oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Obama ain’t Kennedy and this ain’t 1961 as the world is way worse.

And Obama’s going to have do a real-big job is just four years.
In the UK’s The Guardian this morning is an interview with Jim Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and it’s not pretty.

  • After eight years of opposing moves to combat climate change, thanks to the policies of President George Bush, the US had given itself no time for manoeuvre, he said.
    Only drastic, immediate change can save the day and those changes proposed by Hansen — who appeared in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and is a winner of the World Wildlife Fund’s top conservation award — are certainly far-reaching.
    In particular, the idea of continuing with “cap-and-trade” schemes, which allow countries to trade allowances and permits for emitting carbon dioxide, must now be scrapped, he insisted.
    Such schemes, encouraged by the Kyoto climate treaty, were simply “weak tea” and did not work. “The United States did not sign Kyoto, yet its emissions are not that different from the countries that did sign it.”

Hansen, who started talking about heavy-duty climate change in 1988, also reportedly said, “We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”

Tuesday is either a new beginning or just another part of the end.

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