As the Washington and the Obama White House are busy with the preparations for the president’s second inaugural, insiders are expecting that this one will be much more laid back and glitzy than four years ago when he became the first black president.
About 1.8 million people flooded the capital city the last time as the invitations to the inauguration and the balls were the hottest ticket in town. Not so much the second time around.
Gordon Johndroe, who worked through all eight years of the George W. Bush White House, told NPR that the second time around is always going to have a different feel, more relaxed and less frantic.
“The president and first lady aren’t moving into a new house. The staff aren’t moving from a new city. People aren’t trying to find their way around the West Wing. So it just has a different feel than when you’re moving up to Washington for that first time,” Johndroe says.
But one other thing that is different this time has enraged many campaign finance reform activists: the Obama White House has decided to accept corporate donations to pay for the inauguration this time, something they refused to do in 2008. They cited the lack of time to raise adequate money.
“Our goal is to make sure that we will meet the fund-raising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history,” Addie Whisenant, the inaugural committee spokeswoman, said in a statement to The New York Times. The committee is still hoping for transparency, posting the names of donors on a website available to the public.
But that’s not good enough for campaign finance reform advocates.
Fred Wertheimer, the President of Democracy 21, told the Daily Beast it was “an unnecessary step backwards for the administration.”
“It allows corporations to curry favor with the administration by providing large sums to benefit the interests of the administration from companies that no doubt have major interest pending before government,” he said.
Marcia Hale, who was an assistant to President Clinton, said that while the first inauguration launches a sweeping new project in America, the second inauguration is more prosaic.
“You can still stop and appreciate the day for the historical significance,” Hale says. “But you take that afternoon and enjoy it, and then you’re back to work the next day.”
Muffy Cabot, who was social secretary in the Reagan White House, told the Daily Beast the event is somewhat bittersweet, as it marks the last time the president will ever run for office.
“There’s a slight sense of its coming to an end. You know, this is the last chance; this is where I make my history,” Cabot says.
This time the inauguration will come on a Sunday. Chief Justice John Roberts will officially swear in the president at a private White House ceremony at noon that day—an event the press has been fretting over, worried that it might be closed.
The Public events, such as the ceremonial swearing-in on the mall, the procession, the inaugural address and balls, all will take place on Monday, Jan. 21.