The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

A Private Swearing-in Ceremony for Obama?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Obama’s Presidential Oath of Office: A Private Affair

In the “you have got to be kidding me” category:

The White House Correspondents Association is strongly urging the Obama administration to allow press access to the president’s official swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20, following indications from inauguration committee officials that the event could potentially be closed to the press.

“Mindful of the historic nature of this occasion, we expect the White House will continue the long tradition of opening the President’s official swearing-in to full press access, and we as an organization are looking forward to working with the administration to make that happen,” Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said in a statement.

Because inauguration day falls on a Sunday in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts will officially administer the official oath of office in a private ceremony that day. The public inauguration on the Capitol Building’s West Front — at which Roberts will administer a second, symbolic oath of office — will take place the next day.

In early meetings with the inaugural committee, officials privately indicated to reporters that the Jan. 20 event could be closed to reporters and cameras, with an official photograph supplied to press by White House photographer Pete Souza, sources familiar with the meeting told POLITICO.

Let me guess, they’ll invite the top donors and bundlers?

“Call me shell-shocked. I’m stunned that this is even an issue; it boggles the mind,” NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd told POLITICO. “This is not their oath, this is the constitutional oath. It’s not for them. It’s for the public, the citizens of the United Sates. It just boggles the mind. How is this even a debate?”

Well, maybe this reflects a White House that certainly doesn’t fear bad press, doesn’t worry about it, thinks they’ve got the world on a string and that there is absolutely no tradition or unwritten rule that they need to heed. We’ve seen this type of behavior before, jumping up and down on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. Peggy Noonan back in 1998:

For seven months I have kept on my desk a picture from a tabloid. It is of two close friends of President Clinton, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and the actress Markie Post. They are laughing and holding hands in joyous union as they jump up and down at where fate has put them down. It had put them in the Lincoln bedroom. They were jumping up and down on Lincoln’s bed.

It seemed to me emblematic of the Clinton White House, a place where opponents’ FBI files were read aloud over pizza and foreign contributors with cash invited in the back door. I thought: Something’s wrong with these people, they lack thought and dignity. But most of all they seemed to lack respect, a sense of awe — not the awe that can cripple you with a false sense of your smallness but the awe that makes you bigger, that makes you reach higher as if in tribute to some unseen greatness around you.

Politico’s Dylan Byers notes, “The last time a president was inaugurated on a Sunday was in 1985. Reagan’s White House allowed complete news coverage of the private ceremony, including three reporters, three still photographers, and one network television pool camera, according to a Los Angeles Times report from the time. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN carried live broadcasts of the event.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Inauguration


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