Waiting for 10 o’clock, we are entertained by singing groups, and by a slideshow. The Bush presidency is depicted in a glowing, heroic light, to the accompaniment of Coplandesque music. We see the president with his fellow statesmen, but also with dissidents and former political prisoners. One of them is Kang Chol-Hwan, a survivor of the North Korean gulag. “If our opinion-shapers were of a different nature,” I think, for the thousandth time, “Bush would be known as a human-rights president.”
At last, the ceremony begins, starting with a parade of special guests, led by W.’s vice president, Dick Cheney. He is wearing a cowboy hat and looks thin and determined. Then come children of deceased presidents — led by the Johnson girls, both of whom look chic and splendid. Then come the first ladies, all of them from Rosalynn Carter onward, except for Nancy Reagan, who is apparently unable to make such a trip. Michelle Obama looks embarrassed to be here, a little contemptuous — nose-holding.