Protesters Stay Away as Inaugural Party Begins
Toto, Christian, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Thousands of revelers braved the chill and the damp yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial to celebrate President-elect George W. Bush's upcoming inauguration during an outdoor gala that kicked off a weekend of balls and receptions.
A host of entertainers - from the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes to wunderkind soprano Charlotte Church to pop heartthrob Ricky Martin - performed on the memorial steps before an appreciative crowd of onlookers.
Noticeably absent from the festivities were anti-Bush protesters who have threatened to disrupt inaugural activities. However, the demonstrators were not completely silent.
Three Greenpeace protesters were arrested yesterday after scaling the Department of Interior building and unfurling a banner criticizing Mr. Bush's nominee to head the agency.
And this morning a federal judge will decide on a protester lawsuit that could alter security plans by forcing police to disassemble 10 security checkpoints for the public viewing area for tomorrow's inauguration.
The more than 200,000 people expected to attend yesterday's gala at the Lincoln Memorial - and cause huge traffic delays as they left during the evening rush hour - did not show up, probably because of the cold, rainy weather.
Traffic flowed fairly smoothly, despite the closing of the Memorial Bridge and several streets around the memorial site.
The gala immediately addressed the divide stirred up by the elongated presidential election in the first words of its invocation.
Next, a video snapshot of Mr. Bush rolled out, with the first images of the next president eliciting a warm, extended cheer. Home movies of the Bush family, featuring clips of twin daughters Jenna and Barbara and remembrances of the courtship of Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, followed.
Another video presentation featured Laura Bush hunkering down in various classroom settings, foreshadowing her role as a firm voice for education issues.
Mr. Bush looked calm and comfortable as he descended the memorial's stairs to greet the throng of well-wishers early in the show.
Side by side with his wife, Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney and Lynne V. Cheney, Mr. Bush saluted the crowd and blew it a kiss before settling into his seat.
The unabashedly patriotic show, produced by veteran television director George Schlatter ("Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In"), began in fits and starts. Once the parade of entertainers began, though, its momentum quickened and never let up.
A steady drizzle greeted the audience as it settled in for the gala. But once the production started, the only objects falling from above were the Army Golden Knights Parachuters, part of the extended military showcase. …