Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bush 'the king' blows $50m on coronation

Bush 'the king' blows $50m on coronation
President's lavish inauguration is 'obscene' when US troops are dying in Iraq war, say critics
Paul Harri in New York
Sunday January 9, 2005
The Observer
It will be one of the biggest parties in American history, but half of the country will be left out. With a price tag of up to $50 million, President George W Bush's inauguration in 11 days' time will be an unashamed celebration of Red America's victory over Blue America in last November's election.
It is going to be the most expensive, most security-obsessed event in the history of Washington DC. An army of 10,000 police, secret service officers and FBI agents will patrol the capital for four days of massive celebrations that some critics have derided as reminiscent of the lavish shindigs thrown by Louis XIV, France's extravagant Sun King.
More than 150,000 people, nearly all Republicans whose tickets are a reward for election work, will pack the Mall to hear Bush take his oath of office on 20 January. There will be nine official balls, countless unofficial ones, parades and a concert hosted by Bush's daughters, Jenna and Barbara.
Amid the official pageantry will be many huge parties laid on by companies wishing to win favour with Washington's power players. Anyone who is anyone in Republican circles will be in town. Many Democrats will be leaving. With so many big names in one place, security measures will include road blocks, anti-aircraft guns guarding the skies and sniper teams patrolling the rooftops.
Many observers say it is all too much. 'We have elected a President who seems to have quite a monarchical role. It is a bit of a coronation,' said Larry Haas, a former official in Bill Clinton's White House.
Certainly, Bush's inauguration will be an orgy of gladhanding and partying by the Republican faithful from all over the country. One Washington hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, is offering visitors four nights in its Presidential Suite for $200,000. The price tag includes a 24-hour butler, a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce or Humvee, daily champagne and caviar and a flight to the hotel in a private jet.
One highlight of the bonanza is the Black Tie and Boots Ball organised by Bush's home state of Texas, with the President as star guest. Ten thousand tickets sold out in less than 50 minutes, and are now trading privately at $1,300 each. Another is the Commander-in-Chief's Ball where Bush will honour American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is billed as the centrepiece of the inauguration, which itself has a theme tinged with the idea of military service.
All the partying is being condemned by many commentators as in poor taste for a nation fighting a bloody war....