Read Parts One and Two .
In a government known for its bureaucracy, for systems of checks and balances that prolong ever getting anything done, for page after page of reports, contracts, and applications, the actual presidential inauguration ceremony is surprisingly short.
Just a few words, your left hand on a bible, your right raised, and you're president. Heck, once the populace elects and the Electoral College confirms and 12:00 noon rolls around on January 20, you're The Man. (We'll leave it to Constitutional analysts to figure out whether or not Mr. Obama was president or not at that moment.)
Back on the Mall, standing on the Monument grounds, facing the Capitol. The ceremony is racing ahead and the quartet finishes and Biden says "so help me God." And then, without warning, it's time for Barack Obama to take the oath. Nobody moves. It begins...
...and was that a mistake? Did they hesitate, start over, do the verbal version of that dance to the left and right we sometimes do when approaching someone and not sure which way to pass?
It was hard to tell. The speaker in front of me delivered the audio, and there were speakers behind me too, and they repeated the words. Throughout the hour or so, everything echoed, wonderfully, because everything was so important it had to be said twice.
So it wasn't until I came home and heard on the news of the flub, the "Greedo Shot First" of the Obama Inauguration.
But it didn't matter, because now Bush was out and Obama was in.
The crowds broke up immediately after the speech. Pity that poor poet, who had the toughest follow-up act of the last hundred years. We responded "amen, amen, amen" at the end of the benediction. But it was cold and history had been made. The walk home was long and freezing, as thousands moved north on the numbered D.C. streets, the lettered streets blocked by National Guard, possibly to provide unfettered escape routes.
And passing Constitution Hall, I saw a man holding up a posterboard sign, artless in its execution, surgical in its precision. It read:
"One Nation, Under a Groove."