Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2000 / 8 Kislev, 5761
If you think the election has been
weird up until now ...
IF YOU THINK that what you've seen so far in Election 2000 has been
bizarre, filled with astonishing and unlikely twists and turns, drenched in
human emotions, awash in psychodrama, stocked with plot developments that
would have made Shakespeare envious...
You haven't seen anything yet.
Because everything that has happened since Election Day, as riveting as it
has been, will pale next to what transpires on Inauguration Day. Specifically,
what happens on the steps of the U.S. Capitol as the new president is sworn
Even in a country that has become as accustomed to all-star melodrama as
the United States has over the years, the scene as the new president takes the
oath of office promises to be unforgettable. No scriptwriter or motion picture
producer could have dreamed this up -- and admission will be free, for anyone
who has a television set.
The setup on Inauguration Day will be fraught with chills and thrills
regardless of which man finally is declared the winner. But for the sake of
this column, let's describe the inaugural stand as it will be should George W.
Bush become president.
Think about it:
On the inaugural stand you will have, of course, Gov. Bush, as he prepares
to place his hand on the Bible and take the oath of office.
A few feet away from him you will have ...
The outgoing vice president of the United States, Al Gore.
So Bush and Gore will be sitting there in the cold together, with the
entire world staring at them and talking about their facial expressions and
their eye contact, or lack of it. But that's just the beginning.
Also on the inaugural stand will be a former president of the United States
-- George Bush the elder. He will be there in his role as a former president,
but also as the father of the incoming president.
And seated a few feet away will be the outgoing president -- Bill Clinton,
the man who defeated Bush the elder in 1992.
Former president Bush has not tried very hard over the last eight years to
hide his contempt for Clinton. The hurt he felt when Clinton defeated him was
palpable -- and here they will be, together, as Bush's son prepares to reclaim
the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, you will have Clinton and Gore sitting close to each other. Both
men will be leaving public office -- and both men are aware that Gore made the
decision not to ask Clinton to aggressively campaign for him during the final
months of this year's election race. Would Clinton's help have put Gore over
the top? Would it have cost Gore votes? How does Clinton feel about the snub
-- does he quietly believe that Gore deserved to lose? And what will the world
be able to read in their faces?
Then you've got Hillary Rodham Clinton sitting there with her husband. She,
like he, is about to leave the White House -- but she is also about to join
the U.S. Senate, and the world has been watching the public interaction
between Mr. and Mrs. Clinton for quite some time now.
Three other women of note will also be present: Laura Bush, Tipper Gore and
Barbara Bush. You're going to need split-screen camera shots to keep up with
all of this.
And don't forget Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who will preside over the
swearing-in. The last time America saw Rehnquist in a televised role was when
he was called on to preside over the impeachment proceedings against Clinton
-- and in recent days his U.S. Supreme Court has taken an unprecedented role
in hearing the case about the disputed Bush-Gore election. And there he will
be, before all the world.
Incoming presidents often invite their immediate families to join them for
the swearing-in. So we are likely to see Jeb Bush on the inaugural stand --
George W.'s brother, the governor of Florida, where so much of this played out
to Gore's great displeasure.
And if former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford show up, we've got
them to watch, too. Carter broke Ford's heart when he defeated him in 1976 --
and the elder George Bush, as Ronald Reagan's vice presidential running mate,
broke Carter's heart when his ticket defeated Carter and Walter Mondale in
No inauguration will ever be peered at as closely for subtexts, flinches
and grimaces as this one will. If Gore should turn out to win the legal battle
for the presidency, you can draw up an Inauguration Day scene almost as
compelling as the one just described -- either way, it will be the ultimately
weird ending to the ultimately weird election.
And then we will all go back to real life. It already seems like a
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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©1999, Tribune Media Services