State of Emergency

At first, I thought I had misread this MSNBC headline: Bush declares emergency for inauguration.

I hadn’t. Of course the “state of emergency” simply means that extra Federal funds will be available, should they be needed. There won’t be armed guards on the streets of DC — unless they are Black Panthers.

Two thousand years ago, the triumphal entry of humanity’s true Messiah required little more than a donkey colt and some palm leaves. But today, well, things are different. And it’s a good thing, right?

So you’re attending an inaugural ball saluting the historic election of Barack Obama in the worst economic climate in three generations. Can you get away with glitzing it up and still be appropriate, not to mention comfortable and financially viable?

To quote the man of the hour: Yes, you can. Veteran ballgoers say you should. And fashionistas insist that you must.

“This is a time to celebrate. This is a great moment. Do not dress down. Do not wear the Washington uniform,” said Tim Gunn, a native Washingtonian and Chief Creative Officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc.

“Just because the economy is in a downturn, it doesn’t mean that style is going to be in a downturn,” agreed Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus.

And if anyone does raise an eyebrow at those sequins, remind them that optimism is good for times like these. “Just say you’re doing it to help the economy,” chuckled good manners guru Letitia Baldridge.

Whew. Thank God there won’t be any “fashion emergencies” in DC next week. Four years ago, however, the press was riffing on a very different tune:

President Bush’s second inauguration will cost tens of millions of dollars — $40 million alone in private donations for the balls, parade and other invitation-only parties. With that kind of money, what could you buy?

■ 200 armored Humvees with the best armor for troops in Iraq.

■ Vaccinations and preventive health care for 22 million children in regions devastated by the tsunami.

■ A down payment on the nation’s deficit, which hit a record-breaking $412 billion last year….

The questions have come from Bush supporters and opponents: Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, suggested inaugural parties should be scaled back, citing as a precedent Roosevelt’s inauguration during World War II.

The total cost of the Obama inauguration, including the ceremonies, security, facilities preparation, and cleanup, is expected to top $150 million, or in equivalent terms the Associated Press can understand, 700 fully-armored Humvees to protect our troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan (the “surge” was a “failure” regardless of the numbers, remember?), vaccinations and preventive health care for 75 million children around the world, many of whom are at risk due to our current world-wide recession, or paying off over 1000 defaulted mortgages.

Wait a minute. Strike that. After January 20, we won’t have to worry about paying our mortgages or putting gas in our cars.

The times … they are indeed a changin’.


(h/t Newsbusters)

(PS – commenters are welcome to make as many ‘we’re heading for a four year state of emergency’ comments as they wish)

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