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At the Galas, a Familiar Refrain

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2005; Page D01

Presidential inaugurations, says the official Web site of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, "set the tone for a new administration and reflect a president's personality."

If that's the case, let's lay out the blueprints for the upcoming 55th inauguration -- and the reinstallation of George W. Bush -- to see what sort of tone will be set for the next four years and what the revelries will reveal about Bush's personality.

Bassist Dusty Hill of ZZ Top is scheduled to perform at inaugural festivities.

_____Special Report_____
Inaugural Guide 2005

Looks like the second term is going to be, among other things, predictable and pricey.

Sure, it seemed for a while that things might get squirrely when word spread that raunchy, raucous rock-rapper Kid Rock would be one of the entertainers. The New York Times reported it; so did MSNBC.

Rock -- whose real name is Robert James Ritchie -- sings over-the-edgy songs glorifying non-romantic sex and brain-scrambling drugs. Here is an excerpt from his "Pimp of the Nation."

Pimp of the Nation, I could be it

As a matter of a fact, I foresee it

But only pimpin' hoes with the big tush

While you be left pimpin' Barbara Bush

When some red-staters heard the news, they saw, well, red. Donald Wildmon, chairman of the Mississippi-based American Family Association, told the New York Daily News: "This is the biggest slap in the face to the Christian conservatives."

Predictably, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is hemming and hawing about its invitation to Kid Rock. "We've reached out to hundreds of entertainers," says committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, "and we'll be announcing our lineup next week." Rock, she says, is unconfirmed.

With themes such as freedom, independence, liberty and democracy, the nine sanctioned state-oriented balls underscore Bush's tendency to use the same words over and over. Despite the heightened security, this second time around there should be a soothing sense of deja vu. Bush's parents and wife and daughters will again surround him during the festivities. So will his Cabinet members -- old and new -- and friends -- old and new -- and a whole mess of big-dog donors such as Bradford M. Freeman of Los Angeles, co-chairman of the inaugural committee and a $100,000 contributor to the event.

God willing, Bush will be sworn in once again by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the ailing head of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kid Rock notwithstanding, entertainment is also predictable and president-friendly. Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said last week that he selected most of the music for the ceremony that will precede Bush's swearing-in. Included on the list are tenor Guy Hovis, a former Lawrence Welk regular and director of Lott's state office in Jackson, who will croon a song written by Bush's former attorney general, John Ashcroft. And Susan Graham, a first-family friend who has warbled for the Bushes before. She may be a grand opera singer, but she's a mezzo-soprano from Midland. You can't get any more middlebrow than that.

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