Inauguration Day: Marc Fisher Chats Through The Inaugural Parade

Marc Fisher
Washington Post Metro Columnist and Blogger
Tuesday, January 20, 2009; 3:30 PM

Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher was online Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 3:30 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about how Inauguration Day is faring for the city, for District residents, for out-of-towners, for public transportation, access and security.

Read Fisher's latest: Inauguration Voices: This is What U.S. Is 'Supposed To Be'

A transcript follows.


Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks -- if you're reading this in real time, you've either already made it out of the security zone or you watched the proceedings from the warmth and comfort of home. In either event, you saw a demonstration of democratic will and faith that this country hasn't seen since...what? The 1963 March on Washington? The 1969 Mobilization against the Vietnam War? But those, despite their tremendous political impact, were vastly smaller gatherings than today's. And those were protests, while today's was a celebration, an embrace of a decision already made, a moment in which people wanted more than anything else simply to see and be seen.

The ocean of humanity that stretched from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and extended every which way through downtown Washington this morning was one of the happier mass gatherings I've ever seen, more like the spontaneous celebration that broke out after the opening of the Berlin Wall than like the protest events that have typically brought the largest crowds to Washington.

Depending on your personal experience, today's Inauguration has gone either remarkably smoothly or with some pretty bracing glitches. There were some spots where people waited for hours and then didn't get where they were headed, and there was some confusion as the entire Mall emptied out through a very few exit routes so as not to break the security cordon for the inaugural parade. But for the most part, this almost unfathomably large movement of people has gone off with hardly a hitch.

Evidence: As of this hour, no arrests have been reported by the D.C., Capitol, or Park Police, or by the uniformed Secret Service. That's beyond remarkable; it's almost inconceivable.

But in a way, it makes perfect sense, because this is one of the happiest crowds I've ever seen, and that made them willing -- with the possible exception of the Purple ticket holders, mostly high roller donors who thought they had passes to the very front of the crowd -- to accept almost any inconvenience.

I have all sorts of bits of news I can pass along from a hundred or so terrific and very cold Washington Post reporters who have been out on the streets since well before dawn, feeding us literally hundreds of observations, quotations and other reporting. So come ahead with your own comments, questions and observations and let's see what sense we can make of this enormous event....

Posted 3:32 p.m., 1.20.2009


Silver Spring, Md.: We had purple tickets for the inauguration, and waited in line for 4 hours in a tunnel with thousands of other people. We gave up at 10:30, and went home to watch it on TV. What happened to the other tunnel people?

Marc Fisher: You're a member of probably the most disgruntled group out there -- people who were supposed to sit very close up in the Purple seating section near the Capitol faced probably the toughest setback of the ticketed crowd, as security forces cut off access for quite some time. The police at first said that all ticketholders got in, then backed off and said that some were indeed turned away. Our reporters on the scene said that it got a bit hairy there for a time, and quite a number of folks gave up and left, but among those who stayed, many did get in.


Lyme, Conn.: "The new era of responsibility" struck me as the message that might best be taken from this inaugural address. What are your thoughts on President Obama's labeling of this direction in which he sees us moving?

Marc Fisher: This was clearly an effort by the president both to get everyone on the same page about the serious nature of the economic and existential crisis facing the nation, and to make it clear that there is no way forward that doesn't involve sacrifice and a sense of common purpose. While his rhetoric was not as compelling as FDR's in a similar moment, he came out of the Clintonian laundry list that muddled the middle section of the address to end with a very pretty and very powerful series of images.

As one person in the crowd told our reporter, this was not one of Obama's speeches that made people cry or swell with pride, but rather one that communicated seriousness of purpose and the deep sense of commonality that today's crowd represents.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Here is a political legalese question: does the Constitution state the outgoing president's term expires at noon today? During the few minutes between noon and when Barack Obama took the oath of office a few minutes after noon, was Joe Biden legally the person with the authority to act as president?

Marc Fisher: We had quite a debate on that point here in the newsroom. There are some lawyers who argue that Biden was effectively the executive in charge for those minutes after noon when Obama had not yet been sworn. And the truly picky among the constitution lawyers and lawyer wannabes were even arguing that the flubbing of the oath means that they needed to do-over backstage to make Obama's presidency official. But I'm hearing that the consensus among the lawyers who know this stuff is that the public ceremony of the oath doesn't carry a whole lot of legal weight, and that once the certification of the election was accomplished, Obama more or less automatically took office at noon today.


Boston, Mass.: Marc, I went to Boston for the Inauguralocalypse and actually rented my condo. Will the city still be there when I get home?

Marc Fisher: Your city is in fine hands. Your fellow Americans are taking really nice care of it. The latest semi-official number for today's crowd is 1.8 million, and given the almost unfathomable enormity of that sum, you'd be amazed at how smoothly things went.

Heck, when I drove in at 7:30 this morning, I made it from the District line to 15th and L in a record nine minutes -- there was hardly another car on the street. Can't quite say that about Metro, which is enjoying (?) record traffic today.


Bethesda, Md.: Who invited Mr. Potter from Bedford Falls?

Marc Fisher: The president stole a page from D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and other recently elected politicians across the country who have refined a relatively longstanding rhetorical tradition: When you step into office during a really rough time, talk the situation way, way down -- paint the picture dark and gloomy, both to give yourself running room and to win people over to your side. Obama came on really hard and strong in that vein, perhaps too much so, and I was surprised that when he made his turn into the Yes, We Can piece, the pivot wasn't nearly as swift and powerful as the intro about how bad we have it at this moment.

Bush looked utterly miserable in that portion of the speech.


Try to Describe: I decided that taking the kids today would be unmanageable; they are 4 and 7. So yesterday we Metroed to the Capitol and soaked up the atmosphere. I could not believe the feeling of good will and general happiness in the crowd. There were a myriad of Metro personnel, police officers, D.C. tourists officials cheerfully offering assistance. There were porta-potties galore, barriers a plenty, mobile command centers and even mobile SPCA centers. Just being there yesterday felt moving and historic I cannot imagine the thrill of today.

Marc Fisher: Around 11 this morning, I followed a group of families who had given up and were marching right back onto the bus they had come in on a few hours earlier. It was just too much for the little ones.

My kids are older -- 13 and 17 -- but they've been traipsing all across the city, back and forth from 21st Street down to the Capitol on the Mall and back out to 18th Street to get out after the ceremonies, and they're having a ball, just soaking in the scene and watching and listening to people. A lot of people. And almost all of them happy. Heck, I even saw those guys who are selling Obama bookmarks for $1 each finally break into a smile when someone bought 20 of them.


Boston: On TV, the parade route doesn't look so ridiculously crowded. Of course, this is the car part. Is the possibly-walking part the real crush?

Marc Fisher: We've had scattered reports for the last few hours that there are actually some areas along the parade route that are not especially crowded. The indication was that the cops had cut off access to the avenue a bit prematurely, thinking that they had reached overload when they really hadn't. Something similar to that happened Sunday on the Mall for the inaugural concert.


Silver Spring, Md.: On TV, the parade crowd looks rather thin in certain areas. Do you think security cut off the crowds too early?

Marc Fisher: Yes, and that was a reaction to the huge press of people trying to get onto the Mall to watch the swearing-in. The security is completely different for the two events -- because the prez is on the parade route (and will likely walk outside the limo at some point), that is a total lockdown, ultra-secured area, whereas there was no security check to get onto the Mall to watch the ceremonies on the 'Trons. But the extreme flow of people in early morning seems to have gotten some of the police jittery and so they shut access to the parade route a bit prematurely.


Washington, D.C.: What did Michelle Obama give to Barbara Bush when they arrived at the White House this morning, before making their way with the Bushes to the Capitol? Inquiring minds want to know!

Marc Fisher: I didn't see that -- does anyone out there have that info?


San Francisco, Calif.: Hey Marc, thanks for taking questions.

How long do you think it will be before we have to stop having all this religious junk in our political ceremonies? From the Christian leaders' invocation and benediction, to the fact that apparently all presidents have to end every speech with 'and God bless America,' religion (specifically Christian religion) seems far too ubiquitous in this country of 'Separation of church and state.'

Yes, Obama did include us 'non-believers' in his list of Americans, but it felt like a throw-away line when viewed with all the religious pomp of the day.

Do you think that an atheist will ever be elected to the presidency? Or at least a religious person who is willing to remove religion's central presence from our public square?

Marc Fisher: There was a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend about the evolution of the opening prayer at the inaugural ceremonies. Up until a few decades ago, the tradition was to have several clergy from different faiths, including ministers, priests and rabbis. It's only in the last few presidencies that we've seen the move to a single Protestant minister making fairly overtly Christian prayers -- some of this is a result of the Billy Graham phenomenon, the idea of a single minister for our presidents. But you'd think that the older tradition would be more suited for our multi-faith reality in this era.


New York, N.Y.: In the crush of stories about the inauguration (and it's a historic event, I understand the emphasis) it looks like I may have missed stories about last minute pardons that President Bush issued on his way out. I think these last minute actions show a very interesting picture of who a president is as a person (Think Bush 41 with Cap Weinberger and Clinton with Marc Rich). Were any stories written? Did Bush issue last-minute pardons?

Marc Fisher: Yes, Bush yesterday commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol officers who had been convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. But that was it. He was never much for using the pardon power, from beginning to end. Too bad, because it's a great power and one that can really help shape any president's message about justice.


Downtown DC: I learned ages ago that I'm not enough of a parade person to be willing to brave the weather for these things, but that Jim Vance on Channel 4 is. He LOVES inaugural parades! ("And there's the Ballou Junior High School marching band! Don't you know they're thrilled to be part of this!") So I'm sitting here, nice and warm, watching it through his eyes and enjoying every minute because of his enthusiasm and pride in DC.

Marc Fisher: In this era of extreme media cutbacks, the local TV news anchors are the next pillar of old media to fall. Already in many cities, TV stations are sacking the anchors because their huge salaries make up as much as half of the total budget. We've only seen one station in Washington go that route -- WUSA/9, which disastrously sacked Gordon Peterson a while back -- and Vance is the reigning king of local TV news, and a guy who knows and sounds like Washington.


Boston: Michelle gave Laura a journal and pen (presumably a nod to Laura's intention to write her memoirs).

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the answer.


Greenville, N.C.: How significant was it to all viewing that women and a biracial man are central to the notion of the power elite in this country?

Marc Fisher: That's certainly on the minds of many today, and the president made what I thought was a properly measured reference to that -- the bit about how his father could not have been served in a local restaurant 60 years ago was powerful.

Here's my favorite graph in today's Post, from David Maraniss's superb piece on the meaning of Obama:

The first president to enter the White House with a literate and introspective memoir behind him, Obama is his own book of firsts. He is the first president with a foreign father. He is the first president to grow up in Hawaii, the 50th state. He is the first president whose parents earned doctoral degrees. He is the first president who once could speak the Indonesian language. He is the first president who was president of the Harvard Law Review. He is the first president who was a hapa, as they are called in Hawaii, with parents of different races. He is the first president who has a sister from Asia and a sister from Africa and a wife from the black working-class South Side of Chicago. And he is the first African American president, yet one with no slaves but a few slaveholders in his ancestry.


Falls Church, Va.: I am watching the parade on TV and I must say that I hate that white van traveling next to the limo the Obamas are in. It is blocking the people standing along the parade route from getting even a tiny glimpse inside the car! Rude!

Marc Fisher: Sadly, too many law enforcement folks take the parade as a chance to show off their own proximity to power. Obviously, there's great concern among the security forces about a presidential walk on the avenue, but remember that everyone along the route has been put through the magnetometers.


Marc Fisher: He's walking!


Washington: So he's got out and is walking. This must be a nightmare for the Secret Service!

Marc Fisher: They totally dread this. But Obama got out of the car earlier than I recall any other prez doing -- at 7th Street in front of the Navy Memorial and the National Archives. He shows no sign of retreating to the car. He and the first lady seem to be loving every second of this.


Anonymous: So his first act as president is to jay walk? What kind of example is that to our young people???

Marc Fisher: This is why people lined up for hours to be at the parade. And most previous presidents since Carter have walked only briefly.


WDC burbs: Is Senator Kennedy ok?

Marc Fisher: Not clear.

Here's the police alert:



Marc Fisher: He just got back in the limo in front of the Old Post Office Pavilion. A four-block walk -- probably a record.


Silver Spring, Md.: One more note on the purple ticket holders stuck in the tunnel -- there were no efforts to communicate with the crowd, there were no police in the tunnel (just some cars that went through with sirens and lights flashing) and no restroom facilities. I think they're lucky it didn't get out of hand.

Marc Fisher: Well, you wouldn't expect restrooms in a highway tunnel, I don't think. Using the tunnel was a pretty clever solution to a difficult problem: If you have an enormous crowd that was never put through security, and many hundreds of thousands of people want to cross the secured parade route, the only way to do that is to make them do a massive end run clear across the city, or put them underground, beneath the secured route. That's why they used the D Street tunnel. Not the most comfy or pleasant way to cross the city, but better than making everyone walk all the way up to 21st Street or so.


Atlanta Hatfield Jackson Airport: I was on a plane that took off from Reagan right at noon today -- I gotta say -- I was surprised we took off and flew towards the Mall. But lots of people are very excited here too.

Marc Fisher: Interesting -- we had heard that all flights were going to be halted for a period, but I guess not.


NYC: What is the problem presidents seem to have with wearing a hat during inauguration? Did we learn nothing from William Henry Harrison?

Marc Fisher: Well, he was only out there for four blocks. But you're right, fashion permitted men a much more sensible attitude toward the cold for much of our history.

There's a fabulous coffee table book of baseball photography by the legendary Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer that you can search to find exactly when men stopped wearing hats in this country, and I think the answer is 1962. Wouldn't it have been stunningly cool if the president had worn a fedora throughout today's ceremonies?


DC: So where is whatshisname now? Bush. What's he doing the exact moment Obama is rolling toward his new abode?

Marc Fisher: He is aloft, headed home to Crawford. Flight left before the parade began.


Boston, Mass.: So if everyone at the parade has been magnetometer-ized, why wouldn't presidents at least put the windows down on the limo to wave (I'm including Bush and Clinton here, as those are the inaugurations I remember)?

Also, Michelle Obama is a hero -- her feet must be dying in those kitten heals. Looks great though!

Marc Fisher: Cold feet -- today's number one complaint, beating even the cries of the Purple ticket holders.


Washington, D.C.: Obama says in his address: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." Some 47% of voters opted for John McCain, including me. I know that I didn't wasn't voting in favor of fear, conflict, and discord. We have serious problems in this country right now that need to be fixed. I hardly call the insult that Obama leveled at me this afternoon qualifies as "change" and is nothing more than politics as usual. It reminded me of W's nasty "I've earned political capital" shot at those who voted against him.

Marc Fisher: Well, yes and no. To be sure, the early portions of the inaugural address had a bit too much of a campaign speech tone, which fortunately was gone by the splendid last passages. I would have thought that Obama would seek to bring people together throughout the speech, eschewing references to the choices made and instead speaking only to the mandate that he's been given, assuming a commonality of purpose rather than reiterating the divisions of the campaign. But I'd hardly call the way he said it an insult.


Washington, D.C.: You are wrong about the purple tickets. I have the pictures to prove thousands of ticket holders myself included who waited it out in the tunnel for hours did not get in.

Marc Fisher: Quite right -- many did turn away, and many who stayed did get in. As usual in this sort of situation, there was no clear policy and little consistency. I've heard from many of your fellow Purple ticket holders who saw that the entry points were irreparably gummed up and who therefore backed away and entered the Mall through the regular, non-secured way in for non-ticket holders.


Savannah, Ga.: I'm showing my age here, but what were the last lines of Rev. Lowery's speech from?

Marc Fisher: Lowery opened with the first words of what's often referred to as the Negro National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing:"

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears...

and he closed with a passage that I believe is his own, though he's used it many, many times over many, many years:

" us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."


Marc Fisher: Obamas out of the car again, this time with the Bidens....


Arlington, Va.: It's hilarious how all these cops are lining the parade route in order to protect the president. Then, just as the president is closest to their section of crowd, they turn around to watch the president instead of the crowd.

Just saw four D.C. cops standing on some cement structure, where clearly no citizens are allowed to stand, while they TAKE PICTURES with their cell phones. What a joke.

Marc Fisher: You may have seen some cops taking pix, but the Secret Service guys are hardly sloughing off -- you don't know the meaning of the word concentration until you watch those guys in a situation like this. It's as far from a joke as you can possibly imagine.


Olney, Md.: Marc, a few days ago there was an announcement that Obama was opening up the White House tomorrow and those that signed up early may get a chance to go. Have you heard any updates about that event?

Marc Fisher: Passes all gone -- the invitation went out, as is this administration's wont, by email to supporters a couple of days ago.


Bethesda, Md.: Security, PIC, SOMEBODY, screwed up -- I had purple tickets and waited 4.5 hours, right up until noon. Three people around me passed out and had to get medical attention. People were crying, saying they had flown from California and Chicago and could not believe they weren't being let in. I got right up to the gate (after finally jumping the line because it just wasn't moving) and still did not make it in. Lucky me, I only came from Bethesda and did not waste too much money trying to get to the Mall... only time. Yet I am still happy because Obama is president.

Marc Fisher: So far, about 200 people have been treated for medical problems at stations along the Mall, but only four were serious enough to require transport to hospitals.


Marc Fisher: The president and First Lady are walking the final portion of the parade route, along 15th Street and now onto Pennsylvania, in front of a crowd that is now mainly Treasury department workers and other federal employees.

To the Obamas' great credit, the children did not get out of the car -- a nice early way to send the signal that they are not celebrity playthings for the masses.


Silver Spring: Wow -- Is TV on that big of a announced the Obamas were back out walking several minutes before it happened again on TV!

Marc Fisher: Well, there were three walking portions of the parade, so you may have seen one as I was typing about another....


Mr. Potter: I meant the former VP. Soon as I saw him on TV in a wheelchair I thought of Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. Did he really injury himself packing?

Marc Fisher: That's what they tell us. He did not look like a happy camper.


Anonymous: I've never seen Al Roker so excited in my life. And that's saying a lot.

Marc Fisher: God save us.


Anonymous: Is he going to stop in at the Old Ebbit Grill for a beer?

Marc Fisher: Just missed his chance. Doesn't seem like his kind of place, but you know, it's just about the closest bar to belly up to if things get too hairy over at 1600.

He could breakfast with Nat Gandhi in the back, talk some government finance stuff.


Boston, Mass.: Marc, I am flying back to D.C. tonight arriving at DCA at 9:30 PM. Will taxis be running from DCA to the District?

Marc Fisher: Taxis have been freeflowing all day. I was startled by the number of free and empty cabs that were cruising downtown streets all morning.


San Diego, Calif.: We joined the ranks of the sorry Purple ticket holders at a little before 8 am. We finally retreated at 11:30 realizing that there was no way we were going to get in. There were many, many, many folks standing at the gates, chanting at various times "let us in!" and "open the gate!". Rumors were flying, but no one "official" told anyone what was going on - or where they should go - or what they should do - or whether they should hang in there and keep trying. I felt badly for a lot of folks who were clearly not high rollers expecting to get to the front of the crowd (the Purple ticket holders had standing only tickets - at the back of the ticketed areas), but had come a long way, and spent a lot of $$ they likely couldn't afford to part with, for nothing. You couldn't see or hear a thing from where we were jammed into standing hoards. We're happy for the occasion, but for a huge number of folks, this was heartbreaking.

Marc Fisher: Sorry to hear that. The right thing to do in that case would have been to beat a retreat and try a different entrance or join the masses on the Mall, but of course many out of town guests wouldn't have known to do that.


Arlington, Va.: Marc, I'm working today instead of experiencing the inauguration up close and personal. But I was at Mount Vernon yesterday to meet some family members who are in town with a Smithsonian tour group, and I would like to say thanks and mad props to all the people who worked there yesterday. They had a record crowd of over 20,000 visitors, but they were unfailingly friendly and helpful as they did everything they could to make everyone's visit enjoyable. We really appreciated their efforts.

Marc Fisher: Glad to hear that -- I'm hearing overwhelmingly positive and grateful responses to our hospitality industry from Americans whose first extended visits to Washington have come in the midst of this enormous crush of people. People seem well taken with the friendly and helpful cabbies, waiters, hotel workers and cops.

Though I did get a kick out of the MPD sergeant this morning who stood at the corner of 16th and H streets NW and announced, "I need to have a big fat 'I don't know' sign stripped across my chest."


dc: "To the Obamas' great credit, the children did not get out of the car -- a nice early way to send the signal that they are not celebrity playthings for the masses."

And it helps that you can't get young kids to walk that far, particularly in the cold and particularly when they have the world's baddest limo to ride in.

Marc Fisher: The feds are calling that new limo "The Beast." It's essentially a tank on tires.


Washington: If GM goes belly up, does that mean the Pres. will have difficulty getting his new limo serviced?

Marc Fisher: The prez will be like the rest of us, doing anything and everything possible to keep that vehicle in operating order so that we don't have to shell out for a new one in these hard times.


Arlington, Va.: How do our inaugurations compare to other countries? Are they as large and full of participations as ours, or are they more restrictive, so that only the high and mighty attend parties and balls?

Marc Fisher: We have this curious and to many other countries strange system in which we combine the head of state and the head of government in one person, so all the pomp that people in many countries associate with the monarch is lumped in with the actual person whom we elect to run things. So our system is confusing to people from many other countries, but we generally do a decent job of separating out the functions within one person. We have had periods when the head of state functions have taken weirdly front-row status, as when Nixon decided to dress up the White House guard in bizarrely frou-frou unis. But then along comes a Carter to try to restore some rationality and common sense to the mix.


Rockville, Md.: I've been reading how several of the Balls were canceled last minute. Especially surprised to hear about the American Music one being canceled with all of the "star power" it originally had announced. Guess in these tough economic times people realize the hefty prices were a bit ridiculous?

Marc Fisher: I hope it's just a question of lousy ticket sales and not anything more nefarious.

Yes, there were quite a few cancellations at the last hour over the weekend, in some cases because there were just too many balls on offer and the tickets didn't sell, and in some cases because the prices were preposterously high.


Sterling, Va.: Do you know who the two men and woman walking with the Bidens are? They are waving to the crowd so I'm guessing they aren't Secret Service.

Marc Fisher: I didn't see -- anyone?


Brooklyn, N.Y.: So what is old man Potter going to do now? We know Bush is moving to the Dallas burbs (the punishment he deserves). But what about old Dicky C.? A lobbyist for the Sudanese government? Head of the Fossil Fuel Association of America. Dancing with the Stars????

Marc Fisher: Oh come on, you do know: He'll write a book, of course! And then, to hawk that book, he'll become the very best friend and chat buddy of all those evil media folks whom he's spent the last years bashing.


Falls Church, Va.: Do you think Lowery was particularly controversial? I'm seeing Facebook comments that are pissing me off.

Marc Fisher: I've never been a fan of his rhetorical style or content, so this didn't stand out as particularly bad or good Lowery. I think the president could have made any number of much more powerful and impressive choices for that slot. But I loved the Yo Yo Ma/Itzhak Perlman combination on the not impressive John Williams reworking of some Copeland themes. And Aretha Franklin was a nice touch. And I was initially impressed by the Elizabeth Alexander poem, though I want to read it to take it all in.


Anonymous: Were they Biden's sons and daughter-in-laws?

Marc Fisher: Dunno...


Silver Spring, Md.: Do you think WMATA's website could be LESS useful today? I don't think they realize that many of those people have web-enabled phones and would like to see what the freak is going on with the rail system. If I was running things I might list on the homepage which stations are open/closed/overrun with people/NOT overrun with people.

Thank goodness the Post's "Get There" blog and other news streams are up to the task.

Marc Fisher: I haven't been watching the Metro site, so I can't comment on that, but I should say that a lot of those decisions about closing or temporarily barring folks from Metro stations or individual platforms have been made very much on the fly, so I wouldn't expect the WMATA site to have those changes in real time. But we have reporters at most of the key stations, so we've been able to get their field reports up on the blog here on the big web site instantly.


Fairfax County, Va.: I am posting early (9:30 Monday night) because I need to get to bed before a very cold, very exciting day. Thank you for encouraging us to get off the couch and participate in a moment that comes once in a lifetime. I got a VRE ticket before they sold out last Thursday, so I have a train seat in and a train seat out.

Out here in suburbia, I have been experiencing the buzz in the stores. Bass Pro Shops up in Arundel Mills was filled with shoppers this weekend who had figured out that hunters also have to stand outdoors in the cold for hours. Just tonight, Walmart in Kingstowne literally had as many shoppers as the day after Thanksgiving (in a good year). The gloves and earmuffs and most of the hats were long gone, but they were selling a lot of Obama hooded sweatshirts to everybody who came by.

Anyway, no question or comment except to say Thank You, Marc! Just look for me on TV. I'll be the one in the winter coat and hat. An Inaugural Challenge for Binary Man (Post, Jan. 19)

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the kind note. I'm glad you decided to go. Even for those who turned back in frustration or met with security obstacles that altered the course of their plans, this has been a day on which you couldn't help but see all manner of very cool and inspiring scenes, and so everyone who even attempted to get downtown will have stories to tell and bragging rights and all of that. Which is why Binary Man always concludes that the right decision is the decision to go.


re: with the Bidens: Those are the Biden's kids.

Marc Fisher: That seems to be the consensus...thanks, all.


Joe Biden: As a Philadelphia native (Biden is covered by Philly's media market) with a grandmother from Scranton, I have always been a huge fan of Joe Biden. From the horrific start to his Senatorial career to the remarriage to Jill and the countless Amtrak rides I have seen him as a real person and parent rather than the bloviating Senator of his Washington reputation. It is terrific to see him so happy and excited.

Marc Fisher: And he got the prez to do the train thing, which was a sweet touch. The folks at Amtrak must be sky-high; those guys haven't had good news in about, oh, 30 years.


Washington: I am offended by your comments about the purple ticket holders, this crowd was full of Obama campaign volunteers, and college student age staffers -- we were made to wait for 5 hours in a tunnel packed to the seams for a gate that apparently was never opened.

Marc Fisher: Sorry, but anytime the people who have no tickets and no connections come out ahead of the swells who expect to get front-row seats, I think it's fair to say that the bulk of us will be cheering on the people who came with no expectation other than to be in the moment.


San Diego, Calif.: We made it out in time to get to a bar to watch the festivities, but left throngs and throngs behind us who obviously did not. Most seemed to think they might still get in. Most also stood in 2-3 hour security lines at their congressperson's office to pick their tickets up yesterday. I suppose hope dies hard.

Marc Fisher: And those who chose not to wait in security lines got onto the Mall, in many cases, in a matter of a few minutes. A nice reversal of privilege.


They Are the Kids: Biden's sons were walking with him. Beau was given a special Pentagon assignment this week so he could take personal leave to attend the ceremony. He apparently will head back to Iraq next week.

The Biden grandkids were earlier brought to the reviewing stand to keep warm.

Marc Fisher: Thanks for the details.


Arlington, Va.: When you write your headlines on purple -- include the blue; it was ridiculous. Far easier to get INTO town from a couple miles away than to move 100 yards in and thru the blue ticket gates after almost 4 hours. One story has got to be how well behaved everyone was given the situation and that more people didn't get hurt as the crowd tried to figure out where to go.

Marc Fisher: Yes, that's a very good theme throughout -- a remarkably well behaved and happy crowd.

The only folks who are likely to change that vibe are the dozen or so who are just now returning to the New Carrollton Metro station to find that their cars have been towed. These are people who pulled over to the shoulder after learning that the garages were full and just left their cars there. They are in for a gloomy evening.


Marc Fisher: Ok, well that kicks things in the head for our little get-together. Thanks for sharing a piece of your afternoon here on Potomac Confidential. I'll be back in the paper and online with a column from the Mall in our Extra Edition tonight and in the morning. And we'll reconvene here at our regular time, noon on Thursday, to put the whole experience through our patented post-mortem process.

Last word goes to the guy on the Red Line at 6:10 this morning who looked up at the SRO crowd heading downtown as the train reached Cleveland Park and said, "Where's everybody going this morning?"

Over and out.


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