The more I think about inauguration week now, the more the contrasts stand out in my mind.
On Inauguration Day, the Ellipse behind the White House had been covered with the mink coats and pin-striped suits of the old Reaganites. Two days later, the same grass, muddied and trampled, had been repopulated by the waterproof boots, snow jackets and ski hats of the new Reaganites.
On that Tuesday, I heard the Reagans' elegant Presbyterian minister Donn Moomaw, dubbed "Hollywood's answer to God," deliver the invocation. On that Thursday, I saw Joseph Sullivan, the round, ethnic-cadenced bishop of Baton Rouge, La., offer his opening prayer.
This stomping ground of the inaugural had been quickly transformed into the marching ground of the anti-abortion crowd.
From mink to down, from establishment to grass roots, the Old Right of business interests had gone back home and the New Right of social interests had taken its place.
The differences in style were striking and so, as I remember them now, were the differences in substance. In the inaugural address, the president had talked to the majority of us about our major concern: the economy. But, two days later, in the post-inaugural march, the minority voters were calling their chits. As one poster declared, "Reagan, you counted on us to win, now we're counting on you to win."
On that sunny day, the anti-abortion people were quick to claim the spoils of victory. One after another, they introduced senators, representatives and a Cabinet member with the proud possessive phrase, "Here's another of 'our' new men."
As Richard Schweiker put it in his first day as secretary, "You have a friend at the Department of Human Services and in the Reagan administration." A little later they proved that, as the anti-abortion absolutists became the first special-interest group to hold an audience with the president.
It was the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision declaring that abortion was a private matter between woman and doctor. But here the dissent of the anti-abortion marchers could be read on the placard -- "Wanted for Murder: Five Million Mothers and Their Doctors" -- and the agenda could be read on the banners waving for "The Paramount Human Life Amendment."
By mid-afternoon, the amendment to ban all abortions, no exceptions, had been introduced in Congress: "The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency."
With those simple, predictable, expected words, the anti-abortion people presented the first true challenge to the alliance of Old Right and New Right. On the third day of the administration, they pointed up the conflict between the old conservatives, who have long protested for less government, and the new conservatives, who want a government of "moral intervention."
This is what the anti-abortion amendment really portends.
The paramount Human Life Amendment, like the legislation also submitted to Congress, says clearly that from the moment sperm meets ovum, this cellular creature is a human being as equally important as the pregnant woman. Whether conception has taken place in the body or test tube, through love or rape, whether it is healthy or deformed, whether it will add to the life or take the life of the woman, this fertilized egg must not be aborted.
Moreover, it says that this "right to life" is "paramount" to the right of privacy of a woman or a family.
To enforce this "right to life," aborted women and their doctors would surely be charged with murder. IUDs would, in all likelihood, also be banned. But the amendment would also ultimately require a massive hunt, a government edict to investigate "miscarriages," to oversee the habits of pregnant women and monitor research from genetic screening to amniocentisis. This is not fantasy. It is probability.
So the contrast on the Ellipse were more than surface ones. They offered the paradoxes for the future.
We may find out soon whether the people who promised to keep government out of our family lives end up by giving government a new and omnipotent role in the most private and personal of family decisions. We may find out soon whether those who promised to get government off our backs will allow -- indeed insist -- that government be given control of our bedrooms and our bodies.