Ronald Reagan's "We the People" Inaugural was without people. His first swearing-in -- at the White House on Sunday -- was charming, but private. His second, in the Capitol Rotunda, was by invitation only -- to members of Congress, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and the diplomatic corps.
It wasn't his fault. The cold that swept in from Canada made John F. Kennedy's icy inaugural in 1961 seem almost balmy. The temperature at noon was seven degrees above zero. The "wind-chill factor" put John Adams' idea of "public happiness" out of the question.
Only a handful of frozen diehards, bundled up to their eyelids, stood on the corner of the Capitol Plaza to cheer Reagan's arrival at the greatest moment the Republic offers. The stands along Pennsylvania Avenue were empty.
The 12,000 tootlers, drummers, trick-riders and float-folk from all over the country -- some of whom had scraped and schemed and hammered and practiced for a year in preparation for the glory of passing the White House reviewing stand -- moped in their motels, sad at being frozen out of the struts, salutes and fanfares but glad not to lose a finger to inaugural frostbite.
All weekend, the chosen, the wealthy, the diamond-studded, the designer-clad whirled through the city in their limousines, rushing from one lavish, celebrity-laden buffet to the next. The "Pageant of Youth" scheduled for the Jefferson Memorial Sunday afternoon had to be cancelled.
The popular president was visible to his countrymen only on television, which is the way the Secret Service likes it. They thought God was on their side. The inaugural committee did not. A new deficit was being created. They promised refunds to those who had paid for parade-route seats.
Even the inaugural speech seemed intended not entirely for broad public consumption. It was supposed to be delivered on the West Front of the Capitol to vast, doting throngs. Talk was that it would be Reagan's first draft of the inscriptions he dreamed of having as his epitaph.
But as he delivered it inside the halls of Congress, it sounded more like a State of the Union message, a review of the accomplishments of the first four years, a preview of legislative proposals he will shortly present.
After felicitous and moving passages about Washington, Jefferson and Adams, the president got down to business and pitched hard for the controversial solutions to the budget deficit and arms control. He's going for a balanced-budget amendment and "Star Wars."
In his approach to the "the ancient prayer of peace on Earth" -- he warned that "good will alone" will not do -- one accusatory line leapt out: "One nation, the Soviet Union, has conducted the greatest military buildup in the history of man, building arsenals of awesome offensive weapons."
He went into orbit over his "Star Wars" initiative, a scheme that enrages and alarms the Soviets and drives many scientists in this country to despair.
He touched on the need for brotherhood but was vague about how to attain it. Certainly his pre-inaugural performance toward blacks did not indicate a new era of good feeling. Faced with a news conference by the Urban League, he circumvented it by having a group of friendly blacks to the White House the day before.
When asked about the league's call for more dialogue and simple steps to be taken, spokesman Larry Speakes brushed it all aside by saying the president had not seen it. Reagan said his less-than-ideal relations with the black community were the fault of black leaders who distort his deeds.
His inaugural speech was about the "American sound: It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That's our heritage, that's our song."
But last week, he was hardly being "idealistic" when he decided to boycott World Court proceedings on the mining of Nicaraguan harbors. And was he being "hopeful" when he broke off talks with Nicaragua? For "daring," we had to make do with Edwin Meese III, the attorney-general designate, submitting to the taxpayers a $700,000 bill for legal fees incurred in his battle against charges investigated by a special prosecutor.
In those small ways, and in his inaugural rhetoric, Reagan served notice that his second term will be like his first. He will be a dreamer on deficits, a mailed fist on defense and a blithe spirit on personnel. He doesn't feel the cold -- it's where Democrats live. He has the love of his countrymen to keep him warm.