Sunday, January 21, 2001

Local Bush backers relish special day

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Inauguration Day had pomp, majesty — and some very sore feet.

        Richard Meder, his wife, Tina, and their 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, had been on the go for hours when George W. Bush took the oath of office at noon outside the Capitol.

AP coverage
        The Pleasant Ridge family had dealt with Metro rail, gotten stuck in line outside the Rayburn building for a reception they wound up missing, and trudged through drizzle and muck to the inaugural, only to be turned away because the crowds were so thick.

        Cold, wet and weary, they ditched the horde for a Union Station restaurant named, appropriately, America.

        “Daddy,” Samantha said, looking up through blond curls, “my feet hurt.”

        A presidential inauguration is one of those events in American life when almost everyone pauses to take notice. It's a day to recognize the ideals of government and temporarily forgive its flaws. Like the Meders, the thousands of people who lined the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday for the ceremony and parade were there not only to celebrate a new president but also a tradition.

        It is somewhat like the Reds' Opening Day at Cinergy Field, where even people who hate baseball can appreciate the optimism and familiar parade from Findlay Market.

        “We have a place, all of us, in a long story,” President Bush said in his address, “a story we continue, but whose end we will not see.”

        The inaugural was a time for Texas-sized cowboy hats and furs, wool gloves

        and red-white-and-blue umbrellas. As the masses stood packed behind fences, catching Mr. Bush on huge video screens, the Republican gentry wallowed through mud and wet grass to their seats on the Capitol lawn.

        Security was overwhelming. Lines thickened at metal detectors and checkpoints, and once inside, guests pooled around guarded access gates.

        “This is like a Grateful Dead concert,” one man complained.

        “Yeah, only with different music,” his friend said.

        People with ceremony or parade tickets had the best vantage points, although vigilance, shrewd planning and luck paid off for others.

        “My mom lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, so we're going to watch the parade from her friend's balcony,” said Chris Staggs, an engineer from Middletown who was here with his wife, Sandra.

        David Masys, an AT&T account executive from Montgomery, and his wife, Lisa, drove to Washington with tickets to stand on the Mall. They even got a ticket for their 7-month-old daughter, Chloe, but decided to leave her with her grandparents in Cleveland.

        Mr. Masys, who said he was disappointed with the scandals of the Clinton administration, had not been involved in politics before volunteering for the Bush campaign.

        “I kind of feel like I'm part of it now,” he said.

        Russ Jackson, an Anderson Township trustee, said he has been a party activist since conservative Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964 but had never been to an inauguration.

        “I've managed to miss all five Republican inaugurals since then because I told myself I was too busy,” he said. “I was not about to miss this one.”

        Mr. Jackson said the emotional trauma of the election, which was not decided until the Supreme Court intervened five weeks after Election Day, brings a dose of satisfaction to the party.

        “After that embarrassing Florida recount debacle, it's only right that Republicans come here and pay their respects to the rightful winner,” he said.

        Mike Emerine, who also volunteered for the Bush campaign, came from Springfield Township with his wife, Sharon, and sons Matt and Chris. He said he embraces Mr. Bush's philosophy of a smaller federal government with more power left to the states, and also is hopeful the president will invest more in the military.

        “It's been eight long years,” said Mr. Emerine, who retired from the military last year after a career in the Army and the Army National Guard. “There was just no honor there.”

        Saturday night, many of the visitors from Ohio changed into black tie or gowns for an inaugural ball at the Washington Convention Center, one of eight across the city. The $125-a-ticket party attracted 4,500 guests.

        Inside the ballroom, guests posed for pictures underneath the inaugural seal and mingled over hors d'oeuvres and cocktails at a cash bar.

        Big donors — those who, like Carl Lindner Jr. of American Financial Group Inc. and Richard T. Farmer of Cintas Corp., gave $100,000 to the Presidential Inaugural Committee — had their own private boxes for their friends and guests.

        President Bush and his wife, Laura, appeared about 10 p.m. to raucous applause.

        Mr. Bush said he was grateful to his friends, Cincinnati investors William O. DeWitt Jr. and Mercer Reynolds III, for co-chairing the inaugural committee and raising over $30 million in less than a month.

        “We called upon Ohio to make sure everything went well,” he said. He also thanked Ohio Republicans for delivering the state.

        “It sure looked good in red on that map that night.”

        Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, were escorted to the stage by Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park.

        “We Republicans don't even need sunshine to have a first-rate inaugural,” Lynne Cheney said.

        “I did bring my tux, so I guess I'll have to do a dance or two,” said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, here with his wife, Hope, for his first inauguration.

        Mr. Portman, a close adviser to Mr. Bush, said it was an emotional day.

        “I believe he will be a great president. Not a good one; one of the great ones,” Mr. Portman said. “He really wants to bring people together. I think he will surprise even some of the folks who were here in Washington today protesting.”

        The Meders, however, skipped the ball.

        “We're playing Joe Tourist,” said Mr. Meder, who sells commercial real estate. “I wanted to show my daughter what all this was like firsthand.”

        And Saturday night?

        “Well, my daughter is going swimming at the hotel and we're going to watch the inaugural stuff on TV.”


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