Open thread: Obama inauguration

Today will likely be a slow news day, except for the one big event taking place in Washington DC today — the ceremonial inauguration of Barack Obama for his second term as President.  Four years ago, nearly two million people crowded into the Mall for President Obama’s first inaugural address.  Today, organizers are trying to manage expectations for a much lower turnout.  How much lower?  Fox’s Carl Cameron reports that organizers predict a falloff of as much as 75% from the first inauguration:

“They expect that in fact it could be significantly smaller,” said Fox News reporter Carl Cameron. “Instead of 1.8, four years ago, They have actually lowered their crowd estimates. Originally they were saying, 600 to 800,000. Yesterday we were informed organizers think maybe closer to 500 to 700 [thousand]. Perhaps only a quarter of the size of four years ago.”

I suspect that the crowd will be a little larger than that.  This sounds a bit like sandbagging, a way to claim later that the crowd exceeded expectations as a way to pump up Obama’s standing momentarily. However, since Obama has already taken the oath — yesterday, as required by the Constitution — perhaps this will seem even more anticlimactic than it already is:

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Obama takes the oath of office at 11:55 am ET, according to the schedule, but there are plenty of events already taking place, so tune in right away if you want to catch, say, Chuck Schumer deliver opening remarks at 11:30. (Interesting program note: They’re giving James Taylor five minutes to sing “America the Beautiful.”) If you want to watch this live, CBS News has an embeddable video stream, posted below. If you want to watch it without commentary, I’d suggest C-SPAN.

If you find yourself unexcited by all of this, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Even Dana Milbank is unenthused about this “tepid rerun”:

Four years ago, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the capital, sleeping on floors and lining the streets so that they could be part of history: the inauguration of the first black president, who had the promise of being a transformational figure that could bring hope and change to a broken political system.

That messiah never came, and a sluggish economic recovery overshadowed his term. Obama was reelected less because he inspired the nation than because he discredited his opponent. Most Americans still think that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and just one in five trust their government to do the right thing.

Much of this says less about Obama than about the times. But the president manages to make his own presidency seem smaller by his frequent invocations of our greatest president. Obama, who launched his first presidential campaign in the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech, will place his hand Monday, as he did in 2009, on the Bible Lincoln used for his 1861 inauguration. …

Lincoln’s second inaugural had the lines many Americans still know by heart: “judge not, that we be not judged,” and “fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray,” and, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Talk about managing expectations ….

Inviting comparison to that moment inevitably makes Obama’s second-term program, as he outlined it last week — “making modest adjustments to programs like Medicare” and “closing loopholes in our tax code” — seem little. At his news conference Monday, Obama vowed: “I intend to carry out the agenda that I campaigned on — an agenda for new jobs, new opportunity and new security for the middle class.”