Mindful of Kathryn’s observation that even NR types are resisting “the urge to rain on the president’s parade today,” I thought I’d nevertheless venture a wee bit of criticism — not of the speech, which was true to form, but of the overall vibe of the event, which seemed to me big but empty. The ceremonial lunch (I caught Nancy Pelosi speaking as the Obamas, Biden, Boehner, and Mrs. Clinton looked on) seemed especially reductive of this great nation, but Chuck Schumer as Friar’s Club emcee, and that poet from hell, and Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson all contributed to the general pseudo-monarchical tinniness.
I see that if not quite raining I’m certainly drizzling. So let me cite my favorite presidential “inauguration.” I’ve written before about how much I enjoy visiting the Calvin Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch, Vt., and how it embodies the republican ideal of the citizen-executive. It’s very moving to stand in the small, humble sitting room where, just before 3 in the morning, Colonel John Coolidge, a notary public, administered the oath of office to his son by kerosene lamp. The character of the place and its moment in history are as far away from the palaces of mighty emperors as you could get, and uniquely American in their spirit. Granted, Coolidge assumed the presidency in very different circumstances, but I don’t think he’d have missed Kelly Clarkson or the poem guy — and I wish there were a little room for that spirit amid all the celeb-stuffed bombast.