Rich Galen

For foreigners, the only thing nuttier than watching the way we elect our Presidents is watching the way we inaugurate them.

For a nation that wears its egalitarianism not just as a badge of honor, but (as we saw this past November) almost as a requirement for office, the pomp and circumstance involved in a modern U.S. presidential inauguration would have moved Louis XIV to modesty.

Both parties face the same issue: Looking for the balance between demonstrating a public outpouring of interest, if not affection, for the person preparing to take the oath of office without giving your political opponents any more ammunition than necessary.

Too many balls, tickets are too expensive, only the rich and connected can get into the really good stuff … and so on.

For the people who worked for, and/or donated to, the winner they believe they have earned the right to celebrate. And they are correct; they have.

In 2001, the first inaugural for George W. Bush, we had an abbreviated period to put the whole thing together because neither Bush's or Al Gore's team was allowed to start until the Florida recount had been decided.

Second inaugurals are not necessarily easier from the staff side than first inaugurals. In 1993 (Clinton's first), 2001 (W's first), and in 2009 (Barack Obama's first) no political person had been involved in an inauguration in at least eight years so there was almost no institutional memory, but everyone was so excited to be part of the deal that the order of the day was "Pitch in and

For second inaugurals, it's turned on its head. Most of the people involved did the one just four years previous, and many have had administration jobs so the order of the day is "Who said you got to make that decision?"

Whole days can be wasted in determining which cars belong to which staffers so you can tell if someone who has been your junior on the Executive Branch organizational chart has a better parking space at the inaugural committee offices.

No presidential inauguration would ever come off without the wholehearted support of the military. The president, as you know, is commander-in-chief. So a presidential inaugural is the largest military ceremony with the possible exception of when George Patton went to breakfast.

The Constitution, under the terms of the XX Amendment, calls for the terms of the president and vice president to end at noon on January 20 following their election. Previously Inauguration Day had been March 4, because March 4, 1789 was the date the Constitution took effect.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at