On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, pledging that his Administration would "work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration," and directing the chief technology officer to develop an Open Government directive within four months.
And with that, the swearing in of the president will happen in private.
Since inauguration day takes place on a Sunday (of course, the 20th of January) a public "ceremonial" inauguration will take place on Monday, January 21st. However, the actual - Constitutional - inauguration will take place behind closed doors. The press will not be allowed to view the proceedings. Photos will be taken by the White House photographer and circulated to the press.
Ed Henry, FOX News correspondent and President of the White House Correspondents Association, addressed this situation in a statement:
Mindful of the historic nature of this occasion, we expect the White House will continue the long tradition of opening the President’s official swearing-in to full press access, and we as an organization are looking forward to working with the administration to make that happen
Even NBC's Chuck Todd weighed in, claiming himself "shellshocked:"
I'm stunned that this is even an issue; it boggles the mind," NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd told POLITICO. "This is not their oath, this is the constitutional oath. It's not for them. It's for the public, the citizens of the United Sates. It just boggles the mind. How is this even a debate?
The answer, Chuck, is in the vitriolic disdain that the administration has for the American people.
Yet Todd's commentary is so pitch perfect that to argue its merits is to admit one's self a fool. The oath of office is indeed for the American people. Our elected leader swearing to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" is not small stuff. It is the basis and the basics of how the American system works.
This is not the first time that there has been a "private" inauguration. In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower was sworn in on a Sunday, with the public ceremony happening the following Monday. President Woodrow Wilson was the same in 1917. It last happened in 1985, when President Ronald Reagan had a private swearing in on a Sunday. But, as was mentioned by Dylan Byers of Politico (and quoted by Jim Geraghty in The Morning Jolt,) Reagan's "private" swearing in was anything but:
The last time a president was inaugurated on a Sunday was in 1985. Reagan's White House allowed complete news coverage of the private ceremony, including three reporters, three still photographers, and one network television pool camera, according to a Los Angeles Times report from the time. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN carried live broadcasts of the event.
The Obama team swears this is much ado about nothing. Inauguration spokesperson Rachel Racusen stated:
There is no truth to any rumors that decisions have been made about media access to this year’s inaugural events...The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee announced its launch yesterday and is just beginning its planning. Any announcements about media access and credentials will be made in the coming weeks.
This could all be much ado about nothing. But, as Marx put it (Groucho, that is,) "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"
For four years (and more) America has been told of the President's desire for transparency. Yet, time after time after time, America has seen (or, rather, not seen) what President Obama means by transparency. With the inauguration, America once again sees how little regard the President, and his team, has for those who voted for him, and how little regard they have for America.