I think the Bush administration missed a golden opportunity to scale back Thursday's inaugural activities and send a clear message to the American public that the drums of war are too important to mark such an elaborate day of festivities.
Granted, inauguration day is an important event. It's not at all designed to celebrate political victory but rather to celebrate democracy. And for that reason alone, it's an important event.
But we're at war whether we like it or not. And though private funds are used to cover the inaugural expenses, the Bush folk sure could have made a statement with a smaller inauguration in these critical times.
Estimates put the price tag at around $140 million for the activities of this week. That's misleading in some areas. But regardless of the final expense, it would seem an opportune time to scale back substantially.
What really amazes me is that the Bush brigade didn't take this action on their own. These are smart people with a keen sense of the American pulse. Surely they know that given a choice, most people would opt to cut back on the celebration, put a little class into the festivities and tell the American public that we're cutting the frills because our men and women are at war.
Every member of Congress - especially those coming into power - spends a pretty penny on events that surround the inauguration. And regardless of which party is doing the celebrating, it truly is an American tradition to mark the continuation of power or the passing of the torch. It should be high on ceremony, tradition and pomp.
But pomp can come with a smaller price. The result will be just as important and just as festive as any of those in the past. But a reduced inauguration would send an important message at an important time.
It's far too late at this point to implement any of these suggestions. The time for that was months ago. But there's still time to put a somber and solemn face on the image of the inauguration.
I don't recall that President Johnson reduced his inaugural activities in the middle of the Vietnam war. And of course at this point, it matters little. But Thursday in the midst of the celebration, it's important to remember that the celebration of democracy also means a recognition of those who fought and died to make that celebration possible.