There was no column yesterday because I was too sick to write it.
I was too sick to write it, because it was so icy standing on the mall for six hours that just watching gave me a really bad cold.
I was watching on TV because I was not given a seated ticket and have found that standing in one place for hours kills my back (man of steel though I am).
I was not given a seated ticket because there were only 8,000 of them to go around.
But you know what? It was a wonderful weekend, even watching it on TV from the world’s most expensive hotel room. And I did get to meet Marisa Tomei at one gathering – and get reelected DNC treasurer at another.
This latter was not supposed to happen. Indeed, just before leaving for Washington, I emailed friends farewell:
Subj: We won — I’m done. Have fun!
I’m embarrassed to admit that — disastrously — it took eight years longer than planned . . . but as you have probably heard by now, we won.
Many of you on this list have dug really deep, year after year, to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, and I want to say one last thanks while I still have some standing to do so.
(It was about a year into all this that I happened to see someone’s paycheck and was shocked to see my signature on it. So *that’s* why they had asked me for my signature. I’m sure they told me, but I guess it hadn’t sunk in.)
It’s been a privilege working with DNC Chairmen Steve Grossman, Joe Andrew, Roy Romer, Ed Rendell, Terry McAuliffe, and Howard Dean (when ARE we going to appoint/elect a woman chair? soon, I hope) . . .
. . . and, by extension, working for our mostly terrific Democratic candidates throughout the 50 states . . .
. . . and certainly working for the two magnificent candidates, Al Gore and Barack Obama, who won in 2000 and 2008, respectively.
If you’ve lost your mind with enthusiasm and are going to Washington to join the celebration, I hope to see you there.
But given how cold it will be, and my aversion to crowds of more than a million — and Secret Service mag lines of more than 200,000 — I am most likely to see you on my hotel room TV, to which I expect to be glued, getting a better view than anyone but the Chief Justice.
I raise this by way of playful (but sincere) apology to all of you who gave and gave and gave and then found that the DNC was unable to secure tickets for you.
We had hoped to get an allocation from the Presidential Inaugural Committee (itself, by law, largely at the mercy of a Senate committee) — and we did beg — but to no avail.
The big picture, however, is:
1. On November 4, hope won.
2. Facing challenges that are hard to overstate, a tremendously talented, progressive team is taking over (not least our extraordinary Secretary of State-designate).
3. You helped make that happen.
4. I, for one, and, I know, Howard Dean, for another, are truly grateful for what you did to *make* it happen . . . and to make the 50 State Strategy a success. (Alaska! we won a Senate seat in Alaska! “Opportunity favors the prepared mind,” as Gov Dean is fond of quoting Louis Pasteur.)
(I know Howard is grateful because I was with him last night after he had flown from American Samoa . . . having pledged to visit all the DNC states and territories while chair . . . to Nigeria . . . having agreed to speak at a conference . . . to Washington — a l l b u t o n e l e g o f t h i s i n c o a c h — and had then come straight in from Dulles to work on some last-minute DNC business that stretched out until nearly midnight, causing him to miss his plane to Vermont . . . whereupon, to keep from wasting your hard-earned contributions, he retired to his office to sleep on his couch until the first flight out in the morning. It was during the course of the evening that he expressed again, as he always does, how much he appreciates the enormous support you gave his efforts.)
5. So it’s time to feel great . . . to note (but, I would argue, not overweight) the inevitable missteps . . . and to come together to make the years ahead as constructive and progressive as possible.
Whether you watch this new beginning from the comfort of your own TV or, freezing your butt off, on one of two miles’ worth of Jumbotrons, please have fun Tuesday. If only for having to suffer through so many hundreds of emails — you’ve earned it!
Signing off one last time . . . gratefully . . .
☞ Get it? I was done! Free! And then, 36 hours later, to the same list . . .
Well, THIS is embarrassing.
Apparently, I am still your Treasurer.
I know – this isn’t what I expected either. And if the prospect annoys YOU, think what mixed feelings Charles and I must have.
I got off the Acela (which was two hours and twenty minutes late “due to Inaugural congestion”) more than comfortable in the knowledge that (a) we have a fantastic new President and First Lady coming into office; and that (b) someone else would finally have the chance to ask you for money, while I went off and tried my hand at writing.
(The decision not to serve again was simple: I hadn’t been asked. It was much like my decision not to host the Oscars.)
But then, as I stood in the cab line from hell, I got a call asking me to be Treasurer (the election is Wednesday) — the first anyone had mentioned anything about this.
I explained that I had hours earlier sent out my final email, and that An Important Book needed to be written.
And I mentioned that *the election is WEDNESDAY* and they are just thinking about this NOW? (“We’ve, uh, been *building a government* my counterpart explained, with just the hint of an edge in his voice.)
But then I talked to our outgoing chair and to our incoming chair, and to some other folks, and I watched the opening ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial (on HBO), and it seemed to me that when the country faces the kind of challenges it does, and one is asked to help, in however minor a way, one says yes — and is grateful for the privilege.
Please ignore yesterday’s email.
☞ As to the Swearing In itself, a friend of a friend reported:
I am still tired, but quite content.
We got up at 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning, dressed in our multiple layers, and trekked up to the subway station in time to board one of the first trains to arrive at 4:00 a.m. There’s only one other stop on the line after ours, the stop where the train originated, and when that train pulled into the station at 4:00 a.m. it was already crowded! That alone told me what the day would be like. We managed to survive the crushing crowd just to get out of the subway at the L’Enfant Plaza station, then got crammed into another massive crowd piled up behind the closed security gates lining the national Mall. Sometime just after 5:00 a.m. the crowd suddenly began to surge, and we knew the gates had been open, so we squeezed through the gap in the fence (no security screening at all this far back from the Capitol) and raced for the spot on the Mall we had picked out on a reconnoitering mission the previous afternoon. There were already so many people, however, we didn’t get to be exactly in the center of the Mall, but we still had a pretty good view — of a Jumbotron. But with binoculars we could see the Inaugural platform on the west front of the Capitol. So by about 5:20 a.m. we were in place, and we just sat there in the cold (never got out of the 20s, and the wind at times was fierce) for the next six hours before the Inauguration ceremony really got started.
Ah, but what a moment it was! The largest crowd ever to assemble in Washington, D.C., and we were a part of it. And everyone — everyone without exception — was friendly and polite and good natured. No pushing, no shoving, no tempers flaring. I would not have thought it possible, but it was almost a miraculous assemblage of universal good cheer. And words can never capture the overpowering, swept-away, carried-aloft, dazed and awesome jubilation that I felt and that all about me collectively felt when President Obama at last said, “So help me God.” It was done! History had been made — and then, in what I term “the Old Faithful effect,” some people started leaving immediately, not interested in hearing the inaugural (but given the cold and the wind and the fact that they had been standing for almost seven hours, I guess that’s understandable).
For us the worst part of the whole day was trying to get off the Mall. We needed to walk to Georgetown, about a four mile walk, where we had left our car the day before, but all exit points to the north of the Mall were closed off (that was where the parade was getting ready to take place), and crowd barricades prevented us from simply walking west on the Mall. So we got onto Independence Avenue, where we got stuck in a congealed mass of tens of thousands of people all trying to enter the Smithsonian Metro Station. I was a bit unnerved for a time, as I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get out. But at last we found a way to climb down an embankment onto 12th Street (closed to traffic for the day, thankfully) and walked through the 12th Street tunnel underneath the Mall, emerging at Constitution Avenue (where there is no subway station) and continuing our walk west from there. By 2:20 we had finally crossed 17th Street and made it to Constitution Gardens (where people were crossing the ponds on the ice before Red Cross volunteers rushed to cordon off that route!), and from there we found a relatively uncongested spot in front of the Department of the Interior building were we sat on our portable camp chairs and ate our lunch (pre-made sandwiches from Starbucks, also purchased the day before in preparation). After that we completed the trek to Georgetown and our car, dropped off all unneeded items, shed some of our extra clothing and changed shoes, and then went to a nearby Starbucks for a coffee (our first hot drink in ages!) and to plan the rest of the day.
We had 8:00 p.m. dinner reservations at a restaurant at DuPont Circle, where we have eaten every January 20th since George Bush became President in 2001 (it became our way of counting down the years to the end of his presidency, but we were chagrined that there were an extra four years of dinners than we hadn’t initially hoped for). I made the late reservations with the initial idea that we would attend the parade, but with the crowd and the cold we scrubbed that idea. However, we could not change our reservations (all booked up) so to kill time we went to a movie (“Revolutionary Road”, which we thought very good) and then walked to DuPont Circle and had our traditional dinner at “The Front Page.” It never tasted so good.
By the time we were done all the Inaugural Balls were in full swing, which meant that taxis were at last available, so we hailed a cab for the ride back to Georgetown and our car. Before the taxi driver would allow us in his cab, however, he wanted to make sure we didn’t want to go anywhere near the D.C. Convention Center or the other major ball locations, as he had just come from being stuck in traffic for over an hour. He was quite relieved to hear that we wanted to go in the opposite direction! So back to the car, and a quiet drive home, arriving there just at 10:00 p.m., to watch the news and recount our memorable day.
☞ Here’s to the United States of America.
Quote of the Day
No nation ought to be without debt. A national debt is a national blessing.~Thomas Paine, 1776
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