Inaugural attitude: Pony up, party on

Published: Saturday, Oct. 10 2015 12:22 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Kelsey Grammer will be the emcee at a kickoff inaugural gala honoring the military, the rap artist Kid Rock will perform at an inaugural youth concert and President Bush's most reliable fund-raisers have so far collected $15 million for three days of meticulously planned parties to celebrate his second swearing-in later this month.
"Our first job is to provide a quality experience for our attendees," said Gordon C. James, a deputy director of inaugural events, who was bustling around the inaugural committee's offices last week like a man before opening night.
Between Christmas and the start of the new year, official Washington traditionally sleeps in. But last week two pockets of the capital were humming: the State Department, where officials were trying to coordinate aid to the tsunami victims in Asia, and the fifth floor of the old Department of Education building on C Street, headquarters of the inaugural committee and its 450 paid staff and volunteers.
The contrast between the two sites was not lost on inaugural organizers, who have already had to justify their plans to spend as much as $40 million on partying at a time of war and what Bush himself called an "epic disaster" in south Asia.
In either case, the organizers were ready with an answer to critics who questioned the price tag on the merriment — an American presidential inaugural, they said, has never been canceled, even during world wars.
One senior inaugural official, who asked not to be identified, noted that military planners began preparing logistics for the inaugural before the November election, as they always do, and that they had marked off a section of Capitol Hill for a "farewell to the commander in chief" should Bush have lost.
The point, the official said, was that the inaugural was a bipartisan celebration of democracy, not just of Bush.
Of course, huge pictures of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney did greet inaugural committee visitors the moment they stepped off the elevator last week.
Fund-raisers say that the inaugural check-collecting is proceeding on schedule, even though they now have a little more than two weeks to raise $15 million to $25 million for the festivities centered around the Jan. 20 swearing-in.
Like last time, the party's biggest donors are calling up other big donors and corporate executives and asking for money, specifically in $100,000 or $250,000 increments that buy packages of invitations and access to the president.
For the general public, roomfuls of people at the inaugural committee are taking ticket requests at www.inaugural05.com ($150 per person is the price of an inaugural ball ticket).
In the meantime, organizers say that Gloria Estefan and country singer John Michael Montgomery will join Grammer, the former star of television's "Frasier," at the military tribute at the MCI Center on Jan. 18.
The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, will be hosts of the youth concert, where the teenage singer JoJo will appear along with Kid Rock.

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