Quotes: … from out, about and around.
Dick Gregory, the comedian, accused Mr. Bush of stealing the election. “If you stole my car,” he told the crowd, “I’m never going to accept that it’s your car.” The nation was rising, a new president in the wings, and on the streets a grim-faced man took up early silent protest outside the Supreme Court. “Crime Scene,” his sign proclaimed. “5 of 9 Should Do Time.” But with the daylight, a group with a contrary point of view began singing in his face, “God Bless America,” again and again.
“You want a crime scene, the White House is down that way,” one member of the Republican chorus said to the protester, who took it as mutely as a guard outside Buckingham Palace. “Go on, they’re fumigating the West Wing this morning,” the chorus member advised.
“Now guys, remember: a positive message,” a man with a bullhorn said. And he began another chorus of “God Bless America” to invoke innocence upon the day.
The biggest problem today was that unmistakable vibe of unhappiness around the fringes of the event. Thousands of people showed up with the firmest of convictions that George W. Bush does not have a legitimate claim to power. Among them, only Al Gore held his tongue. He declined to exercise his Constitutional and moral right to heckle Bush unmercifully throughout the inaugural address.
Many of us expected Gore to whip out some papers and shout, “Late results from Broward County!”
I chose to watch the first part of the ceremony on the streets, among the people, the common folk, to experience the inauguration in its most authentic and populist form. Mine was a distant vantage point.
I may have actually been in Arlington. If you squinted really hard, you could see, far in the distance, a tiny object that I am pretty sure was the Capitol dome.
This was the turf of the protesters.
“Unity my Ashcroft!” one sign said.
“Re-elect Gore in 2004.”
“A Handgun for Every Child.”
The most strident may have been the one composed by San Francisco photographer Johanna Hetherington: “Dubya: Buffoon King of Corporate Whores, Earth Plunderers and Election Thieves.”
“It’s a sad day, because democracy was subverted,” said Connie Anguili, a protester from the District.
“Nobody cares about democracy as long as there’s a smooth transition of power,” said her friend Arlene Whitten.
“I really would like somebody who’s actually been elected,” Anguili said.
“Not by Supreme Court corruption,” added Whitten.
The new president spoke of unity, common ideals, shared values. He’s got a lot of work to do to make that come about. The protesters had tuned him out. They had no interest in his speech. For the Left, the theft of the presidency is as fixed and immutable a chapter of American history as the French and Indian War.
Mr Bush said on Friday that he was “not backing off” from his conservative political convictions. He had a blunt message for Democrats in the divided US Congress – they should work with the new administration “or they’re going to be left behind.”
To those who believe that he “stole” the election and is not entitled to appoint conservatives, such as John Ashcroft, to his cabinet, he had an equally brusque response. “Too bad,” he said. “I’m going to.”