HackWatch: Inauguration Edition

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By some estimates, the price tag on President-Elect Obama's three-day inauguration celebration may hit $170 million. That's at least as much as President Bush's inaugural festivities in 2005, though just how much more expensive depends on how you're measuring public vs. private contributions, and how you're factoring in the cost of security.

Leftist critics were livid at the cost and security presence at Bush's swearing in 2005, juxtaposing the gilded balls and black limos next to the slumping economy and the festering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they've been conspicuously silent about Obamarama, even though the festivities are both pricier and draped with an even heavier security presence.

Here's Eric Boehlert, writing at Salon in 2005:

This week's inauguration story came ready with two interesting news angles: the huge cost (in contrast with the dire situation in Iraq) and the unprecedented security. And in both cases, the political press corps, as has been its habit under the Bush administration, showed little interest in prying. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, the press has largely treated inauguration criticism as partisan and silly, making sure to give Bush backers lots of time and room to defend the unmatched pomp and circumstance.

[…]

And it might have been helpful in the limited media debate that did take place about the inauguration's costs to point out that if the $40 million to $50 million raised for the GOP's parties had been donated to the war effort, as some have suggested, the money would have covered only about six hours of the U.S. military's operations in Iraq.

[…]

Nonetheless, like butter on a humid summer day in Washington, reporters have simply melted away from asking pointed questions about the costly security overkill (nearly 9,000 police officers and military personnel will be deployed)—a buildup that clearly plays to Bush's political advantage by keeping terrorist threats at the top of people's minds.

This year's inauguration will feature more than 25,000 security personnel. The city's decked out in Hummers, APVs, snipers, and every bridge between D.C. and Virginia is closed (unless you're in a limo—they're permitted). We still have two wars going on. The economy's more in the tank now than it was then. But this time around, Boehlert has no criticism for Obama, only for Obama's critics, who Boehlert says are underestimating the cost of Bush's inauguration in 2005.

In 2005, the Center for American Progress excoriated the Bush inauguration with a series of "Harper's Index"-like statistics under the headline "Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless." This year? The only article I could find is a piece praising Obama for keeping his big party environmentally friendly.

Finally, the A.P. reports:

In 2005, Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., asked Bush to show a little less pomp and be a little more circumspect at his party.

"President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake," the two lawmakers wrote in a letter. "During World War I, President Wilson did not have any parties at his 1917 inaugural, saying that such festivities would be undignified."

Weiner actually went the extra step of asking President Bush to skip inauguration, and donate all of the money he raised to the troops, instead. Doesn't look like he's demanding the same gesture from Obama. McDermott doesn't seem to have much criticism for Obama, either.

For his obvious attempt at misdirection, Boehlert gets an 8 out of 10 on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index. Because their hackery comes by way of omission, the Center for American Progress and Reps. Weiner and McDermot get a 6 out of 10.

If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who's done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and "HackWatch" in the subject line. Previous editions of HackWatch here.

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  1. Anything to avoid talking about Bernie Madoff! Infinitely more wealth has disappeared from market failures that celebratory state events, you fucking market fundamentalists.

  2. By the way, I ask again, what moron whould name his kid Radley?

  3. To offer the tiniest bit of Devil’s Advocate:

    This inauguration is going to draw huge crowds, and any plan that reduces the number of people in DC would be even more heavy-handed than the current level of security. So I can see the argument for why a larger security presence is needed in 2009 than in 2005.

    That said, a strong case could be made that the security presence in both years was disproportionate to the requirements of the event, so that even if one event requires more than the other, both got more than they required. In that case, both price tags should be criticized but comparisons of the price tags are not meaningful (given that both numbers are somewhat meaningless).

  4. Pay attention to me, libtards! I am soooo important.

  5. Why are my nuts shriveled and dry? Why do women find me repulsive? Why do I have a low parietal width and pronounced superorbital ridges?

  6. The difference is that Bush didn’t deserve his inauguration. He stole the election. Obama deserves this inauguration. He is going to single-handedly take our country back from the cons!

  7. Lefiti: your nickname gets to be Rad.

    that’s noteworthy baby

  8. By the way, I ask again, what moron whould name his kid Radley?

    What kind of boring asshole would name their kid Dave or Steve? Fuck you, Lefiti.

  9. Isn’t this the “Political Douchebaggery” quotient? I thought the “Hackery Index” was a measure of how many of your genetically defective relatives and cronies you could jam into the government sty.

  10. The idea of not having a blowout wouldn’t even occur to these people. It’s party time, baby! For the DC crowd, these are the best times, and they are going to have fun. Even the Republicans.

  11. God, I dread this upcoming year, and the one after that, and so on… I read this weekend that Obama will be talking about the “anything goes-attitude” that has crippled America during the inauguration speech. What the hell does that mean? I suspect it means “freedom,” but I hope I am proven wrong.

    The fact is, their are flaming hypocrites on both sides of the aisle. That’s why I left the church all together…

  12. What fucking moron whould (sic) name himself Lefiti?

    LT (aka Mamma Sinister)

  13. Hackwatch. I like it. A lot. You guys are going to be busy.

  14. Have the riots predicted by John begun?

  15. I get the extra security. That I have *less* problem with. But ostentatious parties on the taxpayer dime? Not cool.

    Does anyone have the public/private dollar breakdown on this thing?

  16. “Elemenope | January 19, 2009, 3:37pm | #
    I get the extra security. ”

    Especially the new gatling gun equipped GMC Yukon he gets in his motorcade. That thing is bad assed!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU0FEOgvUGo

    I don’t think Lee Harvey Oswald would have much luck today.

  17. This is only a problem because Mr. Balko doesn’t understand the multiplier effect. Rather than criticizing Obama’s inangration for spending $170m, you should be praising him for increasing the GDP by $510m, according to Nobel Prize Winning Economist Paul Krugman.

  18. Ughh. This spectacle makes the Academy Awards, by comparison, appear positively Calvinist. Yes, we’re the Best Republic Ever?. Yes, we just elected America’s First Half-Black President?. The self-congratulatory back-slapping and tribal hugfesting is truly sickening, whatever your political leanings might be. Washington (George, not the Empire) would surely vomit.

  19. Gosh, given that we are in the Worst Depression Since the Great Depression, is it inconceivable that they could have done away with the three-day build-up, and just sworn him in?

    How much would that have saved? Or is having an inauguration Just Like W’s supposed to be Change We Can Believe In?

    I wouldn’t have a problem with all this, really, if it wasn’t for all the internal contradictions that are so blithely tolerated, provided, of course, that they all serve the Great Work of advancing Obama.

    Economic Crisis? You bet, so long as it helps him get elected and drives up the budget he will control. But as a reason to tone down the inauguration, not so much.

    Changing the culture in Washington? You bet, etc. But as a reason, etc.

  20. “Especially the new gatling gun equipped GMC Yukon he gets in his motorcade. That thing is bad assed! ”

    BDB – I can’t get video here at work, but is that the Dillon Raptor armed with the pop-up M134 through the roof?

    I’ve shot those things (M134); probably not much good in or near a large crown of hopey-changey lemmings, unless you don’t mind a lot of collateral splatter and starting a massive stampede.

  21. MattXIV, you forgot your sarcasm tags, I almost thought you were a troll.

  22. is it inconceivable that they could have done away with the three-day build-up,
    and just sworn him in?

    RC,

    That simple yet profound act might have elevated Obama, on his first day, to the very heights of sublimity. Instead, the machine went for a Hollywood extravaganza, worthy of an oil sheik or mafioso don. The world applauds? I think they laugh, and not in a good way.

  23. I don’t think Lee Harvey Oswald would have much luck today.

    I sincerely doubt Lee Harvey Oswald V2.0 would be using a wrung out Mannlicher-Carcano. That mini-gun ain’t gonna do shit if somebody punches an RPG through the presidential windshield.

  24. Perhaps the sort of president America needs is a lazy cynic who’ll throw up his hands and say “there’s not much I can do, you’ll have to solve your own problems”. But America somone who’ll promise them the moon – and it looks like Obama actually believes his own hype. Sigh.

  25. That mini-gun ain’t gonna do shit if somebody punches an RPG through the presidential windshield.

    The minigun is for show. You start firing that thing and you end up with a lot of dead bystanders. Maybe they could try shooting down an attacking helicopter with it; that’s about it.

    As for RPGs, I think I saw on the History Channel one time that the presidential limo is effectively a tank that looks like a limo. It’s had so much armor added that normal tires can’t handle the weight, nor can a normal engine.

    I believe they said it can handle an RPG. A Tomahawk or Sidewinder, on the other hand…

  26. The minigun is for show.

    God, I hope so. It shouldn’t even have any ammo in a crowd like that.

    Which means, really, that it shouldn’t be there at all. Anyone willing take a poke at Obama tomorrow is on a suicide mission, and must know it. They aren’t going to back off because we brought area suppression weapons to the party.

    In fact, they’d probably love it if someone lit that thing up and put the body count on the Mall into the triple digits.

  27. Another bit of Devil’s advocating: in 2005, it was Bush’s second term, so he’d already had a full-dress inaugural.

  28. Have the riots predicted by John begun?

    BDB, didn’t John win that thread when the feds declared a state of emergency for DC (at Fenty’s request)? Lots of money to get the local economy moving.

  29. Episiarch, I agree the Tomahawk would mess things up. But I don’t think the sidewinder would do more than scratch the paint. AA missiles simply don’t pack that sort of punch, IIRC. No need for shaped charges on most airframes (the A-10 excepted).

  30. Good thing all the bridges are closed to everything except limos. Terrorists will never be able to pony up the 200 bucks for a limo.

  31. BDB, didn’t John win that thread when the feds declared a state of emergency for DC (at Fenty’s request)?

    Pretty much. John was observing that preparations to that point had been pathetically inadequate, which seems to have changed. I look forward to his observations after the inauguration on how things went.

  32. Radley Balko is one of those rare individuals whose faces look exactly like somebody’s ass.

  33. How strange that joe’s voice is completely absent in a thread concerning the hypocrisy of Barack Obama and his media cheerleaders.
    Yet his labelling of others as partisan hacks is quite commonplace. Pot, meet kettle.

  34. Have the riots predicted by John begun?

    BDB, I think the security issue has been elevated since that discussion. When John was critical of the apparent lack of securtiy, the response was to call him a “scaredy cat”. But now that security has been given much more attention, if the increase in security makes everything go smooth that only proves the criticism of John’s criticism was correct? Isn’t that Y2K bug thinking. Remember those claiming the issue was fake or hyped (it was not). Fake because very little bad happened. Because people addressed all the “fake” issues before they could lead to disaster. It’s hard to get credit for preventing what might have happened.

  35. Man, the words, “Nobel Prize Winning Economist Paul Krugman” look absolutely hilarious rendered into an orange link. I will LOL every time I see it.

  36. We’re in Roman Empire mode now, why should fancy inaugurations be any surprise?

    Bread, circuses, and health care for the masses, and pomp and circumstance for the leaders.

  37. Poor Radley, did you really think that the left’s nitpicking criticisms of Bush were based on any sort of intellectual honesty?

    While some of this inaugaration glitz could be reasonably pared down, canceling it entirely would be silly symbolism that would do nothing real to help the economic situation. Let the Dems have their party.

  38. “President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake,”

    Just out of curiousity, what did FDR do for his fist three inaugarals?

    Just curious, as in ’45 the nation was on a total war footing, the president had been through this three other times and was in very poor health. I wonder how much influence those factors had on the simplicity of that inaugaral.

  39. Goldwater slammed the hell out of Reagan’s inauguration in ’80 for spending too much money when the unemployment rate was so high…where is the liberal politician who will make the same critique of Obama?

  40. Whatever the usefulness of the gatling gun, I stand by my observation that it’s really cool.

    I’m sure the windows are thick enough to withstand rocket attacks.

  41. Also I won’t make fun of John anymore even though his predictions that this would be the “Superdome in New Orleans” and “9/11” is looking increasingly ridiculous, because John is reasonable most of the time.

  42. Can’t they just hire Jesse Venture to tote the minigun, Predator style?

  43. “We’re in Roman Empire mode now, why should fancy inaugurations be any surprise?

    Bread, circuses, and health care for the masses, and pomp and circumstance for the leaders.”

    If we could keep it down to bread, circuses, and pomp, it would actually be relatively cheap.

  44. “Gosh, given that we are in the Worst Depression Since the Great Depression, is it inconceivable that they could have done away with the three-day build-up, and just sworn him in? How much would that have saved? ”

    You are confused. The money is being spent on salaries, goods and services. The exact same thing that the stimulus bill will be spent on.

    To get us our of this economic crisis, the government will need to spend to keep people employed. This inauguration is basically a small down payment.

  45. To get us our of this economic crisis, the government will need to spend to keep people employed.

    Well, that seems easy enough.

  46. To get me out of my dietary crisis, I will need to eat ice cream.

  47. To get me out of my squirrel-in-the-ass crisis, I will need to put more squirrels in my ass.

  48. Lefiti | January 19, 2009, 6:15pm | #

    Radley Balko is one of those rare individuals whose faces look exactly like somebody’s ass.

    Except of course yours which I suspect resembles a horses…

  49. $17 million: Amount of money the White House is forcing the cash-strapped city of Washington, D.C., to pony up for inauguration security.

    From the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless’ article.

    Call it $50 million for Bush in 2005 without security. Add in the figure given in ‘R&H’, $17 million…

    Still far below Obama’s expenditure on his shindig.

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