Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Worst Inauguration Moments

Inaugurations may be full of pomp and circumstance, but they can also set the tone for where a presidency is headed. Certainly much has been said about all of the preparations for Obama's big day, but will it be a full-blown hit? We'll defer to one of the first daughters, Malia, who advised her dad while discussing his upcoming speech: "First African American president — better be good." So, until we know, here's a list of hits and misses from inaugurations past. Hit: Expanding the guest list - Many presidents have taken the whole "first" thing to heart. In 1865, Abraham Lincoln became the first to include African-Americans in his parade. Woodrow Wilson took a swipe at the glass ceiling by including women in his 1917 inaugural parade. In 1977, Jimmy Carter's parade had solar heat ... and the former peanut farmer got out of his limo and walked from the Capitol to the White House with his family. George W. Bush got in on the action with his ball honoring America troops. The Washington Post reports: For 2005, the inaugural committee put together a 'Commander in Chief Ball': Only men and women who had served or were signed up to serve could attend this ball, which was held at the National Building Museum. Miss: Inaugural brawls - With all those people, it's a surprise that more scuffles don't break out as oglers try to get a better seat or camera shot. But from what we can tell, it's the coat-check line that really raises everyone's hackles. U.S. News & World Report explains: And at President Bill Clinton's record-breaking 14 inaugural balls in 1997, boxed wine was served, ham and cheese sandwiches cost $5.50, and police had to calm guests waiting in an hour and a half-long coat-check line. And Clinton wasn't the only president who had fur flying. USA Today offers further detail: At [Clinton's] 1997 inaugural ball, irate Democrats began chanting 'We want our coats. Now.' Police had to be called in for crowd control and cloak distribution. In 1989, similarly incensed Republicans simply stormed the cloakroom in what later became known as 'The Bastille Day Coat Check' affair. In 1985, Colleen Beveridge, a former schoolteacher from Virginia, made headlines in The Washington Post when she tried, with the help of police, to locate an $8,000 mink coat loaned by her mother-in-law and lost in a blizzard of outerwear at a Ronald Reagan inaugural ball. Insurance finally covered the loss. 'Fortunately, my mother-in-law took it really well,' Beveridge says today. We hardly know what to say ... other than, we're really sorry we missed it. Hit: He said it best - There are great moments and one-liners in many presidential addresses, but there is no doubt that Lincoln's second inaugural address was one of the best. As Parade says: One inaugural address, however, still lives in the hearts of all Americans. It was given in 1865 by Lincoln, whose Bible will be used by Obama on Tuesday. Perhaps the greatest speech ever given on American soil, it ends: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.’’ Six weeks later, Lincoln was dead, but his words and hopes live on, America’s great legacy on America’s greatest day. Miss: Chilly reception - For all those presidents who think it's macho to stand in the freezing cold without a coat, we offer the sad story of Ulysses S. Grant's chilly inauguration. Cadets and midshipmen who took part in the parade collapsed after standing outside without overcoats for more than 90 minutes. The food froze at the unheated inaugural ball, and canaries that had been intended to fly gracefully among the dancing guests died in their cages. But true tragedy struck in 1841, when William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address — more than 8,000 words. It took him nearly two hours on a cold and wet day (he wore no hat, coat or gloves), and, some say, it was one of the worst inaugural addresses. Even worse, Harrison died one month later of pneumonia, a fate many believe was cemented by his lengthy inaugural ceremony. Hit: You look — and sound — marvelous - We all love finally getting a peek at inauguration outfits ... even if (or especially) we wind up trashing them. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums up the love/hate relationships with first ladies and their choice of ball gowns: [Nancy] Reagan took a beating for "borrowing" designer fashions, including her James Galanos inaugural gown (price tag: an estimated $10,000). Reagan gets extra style points for wearing the one-shoulder lace and silk satin beaded sheath and becoming the only first lady in the past three decades to bare a shoulder at the ball. Though his wife, Jackie, was always praised for her stylish garb, it was John F. Kennedy who stole the show in 1961, becoming the last president to don a traditional stovetop hat. The Huffington Post wants to bring it back. And let's not forget the music men. Check out photos from Pixcetera of Bill Clinton playing saxophone with the E Street Band's Clarence Clemons, and GOP chairman Lee Atwater rocking an electric guitar at George H.W. Bush's Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball. Miss: Two left feet - For those who have seen Barack and Michelle Obama's dance duel on "Ellen," let's hope they put better feet forward than past presidents. The Huffington Post offers up these photos of the most awkward dance moves our inaugurations have ever seen. Continue at your own risk. Hit: Poet's corner - Robert Frost was the first poet to participate in the ceremony when he recited a poem for John F. Kennedy's '61 inauguration. Bill Clinton became the second president to continue this practice — he asked Maya Angelou to read at his 1993 inauguration and Miller Williams in 1997. For his historic ceremony, Barack Obama has asked Elizabeth Alexander to read. But Frost really made his presence known. As the US News & World Report reports: Frost had penned a poem just for the occasion, but the sun's glare was too bright for the 86-year-old. 'The poor guy couldn't see what he had written,' Bendat says. New Vice President Lyndon Johnson's attempts to shield the poet's eyes from the glare with a top hat didn't help. Frost gave up and, instead, recited a poem that he knew by heart—but not before dedicating it to 'the president-elect, Mr. John Finley.' (Finley was a Harvard scholar.) While some might consider this a "miss," we think it shows determination and a certain charm. And not to worry: The original poem found its way home. Miss: Who invited you? - McClatchy reports an unexpected — and perhaps misreported — moment from Andrew Jackson's 1829 inauguration: Q: Which president's inauguration was so rowdy that he was chased out of the White House by the crowd and spent the night at a hotel? A: Andrew Jackson's, in 1829. Jackson threw open the executive mansion to his supporters, numbering in the thousands. They reportedly destroyed some furniture, broke china and had fistfights, though some historical sources say that his political opponents exaggerated reports of violence to discredit him. Note to the Obamas: Check the guest list. Twice. (Sarah Parsons/ Reuters Photo via Yahoo)

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