Morning Report 1/20/05
Masquerade Ball

Clothing ceremonies for American democracy

Dress for excess: Current wardrobe designs for an "enemy prisoner of war" (left) and "Miss Jenna Bush" (right). The POW attire, typically cotton sateen with distinctive lettering, is by U.S. Army Field Manual 3-19.40. The inaugural attire for Miss Bush, an emerald silk crepe gown with metallic leather banding and jeweled insets, is by Badgley Mischka. (DOD, White House photos)

In an unprecedented display of naked wealth and power, George II officially begins his second term today. Those who can afford it will be dressed to the nines in D.C. for a round of balls and parties.

Not everyone will be dressed up. In fact, not everyone will be dressed. Our policy in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay is to keep prisoners naked. That's in direct contradiction of our own written manuals and previous policies, not to mention the Geneva Conventions.

But why spoil the party spirit? No matter that the public is banned from the 100-square-block "green zone." Among the exasperated D.C. citizenry is my colleague Jim Ridgeway, whose recent dispatch notes:

    The inauguration is an exclusive affair and hasn't got anything to do with the ordinary people, which is just as well since it is an embarrassing display of riches and makes America look like it is run by a bunch of rich fools.

    Going back to the Second World War, Washington has never looked like this, nor have its people been treated like this.

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And when it comes to rich fools, we also mean rich as in irony. Political Money Line reports this morning that the inaugural costs will soar above $150 million, and don't believe the hype that most of that is private funding. Here's just some of the public money that's being used:

• Congressional staging of the swearing-in: $2.8 million.

• Other Congressional costs: $1.25 million

• Security in D.C.: $17.3 million

• Federal payroll for the day off today: $66 million.

As I write this, I'm listening to the invocation, in which the Reverend Luis Leon is quoting Martin Luther King Jr. What hypocrisy to invoke King's name during this ridiculously hyped and wasteful celebration.

As I noted the other day, we don't need King's name bandied about; we need to listen to his words. Now more than ever.

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