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Special Event

Inaugural Parade is as Unique as America Itself

Aired January 20, 2001 - 5:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The parade here in Washington continues. All units now are at some point along the line of march in the parade. We're watching units from division four; there is one more division. You see the University of Tennessee, Knoxville moving past.

John King, I suppose a lot of people watching the presidential reviewing stand cannot take their eyes off the fact that they see two Bushes there on the reviewing stand. A former president and the incoming president.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bernie. And both of them having a grand time. The new president joking not only with the bands that go by, but with supporters sitting across the street here in the bleachers.

Some irony here -- we see the University of Tennessee marching band going by; that, obviously, Al Gore's home state. Had he carried it, he would be standing in the reviewing stand behind me; instead, those electoral votes went President Bush's way.

And he moved into his new house today. As you mentioned, his father on hand, his

(AUDIO GAP)

KING: have come up at some point; he's been talking to them. But mostly he's been flashing signals to the bands that went by. And I know, Bernie, you personally were waiting for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; they did pass by, and as they did, the new president said God bless you as they sang him a song and passed by the reviewing stand here at the White House.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: On thing that occurs to me is we clearly see that George W. Bush, the new president, is not afraid of the elements. His coat clearly is -- shows the evidence of the rain. And I do hope he's taking the lesson of William Harry Harrison, who stood out in the rain, rode in his own inaugural parade on a white horse, caught a cold, caught pneumonia, and he was president for 30 days.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: But there's some debate, Jeff, about whether the cold led to the pneumonia. I don't think it's clear.

GREENFIELD: My medical knowledge -- I know what my grandmother would have said: Stay in out of the rain.

WOODRUFF: A cold is different from pneumonia.

SHAW: That looks like James Baker's head -- it is -- with the red scarf there just between the president there.

WOODRUFF: Bob Dallek, do you think George W. Bush realizes he's the president yet?

BOB DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know, it will set in.

WOODRUFF: How long does it take to settle in?

DALLEK: I think it will be another day or so. You wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly say, oh my goodness, I'm president, and what do I do now? I mean, it's something of a shock...

WOODRUFF: There's a president -- Washington crossing the Delaware.

SHAW: And here come Bill Schneider's Red Hot Mamas. Bill said he wanted to be here for this.

WOODRUFF: Now, what were the Red Hot Mamas again? He was telling us -- they wear cereal boxes on their head? They are from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

GREENFIELD: And I think it fair to say that this was not a group that marched, say, in Abraham Lincoln's parade, Ulysses S. Grant's parade. I mean, they've been around a while, but not quite that long.

I think they made a deliberate decision to lighten the tone of this parade. There's a certain tongue in cheek...

WOODRUFF: Here they are; the Red Hot Mamas: 70 women wearing red dresses with blue aprons. They wear hats that are four feet tall and contain various grocery items such as cereal boxes -- look, they're pushing grocery carts -- milk containers on their heads, chips topped off with red, white and blue, balloons.

The women range in age from 35 to 76. They've been around for 10 years -- doing this, I guess -- they've been around longer than that. And they are nonpartisan.

DALLEK: No Texas chili in those carts?

GREENFIELD: This may be a statement about the Consumer Price Index, however; see if Alan Greenspan follows them down the parade route.

WOODRUFF: You're probably right.

And there's another Texas group coming along here; we have the Wildcat Wranglers from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas.

I notice that Texas is more than amply represented. Why do you think that is -- Bernie.

SHAW: I don't know.

GREENFIELD: I think we could guess at it.

WOODRUFF: I think there are five Texas contingents in this parade.

GREENFIELD: But I do think, you know, this is one of the elements of that American politics and American civics that I think constantly puzzles folks from other countries. Europeans would look at something like this, they'd compare it to, say, a coronation or the tradition of how a new prime minister goes to the queen and goes to 10 Downing Street and they'd look at the Red Hot Mamas or the forthcoming Lawnchair Brigade and they'd say, that's just not the way it's supposed to be done.

And yet, when you look at who is the most powerful country in the world and who comes to the aid of Europe in time of crisis, somehow this immature political system...

WOODRUFF: You're right. We don't parade our tanks and our military hardware. We don't need to do that. Everybody knows that we are the most powerful -- "we," meaning the United States -- is the most powerful nation.

DALLEK: And there's a certain spirit of fun and enjoyment to it. It's a kind of civic ceremony that people look on as an opportunity to play and enjoy themselves -- all the evening festivities that we're going to see.

SHAW: Eight balls; eight inaugural balls tonight.

GREENFIELD: And I think it's safe to say that, unlike Andrew Jackson's inaugural in 1829, he will not have to flee the White House out of a window because his exuberant supporters began smashing up the furniture. I doubt that we're -- I think we got past that.

WOODRUFF: How can you be so confident?

GREENFIELD: It's an educated or semi-educated guess, Judy but I...

WOODRUFF: Here we have the Spirit of the Lincoln Way fire truck from Galion, Ohio -- Spirit of the Lincoln Way fire truck.

SHAW: He's smiling, but do you know that he and everybody else on this stand eventually wants to get in the White House, relax, have something to drink, have something to eat because they've got to change into formal attire tonight. The balls start at 7:00.

WOODRUFF: And he has to make every one of those eight balls.

GREENFIELD: Every one of them. It's not a record; I think at one inaugural there were as many as 14. DALLEK: And usually a president finds himself up until 3:00, 4:00 in the morning. Goes to sleep, has to wake up at a reasonable hour tomorrow in order to begin the business of the office.

WOODRUFF: But I read somewhere where he said either -- he was referring either to last night or tonight -- he wanted to have the distinction of being the president who went to bed the earliest.

It was either the night before or the night after his inaugural.

GREENFIELD: This is the sharpest change of tone in Washington. Bill Clinton was known to, you know, stay up until 4:00 in the morning on seminars, bull sessions, whatever.

George Bush likes to be tucked in by about 10:00 or 10:30 at night. I think that's going to require a whole change in the White House staffing...

WOODRUFF: Marian Catholic High School band from Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Bernie, is that near Chicago?

SHAW: Yes, indeed. Just south of Chicago. The city proper -- well one guy who doesn't go to bed early is Bill Hemmer, and he was up early this morning and he is still awake. He's down there along the route.

What's it look like, Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Bernie.

I have to tell you, my parade's pretty much complete because the lawn chair team just came by here; 13 guys from Vail, Colorado getting together. The Ohio State marching band coming past our location here between 13th and 14th Avenue here on -- along Pennsylvania here.

I must say, it's a bit of a shame; I mean, there's so much planning that goes into this parade. You know, they chart this whole thing out a year in advance but there is no way that one can control or even predict the weather that will take place on the 20th of January. And, certainly, Mother Nature has not shined brightly thus far today.

If my memory serves me correctly, when the first President Bush came to Washington in January of 1989 it is said that there were four or five people stacked deep all the way up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. But today it is quite clear that this is a front row seat and there's barely anybody left here. That includes protesters as well as Bush supporters.

And if you look up and down this area here, just about two hours ago this place was packed; but so many people have cleared out. These bleachers here, about 50 bucks a pop; however, Bernie, I will let you know that the Petersons (ph) out of Wisconsin, Milwaukee are still here. SHAW: I don't believe it.

HEMMER: I'm from Ohio, so yes.

How much longer are you going to stay?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Until the end. Yes; we don't want to get smushed at the Metro station, so we'll stay here.

SHAW: Bill, what are they using for antifreeze?

HEMMER: I will find that out, Bernie.

Listen, Bernie Shaw wants to know what keeps you going. Is it anti-freeze or what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wisconsin cheese keeps us going.

HEMMER: Hey, listen, your wife earlier said you're going to stay until the last cow walks by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely; we're going to stay right until the very end; we're not leaving early. We'll be able to walk out with no problem, nobody will be left.

HEMMER: Hey, you called your daughter earlier to let her know that you were actually going to be a part of our broadcast today. Did she catch you earlier report or not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes she did. We called her later; she heard the girl that was with you saying about us being true hearts or whatever.

HEMMER: You know, Bernie and Judy, they had a very interesting strategy today; I mentioned it briefly a while ago. Mr. Peterson here came out at 9:00 a.m. this morning; he was one of the first people to come to the security checkpoint. He came here and reserved his two seats. Mrs. Peterson took the privilege of, up on Capitol Hill, watching the swearing in, the inaugural speech, then came down to meet her husband.

You drew the short straw on that one, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know; I've been able to sit down. She had to do a lot of walking today.

HEMMER: You know what we call that? Spin.

SHAW: You're not going to tell us that they're going to one of the balls tonight, are you?

HEMMER: Let me find out.

Is there a ball in your plans tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No; we're going home and trying to get warm. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have our own ball, I think.

HEMMER: They're going to have their own ball.

When do you go back to Milwaukee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monday morning.

HEMMER: Hey, thanks for being great sports, OK; and do not follow the example of William Henry Harrison, OK? Do you know that example?

I'll tell you what, you give your wife the education on that lesson OK?

Back to Bernie and Judy and more.

SHAW: I wonder what they're washing down that Wisconsin cheese with.

WOODRUFF: You think it's just a hot cup of coffee, Bernie?

SHAW: I hope not.

WOODRUFF: You're not suggesting that...

DALLEK: Maybe some Wisconsin beer -- Milwaukee beer.

WOODRUFF: You have to say, they are good sports.

SHAW: Or some Wisconsin cognac.

WOODRUFF: We saw the Ponca City High School marching Wildcats just a moment ago from Ponca City, Oklahoma. We may now be into the U.S. Coast Guard and Merchant Marines from New London, Connecticut and Kings Point, New York. I believe that's what we're looking at.

These young men are cadets -- is that the right -- I don't want to get this wrong. It may not be the right term.

SHAW: Isn't Mike Boettcher from Ponca City, Oklahoma?

WOODRUFF: I don't know.

SHAW: It seems I recall that.

WOODRUFF: I was born in Tulsa; it's a great state.

SHAW: Yes; it seems I recall that.

WOODRUFF: We are in -- this is the beginning of division five of the five divisions in this parade. This is the start of the last division -- yes it is the Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York; they are combined here with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy from New London, Connecticut. DALLEK: As it comes to a close, I should offer a historical note. I once had a graduate student at Oxford when I was teaching there who wrote a paper on American parades. And what she presented -- I was startled by it, found it fascinating -- that we really pioneered this with whole idea. It gets back to Jeff's point: Most of these European countries look at us and -- what is going on here? Why don't you parade your artillery and your military, which is what was traditional in Europe. But here, it's really bands and floats and a kind of...

GREENFIELD: In fact, in the famous parade that we keep talking about with William Henry Harrison, they paraded floats of log cabins with cider barrels because he was the first president to run claiming that humble origin -- born in a log cabin, raised on hard cider, which I suspect the Petersons might like some of right now.

DALLEK: There's a great story about Lyndon Johnson in relation to that; may I tell it?

He was asked by the German chancellor whether he was born in a log cabin. He said, no, no you have me confused with Abe Lincoln. I was born in a manager.

WOODRUFF: We're getting ever closer to the precision lawn chair demonstration team. We don't want to miss that.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, the rest of this parade -- and we're going to talk to CNN's friend Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: You're looking at the last division. This is the precision lawn chair demonstration team from Vail, Colorado. We were told 13 men wearing Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses marching to chants as they fold and unfold lawn chairs. They are -- do not, we're told, have a political agenda, but they do lobby for lawn chair safety.

SHAW: And they probably don't have much of a pulse rate right now in this cold.

GREENFIELD: When you want to know how the United States became the most powerful country in the history of the world, you don't have to look much beyond precision lawn chair marching.

WOODRUFF: Well Vail, Colorado, where I happen to have been a couple weeks ago, had a lot of snow on the ground. I don't know when they had time to fold and unfold lawn chairs in Vail.

GREENFIELD: Well, I think it is, what we were talking about with Bob Dallek -- part of the American spirit is, you know, the doo-dah parade that used to mock the Rose Bowl Parade which is now an important event. The parody becomes part of the celebration, and that's part of that sense of accommodation that we don't take ourselves too seriously. WOODRUFF: We -- after the lawn chair team, Baltimore Ravens band -- the Baltimore team, of course, playing in the Super Bowl a week from tomorrow.

SHAW: Going to Tampa.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, they've become the local team, now, for the Bush family.

WOODRUFF: We've adopted them temporarily.

(CROSSTALK)

WOODRUFF: Until the Redskins come roaring back. A little parochial interest here.

SHAW: Kate Snow, you've had a long day; it's going into the early evening. What can you tell us?

There have been lots of demonstrations along the parade route.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, Bernie, I couldn't hear you, there.

Yes, we're down here on the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. For the most part, I can tell you that everything went as planned -- both on behalf of security and on behalf of the protesters. They had planned to be out here in force and, indeed, they were. We estimate there were thousands of protesters out here. It's very hard to put a number on the size of the crowd.

But I can tell you that where I was, here in Freedom Plaza, where one group -- one large protesting group had a permit there were certainly more protesters, more voices of discontent than there were Bush fans and supporters of the president as the presidential limo made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue.

For the most part, people simply waved signs and looked at the president -- yelled at the president as he passed by. He peered out through tinted windows. But at one point there were some things thrown at the presidential limo, just a few items. We understand there was an orange thrown, there was a chunk of ice thrown, a tennis ball, also an egg thrown at the presidential limo. Certainly not as much damage or action as there might have been and as there had been threatened at some time.

But there were an awful lot of boos, there were gestures, many of which we can't show you on television. Certainly a presence of protesters here. Two people, we understand, were detained by the Secret Service when they tried to jump the fence onto the parade route. But again, for the most part the crowd was peaceful, simply trying to send a message to President Bush.

There were four people arrested by the D.C. metropolitan police. That was earlier; they were trying to get through the streets earlier. There was a crowd of several hundred trying to make its way down to the parade route. They were walking in the middle of a street, they didn't have a permit to be there, and so the police did have some interaction with that crowd.

But for the most part things went, again, as they had been planned -- Bernie.

SHAW: Kate, are any of the authorities from the FBI, the Secret Service, the D.C. police -- anybody -- the Park Service police volunteering their assessment of how things having gone?

SNOW: I think they would tell you that things went very smoothly. I haven't talked to them too recently, but earlier they were saying that they thought things had gone fairly well. Again, there were threats -- not threats, but there were pledges that the protesters would be out in force and they had said that they would try to create a scene reminiscent of 1973, when there were somewhere between 25,000 and 100,000 protesters on the street for Nixon's second inauguration.

We certainly did not see those kind of crowds out here today. There were hot spots at places around the parade route, but a very good mix in the crowd and not as many protesters, perhaps, as there might have been.

SHAW: Kate Snow, thank you very much.

And we see Vice President Dick Cheney very prudently, I think, is wearing a hat now because it's chilly down there.

Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" pulls up a chair.

Thematically, protests along the parade route very pronounced, reflecting issues from this campaign.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, issues -- I'm not Ron Brownstein, I'm Bill Schneider, but Ron is here, I understand.

SHAW: We know who you are.

SCHNEIDER: But, yes, of course.

Those issues are not likely to go away very quickly. In fact, if I was surprised by anything, I was surprised at how the American people accepted that you play by the rules; and George Bush won, some people say, on a technicality. But there are some groups that feel very aggrieved by his election, and they're here in force today.

But for the most part Americans accepted the result because, No. 1, they believe you play by the rules; and No. 2, the election was so close that it would not have been an outrage for one man or the other to have been elected because it was really right down to the wire.

So my impression is that the outrage in the country -- the protests were a little bit more subdued than I might have predicted if I'd -- if you had asked me a year ago, what if someone took office who lost the popular vote? I would have said there would have been a wave of anger; but I didn't see it.

GREENFIELD: No; I think it's the second time in about two years when some of us have been surprised by the lack of reaction -- the first being impeachment.

I would have thought impeachment of a president would have embroiled the country. In fact, you know, the country went about its business, watched the football games and got through it.

And then I would have absolutely thought that, you know, having written a book about an Electoral College quirk, that if we ever elected a president who lost the popular vote -- the instant demand for the abolition of the Electoral College. And either people didn't care that much or they said no, this makes some sense, we'll go with it.

I think you're absolutely right; that that accounts for the relatively muted sense. i mean, it's out there, particularly among democratic partisans. I think they certainly feel that this was not, quote, "fair," but they're going to live with it. A, they have no choice; and B, that's the system.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Bernie -- that was actually, I thought, quite a revealing book -- and on the one hand you had more protests than usual along the parade route. On the other hand, probably the biggest applause during the ceremony itself other than after George W. Bush was for William Rehnquist from the pro-Bush crowd on the Mall itself who, of course, led the five-member Supreme Court majority that stopped the vote count in Florida and, basically, put an end to this disputed election.

So I think, you know, you really do have strong feelings on both sides. On a day like this, they are necessarily submerged. But the fact is that you have a lot of divisions on policy, on the way the election ended and a Congress that's evenly divided. We're going to see all those give an expression before long, I think.

GREENFIELD: Ron, if I can ask you to look ahead a bit: Once this day subsides and the normal political pulse returns to Washington, is there one thing that George W. Bush brings to the first days of the presidency that puts him in a stronger position than the election results might have dictated?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think the -- what could work for him is what worked in 1997, briefly, for Bill Clinton, which is that when the public ratifies a division of power -- and in this case a 50-50 Senate, a narrow Republican majority in the House, and a narrow Bush majority, the narrowest in the Electoral College -- there is a certain sense of pressure on the politicians to produce.

In the last few years, one of the reasons and, perhaps, the principle reason we haven't gotten much done in Washington is that neither side has felt there would be much consequence for not getting things done. The price of compromising, in terms of alienating your base, was greater than the price you would pay for not doing things.

And I think that equation may change a little bit and both parties may be eager to produce some progress.

Also, Jeff, the fact is there is so much money projected in the surplus, that if the two sides have even a modicum of will there is enough wallet, now, to reverse George Bush's father's famous formulation from '89. So all of those things could work for him.

The other thing I think, quickly, is that, in this speech he showed an instinct toward reaching out. This was a speech much more aimed at people who didn't vote for him than those who did. This wasn't the Bush of the last few months of the campaign who had a pretty hard-edged, ideological, almost neo-Reaganite message, that I trust the people, he trusts the government.

This was much more the compassionate conservative talking about education, talking about the needy, and those are grounds on which you can find some agreement with Democrats.

SHAW: Two very good friends of President Bush -- I see Michigan Governor John Engler has put on a hat too; it's pretty chilly out there.

Guess what? We're nearing the end of this parade. This custom of staging an inaugural parade dates back to Thomas Jefferson's second inaugural -- March of 1805. He took the oath of office at the Capitol; Jefferson rode his horse back to the White House and he was followed by members of the legislature and spectators.

And look at this -- it's come to this.

WOODRUFF: How far have we come? We are looking -- we have been looking at the Prairie View A & M University of Texas marching band.

SCHNEIDER: A very impressive performance that was.

WOODRUFF: And this is the final float, here. That last one from Prairie View, Texas; this is the Old Glory float. And if I'm not mistaken, this is the last piece of this parade.

SHAW: New York Governor George Pataki there standing at the reviewing stand with President Bush.

GREENFIELD: We have confetti fireworks coming from the Old Glory float.

SCHNEIDER: Is Ron Brownstein -- he's still there?

BROWNSTEIN: Still here, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, Ron, I'm wondering -- when I read a story in "The Washington Post" this morning they said that Bush is going to go full steam ahead with his agenda, that he's going to press hard for his education program, including vouchers, which are very controversial, he's going to push for the tax cuts. He's going to push for a lot of things that he campaigned on. The question is, Does he run a risk of making the same mistake Bill Clinton did really in his first two years in office when he went for health care reform and a tax increase? That is of overinterpreting his mandate -- do you think that's a risk?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think their view all along has been that you have to assert a mandate, to exert a mandate. They really have conceded nothing to the unusual circumstances of the election and felt that their best chance of getting things done is to act as though they won a decisive victory.

But sure, I mean, the fact is that the country has been evenly divided for several years. But in the '90s, we've seen any time either party, whether it was Bill Clinton in '94 with health care or the Republicans in '95 with the Gingrich budget, have tried to move too far from the center, they've suffered a backlash.

I mean, today, Bush clearly was aiming at that center of the American electorate, as I said, I think mostly the people who didn't vote for him rather than those who did. But the agenda contains elements that are going to be much more polarizing.

And you see the balancing act. You know, on the one hand, there was the speech today. On the other hand, there was the partisan battle last week over Ashcroft. So Bush does have to worry about pursuing an agenda that seems to be too ideological, because the evidence of the past decade really I think is overwhelming that neither side now has a clear majority in American politics, and whenever you try to push too far, you have a hard time bringing a majority along with you.

SHAW: We're going to hear more from Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times" on "INSIDE POLITICS," anchored by Frank Sesno. We're going to take a break and...

WOODRUFF: Bernie, I was just going to say to look at the president and the first lady, you'd never know they'd been standing in the rain for the last 2 1/2 hours. They took pretty fresh. They look excited, and one other thing I would say as we go to a break this is a very affectionate man. He's been hugging people right and left up. Very easy with displays of his affections.

SHAW: We'll be right back with more of these hugs and smiles.

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