In the eyes of most Americans, there is no way the Republican Party and the Bush White House can justify spending a record $40 million for a "nation at war" inauguration package on or around Jan. 20.
It's understood that tax funds will not be used for the various events; such money is supposed to come from private funds. Yet a number of government facilities and agencies will have to be involved, and there is bound to be some tax money drawn into the funnel.
As Bush and his aides keep telling us, we are a nation at war -- with an elusive foe, of course, but at war nonetheless. It is disgraceful to use the kind of money planners are talking about for celebrations when our people are fighting, dying and disrupting their families in a critical national effort.
"Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service" is the slogan that has been chosen for the festival. This is an excellent slogan that is appropriate for most any occasion or event calling attention to America's role and mission. However, the inauguration planners have gone overboard. They intend to start with a ceremony at an indoor Washington arena "saluting those who serve," and close with a collection of nine formal balls.
The dances are to include a Commander-in-Chief Ball which will be open, admission free, to invited members of the military. As comedian Dana Carvey would say: "Now, isn't that SPECIAL!" It is difficult to believe that all the military people attending will be comfortable under the circumstances.
Jeanne Phillips is a Texas businesswoman who is chairing the 55th Presidential Inauguration Committee. She is staging a celebration of "our freedom as Americans here at home" and "freedom everywhere."
It is not too late to stop this overexpenditure of funds and use much of the money for other purposes, such as for the needy families of service people at war or even to help the relief efforts in the tidal wave venues. Whether any major alterations will be made remains to be seen.
President Bush could generate all kinds of new "political capital" by stepping forth and declaring that the $40 million-plus party is inappropriate under existing circumstances. Also, it is likely many of the generous and politically motivated donors probably would just as soon be identified as donors to other programs that need fiscal support.
There clearly are better uses right now for $40 million -- privately given or not -- than to have it spent on a Washington inauguration.