Will Clinton, Bush be nice at inaugural?

January 11, 2001|By Jim Bendat

LOS ANGELES -- Traditionally on the morning of the inauguration, the outgoing president greets the president-elect at the White House. The two men pose for pictures with their wives, then have some private time together over juice, coffee and pastries.

After about an hour, they ride together to the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony. The outgoing president will sit on the right side in the rear passenger seat while the incoming president will sit on the left. The crowds along Pennsylvania Avenue generally cheer for both men with much patriotic enthusiasm.

One could have envisioned President Clinton and a President-elect Al Gore having a great ride together, but Mr. Clinton will now accompany George W. Bush. Photo opportunities aside, how much will they enjoy each other's company?

There have been several times in our history when the old and new president didn't get along. Neither John Adams in 1801 nor his son, John Quincy Adams, in 1829 attended the inauguration of their successors. John Adams was bitter about his election defeat and considered President-elect Thomas Jefferson to be a radical. Adams felt that appearing at Jefferson's ceremony would be as absurd as King George III attending the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

Similarly, John Quincy Adams considered the new president, Andrew Jackson, and his followers to be low-lifes.

In 1933, outgoing President Herbert Hoover stared straight ahead during the ride to the Capitol, virtually ignoring President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt's animated words and waves to the crowd. And in 1953, President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower wouldn't even get out of his car to meet with President Harry S. Truman at the White House.

All inaugurations since then have been rather civil affairs. But who's to say what will happen Jan. 20?

Many political pundits have compared the 2000 election with the disputed decision of 1876, when Democrat Samuel J. Tilden received about 250,000 more popular votes than Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who won by one vote in the Electoral College.

The outcome wasn't decided until March 2, 1877, just three days before the inauguration. Many citizens believed the Republicans had stolen the election. Some people began calling Hayes "His Fraudulency."

The normal day for the inauguration, March 4, fell on a Sunday in 1877, but the plan was to hold the ceremony on Monday, March 5.

But rumors flew that Tilden would have himself sworn in on March 4 and have himself declared the real president. The outgoing president, Ulysses S. Grant, invited Hayes to the White House on Saturday night, March 3. Grant had experienced the horrors of the Civil War and didn't want to see the country head into another disaster, so he helped arrange for Hayes to be sworn into office that night.

Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administered the oath of office to Hayes in the Red Room of the White House, thereby making Hayes the only person to ever be sworn in before the official inauguration. It also meant that the United States technically had two presidents at the same time.

Sunday passed without incident and Hayes was sworn in again on Monday in a public ceremony at the Capitol.

Jim Bendat, a Los Angeles County public defender, is the author of "Democracy's Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President" (iUniverse.com, 2000).

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