WASHINGTON - Having beheld a virtual presidential campaign, complete with virtual presidential debates and a long squabble on the Internet over who won the presidential election, cyber-citizens can go online tomorrow to witness a virtual presidential inauguration.
The first live Web-cast came in 1997 at President Clinton's second inaugural. Since then, the domestic online audience has grown about four-fold, to some 120 million, with upward of 4 million now linked to fast broadband servers that greatly improve picture quality.
"We're doing practically everything online this year except selling tickets to the swearing-in and other events," said Natalie Rule, a spokeswoman for Presidential Inaugural Committee for George W. Bush.
A "special online message" from Bush notes that "the inaugural ceremony dates back to April 30, 1789, when our nation's first president, George Washington, took his oath of office on Wall Street in New York."
The official Web site offers detailed ticket information and a lengthy schedule of events that can be downloaded. The site www.inauguration2001.org or www.inauguration2001.com is updated daily, said Jeanne Johnson Phillips, the committee's executive director.
For the first time, the Bush site offers Internet users a complete listing of the names and financial contributions of inaugural benefactors. Seven days after a donation is made, the information is posted online. (As in 1993 and 1997, donations are limited to $100,000 for any individual or corporate sponsor.) Rule said there are plans to link the site to www.inauguralgiftshop.com, whose Web name reflects its time-limited mission.
There, visitors can purchase an official 2001 presidential inaugural license plate, moving online a tradition that began with the first Franklin Roosevelt inaugural in 1933.
Under federal law, the plates can be legally displayed anywhere in the United States until April 30, 2001, although they need to be registered with a state motor vehicle bureau. A personalized set, with up to six letters, sells for $65.