Politics Today is your daily guide to some of the stories we’re watching in Ottawa and across Canada, by The Globe and Mail’s team of political reporters. Today’s edition is a special look at the event all politicos will be watching today.
U.S. pomp and pageantry takes over Washington, D.C., this morning as President Barack Obama is sworn-in at an inauguration ceremony (11:30 a.m. ET) that will be attended by hundreds of thousands and televised for people around the world to see.
Here is your guide to keep up with the day’s events.
Getting the oath right
Believe it or not, one of the highlights of Mr. Obama’s first inauguration four years ago was the flubbed oath – requiring Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to administer the oath a second time the next day.
Here is the oath as it is outlined in the U.S. constitution: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Interestingly, this time around the official swearing-in already took place yesterday, Jan. 20 – the date outlined by the constitution. But the ceremonial swearing-in before the throngs and the cameras will take place today. The reason: inaugural ceremonies historically do not take place on a Sunday.
And a first when it comes to presidential and vice-presidential oaths: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, will administer the oath to Vice-President Joe Biden.
Getting the speech right
U.S. presidents have used their inauguration to set the tone and chart a course for the country. The cornerstone is the inauguration speech, which combines soaring rhetoric and a call to action.
The aim is to plant in the minds of Americans a simple message, distilled in to a single, poetic sentence. “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” said president John F. Kennedy in 1961.
The challenge this time around for Mr. Obama is to come up with a memorable line. The first inaugural address was powerful in its symbolism as the country’s first black president was sworn-in. However, there were few memorable lines from a politician known for his oratory.
Check out our interactive looking at two-term presidents and how their message changes from the first to the second inaugural address.
President Barack Obama has some big battles around the corner after inauguration – negotiating with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling and reaching an agreement on spending cuts.
Following the November 2012 presidential election, the president has offered some clues that he will not be the cautious and professorial politician during his first term.
Instead, he will be pushier and more confrontational when it comes to his second term agenda – gun control, immigration, energy and possibly climate change. Find out more in our video Obama 2.0 about why he will likely take on a more aggressive posture and why he will be in a hurry.
Mr. Obama is unlikely to use his second inaugural as a bully pulpit. But listen out for whether – and how – he addresses the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. and the vitriol that sometimes dominates national debates around issues like gun control.
Music, parade, balls
During the inauguration ceremony beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET, James Taylor will perform America the Beautiful, Beyonce will sing the national anthem and Kelly Clarkson will sing My Country ’Tis of Thee – a song that in 2009 was performed by Aretha Franklin at the first inauguration. The musical set four years ago also included Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma.
The ceremony is followed by an inaugural parade at 2:30 p.m. ET with floats, marching bands, and colour guards. One of the best spots to view the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be the Canadian Embassy, which is hosting inauguration day events.
The crowds that numbered 1.8 million four years ago for the historic inauguration are expected to be much smaller with several hundred thousand expected to attend.
The 10 inaugural balls attended by the Obamas four years ago have been replaced with the two official balls – both sold out – and being held at the convention center where 40,000 are expected to attend.
And for some inauguration swag – shot glasses, beanies, and a 57th inaugural hoodie – here’s the official online store .