Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Live-blogging the Inauguration (continued)

2.15 pm (9.15 am ET)

The pictures of the unprecedented crowds arriving for the Inauguration are incredibly impressive. Some people will have been waiting for eight or nine hours in freezing temperatures for a distant view of a tiny figure taking the oath of office. It's an over-used phrase, but this really is the people's Inauguration. The number of black faces is particularly striking. C-SPAN and the BBC have interviewed people not only from neighbouring southern states, but from across the US, from the Caribbean, from Africa even. It's impossible not to be moved - and the ceremony hasn't even started yet.

3.00 (10.00 am ET)

The Obamas have just arrived at the White House, to be greeted by the Bushes, who were as warm and welcoming as at previous meetings. Dubya seems to have been quite gracious, at a personal level, during the transition, whatever else you think of him. Nothing in his presidency quite became him like the leaving of it, so to speak - if you overlook all those last-minute presidential orders, that is...

3.25 (10.25 ET)

One of C-SPAN's live feeds is currently pointed at the White House entrance, as we wait for the president and president-in-waiting to emerge. The mikes are turned up so high you can hear the rather indiscreet chatter of the bored journos, and even the odd word from one of the waiting agents. It's like watching unedited footage from The West Wing. A little tedious, but at the same time strangely fascinating...

3.55 (10.55 ET)

They're on their way: an almighty cavalcade of black limousines and SUVs has left the White House and is moving towards the Capitol. C-SPAN reception's getting a bit sticky (it froze as I was trying to catch what Bush said to Obama as he left the White House for the last time), so I'm moving over to BBC News 24, which has some pretty good pictures, even if the commentary leaves something to be desired. What a bright and glorious morning on Pennsylvania Avenue...

4.10 (11.10 ET)

Live coverage has started over on MSNBC. Commentary from Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Eugene Robinson, which knocks Huw Edwards and Matt Frei into a cocked hat - though the latter have got presidential historian Robert Dallek alongside them. The great and the good are just taking their seats. Olbermann: 'I wonder what Al Gore is thinking at this point?'

4.35 (11.35 ET)
Some booing as George Bush arrives, criticised as 'bad form' by the MSNBC panel, who switched mikes to the military band. Excitement builds as the crowd awaits the announcement of the arrival of the man who will be president in just over 20 minutes.

5.20 (12.20 ET)
So that's it: America has its 44th president. President Obama is still speaking - he's drawn a clear line in the sand over torture and human rights, reminded us that some Americans are non-believers (someone tell Rick Warren), and is currently telling hostile nations that the US will 'lend a hand if you will unclench your fist'. No instantly memorable lines yet, but a pretty tough-minded performance all the same. Now he's talking about recovering a spirit of service in the nation....

5.45 (12.45 ET)
Commentators heard snatches of scripture and echoes of King, Roosevelt and Lincoln in the speech. Among the phrases that stood out: Obama's refusal to make a choice between the country's safety and its ideals.

Now President Obama (how good it feels to type that) is watching former President Bush (and that feels even better) take his leave of the capital. Wonder what Bush is saying to his replacement as they stand on the steps of the Capitol, waiting for the helicopter...

Bush positively leaps up the steps, seemingly eager to be gone. And so the Bush era comes to an end...

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