Hey, if we can’t be in DC with Colleague Luiza, this seems like the next best place to watch history unfold.
I’m here! Here, in this case, is a rapidly filling hall at the US Embassy, a quiet corner of which I am currently haunting, because for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the kind of event at which one can merrily tap on one’s BlackBerry in the middle of the action, even if one is liveblogging history.
I have to admit that so far, I don’t recognize many of the guests – not the usual Hill crowd. Oh, other than Rob Anders, who I just this instant spotted at the buffet. There are other reporters here, of course — apparently, we all had the same idea vis a vis the next best place to be — and a few other familiar faces, like NDP MP Paul Dewar, who must be doing a drop-by before heading back to Queen Street for the caucus-watching party, huh?
Anyway, I’ll post an update as soon as I have the lay of the land, as it were. And yes, in case anyone wondered, the mood is downright jubilant – not a long face in the crowd.
SnubWatch: Rebuttal Edition – On one wall, a large plaque emblazoned with the words “THANK YOU CANADA”, with interwaving flags and a list of the cities that hosted American planes during the post-September 11th emergency landings, is surrounded by pictures of the embassy, the Peace Tower, and the many signs, bouquets and tributes that were left in the aftermath.
We’re being officially welcomed now – to “watch history being made” – and to take part in one of the “great spectacles” of Americana. The speaker – who didn’t give his name, but I’m guessing is the deputy ambassador, or whatever that position is called – seems almost teary-eyed (well, voiced; I can’t quite see his eyes at the moment).
Well, the one possibly awkward point has come and gone: the assertion by our host that Canada-US relations have gotten stronger under outgoing president Bush. Which doesn’t exactly bring the crowd to its feet, but at least he didn’t get heckled.
Another familiar face: senator to be Pam Wallin, who is chatting with Paul Dewar from the makeshift viewing pit. Oh, speaking of viewing, I can now confirm that the network of choice for this embassy, at least, is CNN. I owe someone a loonie.
Wow. CNN just showed a crowd shot – I’m sure not the first, but the first I’ve seen – and the crowd here was audibly awed by the sheer scale. I wouldn’t want to count that crowd. (Then again, I have trouble with crowds of more than a dozen or so. It’s a curse.)
Okay, it’s not just me: having consulted with my fellow reporters, most of whom are now gathered n a loose but protective cluster behind the rows of chairs, none of us have recognized more than a half dozen or so people here. “Are they all American?” one of us wonders. That, or we have become far too dependent on name tags.
Look, it’s Obama! He’s – wow, that crowd looks awfully up close and personal, doesn’t it? The secret service must be going nuts.
Okay, is the disembodied voice doing the introductions someone known? Or is this the ultimate gig for Ubiquitous Voiceover Guy?
Oh, wait – I forgot – there is one more potentially awkward moment, and his name is Rick Warren. You could hear a pin drop – or a berry key tap – in this room right now, by the way. Everyone is riveted to the screen.
Update from Liberal headquarters – I’ll add this to the dedicated post as soon as I get a moment, but for now, I can reveal that Michael Ignatieff is, in the words of his press secretary, “unfortunately” on a plane to Toronto, where he plans to speak to the Canadian Council of Business Executives. Haven’t they figured out how to get a television feed in the air yet? What is taking so long, science? It’s not like you’re too busy with those flying cars.
Okay, Rick Warren wraps up, and I swear there was a collective sigh of relief. And now, Aretha Franklin!
Hospitality update: Freshly. Baked. Chocolate. Chip. Cookies. I love America.
Also, that is one big, impressive Bible on which Joe Biden is currently swearing his allegiance.
Aw, a round of applause here. First time today!
I don’t know what it’s like in DC, but the mood here is slowly moving from solemn and reverent to – for want of a better word – joy. I’m sure the music is partly responsible; the crowd is utterly rapt, except for the few knots of spectators at the back who are taking advantage of the last few minutes to quietly conduct whatever business one does at an event like this before all eyes and ears are on Obama.
… Which turns out to be now. As the 44th president of the United States takes the oath, and seems to know the words better than the Chief Justice, the room breaks into laughter – if there was any tension at the start, it’s definitely gone now – and when he finishes – wow, that was quick – the applause is downright gleeful. I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the sea of emotion on the Mall, but still. It’s remarkable for a grey, cold Tuesday morning in Ottawa.
And – the speech. Wow, this event moves along at a pretty good click, doesn’t it? I admit that this is probably the first Inauguration I’ve actively watched from start to finish – oh, I’m sure I’m not the only one – but I’m used to political events that always take longer than expected.
Obama is speaking, and every so often, a flash goes off somewhere in the room, as someone decides to immortalize this moment with a snapshot of the screen, which at first strikes me as ridiculously meta, but then I realize that I’m doing pretty much the same thing by liveblogging through the whole thing.
Oh, the speech? It seems like a barnburner to me, but I’ve discovered that I’m not that tough an audience for even the most lacklustre speaker, provided they don’t go on for more than, oh, twenty minutes or so at which point a genetically engineered hybrid of the ten greatest statesmen in history would have trouble keeping my attention. I blame the internet.
America is our friend, y’all! At least, until he gets that tape of must-hear Canadian music
Okay, tell me I wasn’t the only one who was suddenly agog to hear the end of that line about America as a nation of Christians and Muslims and Jews and the rest, waiting to see if he’d acknowledge the agnostic/atheist contingent. He went with nonbelievers, which isn’t exactly all encompassing, but better than leaving them out altogether.
Well, that’s that – the crowd is going wild there, I can tell. It’s a more dignified, self-conscious whoohooing underway here at the Embassy, but no less genuine. I can’t help picking up the oddest sense of – not precisely relief, but close. A sense that the tensions have been lightened – not by the departure of Bush, or even the successful installation of Obama, but at the closing of one era, and the beginning of the next.
On a more frivolous note, The First Dress is getting rave reviews here, including from ITQ, who is admittedly the furthest thing from a fashion maven possible. It does look like the sort of outfit that will divide, not unite the commentariat, though.
Paul Dewar – yes, he’s still here – just earned the undying gratitude of poets everywhere by aggressively leading the applause after that last interlude.
I’m sorry, did the Benediction just include the words “global fiscal crisis”? That somehow threw me off.
I’m not sure which one she is, but Little Pink Coat First Daughter really is cute as an economy pack of buttons. The president-no-longer-elect looks oddly alone, despite the fact that he has probably never been, and never will be so surrounded by his citizenry.
I didn’t type through the anthem, you’ll all be relieved to know. It just seemed wrong, although there didn’t seem to be too many voices singing. Perhaps our Canadian reservedness is rubbing off.
Well, things seem to be wrapping up here, which means I may have to hit the streets in search of more O-moments in O-town. I’ll update this post if I do – but for now, I’d suggest that anyone looking for livebloggage of the real action should head on over to Luiza’s corner of the macleans.ca world. See you later!