David Frum

01.22.13

Hope, Change and Traffic Jams

What's an inaugural like for Washington DC's permanent residents? Danielle Crittenden Frum explains - and describes the inspiration for Chapter 18 of Patriots - at the Huffington Post.

We were able to penetrate as near as three blocks from the embassy before we were prohibited by perimeter security from going any further. I argued with my husband about where to park: there was definitely an apocalyptic feeling to the empty streets. By that time most of the crowds were already at the mall and what remained were patrols of heavily armed soldiers, humvees, police and sharpshooters. I insisted that we should just park illegally -- seriously, were the cops going to ticket us today? They obviously had bigger duties to attend to.

My husband retorted that he wasn't worried about being ticketed or even towed. "Today is the sort of day they'll just blow up the car. We'll return and find all that's left is scorched pavement and bits of melted rubber."

He had a point there. So we drove around until we found a meter that didn't have a temporary no-parking sign taped to it, buttoned up our coats and walked in the direction of the cheers. It was definitely a more subdued day than four years ago, when the entire city felt seized by Obama-mania. Even the street vendors seemed to offer fewer souvenir tchochkes -- the tables of "Obama Nation" T-shirts and commemorative crockery looked positively meager in comparison to the riches of memorabilia four years ago. I suppose you could build a whole political thesis out of this observation: What does it say about Obama's diminished popularity? etc., etc. But the Washingtonian in me thought, "Meh. Second term."