Washington D.C. this weekend will be full of entertainment industry figures, the spotlight of national and international media and very intense security, but the accepted conventional wisdom is that President Obama’s second inaugural will be a far cry from the first.
It may be a good thing, what with the crush of as many as 2 million people on and around the National Mall four years ago, when traffic so choked that taxi drivers refused crosstown fares and it was so bitterly cold that musicians playing at a Lincoln Memorial concert had trouble triking chords because of frozen fingers.
This time around, temperatures are expected to be in the 40s, and fewer people are expected, although no one knows for sure whether D.C. will catch a logistical break. The swearing in at the Capitol on Monday, which will feature James Taylor, Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson, isn’t even the historic event, but a ceremonial one. Whenever Jan. 20 falls on a Sunday, the Capitol event is moved a day later but the real swearing in, required in the Constitution, still takes place, this time at the White House with limited press coverage.
Yet even as inaugural planners have scaled back their events — there are two official inaugural balls, down from 10 in 2009, and no concert at the Lincoln Memorial — news networks and other media outlets are still heavily invested in all of the pageantry, pomp and circumstance.
The broadcast networks will have their lead anchors leading coverage on Sunday and Monday, sweetened with second-screen social media or online streaming of Obama’s inaugural address and other events. Here’s what they’re planning:
CBS News: Coverage, anchored by Scott Pelley, will include Bob Schieffer and Norah O’Donnell, as well as “CBS This Morning” from the National Mall in an extended three-hour edition on Monday.
NBC: Lester Holt will anchor NBC News coverage on Sunday, and Brian Williams will lead coverage on Monday, with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss among those offering analysis. NBC News.com will include a 180-degree panoramic view of the Monday ceremony.
ABC: Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos anchor ABC News coverage of the swearing in on Sunday, and will be based at the Newseum for coverage on Monday, with plans for an interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell. ABC News and Yahoo! are jointly producing live-streamed coverage across a number of web platforms, with Dan Harris and Olivier Knox anchoring. ABC News and Yahoo! News also will stream a post-inaugural show on Tuesday, “After: The Second Inauguration of President Barack Obama.”
Fox: Fox News’ Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly will anchor coverage of the private ceremony on Sunday and public event and parade on Monday, with Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and “The Five” co-hosts Bob Beckel, Dana Perino and Juan Williams offering analysis along with contributors Charles Krauthammer, Stephen Hayes, Kirsten Powers, Karl Rove and Joe Trippi. Jon Scott and Jenna Lee will anchor from New York after Sunday’s official swearing-in, while several shows will be live from Lafayette Park on Monday, including “America’s Newsroom” anchors Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum; Shepard Smith; and “Your World” host Neil Cavuto.
CNN: CNN has built a large broadcast platform at the National Mall, with an emphasis on putting its lead anchors in the middle of the activity. Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper anchor on Sunday, with a primetime special that evening along with special editions of “Piers Morgan Tonight” and “Anderson Cooper 360.” On Monday, Blitzer will be live from the Capitol, and Cooper will be on the National Mall along with the network’s team of correspondents and analysts. “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” will be live from Lafayette Park on Monday afternoon, and Cooper will anchor coverage from the Mall that evening, with Morgan and Erin Burnett inside the Inaugural Balls. Author David Maraniss and historian Goodwin will offer perspective. The network also has teamed up with Facebook and Instagram to capture spectators’ views and stories.
MSNBC: Chuck Todd will anchor coverage of the Sunday swearing-in on MSNBC, followed by Alex Witt at 12:30 p.m. On Monday, “Way Too Early” and “Morning Joe” will be live from The Dubliner in D.C., with the broadcast open to the public. Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews anchor coverage of the Capitol Hill ceremony and parade, with Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz and Rev. Al Sharpton, along with a long lineup of contributors and analysts. “Way Too Early” and “Morning Joe” return to The Dubliner on Tuesday morning.
Despite the lack of a White House transition, Obama’s second inaugural will feature some interesting storylines, starting with the content of his inaugural address. Given that he will be on the same platform as his political foes, notes Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief and senior vice president, what will be interesting is if the tone will be one of extending a hand to Congressional Republicans.
“Every time there is a second inaugural I go in thinking, ‘It is just not going to be the same.’ And every time I come out of it saying, ‘That was a fascinating day’,” Feist said.
Online: Sites like Politico and HuffPost Live also will have a presence, and The Grio.com will originate from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Monday. HuffPostLive will stream the swearing in and other events, with its community of viewers offering written commentary aside the video. HuffPost Live President Roy Sekoff said that the setup worked “extremely well” during the debates and other campaign events, which he said was a “holistic” approach in contrast to many other outlets’ engagement with viewers.
Although Sekoff said that it will be “hard to match the euphoria” of 2009, he does see optimism among Obama supporters going in to this inauguration, with the president’s recent announcement of a long list of measures to stem gun violence giving hope that the term will perhaps be “a more pragmatic term” with determined fights over a range of issues.
Parties and concerts: As was the case in 2009, for attendees the pressure is on to attend the best of the many pre- and post- inaugural parties, balls and concerts. The officially sanctioned events include a Kids Inaugural Concert on Saturday, which has a focus on military families, and the two balls on Monday event, the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball for members of the military, and the Inaugural Ball, a mega-event that will encompass the entire Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Among those on the bill: Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, the cast of “Glee,” Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Marc Anthony, Nick Cannon, Usher and Smokey Robinson.
Sunday has been declared a “National Day of Service,” and the inaugural committee has slated a “service summit” on the National Mall with Chelsea Clinton, Eva Longoria, Ben Folds and Angela Bassett, among others. ServiceNation and the Artists & Athletes Alliance host a reception that evening.
A number of other events are expected to be a draw: On Saturday, the twentysomething org OurTime holds a kickoff celebration at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, with Legend, T-Pain and Common on the bill. Also that night, The Root hosts an inaugural ball at the National Museum of American History. Newsweek/The Daily Beast have a “Bipartisan Brunch” on Sunday at Georgetown’s Cafe Milano, with Tina Brown, Harvey Weinstein and Longoria among the cohosts; and Rita Moreno, Jose Feliciano and Chita Rivera are among the legendary artists scheduled to appear at the Latino Inaugural on Sunday evening at the Kennedy Center.
On Monday afternoon, Third Way, WHC Insider and The Huffington Post host a parade watch party at the Old Ebbitt Grill. That evening, Creative Coalition hosts an inaugural ball at the Harman Center for the Arts, with the Goo Goo Dolls performing. Cyndi Lauper, Audra McDonald and Will Swenson are on the bill for the Human Rights Campaign’s Out for Equality celebration at the Mayflower Hotel, and Ke$ha and DJ Jazzy Jeff headlining the Musicians on Call and Recording Industry Assn. charity benefit at the 9:30 Club. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hosting what is described as a “Chicago-style after-hours” party at The Hamilton Live, with a number of Obama campaign leaders on the list of hosts.
The man facing perhaps the biggest pressure to perform, however, may not be any musical guest, celebrity, news personality or even Obama and Biden. It is Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously mangled the Oath of Office in 2009, requiring a do-over. Once again, he will get two chances at perfection.