A Republican party chairman from Milwaukee, Richard Graber, said in a recent newspaper interview that 200 to 300 revelers would journey to Washington to represent his state at the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration held and would participate in many festivities, balls and parties in honor of Bush’s taking the oath of office for a second time. “Other soirees, underwritten by corporate sponsors, also are in the works for the Wisconsin contingent,” including Graber said, plans for an event on Jan. 18 at the embassy of Ireland.
Graber told the Irish Echo that many from eager participants from Wisconsin had expressed interest in attending the event at the embassy but that the details regarding how the party would be paid for were still be worked out. He indicated the party at the embassy was in conjunction with the inaugural festivities.
When initially asked about the party, an Irish embassy spokesman said there were no plans for any events there on Jan. 18, then later retracted the denial.
“No event has ever been confirmed for the embassy on the 18th,” embassy spokesman Joe Hackett said.
Hackett said it was his understanding that the ambassador to the United States, Noel Fahey, was considering having a party in honor of the departure from the cabinet of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, and that the event just happened to coincide with other inaugural festivities. Thompson is from Wisconsin.
“If we decide to go ahead, then the costs will be borne internally,” by the Irish government, said Hackett, also denying there would be any corporate sponsorship of the event.
“It would be rather unique if an embassy held an inauguration party,” said Chuck Conconni, a Washington society writer and veteran of many presidential inaugural parties. “Most of the time you see these parties held in ballrooms at the larger hotels attended by the party faithful out to revel in their victory.” With U.S. soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports of plans for lavish parties and a $40 million price tag for the presidential inauguration have made some people uneasy. At the height of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt curtailed his inauguration to a small swearing-in and a lunch at the White House of chicken salad.
Millions more will be spent on security. In fact, some estimate that law enforcement and secret service costs may double the $40 million prediction. It is projected to be the most expensive presidential inauguration in history. Tickets to events can cost in the six-digit range. One event, with a scheduled presidential drop-by during lunch, costs $250,000 per person.
Inauguration organizers countered that the pomp and circumstance are important to emphasize the continuum in this post-Sept. 11 era. They have also added a free Commander in Chief’s Ball for 2,000 soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Irish embassy spokesman said a decision on whether to host a party on Jan. 18 would be made at the end of this week.