WASHINGTON - Bill Clinton is planning to use his inauguration in January as a show-piece of his commitment to remain close to the people, riding to Washington by bus and closing the ceromonies with a mammoth hand-shaking session at the White House, writes David Usborne.
In a gesture reminiscent of his campaign bus tours, the president-elect is planning to travel by bus from Monticello in southern Virginia, which was the home of Thomas Jefferson, founder of what became the Democratic Party, north to Washington DC, making several stops on the way.
The bus journey, according to plans unveiled yesterday, would end on the Sunday, three days before the inauguration on Wednesday 20 January, with a public celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. On the day after inauguration - five days and dollars 20m (pounds 13m) of expenditure later - Mr Clinton will host a 'public reception' in the White House, which any member of the public can attend on a first-come, first-served basis. Those with the stamina to queue will be met by Mr and Mrs Clinton in a hand-shaking reception line.
Throwing open the White House in that way will doubtless evoke memories of a similar, disastrous, invitation made by a former president, Andrew Jackson, in 1829. His guests ransacked the presidential home and became so boistrous that Jackson was forced to escape from the melee by crawling out of a window. Announcing the plans in Washington, Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the public openness of the occasion was meant to symbolise the new Clinton style. 'Bill Clinton is absolutely committed to being an accessible president, to being fully in touch with the American people,' he said.
On inauguration day, there will be no fewer than 10 balls in honour of the new president. About 65,000 people are expected to attend events, by invitation and on payment of dollars 125 per ticket. Though expensive at dollars 20m, the Clinton festivities none the less seem destined to be more modest than those that marked George Bush's inaugural. His bill came to dollars 30m.