BRYN WEESE - Obama's inauguration toned down second time around

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House during the inaugural parade.

Credits: REUTERS


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It must be hard to top history.
President Barack Obama began his second term as leader of the free world Monday in front of an estimated 500,000 people. That's a far cry from the record 1.8 million supporters who crammed into the National Mall here four years ago to watch the first black President take the oath of office.

There were also only two official inaugural balls this year, compared to 10 in 2009. And back then, 5,500 portable toilets were scattered around the downtown core.

This year? Only 1,100.

Maybe size doesn't matter.

Then again, maybe it does. There were, after all, unofficial Obama Inaugural condoms among the souvenirs being hawked on every street corner.

But while counterfeit condom sales may have been ... uh ... up, that didn't help organizers reach their $50 million fundraising goal, so they were reportedly slashing inaugural ball tickets prices Monday from $1,000 to $500 in a last-ditch effort.

And if Obama is willing to slash ticket prices, he was clear in what many saw as an unapologetic inaugural address that he will not slash entitlement programs for seniors and the poor to balance the books.

"We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit, but we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," he said during the speech Monday at the Capitol, in what seemed to be a clear shot across the bow to his Republican opponents in Congress.

"The commitments we make to each other -- through Medicare, and Medicaid and Social Security -- these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great."

Of the lengthy checklist of issues Obama promised to pursue over the next four years -- election reform, more stimulus, gay rights, gun control, pay equity, immigration reform and climate change among them -- none will arrive sooner than the nation's debt limit and automatic spending cuts that come into effect next month.

But even with both parties girding for nasty battles that will begin as soon as the porta-potties are cleared away, Monday was a day for pomp and ceremony.

And the inaugural parade, which meandered from the Capitol along Pennsylvania Ave. past the Canadian Embassy's tailgate party to the White House.

Among the 147 horses marching along the route, two belonged to the Toronto Police Service's mounted unit.

Tecumseh and Honest Ed, that made its second inaugural appearance Monday having marched in the parade four years ago, were reportedly included in the parade at the invitation of Michigan's Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Drill Team and Color Guard.

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