Rarely is the White House a bit player in the nation's democracy. But on Inauguration Day, the central action is mostly at the Capitol, two miles away.
That is the nature of tradition. But President Barack Obama's short trip to the Capitol and his second-term inaugural speech with the Capitol dome looming behind him also illustrates the reality of the equal branches of government and how the president's power only extends as far as Congress is willing to grant it.
The White House was quiet for much of Monday, even as Obama aides rejoiced in the inaugural's affirmation of Obama's re-election, the 17th in the nation's history. A skeleton crew of aides attended to the day's business of governing while the rest of Washington reveled in pomp and ritual.
Later, the president returned to the White House via a celebratory parade, and he's there right now. But even now, the White House itself would is something of an afterthought. Typically a daily destination for tourists eager for a photograph, the White House's north face is hidden behind high bleachers and a massive parade reviewing stand.
Presidents are rare guests of the legislative branch. Once a year, they deliver their State of the Union address in the House chamber at the official invitation of the speaker of the House. And only when beginning a second term have they made the trip from White House to Capitol for an inauguration ceremony.
More common is a presidential invitation to members of Congress to visit White House, a reminder that presidents are Lawmakers, especially House and Senate leaders, have made many a trek to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to consult or even socialize with Obama. They've huddled to discuss health care, budgets, even judicial nominations.
On Monday, members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies went to the White House for morning coffee with the president, vice president and their wives. But the attention promptly shifted to the Capitol where the public massed on the National Mall to witness Obama taking the oath and to hear his second inaugural address.
—Jim Kuhnhenn: Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama's second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.
- Politics & Government