OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - Inaugurations

(01/29/2001)

By Tony Russell

As I was coming out of the post office this morning, I bumped into Bob Weaver.

Oof, he grunted. Sorry there, I didnt mean to run you down.

No harm done, I said, picking myself up and brushing off my seat. Whats the big rush?

Ive got a million things to do before inauguration, he said. I dont know if Ill get everything done or not.

Bob, I said, I hate to tell you this, but the inauguration is over with. Mr. Bush was installed last Saturday.

Not George Bushs inauguration, he said. Mine. As mayor of Hur.

Mayor of Hur? Is that going to be a big event?

Big enough, he responded. Weve raised forty-four million dollars so far for the festivities.

Forty-four million dollars! I gasped. I didnt know there was that kind of money in Calhoun County!

Oh, there isnt, he said cheerfully. Its all corporate sponsors. Gas and oil companies, timber companies, private prison firms, Native American tribes, real estate developers, drug dealers, that kind of thing.

Why in the world are they putting out that kind of money to throw a party for you? I couldnt help asking.

Everybodys competing for a piece of the action, he said. Several prison firms want to buy the entire county, put a hundred-foot-wide moat around it, and turn it into the worlds premier penal colony. Timber companies want in on it, because the entire county would be clearcut so prison sharpshooters would have a clean line of fire at all times. Theyre all bidding against several Native American tribes who want acknowledgment of their ancestral ties here so they can construct casinos. And gas companies think there are still opportunities to get cheap drilling rights in a county where people dont know what the stuff is worth. Ill tell you, were having to tell sponsors to take a number and stand in line.

Whats your role in all that? I asked.

Well, as Mayor of Hur as well as president of the County Commission, Im in a position to make key appointments. There are assessments and appeals to consider. Rights of way. Tax breaks. You know.

Bob, I said, dont take this wrong, but dont you think there are some ethical issues here? I mean, these corporations arent forking out that kind of money from sheer generosity. They expect something in return.

Oh, sure, he agreed cheerfully. Thats part of my platform. A new realism about politics. No more pretending that this is anything else but business. Its government to the highest bidder. Absolutely.

But youve always been such an idealist, I objected.

I suppose theres still a little idealism tucked in there somewhere, he admitted. I watched corporations fork out thirty-three million for Clintons inauguration, and I was aghast. Then they threw a forty million dollar bash for Bush. Most of them with business being acted on by government right now227firms like AT&T. American Airlines. Microsoft. And I decided that before Calhoun County died, or I did, I was going to see if I could bring some of that money in here.

Whats it all going for? I asked.

Well, theres the Inaugural Parade, of course, with elephants flown in. I just hope they can navigate Hur Road in the snow. Bands from all over the country. Floats built by Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas. Charlton Heston for Grand Marshall. Its supposed to be bigger than the Rose Parade. And then there are the ten Inaugural Balls227Bush only had nine. Weve had to commandeer every hotel ballroom in the county, as well as the high school and middle school gyms. And parties everywhere, going on into the wee hours. Big Owls and the Koffee Kup are staying open extra hours to accommodate all the guests.

Its certainly a big spectacle, I admitted. All the same, Bob, theres something about it that just doesnt seem right to me.

Think of it this way, he said. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do your country for.


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