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Parade Vs. War On Terror

Weekly commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
There has been a chorus of criticism about whether the administration should hold a round of lavish inauguration parties in the midst of a war. My voice has not been among the chorus. Some Americans will find it inappropriate, some won't. But whatever the case, they don't need my help in making a judgment.

But what does hack me off is the news that may not have made your local paper, news that for the first time those of us who live in the District of Columbia will be paying a big chunk of the inaugural costs, nearly $12 million for such things as police overtime and building reviewing stands along the parade route.

In the past, the federal government has reimbursed the District government -- read that, D.C. taxpayers -- for those costs. But this time the administration has informed D.C. authorities they'll have to absorb the cost and suggests that they use federal funds that had earlier been earmarked to fight terrorism.

That means money that would have been used to expand hospital capacity here and buy protective gear for Washington firemen must now be used instead to build parade grandstands where, incidentally, the president's supporters get first dibs on the seats.

This seems neither fair nor very smart. Why would an administration, already under severe criticism for sending soldiers into battle without enough armor, put itself in a position where it appears equally indifferent to equipping those charged with fighting terrorist at home? If nothing else, surely someone in this administration will realize how this looks and take steps to see that every dollar diverted from the war on terrorism to build parade grandstands is repaid.