4:30 p.m. ET: So how many people are actually descending on our fair city for Inauguration Day? The latest estimate from event organizers is between 1 and 2 million people, an enormous number but certainly a lot less than some of the original wild guesses suggesting the total might be double that.
Have some potential visitors been scared off by some of the predictions of traffic jams, closures, vise-like security, locusts and assorted other calamities? The Rundown is scared by all that, and he lives here. Nevertheless, huge crowds are still expected and so various guides for visitors are proliferating. There are party guides, restaurant guides, museum guides, even protest guides (looks like there won't be many). Half the political press corps appears to have turned into temporary travel writers.
And here's a guide to all the people who will be joining Barack Obama on that fancy train ride from Philadelphia to Washington. Are they sure they really want to come? We hear it's going to be really crowded.
8 a.m. ET: Barack Obama has been in Washington as president-elect for only a few days, but the ways of the city appear to have already seeped into his bloodstream as he embraces an old capital standby: When you're faced with a seemingly intractable problem, convene a summit, appoint a commission or create a "team" with a fancy-sounding name.
Obama pledged to do just that Thursday in a pair of big-media interviews. Here at the Post (where employees gawked but did not cheer), Obama vowed to hold a "fiscal accountability summit," which would include discussion of entitlement reform and ballooning budget deficits. In a sit-down with USA Today, Obama emphasized his plan to appoint a special team to conduct a diplomatic offensive in the Middle East.
The fiscal summit, in particular, doesn't sound all that different from the classic presidential move -- appointing a blue-ribbon commission. Obama's next step will be to learn how to shine the special signal from the roof of the White House, and then John Danforth and Lee Hamilton will appear. (Obama did have dinner with Hamilton last week.) But more seriously, it makes perfect sense for Obama to set the loftiest and most difficult goals now, when nearly anything seems possible and reality has yet to intrude. So why not speak of fixing Medicare and bringing peace to the Middle East in the same day? Perhaps Obama is saving his drive to cure cancer as an exclusive for whenever he sits down with the New York Times.
Actually, Obama probably doesn't need to define any more difficult tasks right now, given what he already has on his plate. The Senate voted yesterday to let the incoming president have the second half of the $700 billion financial bailout, though figuring out how to spend it presents policy and political dilemmas that are difficult to solve. How much for housing? How much for big banks and how much for individual consumers? And how will the public react, given that the Bush administration's treatment of the first half of the bailout hasn't been very popular?
Obama's stimulus proposal seems to be a bit more popular right now, but the jury is out until Congress finishes playing with the measure. House Democrats yesterday unveiled a measure that featured more spending and less tax cuts than Obama originally proposed; listen closely, and you can hear the chances that the measure will attract significant Republican support slipping away.
The guy who's actually president for a few more days gave his farewell address last night, during which he admitted he could have done a few things "differently" but generally praised himself for his willingness to make tough decisions. What will Obama say when he makes a similar address four or eight years from now? Will he speak of his success in fixing entitlement programs and fostering Middle East peace? Perhaps Obama could start work on the speech now. Or at least appoint a commission.
January 16, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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