WASHINGTON – It was a father-daughter day Robert and Laura Lynch are likely remember for some time: Sharing a piece of history near the steps of the Capitol.
The Lynches endured the chill and rain Saturday to watch the swearing in of the nation’s 43rd president. And just like the nation, the father and daughter from Bel Air were divided over which candidate should have been standing with his right hand in the air next to Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
The elder Lynch said he didn’t like Al Gore and had grown tired of the Clinton White House. His vote for George W. Bush was his first-ever for a Republican presidential candidate, he said.
News flash: Laura, 14, thinks her dad is out of touch.
“I like Gore. He has lots of experience,” said Laura, her cheeks red from the wintry weather. “He actually knows how to run the country.”
Between the Sousa tunes, inaugural spectators like the Lynches could hear the chants and the drumbeats from protestors Saturday.
“I think it’s real awesome, all the demonstrators,” said Laura, a freshman at McDonogh School in Owings Mills.
Most of the other spectators on the west front of the Capitol reserved their giddiness for the new president. It was a partisan crowd that roundly booed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the outgoing first lady, and whooped for joy at the precise moment their man became President Bush.
One standing in the windy rain, welcoming the changing of the guard, was a former Democrat and former Maryland delegate, Patrick Welsh. Eight years of Bill Clinton turned him into a Republican, he said.
“I was a lifelong Democrat and member of the Democratic Party, but the party left me,” said Welsh, who lives in Baltimore. “All Clinton and the Democrats wanted to do was run the country. Government can’t solve everyone’s problems.”
Moments before Bush took the oath, Welsh looked to his friend with a smile and said, “It’s time.”
Welsh was among the thousands who sloshed through the mud in the north standing area facing the Capitol, behind a sea of seats and umbrellas. They jockeyed for the best viewing point, on either side of scaffolding that blocked a direct line of sight.
Several people resorted to taking the fresh cedar mulch that had been laid out for the ceremonies and piling it into makeshift mounds for standing. Many settled for a grassy spot under an old pecan tree, where they watched the ceremony on a stadium-style jumbo screen.
The disorganized management of the crowds was the only criticism that Gene and Nancy Crooks had about the inauguration. The Annapolis couple held gray tickets but the crowds blocked them from getting in until Bush was already taking the oath of office.
“We’re avid Bush supporters and just wanted to see history made,” said Nancy Crooks.
Although the Crooks enjoyed the inaugural ceremony, both agreed that the salute to American veterans hosted by Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday was the best event of the whole inaugural celebration. Gene Crooks was a Navy dentist for 24 years.
“We had good seats there, and they were inside,” Nancy Crooks said, as the rain started to fall a little harder and ceremony-watchers began to disperse.
The hordes of protesters didn’t bother either of the Crooks, who were amused by them. “Like fleas on an elephant,” Nancy Crooks said.
For the Lynches, the protesters were one area of agreement. The Demonstrators, who were “real awesome” to Laura, were also appreciated by her father, an attorney. This was his third time attending a presidential inauguration: At his first, in 1973, he was a student from Boston who had come to protest against the Vietnam War.
“I’m glad to see it, it’s great to see people protesting for their cause,” said Lynch, who attended his second inaugural in 1993, when he came with his son to watch Bill Clinton take the oath of office.
He decided this time to come back with his daughter, despite their political differences. The Bel Air dad and daughter knew the day was a special one for them.
“I don’t care if it’s raining or snowing, this is history,” said Lynch. “We’re just happy to be here.”
The Crooks were happy to be there, too. But not so happy that they would put up with the lousy weather any longer than they had to.
“We’re going to go home and watch the parade on TV,” Nancy Crooks said. — CNS reporters Paul Schuler and Jennifer Larson contributed to this story.