It’s almost difficult to believe that after the long, bitter battles of the Democratic primaries, after the most drawn-out, expensive, over-hyped Presidential campaign, and after the excitement, emotion and subsequent elation of election day, Barack Obama still isn’t actually the American President.

But while the Bushes are still wrapping their good china in newspaper and steam-cleaning the White House carpet in preparation for the big move, Obama seems to have already stepped into his role as the nation’s leader, with the upcoming inauguration feeling almost like a mere formality.

Of course, for the millions expected to descend on the nation’s capitol in two weeks, Obama’s swearing-in is anything but a simple convention, and DC is preparing for the biggest show it’s ever seen.

The festivities are set to kick off two days before the actual inauguration and will continue well after the Obamas have changed the White House locks and started spraying Glade around the to get rid of the ‘old man’ smell.

In a nod to Abraham Lincoln, Obama will set off to Washington by train from Philadelphia on 17 January. On the 18th, an opening gala will take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, followed by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the 19th, and the actual inauguration taking place on the 20th. A star-studded line-up has been arranged for the event, with music from the likes of Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma, although the inclusion of Evangelical pastor Rick Warren has not been a popular choice with many of Obama’s supporters. At some point during the event, Obama will be officially sworn in as President, using his full name ‘Barack Hussein Obama’. The new President will then escort George W. Bush to his departure ceremony, before a two-hour, 150-person parade is held down Pennsylvania Avenue. Ten inaugural balls take place in the evening. Ticket prices range from $75 to $150, though these guys are footing a large chunk of the bill, too.

But it hasn’t all been party planning for Obama. He set about putting together his new team almost immediately after the election, a task which was almost complete until his nomination for Commerce Secretary, Bill Richardson, withdrew recently under pressure from a grand jury investigation into possible corruption. Notable members of his team include former rival Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Nobel laureate Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, former NBL player Arne Duncan as Education Secretary, and tough-nut Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff.

The new administration have already put together a pretty comprehensive agenda, with top priorities going to plans for economic stimulus, health care reform and energy.

However, perhaps the biggest issue currently facing the President-elect and his team is the situation in Gaza, about which he has so far said very little.

With only 13 days until he finally becomes the President, perhaps silence on this major world event is Obama’s last indulgence in life as a private citizen.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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