Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Inauguration Express

The picture to the left is of the "American Freedom Train" taken back in late 1976. That was perhaps the last historic train to ride American rails until January 17th, when president-elect Obama plans to ride into Washington on his own train, duplicating part of Lincoln's historic ride back in 1861. It's a pretty neat idea, even if stolen from Honest Abe.

No doubt he's doing it to signal a few priorities such as open access and revitalization. The railroad industry must be prouder than peacocks in hopes that it signifies their own revitalization, but at the same time they've gotta be as nervous as a cat hoping everything comes off perfect after spending millions trying to polish their image of late.

The media is all over this, spreading an AP story about how much has changed along the route since Lincoln plied the rails in 1861. They focused on Baltimore, mentioning that under the current indicted mayor's leadership there are now thousands of abandoned buildings (OK, they didn't mention the mayor).

But the article also reminds us that Lincoln's Pinkerton security team, consisting mainly of Allen Pinkerton, had to sneak him through Baltimore in the dark of night to minimize the risk of assassination. Yeah, the good ole days--when the country was on the brink of civil war. Ironically, the 19th century press tarred Mr. Lincoln for that act of cowardice, not knowing that one day the descendants of slaves would move to the White House with Mr. Obama as family members, not wait staff, thanks to the first Republican president's courage.

But with all this attention it's not surprising to read stories about how hard it will be to provide security for the trip. Here's one from CNN:
And, two environmental groups have warned, terrorists could take a page from al Qaeda's playbook, using existing infrastructure, in this case chemical plants along the route, as an attack method.
Wow, on first glance it might seem as if Greenpeace has suddenly discovered the threat of domestic Islamic terrorism now that a Democrat is entering the White House but on second glance, not so much. They phrased their concern by saying "terrorists could take a page from the al-Qaeda playbook", a subtle hint they believe such terrorists might not be Islamic (or else they wouldn't be 'stealing' from their own playbook), leaving an insinuation of white rightwing nutjob types. Here's hoping that never happens--one civil war was enough. Here's also hoping that AQ doesn't take a page from their own playbook and do something using 'lilly whites' to make it look like right wing nutjobs.

Greenpeace wants them to "reconsider" the rail route, not suggesting alternatives. Corporate jets, perhaps? How about bicycles? Or better yet, Segues! Picture Obama and Biden riding into town on Segues. Weird Al might have to update his material. Or maybe Obama and Biden should just hop a freight for the ultimate act of symbolism. Joe could play This Land is Your Land on harmonica as they pass the abondoned houses, pausing every now and then to blame Cheney.

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