WASHINGTON -- There may have been hearings and subpoenas and nasty partisan brawls in the past. There may be much more to come. But yesterday, for one day -- one long day of poetry and pageantry -- President Clinton seemed to declare to his opponents, "Truce."
On a brisk, wind-chilled day, even the weather was in an accommodating mood, the sun breaking through clouds as if on cue, just as Clinton slipped out of his overcoat and took the oath of office from Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
"Good luck," said the chief justice, who had shed a plaid wool golf cap he was wearing with his judicial robe.
From the prayer service Clinton attended yesterday morning to the endless string of balls he worked his way through almost to this morning's dawn, the newly re-elected president seemed to savor each moment and stress bipartisan friendliness, unity and peacemaking.
When he took the oath of office, he placed his left hand on a well-worn family Bible held by his wife -- the same Bible he used four years ago, this time, open to Isaiah, Chapter 58, Verse 12, which contains the phrase: "And thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach."
On his way to the swearing-in from the White House, Clinton rode in a limousine -- with the license plate "USA 1" -- with congressional leaders. The president leaned over to his sometime nemesis, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and said: "There's a moment to breach the differences." Gingrich concurred.
Such was the mood in Washington -- if only for the day. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Marianne Gingrich, wife of the Republican House speaker, walked down to the swearing-in ceremony together, chatting and giggling like best of friends.
At a lunch in Statuary Hall at the Capitol, Gingrich presented Clinton and Vice President Al Gore with gifts from the House -- U.S. flags that had been flown over the Capitol yesterday morning.
"While we may disagree about some things," said the speaker, whose battles with the president have been fierce, "here you are among friends."
Clinton, along with his wife and their 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, began the day at a lively, music-filled two-hour inaugural prayer service at the Metropolitan AME Church, a historic black church several blocks from the White House.
His eyes tilted skyward, Clinton joined the choir in singing the well-known hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" and listened to a 25-minute address by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who paid tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was honored yesterday.
Clinton shared coffee with congressional leaders at the White House afterward, and then sat down at a computer to make a few last-minute changes on his speech before heading off to Capitol Hill.
There, in front of a crowd bundled up in scarves, earmuffs and a surprising number of politically incorrect fur coats, he took the oath of office at 12: 05 -- six minutes later than the officially designated time. (His first term officially ended at noon).
As cannons fired off a 21-gun salute and applause poured out from the crowd that stretched down the west lawn of the Capitol and out to the Mall for several blocks, Clinton swept his wife and daughter in his arms and kissed each one on the cheek -- and then kissed them both again.
In his speech, he paid tribute to King and also made a plea for political reconciliation.
"The American people returned to office a president of one party and a Congress of another," he said. "Surely they did not do this to advance the politics of petty bickering and extreme partisanship they plainly deplore. No, they call on us instead to repair the breach, and to move on with America's eternal mission."
It was one of the few applause lines in his 22-minute address.
As the first act of his second term, Clinton signed a proclamation that declared yesterday a national day of "hope and renewal." And then he joined congressional leaders of both parties for a cheery, remarkably chummy lunch inside the Capitol.
Sen. John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who headed the bipartisan inaugural committee, offered a toast for Clinton's success, presented Clinton with a framed photo of the swearing-in taken only an hour before and gave crystal bowls to Clinton and Gore as gifts from the Senate.
Warner said that when he walked into the lunch with the first family, he got a "direct order" from Chelsea. "She said, 'Let's ask everybody to kick back and enjoy themselves.' That's what we'll do."
The Virginia Republican also said that Clinton had told him before the swearing-in, "I'm more excited today than the first time."
After the lunch, the first family led the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Just as they did in 1993, the Clintons got out of their limo at one point. This time, with Mrs. Clinton wearing a peach suit and matching coat (and no hat like the one deemed a fashion faux pas four years ago) and Chelsea in a gray mini-skirted outfit, they walked the final stretch to the White House and were showered with confetti.
After watching the parade for several hours inside a heated reviewing stand surrounded by bulletproof glass, the Clintons headed out for 14 black-tie inaugural balls -- a record number. They were due back at the White House at 4 a.m. today.
Aside from cooperation, Clinton also seemed to be thinking about his legacy yesterday. In a taped interview on NBC's "Today" show, he said he was "very concerned about doing things that will matter for a long time, doing big things, or doing small things that will have big consequences over the long run."
Pub Date: 1/21/97