Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Purple Tunnel Of Doom

I just landed at LAX last night and am going right back to work, so I still haven't had time to write up a report of the week's extraordinary events. But Dave Dayen over at D-Day has a good story on an aspect of the Inauguration I had wanted to get to right away.

The Purple Tunnel Of Doom.

Feinstein Must Answer For The Logistical Nightmare In DC

Go read some of the comments from the Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, which now has nearly 2,000 members. These were all people who had tickets to the inauguration denied entry to the event because of bad planning by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. The event ended up peaceful and largely injury-free, but it really could have been a disaster, as the scale of the crowds just overwhelmed the planning. That's maybe to be expected in one sense, but one of the cardinal rules of politics is that you take care of the folks who take care of you. Those who were denied access were the activists, staffers and volunteers who helped make President Obama's election successful. As Chris Bowers observes, making their lives miserable is just bad politics.

At the inauguration, thousands of activists and staffers with tickets were unable to get inside the event, and they are not very happy about it. Check out the comments on the Purple Tunnel Of Doom Facebook group for a few couple hundred examples. The problem continued last night, when several thousand more staffers and activists, all with tickets, were unable to attend inaugural balls. This is an epic fail of glue politics, and it could have not inconsequential repercussions.

Even as one of the purple ticket holders who was unable to attend to I don't want to dwell on what happened yesterday. Further, I doubt that this is an aspect of politics that many blogosphere denizens will view as valid, as it hints of patronage politics. However, the simple fact is that if this keeps occurring, it will cause the Obama administration problems in passing legislation, and during his re-election campaign. Simply put, they have to fix their problems in this area. Right now, the excitement over the trifecta is keeping a spirit of forgiveness afloat, but that won't last forever.

When people work their ass for you and your cause, they need to be made to feel welcome. As such, problems like this can be very damaging.

The Obama team put the responsibility for this area of logistics to the JCCIC. And they have put a letter on their website apologizing for the many problems. Dianne Feinstein was the head of that committee, and ultimately answerable to this constituency. It would be very concerning if the anger over bad treatment, because of the JCCIC's inability to recognize the historic nature of the event and the huge crowds exepcted, would have an impact on future legislative and electoral gains. I think people are willing to forgive but are looking for some answers. Feinstein is the one to offer them.

UPDATE: Feinstein has a new statement out:

"I have just spoken with Mark Sullivan, Director of the Secret Service, and I have asked him to convene all law enforcement and other parties involved in planning for this Inaugural to conduct a prompt investigation into two serious incidents that have been reported. These reports have prompted great concern by members of the Inaugural Committee, including Senator Bob Bennett, and by Congress in general.

The specific incidents include the report that a decision was made to cut off access to Purple and Blue standing areas, which meant that a large number of ticketholders could not reach their designated areas.

I am also aware of the incident involving the 3rd Street Tunnel, where thousands of people were stuck for several hours and apparently without any law enforcement presence.

There may have also been other irregularities, but I have heard enough to know that something went wrong and we need to find out what happened. Mr. Sullivan has indicated that he will provide a full report.

I would encourage people who have direct information about these incidents to contact the Secret Service, in addition to contacting the Joint Congressional Committee for Inaugural Ceremonies at>"

That's a good start.

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