As these photos taken by Lawrence Collins (In the Pink’s special correspondent covering the formerly-in-the-White-House beat) indicate, Midland, Texas on Inauguration Day was kind of a parallel universe to the rest of the country. The Age of Obama was being heralded live on national TV, but in their Centennial Plaza, 20- to 25,000 Midlanders, waving red, white, and blue W’s, spent a gorgeous West Texas January afternoon listening to their own parade of local and statewide Republican luminaries. Music was provided by Larry Gatlin and Lee Greenwood.
Former House Speaker Tom Craddick served as master of ceremonies. And for anyone thinking that he’s planning an early retirement, Governor Rick Perry, energized by being surrounded by the committed, gave a Red State/Red Meat speech that didn’t sound like someone who wasn’t planning on being around in the rebuilt governor’s mansion for his thirteenth and fourteenth years as Texas’s chief exec.
Around 5 p.m., the plane formerly known as Air Force One buzzed low over the crowd, literally flying through the mini skyscrapers of downtown Midland. Half an hour later, one by one, many of the inner circle of the Bush presidency began to appear by the stage. Margaret Spellings, Alberto Gonzales, Mark McKinnon, Joe Albaugh, Dan Bartlett—even Karl Rove, doing double duty as the live-on-air FOX News reporter. Then Laura and George Bush walked onto the stage, lit by floodlights in the twilight and chill. Bush looked genuinely ecstatic, and was gracious about the historic inauguration of someone he called “a good man.” He told the crowd it was “a great day for the Bush family. We are back in the state of Texas, and we are here to stay.”
The crowd cheered throughout his remarks, and the former president got off the stage to shake hands along the rope line. And then he was gone, off to one last stop on the government plane in Waco, on his way to the ranch in Crawford. The Bush insiders milled by the side of the stage for a while, then they were gone too. An hour later, the few people left took event signs as mementos, a few kids walked on stage to see the view from the podium, workers began to take down the huge Texas and United States flags that had book ended the plaza, and the ground was littered with discarded W’s.
As we were leaving, a woman came up to our crew to be filmed, and when we asked her how President Bush had personified Texas in his time in office, she replied, “He talks like a Texan. He acts like a Texan. He ran the country like a Texan.”