Despite razor-wire fences and people wearing masks around the Capitol, it was the peaceful transfer of power that stood out for U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, as he attended Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Latta said that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building was fresh on the his mind as he sat in the audience.
“It was a completely different day than we had two weeks ago,” Latta said. “It was really quite a different inauguration this time. It’s limited because of covid. Also with all of the fencing being put up and with the troops here. But I did not hear of any protests going on.”
Two weeks ago there were many questioning the event, and it was a shorter program than usual.
“I had no doubt in my mind that we would be out there today. … This is the United States and we don’t let things like that deter us,” Latta said. “It was different. It was really a scaled back event.”
Latta holds the Congressional seat that his father, Delbert, held. He clearly remembers the first inauguration he attended, for Richard Nixon in 1969. He was 13 years old.
“In fact, my sister and I rode on the Ohio float during the parade. A young lady over in Deshler held up the sign that said ‘Bring us together again.’ When candidate Richard Nixon was campaigning, he was on a train going through the 5th district and one stop was in Deshler, and that was when the young lady held up the sign.”
He said it was that sign that gave Nixon the theme for his campaign. Latta said that he heard similar themes of unity in Biden’s inaugural speech.
According to Latta, the typical inaugural parade would last for hours. That was eliminated because of safety issues related both the necessity of social distancing required because of the coronavirus, as well as the potential for violence after the Capitol attack.
This is Latta’s 10th inauguration to attend, uninterrupted, and his 12th overall.
Latta also went to the 1973 inauguration, missed a few because of college and law school, and hasn’t missed another since 1985. He said Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was also a small event because there was cold weather and it was moved indoors to the Capitol Rotunda at the last minute. That parade was also canceled and the ceremony was witnessed only by members of Congress.
“It was a much smaller event. I know my dad was in Congress at the time and I was over in the office with a whole bunch of people, but I was here for it,” Latta said.
He said he’s impressed by the bi-partisan nature of every inauguration that he has attended, calling it “a hallmark of American politics, since the first one.”
While Latta is a lawyer, he still has his undergraduate love for history like when he was a student at Bowling Green State University.
“When I was sitting up there, before the swearing in, I was thinking back to when they were in Philadelphia in 1787, before there was even a country, with the Articles of Confederation. Thinking of the founders, they knew the only one who could pull off being president of the United States was George Washington,” Latta said. “We had that peaceful transfer of power from Washington to Adams. That was the first successful transfer of power.
“It became our right of passage in this country every four years. I was thinking of what our founders did and today we did exactly what our founders wanted to have happen.”
He said that later there will be policies debated, but for this event they are all Americans.
There were relatively few people for the ceremony. Members of Congress were limited to having only one guest with them and crowds were not possible, because the roads and bridges into the city were also blocked.
“It was really a very, very small event,” Latta said. “But they also had this huge force of National Guard that were out.”
With the many troops in town and away from their homes, many Congressional offices welcomed them with tokens from their districts. Latta handed out candy from the Spangler Candy Company in Bryan.
During the attack on the Capitol the members of Congress were evacuated and sequestered to places of safety. Latta compared the two events.
“We were sitting there right where the mob was. You had a complete contrast. You had order. You had folks there to be witness to that Constitutional transfer of power that is so great in this country,” Latta said. “You know what happened two weeks ago did not stop it, did not deter it and (the Constitution) says that when we will have it, it will be on the 20th day of January. Here it is the 20th day of January and we did exactly what the Constitution tells us we were supposed to do.”