Sen. John Kerry, who had hoped to be taking the oath of office, mingled with senators of both parties on President Bush’s inaugural stage Thursday shortly after sounding a note of defiance.
“Democracy means working together for the good of our country; it also means keeping faith with your ideals, never retreating from core convictions even as you work to find common ground,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement released earlier Thursday.
“We have strong differences and we argue and fight with all our hearts and energy, and our system endures because we Americans expect nothing less,” he said.
Just a day earlier, Kerry was one of only two members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against confirming Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s nominee to be secretary of state.
On Tuesday, Kerry called for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Clintons there as well
The defeated Democratic nominee took his place on the platform with other senators to watch as Bush was sworn in for a second term. The four-term senator and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had no plans to join in any other inaugural festivities.
Democrats mingled with Republicans on the platform, snapping photos and shaking hands, as former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., made their way to their seats. The former president spent time before the ceremony in Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s office.
Several Democratic leaders — including Reid of Nevada, Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, escorted Bush to the Capitol. Afterward, they were heading to a congressional luncheon in the historic Statuary Hall.
Pelosi: 'Party time is over'
While civility was the public demeanor, many Democrats planned to skip all of the other revelry surrounding the ceremony. Some made it clear that once the president’s big day was over, the battle will begin anew.
Pelosi used the inaugural as a fund-raising tool. In a statement, she said, “Personally, I don’t feel much like celebrating. So I’m going to mark the occasion by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republican’s destructive agenda.”
In an e-mail to Democratic supporters, she sought donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to “tell President Bush that party time is over.”