U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander took his spot on the dais in Washington, D.C., Monday, celebrating the peaceful reaffirmation of "immense power" and urging Americans of all persuasions to "find the good and praise it."
Speaking in short, powerful sentences, Alexander struck an apolitical tone during his two minutes on the national stage, addressing an estimated crowd of 600,000 before President Barack Obama took his ceremonial oath of office.
"We do this in a peaceful, orderly way," the Maryville, Tenn., Republican said. "There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection."
But the senator's speech failed to mollify some conservatives back home. Members of the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club, a Republican organization, met Monday and largely dismissed the spectacle, defining Obama's second swearing-in as a moment they can't wait to forget.
"I'm a Republican, so I still wish we had a Republican in office," Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Marty Von Schaaf said in an interview. "If Obama's going to do anything, he's going to have to quit spending money. He's got to show me something."
Dissatisfaction emerged in other ways. One attendee applauded when the meeting's featured speaker, state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, half-jokingly speculated that Texas could secede given its recent economic growth.
Others lauded the pomp and circumstance. Newly elected state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, an East Brainerd Republican who campaigned as a fiscal conservative, said, "It does not bother me about the amount of money they spent on the inauguration.
"Obama's our president," he said, "and the world needs to see that we have a respect for the office."
The Pachyderm Club, which usually meets on Mondays, took days off to observe Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The club did not do the same thing for Inauguration Day and M.L. King Day, both Monday.
"It's a time of year that a lot's going on," club President Joe Manuel said. "Folks are back in the swing of things. That's why we're meeting."
Pachyderm officials never mentioned Alexander's role alongside Obama.
Given a speaking slot because he serves on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, the former Tennessee governor and two-time presidential candidate recalled the words of a Mount Vernon tour guide who told him what George Washington considered the "most important of this grand experiment, the United States."
"Not the election of the first president, but the election of its second president," said Alexander, quoting Washington. "The peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world."
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...