While hundreds of thousands braved the cold to watch President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremony, a crowd of national security officials, diplomats, Congressmen, and VIPs experienced inauguration in style, engulfed in the warm hospitality of the Canadian Embassy.
Your humble Cable guy was invited to the Canadian Embassy Tailgate Party, which took place on the ground floor of the diplomatic outpost located directly on the Pennsylvania Ave parade route at 5th Street. But we soon realized that the real action was at the VIP Ambassador's Lunch event on the embassy's 6th floor, so we quickly absconded there, with our photographer in tow. The balcony overlooked both the ceremony and the parade route and the embassy staff pulled out all the stops for their distinguished guests.
Administration officials in attendance at the rooftop party included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, her husband Deputy Secretary of the VA Scott Gould, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard, State Department Climate Change Envoy Todd Stern, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Frank Rose, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force Rick McKinney, and many others.
Lawmakers at the Ambassador's Lunch included Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).
Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista spent the afternoon at the event, which was hosted by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. Baird said that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was "very thrilled" to see Obama reelected because the two leaders had established a close and personal relationship over the last four years.
Baird also said he was looking forward to working with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, because the two have some background in common.
"I am the grandson of an immigrant who came from Massachusetts, so I look forward to working with the senior senator from Massachusetts as early as next week," he said.
The drink of the day was the bloody Caesar, Canada's version of the bloody Mary, which replaces tomato juice with Clamato, a proprietary brand of tomato juice mixed with clam broth. Our photographer preferred the Royal 44, a mix of Crown Royal whiskey, cider, and Canada Dry ginger ale.
Food highlights included authentic Poutine, a notoriously unhealthy but delicious dish from Quebec consisting of French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curd, as well as authentic Beaver Tails, fried dough treats stretched into the shape of a beaver's tail and topped with chocolate, cinnamon, or maple syrup.
The crowd noshed and chatted throughout the day in leisure, watching the event on any number of big screen televisions or at one of the several viewing stations. As the presidential motorcade passed, a team of Royal Canadian Mounted Police assembled atop their horses at the front of the embassy to salute the president and the First Lady.
The conversations at the Ambassador's Lunch were confidential and off the record.