The President very quietly rode down to the Capitol in his own carriage, by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, either because he wished to be on hand to sign bills, or to get rid of marching in line with the absurd procession--the muslin temple of liberty and pasteboard monitor.

I saw him on his return, at three o'clock, after the performance was over. He was in his plain two-horse barouche, and looked very much worn and tired; the lines, indeed, of vast responsibilities, intricate questions, and demands of life and death cut deeper than ever upon his dark brown face; yet all the old goodness, tenderness, sadness, and canny shrewdness underneath the furrows. (I never see that man without feeling that he is one to become personally attached to for his combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, and native Western form of manliness.)

By his side sat his little boy of ten years. There were no soldiers, only a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarves over their shoulders, riding around the carriage. (At the inauguration four years ago he rode down and back again surrounded by a dense mass of armed cavalrymen eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were sharpshooters stationed at every corner on the route.)

I ought to make mention of the closing levee of Saturday night last. Never before was a such a compact jam in front of the White House--all the grounds filled, and away out to the spacious sidewalks. I was there, as I took in a notion to go; was in the rush inside with the crowd; surged along the passageways, the blue and other rooms, and through the great east room. Crowds of country people, some very funny. Fine music from the Marine Band, off in a side place.

I saw Mr. Lincoln, dressed all in black, with white kid gloves and a clawhammer coat, receiving, as in duty bound, shaking hands, looking very disconsolate and as if he would give anything to be somewhere else. And Lincoln was a Republican, wasn't he?

Reasons to be Cheerful: Two Stories

Their sons and daughters died in Iraq. But that didn't stop a group of Americans from wanting to help the Iraqi people:

Families of US troops killed in the offensive on the Iraqi city of Fallujah are to travel to Jordan with $600,000 worth of humanitarian aid for refugees of the attack.

The November assault on Fallujah left 71 US military dead, according to the families, and the Iraqi government said more than 2,000 Iraqis were killed.

"This delegation is a way for me to express my sympathy and support for the Iraqi people," said Rosa Suarez of Escondido in California. "The Iraq war took away my son's life, and it has taken away the lives of so many innocent Iraqis. It is time to stop the killing and to help the children of Iraq."Randy Johnson, the fearsome left-handed pitcher, is about to become a Yankee. Like most stars, he has a charity--in his case, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Unlike many stars, he's active in it. Fact to note: none of his kids have this disease. From The New York Times:

"At first, I was terrified of him," said Jan Lee Sproat, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the foundation. "But he is such a delight and the children just love him. He sits down and talks to them. If we're doing an event, I say, 'Let's get 130 balls and you can sign them so people won't come up to you the whole time.' He says, 'No, that's what they expect, for me to sign balls and take pictures, and that's O.K.' "

Sproat remembers how Lauren Creswell, a girl who has cystic fibrosis and has rooted for Johnson most of her life, was at home last Christmas in Tucson. As she opened her presents, the phone rang. Johnson was on the other line, calling to wish her a happy holiday.As this week's events have proved, there are a lot of people out there who know what's right and get it done. Thank you for being part of that crew--it makes a very big difference to the mood of this blogger. And a safe, healthy New Year to all.

Thought for Today

This is the joy that I have, the world didn't give it to me.
--Mavis Staples, liner notes for Have a Little Faith

George Bush and the Wave

You may not believe this, but I'd really hoped to write something positive about the President's response to the tsunami. But you know how it is, girls--once a guy sets out to disappoint you, he rarely fails to succeed.

Of course the President spent Tuesday--the first global day of mourning--clearing brush in Crawford, Texas. Yes, he watched some news: Fox, I guess. But he kept silent, we're told, less he sound too much like Bill Clinton.