A president going through his second inauguration knows that he will never run for office again — that the next four years will cement his legacy. And, Cabot says, for whatever reason, second inaugurations often take place under a cloud. That was true of Reagan in 1985.
"There was the Contras in Latin America," Cabot says. "They'd had the terrible Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. It was not a happy time. And it was a sober time."
President Obama is beginning his second term at a sober time, too.
The Middle East is boiling with violence and protests. The U.S. unemployment rate has been stubbornly high for years. And a divided government is wrestling with a "fiscal cliff" that economists say could drive the country into another recession if it's not resolved.
Still, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies, says the proceedings on Inauguration Day may not look too different from last time.
"We do pretty much the same thing. We make sure there's a platform, we're in charge of the ceremony. So there's very little difference except it's going to cost a little less; we've managed to find some savings," he says.