(Photo Credit: NBC News screen shot)
As someone who fell in love with politics and public policy at an early age and have been observing presidential inaugurations since Richard Nixon took the oath of office, the quadrennial ceremony is something I look forward to no matter who is assuming power. Despite the shortcomings of our nation, and its falling short in the full delivery of democratic participation, a presidential inauguration is a reminder of our potential. The swearing-in of Donald Trump as the 45th president was so underwhelming a moment that I am certain historians in the future will mark it as a low point in American history. Though, just judging by the worldwide condemnation of his inaugural address, that judgment is already in the air.
While I was not expecting some oratorical masterpiece from the man who reinvents the English language with every speech, what Donald Trump delivered on January 20 was beneath the dignity of the moment and has set in motion a resistance movement to our national government heretofore unseen. President Trump’s speech was 16 minutes of huh? It was the incoherent rambling that I hoped he had left on the campaign trail after realizing the responsibility of the task before him. Instead, we saw the President give an ominous portrayal of America and blow a supposed protective bubble around it that now has the rest of the world concerned about global stability.
If there is one thing that political partisans should be able to agree upon is that the inauguration sets the stage for a modicum of national unity, even if it is only a façade. It’s why it’s important to have the outgoing president there as well as the losing candidate in the election. And while attendance by congressional members has become politicized since the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, there has always been a sense that the day had to appeal to a higher standard of national solidarity. It is why there is so much effort put into the official escorts for the dignitaries on the platform and why congressional leadership takes pains to evoke a sense of unity at the post ceremony luncheon in the Capitol. It is a day to remind each other that the sum is greater than its parts.
President Trump’s message of despair betrays not only the reality of the nation he’s been handed by his predecessor, it sets his own administration up for failure by building unrealistic expectations among his own supporters. The Trump administration’s primary antagonists might well end up being those who cast faith in his message and his own Republicans on the Hill, particularly conservatives, who will object to his ‘big government” approach to governance. In many ways, this administration might stress the majority party more than Democrats across the aisle.
What was clear from President Trump’s diatribe was that he doesn’t understand his new role. He believes running the country is the equivalent of splashing TRUMP across the top of one of his properties. His speech was focused on branding Trump the political czar and had absolutely nothing to do with the welfare and future of the United States. His bravado is only aided and enabled by his closest aides whose only interest is to enrich themselves at the expense of citizens, and upon the backs of those who expressed confidence in Mr. Trump but will likely be betrayed.
It’s hard to think that President Trump’s messaging could sink lower than his inaugural address. Well, he has found a sub-basement. His infantile reaction to Saturday’s global women’s demonstration exposed just how unprepared he is to play the leader of the world’s foremost power. And having his press secretary troll the media only inspires journalists around the world to cover this administration with scalpel like inquiry and encourages scrutiny like we have never witnessed from the press corps. If we know one thing from the Watergate crisis is that the worst enemy of an administration is the arrogance of its president and close advisers. It would be a different matter if Donald Trump had swept into office in a landslide but winning the office by a hair, losing the popular vote and having his legitimacy tested by the meddling of a foreign nation should all lead to some humility and a little less chest thumping or pu**y grabbing in the case of this president.
So, we begin the Trump era on this note. The new administration has already declared the press the enemy, is claiming a conspiracy and is operating in a paranoid bubble. It took the Nixon administration a term to reach that level of insanity. Just as quickly though, public disgust is being leveled toward this president at a rate that far exceeds that projected toward Nixon. And the 37th president eventually resigned under pressure and the near certainty he would be impeached and removed from office. Surely, from what we have already seen, someone on Capitol Hill is reading the Constitution.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.