President Donald Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence.
Former President Barack Obama.
Former Vice President Joe Biden.
Get used to it. That’s a wrap on our live blog — former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are departing Washington as I write this. Now we get down to the business of covering the Trump administration, which we plan to do aggressively and rigorously. So check back in with us.
In the meantime, I asked our live blog staff to play our traditional headline game — guessing what the headline of tomorrow’s Washington Post (the paper) will be. Here are a few of the team’s guesses:
Carl: Trump Pledges To Bring America From Carnage To Greatness
Clare: Trump Inaugurated With Promise of Renewed American Power
Harry: Trump Promises To Give Government Back To The People
Nate: If they follow their precedent from eight years ago, the headline will be PRESIDENT TRUMP.
Meredith: Trump Has Already Tweeted
And mine: Trump Takes Presidency Promising A New Vision
Also, here’s an updated version of the chart we ran earlier showing how the tone of Trump’s speech compares to past inaugurals:
The Mall is clearing out, but I got a chance to talk to Doriann Hoffman about what she made of the speech. She’s from McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, a small town with one large manufacturer.
“[The address] was all about the American people, and taking our country back, and making it wealthy,” she said.
She said he “definitely” struck a chord of unity, but she worries about what the future might hold for President Trump anyway. “He’s gonna have a lot of opposition and that’s going to be hard to overcome,” said Hoffman.
FWIW: Trump’s inaugural remarks, as prepared for delivery, clock in at north of an 8th grade reading level, significantly higher than his campaign speeches.
Trump’s echo today of his campaign promise to put “America first” has ugly historical roots. It was the slogan of an anti-Semitic, Hitler-appeasing movement during World War II — a refutation of Trump’s claim in his speech that when patriotism fills Americans’ hearts, there is no room for prejudice.
There’s pomp and circumstance now, but the real work begins soon. Trump will nominate a Supreme Court justice in the next few weeks and will try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the next few months. If you think the dialog in Washington is nasty now, it’s probably about to get much worse.
Worth remembering that past inaugural addresses haven’t been all sweetness and light. Recall Roosevelt’s denunciation of “unscrupulous money changers” – American citizens! – in 1933:
Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Trump’s inaugural address, like his campaign, was unapologetically populist in tone. He talked about “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people” and promised everyday Americans that they “will never be ignored again.” He promised to stop jobs from disappearing overseas and pledged to “buy American and hire American.”
Trump’s policies, however, haven’t always matched his populist rhetoric. His tax plan would cut taxes on the rich and raise it on some working families. Financial markets have rallied on hopes that he will cut corporate taxes and regulations. His policies on trade and immigration are likely to be more of a departure from typical Republican orthodoxy, but he has thus far provided few details.
The closing of Trump’s speech — “We will make America strong again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again, and we will make America great again” — is an example of the rhetorical technique of anaphora, where you repeat the same phrase at the beginning of several sentences. It’s an effective rhetorical technique, and not one Trump has much used before.
“We will make America safe again,” Trump promised. He contended throughout his campaign that violent crime was spiking in the country. The number of murders did indeed increase at alarming rates in 2015 and 2016, but the murder rate remains below the level when Obama took office, and well below the levels in the 1970s and 1980s.
Trump took a slightly more bipartisan, inclusive turn in the final quarter of the speech. But I’m still struck by the idea that Trump is almost all politics, almost all the time. His relentlessness is one of his underappreciated strengths, I think.
Rereading George W. Bush’s first inaugural address, it’s remarkable how apolitical it was. The same speech could easily have been delivered by Al Gore, had he won the Electoral College instead. That’s not true for Trump’s speech today, obviously, which isn’t all that different from the tone he struck at points during the campaign.
Trump has spent quite a bit of this speech talking about infrastructure. That’s not too surprising — it’s an issue he emphasized in the campaign, and it’s one of the few issues on which there is bipartisan consensus. But Trump has been fuzzy on the details of his infrastructure plan, which appears likely to rely heavily on the private sector, not the direct government spending that many economists have argued would have the biggest impact.
Trump just quoted a modern version of Psalm 133.
Both of Obama’s inauguration speeches mentioned keeping the peace and supporting nations abroad. In 2009, he said the U.S. would stand alongside the “people of poor nations,” and in 2013, he pledged to support “democracy from Asia to Africa … to the Middle East.” But Trump is really hitting his “Make America Great Again” slogan today.
I’ve got to say, I’m slightly surprised by the tone of this piece, which seems but a riff on his campaign stump routine. Speechwriters and presidents of the past have, despite contentious elections, often tried to reach more for the poetry that exists within the conceit of democratic rule. This speech is quite grounded to earth.
So far Trump doesn’t seem to be trying to reach out to the 54 percent of voters who did not cast a ballot for him. Then again, this isn’t a particularly Republican speech either, with some talk of infrastructure, for instance. This is a Trump speech.
This speech is definitely negative, as Trump paints a bleak picture of America. It seems consistent with earlier sentiment analysis for an incoming president taking over from the other party to be less willing to be positive than when taking over from same party.
Trump, as he often did during the campaign, describes U.S. inner cities as pits of poverty and despair. As Simone Sebastian wrote in The Washington Post last fall, that’s an outdated picture. Most U.S. cities have thrived over the past decade, while a plurality of poor people now live in the suburbs.
CORRECTION (Jan. 20, 1:57 p.m.): An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the geography of U.S. poverty. A plurality of poor Americans live in the suburbs, not a majority.
On schedule, Trump has taken over the @POTUS handle, building a following from scratch. He hasn’t tweeted yet. Wonder how long that will last.
Just as both qualitative and quantitative analysis show us which tweets Trump writes personally, I’m convinced someone can come up with a quantitative analysis for which lines of his speeches he writes personally. Because he’s using rhetorical techniques we haven’t much heard before and sounding a bit more, dare we say it, presidential.
“The jobs left and the factories close,” Trump says near the start of his speech. It’s true that manufacturing employment has fallen under Obama, although it has rebounded some in recent years. But as I’ve written before, the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment is a long-term trend that’s the result of global forces, and it isn’t likely to rebound. Politicians would be better off talking about how to improve the quality of service-sector jobs, rather than pining for the good ol’ days of U.S. manufacturing.
Trump’s remarks are not off to a unifying start. We’ve got this, pitting “the people” against “the elites”:
“The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of this country … their victories have not been your victories.”