Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address: Can You Hear Me Now? (Forbes.com) January 20, 2017Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
Did anyone seriously expect to hear a different Donald Trump as president than they experienced as a candidate? If so, they were disappointed by Trump’s inaugural address. It was direct, it repeated his campaign promises, and then, in about 16 minutes, it was finished. Referring to politicians who are “constantly complaining and never doing anything about it,” he said “the time for talking is over, now is the time for action.”
The big question going into the speech was whether Trump would follow the path of most inaugural addresses and seek to heal the nation from the divisions of the political campaign. Although he spoke words of unity, his basic approach to this question was to double down on his populist campaign. His idea of healing America is to put people back to work and to carry out policies that are aimed at putting America first. If you have different ideas, he didn’t really seek to embrace you or bring you into the fold.
In particular, he did not offer any love to the politicians with whom he must now work. Clearly, in his mind, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. He said that “Washington has flourished” and “the establishment has protected itself” while “the people have borne the cost.” The peaceful transfer of power was, Trump said, not just from one president to another, but from Washington, D.C. to the people. The outsider president seems content for now to remain outside.
The 2016 election has been called the “can you hear me now?” election. To this end, Trump continued the theme from his first tweet as president-elect about the forgotten men and women who will never be forgotten again. In his inaugural address he said “the forgotten men and women of the country will be forgotten no more, everyone is listening to you now.” Trump’s forgotten men and women are different, however, from President Franklin Roosevelt’s “forgotten man” for whom he built his New Deal policies. Trump’s forgotten men and women are not, by and large, on welfare, but they are hard-working Americans who feel the government has let them down. They are closer to President Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” than Roosevelt’s “forgotten man.” But clearly this is Trump’s constituency, one he says he will not forget.
He doubled down on his campaign themes about the problems of trade, immigration, and putting people back to work. He said “we will follow two rules: buy American and hire American.” A “new vision will govern our land,” he added, saying from this day forward it will be “America first, America first.” He repeated his promise to build highways and airports, putting Americans to work rebuilding our infrastructure. One wonders how conservatives will handle so much federal spending.
On foreign policy he promised to eradicate radical Islam, but otherwise sounded more of an isolationist tone: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.” Still, for those concerned about NATO, he said we would strengthen existing alliances and build new ones. But clearly economic concerns at home are likely to build tensions abroad, since Trump’s concern is that the people’s “wealth has been ripped from their homes and redistributed around the world.”
There was no memorable rhetoric, no “ask not what your country can do for you,” or “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” On the other hand, with rain starting to fall as Trump began his speech, he didn’t fall into the abyss of Benjamin Harrison’s inaugural address which went on so long he caught a cold and died of pneumonia the following month. No, this was a workmanlike address, doubling down on his campaign promises and rhetoric, from a president who himself is ready to make the transition from mere talk to action.
To read the column at Forbes.com: