Trump Does Not Seem Capable of Being Magnanimous
By Jill Abramson, Guardian UK
22 January 2017
The 45th president of a United States delivered his much-anticipated address moments after he took the oath of office. Here’s the verdict
Jill Abramson: The man does not seem capable of being magnanimous
His inaugural address sounded like any speech at a Trump rally. The scene was a campaign event writ large, with a massive cheering crowd of white people wearing “Make America Great Again” red caps. Like his tone as a candidate, the new president’s voice was angry and dripping with pessimism. Like his speech at the Republican convention, President Trump drew a dark picture of a country under siege from foreign trade competitors, Muslim terrorists and Washington insiders. There were no grace notes.
His base no doubt loved it. But there was no reassurance or olive branch extended to the majority of Americans who did not vote for him. While he named President Bill Clinton, there was no mention of his wife, the vanquished opponent. There were no good wishes extended to President George HW Bush or his wife, who were hospitalized, but did not endorse him. The man does not seem capable of being magnanimous.
Indeed, after calling the Obamas “magnificent,” he was then overtly rude to them, portraying a do-nothing Washington that had betrayed the people and enriched itself. Meanwhile, the unprepared billionaires who displayed their ignorance at hearings last week await confirmation to his cabinet. In a gratuitous slap that echoed his wild and crazy insult to Rep John Lewis on Twitter, he lambasted politicians, presumably all the Democrats on the reviewing stand behind him, who “complain” but fail to get things done.
And the biggest lie of all when the narcissist proclaimed, “I will never let you down.”
He already has.
Steven Thrasher: Dumbness and xenophobia were baked into Trump’s speech
From the white bodies in the crowd, to the white faces of the performers, to the intended white audience for his words, Trump’s inauguration was a blatant moment of white reconciliation.
His excoriation of “welfare” and the “inner city,” his fear mongering about borders, his praise of “American hands and American labor:” it was all meant to stoke the excitement of the majority of white voters who supported him.
Like all projects of white supremacy, the inauguration was aided by exceptional black people who gave it legitimacy – like Justice Clarence Thomas, who used more words to swear in Mike Pence than he uses most years on the Supreme Court. In chastising politicians who are “all talk and no action,” Trump worked in a dig at John Lewis, a critical Black politician who questioned his legitimacy (and commendably didn’t attend).
Trump’s nods to lack of prejudice were insincere. His call that “when you open your heart to patriotism there is no room for prejudice” was sandwiched sentences stoking Islamophobia and praising the Christian Bible. And while the cliche that “whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood” got a rousing cheer from the largely white crowd, it was followed by the lie that “we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms” regardless of race.
The dumbness and xenophobia baked into Trump’s speech weren’t surprising. Perhaps more alarming was seeing Democratic leaders from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton sitting there, silently, granting legitimacy to this idiotic ugliness.
Michael Paarlberg: It veered from religious pieties to dystopian hellscapes
Most of the world’s great strongmen give great speeches – should we be disappointed that ours does not? Trump’s inaugural address veered from religious pieties to dystopian hellscapes – “American carnage,” in his words – yet by the end, raising a clenched fist in defiance of the hated Washington elites he now commands, there could be little doubt of his authoritarian credentials. There was something reassuringly familiar in his decree that “the people will become the rulers of this nation again,” and his promise of a government “controlled by the people”.
“Every day, the people will rule more,” promised Hugo Chavez in 2011. “The people will be the ones who decide,” said Nicolás Maduro last year. Erdogan: “There is no power higher than the power of the people.” Generally, the greater the invocation of the people, the greater the president’s cronies will be fleecing the country. These are definitely not the people.
Trump has already brought more billionaires in to the Washington establishment than any other president, with a cabinet worth $14bn combined. These include CEOs and officials of the very banks that profited off of the immiseration of those ordinary Americans that Trump promises will rule again. There is much work, and much pillaging, to be done.
Jamie Weinstein: A conservative isn’t heading into the White House. A populist is
In case there was any doubt, Donald Trump’s inaugural made clear a conservative is not heading into the White House. A populist is.
“The people became the rulers of this nation again,” he promised the crowd, to the likely dismay of America’s founders who crafted the constitution in part to tame American populism.
Trump made it sound like he was not taking over a first world country with its share of problems that needed to be addressed, but a developing world basket case.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he promised, as if had just inherited the problems of Venezuela.
And then there was the rhetoric that could have been lifted from President John Kerry’s 2004 inaugural address, had the Secretary of State won a few thousand more votes in Ohio.
“We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay,” Trump pledged, seeming to indicate a desire to reduce America’s role in the world and perhaps end Pax Americana.
Trump’s inaugural address is unlikely to be long studied by students of political oratory. But what it made very clear, for good or for bad, is that the man entering the White House does not fit very well on the traditional right-left, conservative-liberal political axis we have become used to in American political life.