Populist Trump turns US inward
WE THOUGHT the satisfaction of having scored an election upset, plus the criticism of his divisive rhetoric and his taking office with the lowest approval rating of any modern US president would have mellowed Donald Trump before his inauguration yesterday.
We thought wrong. His 17-minute inaugural address – which he dubbed an “oath of allegiance to all Americans” – was a reiteration of his populist and combative campaign promises that buoyed the spirits of Americans pining for a better deal but alarmed many others.
The 70-year-old New York-based businessman who had not previously held a public office stuck to his campaign pledge to drain the swamp swarming with political and business operators living off the fat of the land.
Trump told an estimated crowd of 800,000 in the West Front of the Capitol: “Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the American people.
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.”
The scattered applause was muffled in the wintry cold. Some protesters were more expressive — demanding Trump’s removal from office, smashing shop and car windows, torching things in the streets and tangling with pepper-spraying policemen.
Trump continued: “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
■ Trump to tame Washington bosses?
WHEN he aired those grievances on the steps of the Capitol, Trump the political gate-crasher was unmindful of the former presidents, senators, congressmen and an assortment of politicos and power-brokers around him.
(Later in the day, Trump with some family members in tow attended the usual celebratory events with the same creatures of the swamp having fun with his followers. Will he be able to tame them, or they him?)
He pursued the populist narrative in his mind, promising that all that inequity will change “starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment.” He said:
“It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
“Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
“But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”
■ US to fight radical Islamic terrorism
ONE FOREIGN policy statement that the most powerful man in the world sent reverberating all over was a virtual declaration of war: “We will… unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth!”
He did not mention some other bilateral actions he had promised to initiate on his first day in office, such as the building of a 3,200-kilometer wall along the border with Mexico, and the designating of China as a currency manipulator.
A “Day-One” priority domestic item he also failed to mention was ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act that he promised to ask the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal. Apparently, neither he nor his party mates were ready with details.
Explaining the need to refocus on the home front, Trump said: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
“We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country have disappeared… One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and redistributed across the world.
“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families… Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
“We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
“We will get our people off welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”