WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Donald Trump delivered his fiery inaugural speech, his gaze from the platform on the Capitol steps undoubtedly took in the Washington Monument and the thousands of cheering people who packed the National Mall for his swearing-in ceremony.
If he looked just a little to his right, Trump would have spotted another potent symbol for his administration — the CNN logo atop the skybox where the network’s anchors covered the transfer of power from a makeshift studio on the roof of an office building. Other networks had skyboxes too, but only CNN — the network that Trump has gone to war with in recent weeks — stood out against the gray sky with the help of red and blue lights and an electrified logo.
Trump’s antagonistic relationship with institutional Washington — the mainstream news media among them — was laid bare in the opening moments of his speech. There was shock on the faces of some D.C. veterans in the invitation-only crowd below the platform where Trump spoke when he took direct aim at the Washington insiders who surrounded him.
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth,” Trump said. “Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.”The angry divisions in the country were evident during the swearing-in ceremony. Shouts of protest and “not my president” could be heard from the crowd at the start of Trump’s address. Earlier, when Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer spoke, the disdainful roar of a Bronx cheer was heard across the mall, along with sporadic chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “U-S-A” — both familiar refrains from the campaign-trail rallies where Trump galvanized his base.
Even the climate in D.C. seemed to be wrestling with how to greet he onset of the Trump era. There was a sprinkling of rain in the hours leading up to the ceremony, which began promptly at 9:30 a.m. ET with the Washington National Cathedral Choir singing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
Just after Trump took the oath administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., the sun briefly peeked out from behind the clouds that kept the sky overcast throughout the ceremony. But just as Trump launched into his speech, the rain returned — not a downpour, but enough to make people reach for their ponchos (no umbrellas were allowed for security reasons). During the closing benediction, Rev. Franklin Graham made a point of telling the newly-minted president that “rain is a sign of God’s blessing.”
In Washington’s version of a red carpet, during the preamble to the arrival of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, dignitaries were announced as they took their seats in the elite bleacher section that flanked the podium on the platform.
There was polite applause for the Supreme Court justices and members of the Senate. The response to the former Presidents in attendance went in predictable order. George W. Bush and Laura Bush got the biggest whoops and applause, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter got the most tepid greeting. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton garnered a respectable roar, perhaps out of respect for Hillary Clinton’s stoicism in showing up following the bruising loss on Nov. 8 and her wide margin of victory in the popular vote.
Surprisingly, the introduction of the second-generation Trumps — Ivanka, Eric, Donald Jr., Tiffany, and young Barron — didn’t yield as much applause as the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.
At 11:25 a.m., President Barack Obama heard the strains of “Hail to the Chief” for the last time as America’s commander in chief. Despite everything, the applause for him was long and loud. The transformational milestone of the moment seemed to register on his face as he smiled wide and waved.
Trump’s speech echoed the doomsday themes of his campaign to a degree that surprised many. But his call for Americans to harness the power of patriotism as the balm for strident conflicts in politics and culture played well with the crowd, based on the applause-meter measure. It was impossible not to notice that the crowd of Trump supporters — as distinguished from law enforcement and journalists on hand — was overwhelmingly white.
The lines from Trump’s speech that got the biggest responses:
- “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”
- “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
- “We are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
- “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”
- “We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
- “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.”
- “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”
- “Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again.”
Right on cue, the crowd shouted along in unison when Trump closed with his ultimate applause line: “ … together we will make America great again.”Afterward, as a mass of people slowly made their way out of the Capitol grounds, the Marine Band kept playing Sousa marches and the rave reviews rolled in.
“He got right to the point, didn’t he,” one excited Trump supporter said to another.
“That was just like business — he’s going to run this country like a business,” said another. And there was delight in the fact that the President sent a tweet moments after he left the platform.
“Didn’t take him long, did it?” a man said as he showed his smartphone screen to his wife. The man, who declined to give his name, said he’d traveled from North Carolina for the inaugural events, and he was not disappointed.