“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. 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.”
Apparently President Donald Trump (how does that sound?) read a few other presidential inauguration speeches while he was preparing his own. He considered President John Kennedy’s famous 1961 presentation to be the most significant and you can hear echoes of JFK in Trump’s verse. Look at the above quotation and compare that with:
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
Trump’s words lack the poetic beauty and subtle elegance of Kennedy’s prose but when you’re trying to remove the barricade that separates the American people from their government, poetry and subtly just doesn’t provide the impact. Trump tore through the barricade today with language that was so tough and visceral that it seemed to belong more to boxing commentary than a presidential moment. Trump bluntly stated: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”
No ambivalence or ambiguity in that message. Nothing desultory in this president’s direction.
No BS in sight.
Americans got what they paid for in Trump and he demonstrated that again today. If we expected him to speak like a politician then we could have voted for his opponent who veritably oozes with the political vernacular.
And whereas Kennedy devoted about 90 percent of his inaugural address to foreign policy, Trump reserved a paltry three lines.
Kennedy’s rhetoric soared with lines like this that lent eloquence, credence and vision to the Cold War. “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Trump knows that the Cold War is over and he knows who the enemy is today.
“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”
If Kennedy was prepared to “bear any burden” to defend liberty, Trump’s rejoinder today was simply: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”
You could not find a greater contrast in foreign policy statements.
But, again, Trump comprehends that this is 2017 and Americans are expecting some results at home, not overseas
In that, Trump’s inaugural speech shared more characteristics with that of Franklyn Roosevelt in 1933. Roosevelt focused squarely on domestic policy with his words. And it would have been politically inane to begin lecturing the world about the dangers of fascism or communism when 25 per cent of the workforce was unemployed and ordinary Americans were caught in the economic vise of Great Depression.
Fiscal dislocation today may not quite compare with the misery of the early 1930s but it has re-orientated the public’s taste to a more insular politics.
Trump’s inauguration speech was one of the shortest in American history. Trump did reach for the “hope and change” mantra that Barack Obama so utterly failed to deliver: “I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. 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,” the new president said.
Also absent from the speech?
Trump somehow neglected to proclaim his enthusiasm for wining for war on climate change and preserved us all from that wave of nausea that usually accompanies such a pledge.
He forgot all about the gender neutral washrooms that were so inexplicably important to Trump’s predecessor.
Trump utterly failed to pander to political correctness or to apologize for the straight talk that made him different from everyone else who ran for president in 2016.
But I think we can forgive him for that.
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