After contemplating a prospective Donald Trump presidential inaugural for more than a year, I have to say that the reality turned out to be decidedly anti-climactic.
And now Trump's inaugural is in danger of being overshadowed by massive protests, largely organized by women, against his presidency in Washington and many cities around the US and even abroad.
Not wanting to waste in sleep the fleeting final hours of the only presidency I've particularly liked since JFK, I was up all night before Trump's inauguration, awash in reminiscence. (As some correspondents are only too well aware.) But after a nap, the reality of the whole Trump inaugural extravaganza I'd just witnessed felt at once overwrought and underwhelming.
Trump's crowd wasn't very big, well under half what Barack Obama drew eight years ago. Trump's speech, essentially a recycled campaign message, wasn't very impressive. And his long promised dramatic "Day One" executive actions were few and largely forgettable.
Yes, his speech sounded tough and dark and more than a little like someone's perfervidly imagined pronouncements of Gotham's most famous would-be vigilante. But Trump always likes to sound tough, even when indulging in his trademark know-nothingism.
End "the American carnage?" Sorry, as many big problems as this nation has, that is just over-the-top dialogue from the movie that is evidently playing in Trump's mind. It takes a remarkably sheltered perspective -- and it doesn't get much more sheltered than that of bubble boy Trump, a man who travels the world one moneyed, body-guarded enclave after another -- to imagine that little old Oakland might be the most dangerous place on the planet.
Of course, Trump is right that American politics has become corrupted, not that it is as rigged as he opportunistically claims as part of his power grab. But talk is cheap, as his many appointments of manipulative mega-bucks insiders suggest. If Trump wants to prove that his populism is genuine populism and not the faux populism historically associated with the neo-fascist drive for power, he has a lot of work to do.
Maybe the fact that his inaugural address was just a jumped-up campaign speech accounts for the fact that Trump's inaugural crowd was rather sparse. His followers may be quite familiar with the routine.
I mainly stuck to the BBC for television coverage, checking in also on Al Jazeera, China Central Television, and Russia Today for additional international perspective. (No need to spend time on the American chattering heads who got the entire election so wrong.)
Amusingly, as it turned out, the venerable London-based broadcaster had its crowd correspondent set up in the middle of the Mall, a spot at which she would have been inundated by the crowd of celebrants at Obama's first inaugural. At this inaugural she was a good thousand meters from all but a few wandering Trump folks.
As for all the long promised Day One action, which would have been dramatic indeed, well, that was just rhetoric.
The truth is that Trump looked worried when the camera caught him out prior to his taking the big stage. As well he should be. Little in his experience or education prepares him to serve as President of the United States.
Many find Trump's inaugural address to be alarmingly hostile, the feared harbinger of a dark new era for America.
While there are some useful elements to what Trump is saying -- in addition to the so far essentially rhetorical political reform talk, rebuilding our infrastructure is good, as is renewing old alliances and forging some new ones (and I also like the return of the Churchill bust to the Oval) -- I continue to be alarmed about Trump. Just as I have been since it dawned on me in summer 2015 that he was the coming thing in American politics.
But I'm not so much concerned by a prospect of Trump and company competently promoting a well-conceived neo-fascist future for America as I am concerned about Trump's erratic temperament and lack of knowledge about his new responsibilities.
While Trump pulled himself together enough at the end to very narrowly prevail in the handful of key states he needed to pick up in our archaic electoral college system over an incredibly flawed and arrogantly unresponsive Hillary Clinton campaign, he just doesn't seem intellectually prepared for the presidency.
While I do expect him to have some clever moves ahead, since he is obviously a very shrewd guy, my worry is that he will fall inexorably into flail mode. And a flailing would-be strongman is perhaps even more dangerous than a cooly prepared one.
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