Donald Trump’s Fantasy America


President Trump’s extraordinary Inaugural Address was at once familiar and surprising, combining echoes from a forgotten past with notes that are entirely new.

The echoes were to a president who was viewed with as much alarm by the official Washington of his day as Mr. Trump is by today’s Washington. In his first Inaugural Address, President Andrew Jackson told a shocked capital city that the 1828 election that brought him to office “inscribes on the list of executive duties, in characters too legible to be overlooked, the task of ‘reform.’” Today, in language that was even more blunt, Mr. Trump delivered a curse-on-both-your-houses indictment directed at the nation’s political and economic establishments.

In advocating reform, President Trump abandoned sectarianism. From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bernie Sanders, Democrats have blamed the nation’s ills on “millionaires and billionaires.” Meanwhile, Republicans have denounced big government.

Mr. Trump took aim at both establishments as a single, colluding entity that, he charged, has served its own interest to the detriment of the middle class. The result has been an “American carnage” of lost industry, jobs and opportunity. In response, the new president announced that, under him, America will come first.

“We will bring back our jobs,” he said. “We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth.”

Add it all up and the Trump inaugural was the most Jacksonian since Jackson.

Some of the speech’s strongest passages were devoted to American unity — in particular to transcending racial and ethnic divides that have plagued the country with renewed bitterness over the past two decades. Mr. Trump’s liberal critics should take a close look at these passages.

As he had in the campaign, the new president spoke directly to the largely African-American and Hispanic citizens of our urban areas. He addressed inner city concerns: “Mothers and children trapped in poverty”; “rusted-out factories”; “an education system, flush with cash, but that leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge”; “gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives.” In one especially lyrical passage, he said, “Whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

He invoked a common devotion to the country (“whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the red blood of patriots”) that combined with economic, educational and public safety improvements could open a new world of opportunity for our minority communities, removing barriers to racial amity.

It is a remarkable agenda. Not that everyone will applaud. For example, our allies overseas and much of our foreign policy community at home will fear Mr. Trump plans to abandon the mantle of global leadership. But as was true throughout his campaign, a close look at his language points a different way. He is not advocating abandonment of alliances and responsibilities, but, as on the domestic scene, a new era of reform.

It is a new era of reform on behalf of ordinary citizens not defined by race or ethnicity, or gender or preference, or party or ballot cast in November, but by a sense that something has gone wrong, and that what is wrong can be fixed. It was a strong, direct, honest speech. A presidency that comes at a time of national troubles has had a promising start.

Clark Judge, managing director of the White House Writers Group and chairman of the Pacific Research Institute, is a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan.



CAIRO —“He sounds just like one of our despots,” said a friend after we watched Donald J. Trump speak at his inauguration. It was an address worthy of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, our general turned president.

It was stunning to watch Mr. Trump try to mold the United States in the shape of Egypt, where the military has ruled us, in one form or another, for over six decades.

No wonder Mr. Trump called Mr. Sisi “a fantastic guy” when they met in New York last year.

No wonder Mr. Sisi was the first foreign leader to call Mr. Trump to congratulate him on his election victory.

No wonder the first bill that Mr. Trump signed after his inauguration was a waiver to allow a former general, James N. Mattis, to become defense secretary without the elapse of seven years required by law before ex-service members can run the Pentagon.

No wonder Mr. Trump has nominated more generals to his cabinet than any predecessor.

In Egypt, we’d like to reduce the military’s influence in Egyptian politics. In America, Mr. Trump wants to increase it.

It was also stunning to watch Mr. Trump demolish whatever remained of what was billed at the time as a fence-mending speech that President Obama gave in Cairo soon after his inauguration in 2009. Mr. Obama said, “America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” but that it would “relentlessly confront violent extremists.” Mr. Trump cut to the chase, pledging to “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”

Despite his “hand of friendship” to Muslims, Mr. Obama leaves office with the United States militarily involved in at least five Muslim countries. I shudder to think how many more Mr. Trump will add to that list.

Mona Eltahawy is the author of “Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution,” and a contributing opinion writer.


I’ve felt a guilty alienation from the chorus of “not my president” that’s been building among the left since the supposed free election of Donald J. Trump. Not because I have any connection or loyalty to the man, but because the phrase itself is something of a Trumpism: “Not my president” was a favorite refrain of the Tea Party, a fundamental buttress of the racist delegitimization of Barack Obama, an incantation that, in retrospect, recalled some of the first stirrings of Mr. Trump’s rise to power.

Watching the inauguration — looking over the sea (or, more accurately, the smallish pond) of white faces celebrating what they clearly believe to be a white victory, a reassertion of the natural order — all reluctance left me. Mr. Trump was shoved into office by the desperate, violent and unconstitutional machinations of a minuscule sliver of super-rich, traditionalist white Americans.

Feeling their grip on global supremacy slipping, they’ve snatched one final, improbable chance to bleed us to death so they can buy a few more gold toilets before the biosphere collapses. Mr. Trump isn’t my president. I don’t mean it emotionally; I mean it literally. It’s not sloganeering; it’s observable truth.

Mr. Trump has no intention of representing me, my family, the people I care about, or the majority of Americans, from the imperiled to the comfortable. It is a stretch to call him anyone’s president but his own.

In the last days of the campaign, my husband said to me, “This election is part of the Civil War.” Today, my friend Tracy Rector, an Indigenous activist and filmmaker, wrote on Facebook, “The slave masters have taken control.” It’s not a coincidence that the proto-Trumpist Tea Party so obsessively worshiped our slave-owning Founding Fathers, or that Mr. Trump was installed by the Electoral College, a mechanism designed to disproportionately empower slave states.

Those who believe that straight, white men have a mandate to burn the rest of us as fuel, to sell us for parts, to mow us down and climb up the pile, never truly conceded that war. They have been biding their time, and this is their last great gambit. But I live in the America that won — the America with art and empathy and a free press and fierce protest. Not my president, not now, not ever.

Lindy West is a columnist at The Guardian and the author of the memoir “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.”


BEIJING — President Donald J. Trump uttered the rallying cry familiar from his campaign to close his inauguration speech, urging citizens to help “make America great again.” But his appeal for patriotism and loyalty at home will only further sink the hearts of leaders in Beijing.

Mr. Trump the straight-talking dealmaker, on whom they had pinned their early hopes, has increasingly been eclipsed by Mr. Trump the trade bully and nationalist, for whom the pledge “America first” may entail measures like a 45 percent tariff on goods imported from China and appointing a trade chief ready to carry out such proposals.

The inauguration speech forms a stark contrast to President Xi Jinping’s address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, where he positioned himself as a champion of globalization. But if the power of Mr. Xi’s claim is weakened by an ideological crackdown at home and his record of flouting commercial and territorial laws abroad, President Trump may in turn see his plans checked by the domestic economic damage that could result from a trade war with China.

Given Mr. Trump’s penchant for provocative pronouncements and unpredictable policy positions, China has good reason not to resort to immediate verbal retaliation, but to let the tension roused by his words dissipate before deciding on its course of action.

Online reactions here to Mr. Trump’s speech have been dominated by anger and confusion. For more than a few Chinese, though, his jabs at the Washington’s power elite resonated. Yawning income inequality, loss of employment and a profound disconnect between the government and the governed are, after all, not unfamiliar stories among people here.

In the long run, the public disaffection shared by both countries will probably play a larger role in shaping Sino-American relations than the inflammatory rhetoric of national leaders.

Helen Gao is a social policy analyst at a research company and a frequent Op-Ed contributor.


Donald J. Trump’s Inaugural Address was notable for its disconnect from reality. Start with what he referred to as the “American carnage”— a dystopian nation, broken and shattered. America has problems for sure, including deep pockets of poverty and distress, but Trump’s America is not the real America.

Then there’s the unreality of what life in America will be like during the Trump presidency. He will lead us to the promised land, a nation with no need unmet, no problem unsolved, no dream beyond our reach. He promised not just a better America, but a nearly perfect America, down to its roads and bridges. He will now be held to those promises. And on national security, President Trump, in speaking about radical Islamic terrorism, promised to “eradicate” it “completely from the face of the earth.” No, he won’t.

There’s also the rather fantastic claim by Trump that he will act as a unifying force in American life. President Trump spoke about solidarity, the need to heal our division, and how he would make America a place “where there is no room for prejudice.” Yet Mr. Trump has done more than anyone to create the rancor and divisions that he now promises to heal. To bind up our political wounds would require Trump to become what he is not.

President Trump’s speech was written for his supporters rather than for the nation as a whole. It was for the most part aggressive and confrontational, nationalistic and protectionist, with a quasi-isolationist theme running throughout it. He described a world in which transactions are zero-sum. And he barely mentioned words like “liberty” and “freedom,” which for a Republican is quite unusual.

President Trump ended his speech by saying: “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.” That is true enough. What Donald Trump may not yet realize is that that standard now applies to him.

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer.



President Obama’s photographer, Pete Souza, ended his White House term today, too. Mr. Souza’s photos captured many a classic Obama moment. But his photographs were sometimes the source of controversy, when the White House tried to distribute them in lieu of news media “pool” photos, a practice the White House Correspondents Association condemned as an infringement on news media access. But as Mr. Obama left the national stage on Friday, only Mr. Souza was there to capture the former president’s parting look at the White House. Above is the shot as it appears on Mr. Souza’s Instagram feed.



MOSCOW — Watching a solemn civic ceremony, rich in religious and historical symbolism, as a Russian feels strange. A supposedly old and Byzantine Russia is, in fact, a young body politic that is still unsure of its true “civic religion.” We are still arguing about our nation’s emblems.

An inauguration sequence, replicated regularly since 1789 and complete with an oath that mentions an obligation to relinquish office, not just to serve well, sounds other-worldly to a Russian every time it is repeated. Russian czars, Soviet general secretaries, even Russian presidents have never come or left on a schedule. The history of peaceful and predictable transitions of power is America’s awe-inspiring tradition.

One thing my countrymen are constantly arguing over is our nation’s basic objective: Is it to be a superpower feared by its neighbors or a country focused on its domestic prosperity and well-being? These two things do not necessarily contradict each other, but at certain historical conjunctures, they may start to be perceived as mutually exclusive. This happened to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. A similar process has been under way in the United States for a while now.

Of course, the United States and the Soviet Union were more different than they were similar. But comparing the two is inevitable for someone who lived through the end of the U.S.S.R.

Donald J. Trump’s first presidential speech emphasized a break with the past. But what past? Someone who, like myself, was born in a proud world power cannot help sensing the parallelism. Indeed, Communist internationalism and idealistic Wilsonianism, an opposition to isolationism and a belief in the spread of democracy, are roughly the same age, both born about a century ago.

When something this old and this significant is over, that is bigger than just one presidency.

Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the business newspaper Vedomosti, writes The Russia File blog for the Kennan Institute and is a contributing opinion writer.



Every president takes an oath, prescribed in Article II, to “faithfully execute” the office of president and to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” A few minutes later he (sorry, Mrs. Clinton) delivers his Inaugural Address, and it is always interesting to see what the new chief executive says in it about the Constitution.

In President Trump’s case, he said nothing about it. The word doesn’t even occur. But that isn’t unusual: Many modern presidents take the Constitution for granted in their inaugurals and major speeches. They fill the void with something else, some other large force or cause that holds sway over our politics or commands our allegiance. Liberal presidents often turn to history or progress, benevolent forces, as they imagine them, to which even the Constitution must submit. Conservative chief executives often emphasize the authority of tradition or “traditional American values,” which is the moraine of past progress — what’s left behind by history.

President Trump turned to the nation itself, or to the American people, who used to be the “rulers of this nation” but whose authority has been usurped by a ruling class. He didn’t use the latter term but implied it, contrasting America’s forgotten people to the “small group in our nation’s capital” who are running the show and prospering. Mr. Trump’s victory means the overthrow of this “establishment,” he said, and the triumph of the “historic movement” that brought him to power and restored the people to the control of their own government. Of course, as he knows, winning a battle, even a crucial one, is not the same as winning the war.

On the campaign trail, he emphasized that Americans are governed by “very, very stupid people.” In his Inaugural Address he abandoned all reference to stupidity and indicted their malevolence. But in a very unspecific way: He left the motive behind the ruling class’s bad, selfish policies, and their indifference to the sufferings of the people, unstated. Was it liberalism that made them do it? Greed? He politely didn’t say. Could it have something to do with their pride in transcending the Constitution?

In his short, forceful speech, Mr. Trump spoke up for “the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.” He admitted, however, the awful demoralization of many members of the working and middle class —“this American carnage,” he called it, in the speech’s most striking phrase. Nonetheless, he continues to believe in the people, righteous or not, though maybe not as much as he believes in himself.

Charles R. Kesler is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, editor of the Claremont Review of Books and a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.



NEW DELHI — The only joy today in watching Donald J. Trump speak as the 45th president of the United States is that, as an Indian, I can redirect words that a Pakistani Urdu poet once spoke to us.

In March 2014, as India seemed set to elect a new leader, Fahmida Riaz sat before an Indian audience and recited her poem “Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle” (“You Turned Out Just Like Us”). She was referring to our soon-to-be prime minister, Narendra Modi, who was running a campaign that skillfully melded the appeal of an outsider (he had once been a tea seller, he claimed) to the established order with the language of Hindu majoritarian politics, tapping in to existing prejudices against India’s Muslim minority.

Ms. Riaz spoke to her audience:

“You turned out just like us / where were you hidden till now brother / The same stupidity and ignorance / that gripped us for a century / has reached your doors today”

When I heard Mr. Trump’s speech today in New Delhi, it was difficult to escape the echo of what we have already witnessed in India. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Modi talked of pulling the poor of India out of poverty. Many pundits, quick to look for hope where there was none, said that Mr. Modi’s speech reflected a new inclusiveness after the hatred of the campaign.

More than two years later, nothing has changed for the poor of India, but the bigotry that helped Mr. Modi ride to power has flourished.

About 25 years ago, during the first Gulf war, I was a mathematics graduate student in New York. With short-cropped hair and a flowing beard, the archetypal image of today’s jihadi, I bicycled across the Outer Banks of North Carolina, camped and dined with people who welcomed me, encountering no hostility. It was an experience I cannot imagine repeating today.

In that quarter century, America has found its way to the same heaven to which Ms. Riaz had welcomed Indians a couple of years ago:

“We are already there / the hell you go to now / Take some time out there / to keep us posted”

Hartosh Singh Bal is a co-author of “A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel” and the political editor of The Caravan magazine.


Donald J. Trump’s Inaugural Address was a remarkable speech marking the beginning of a new political era and serving as the opening statement of a political realignment of the Republican Party.

For his opponents within the Democratic Party, it was remarkable for his commitment, standing just feet away from former President Obama, to scrap his political agenda on the foreign and domestic scene. Mr. Trump all but called the former president a total failure, and promised a solution that upends the norms of Washington.

For his opponents within the Republican Party, it was remarkable for serving notice that he does not view them as much better. He berated both parties for being venal and corrupt, and announced an agenda on trade and foreign policy starkly different from what the Ronald Reagan coalition sought for 40 years. In particular, his pronouncements on foreign policy cut sharply against the views of American exceptionalism favored by George W. Bush.

For his critics in the media, it was remarkable for utterly breaking with every conventional expectation for an inaugural that speaks to a false sense of unity. Instead, Mr. Trump doubled down on the idea that he is the champion uniting patriotic Americans against a corrupt bipartisan elite that has served them poorly for 16 years.

This was a speech for those who support him, and it immensely satisfied supporters I spoke with on the mall. It was for them a sign that Washington would not change him, that he would deliver on his promises and that he would not stop being the leader with the aura of toughness and grit that so inspires them.

The night before the inauguration, I tweeted a prediction about the speech — that Mr. Trump would echo the theme of a speech from Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Rises,” in which the character Bane promises war against the elites, and that he will return power back to where it belongs — to the people.

This is the speech Donald Trump decided to give: populist, nationalist, thrilling to his fans, disturbing to his foes — and sending the message to Washington that he intends not to bring peace, but the sword.

Benjamin Domenech is publisher of The Federalist.


There was no poetry in the words delivered to a half-empty National Mall on Inauguration Day. But then, nobody expected a hint of verse or a well-turned phrase from President Donald J. Trump.

There were no historical allusions either — at least not direct ones — from a man who is defiantly truant in his knowledge of history.

And there were no concessions to the other side, the vanquished plurality of voters, the woman who missed her place in history, the outgoing president who kept his dignity to the last minute in office, his place in history intact.

What we got, coinciding with the first rain drops falling while Trump spoke to the nation he now leads, was a clenched fist — his own salute of nationalism and defiance, borrowed from political causes rooted in far different passions. He raised the fist while taking his place at the Capitol steps, and again at the close of a dark, soulless speech introducing himself as the leader of the free world.

We might be able to ignore the fist had he mentioned liberty, the Constitution, equality for all, some joy note to American values. We might be able to give him a wider berth, an open heart, had he quoted Washington, from that humble first inaugural in 1789, or Lincoln, with his call to our better angels, or Kennedy’s plea for a patriotism of selflessness.

No, what we got was the clenched fist, to go with the rhetorical one: America first to fix American carnage.

The populist tone, from a man who lost the popular vote —“the day the people became the rulers of this nation again”— would be welcome, had not Trump brought to Washington a cabinet of the very wealthy and the very elite, a predators’ ball. Included among them is a Treasury nominee whose bank foreclosed on some of those Trump proclaims to speak for. And a labor pick who doesn’t believe fast food workers should earn a living wage. The nationalist tone —“buy American, and hire American”— would also be welcome had not Trump done the opposite to enrich himself over the years, from using Chinese steel in his hotels in Las Vegas to employing foreign workers for his properties in Florida.

The chorus of nationalism in the speech —“From this day forward, it’s going to only be America first. America first”— might even be appealing, had it not those ugly echoes of history. Trump is no doubt ignorant that a similar phrase was used by isolationist, anti-Semitic Americans who aimed to appease Adolf Hitler as it was just becoming clear how much of a monster he would be.

Take Trump, as I’ve said before, not at his word, but for his actions. What we saw on Inauguration Day of the 45th president was the truest sign of how he will rule: not by extending an open hand, but by raising a clenched fist.



President Trump dressed up his new Twitter account with a picture-perfect inauguration photo: Barack Obama’s. Minutes after he was sworn in, the Tweeter-in-chief took over the presidential handle, @POTUS. The new banner on the account was a lovely inauguration day photo, with the Capitol in the background, people waving flags, sunny weather…wait a minute. It was gloomy and drizzly for today’s inauguration…

It turns out the banner photo was of President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, not President Trump’s. The photo soon disappeared, but not before it was captured for posterity by Mashable.

For those wondering: if you search “First Lady” on the brand-new White House website, a biography of Melania Trump, not Michelle Obama, appears. We can tell because it prominently mentions Mrs. Trump’s QVC line of jewelry.



KARACHI, Pakistan — Did President Donald J. Trump just say “America First”? It’s kind of worrying that American presidents have to steal slogans from third-world dictators.

In Pakistan, we had a military ruler named Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He made lots of friends in Washington, D.C., after taking over in a bloodless coup in 1999. On his return from his first visit to Washington, he proclaimed “Pakistan First.” He was such a great buddy of President George W. Bush that he got the latter to endorse his book on television. These buddies started new wars, rekindled old ones. Lots of people died, lots more fell into new depths of poverty.

When you say America first or Pakistan first — or whatever unlucky country it is that allows a pampered old man to say those things — it always means me first. My family first. My friends first. My friends’ friends are going to be O.K. I’ll decide what’s best for this country. In fact, I have already decided what’s best for this country: me. The bargain will work out like this: At the end of this, there will be lots more dead people, but we’ll have even more money than we did before.

In Pakistan, we must have done something to deserve the dictator we had, but American voters have finally shown the Third World that we are brothers and sisters. Thanks for finally telling us that the American dream is basically a Ponzi scheme: You see all this money I have? You can have it, too. But can I take this last rupee from your pocket while you gaze at our beloved flag?

My wife watched three and half minutes of the inauguration on CNN and said: “It’s all a bit Disneyland. So many blond people.” I have never been to Disneyland. I think I can stay away a bit longer. America invented Disneyland. It also played a part in making the Third World what it is today. Now Americans can stay home and live the experience.

Mohammed Hanif is the author of the novels “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” and “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,” and a contributing opinion writer.


I attended the inauguration as a citizen and a rhetoric scholar. Donald J. Trump’s speech stood out to me for its populism, its nationalism and its lack of connection with American history.

There wasn’t much linkage with the founders or the founding texts, or with other great leaders of the past. References to a “new decree” and a “new vision” highlight the intention to break with the past, without a clear grounding in long-term traditions.

This is very unusual. It is also concerning — elections tend to be about change, but continuity and historical context are important to anchor that change.

Populism is also not what it seems. While populist rhetoric refers to the power of the people, it doesn’t really invite them to be active citizens. Mr. Trump promised to return power to the people, but he didn’t talk much about their role in the process. Instead, it indicates that the government will be the vehicle of popular sentiment — placing power with the people.

But I leave the event with some hope about American democracy. In the section I was in, many people clapped when Mr. Trump talked about the Obamas and the transition. The protests I saw this morning were peaceful and substantive. This doesn’t mean that democracy is always easy or always feels good. In fact, the truth is probably the opposite: Democracy is hard work and filled with conflict.



DAVOS, Switzerland — It’s been a tough week for Davos man. A week of listening to warnings about the end of globalization, about trade wars, about the rise of populism and nationalism, about the anxiety of those left behind by ruthless business strategies, about pitchforks ready to be wielded.

Could it get worse for the global elites? Yes. At the end of the week, a bitter speech by an angry white male, who happens to be the 45th president of the United States, confirmed the fears of most and sounded like a slap in the face of the C.E.O.s buoyed by the prospect of a Trump stimulus plan.

Many participants to the World Economic Forum had already left this Swiss Alpine resort by the time President Donald J. Trump spoke. Some of those still here, oblivious to the “revolution” in Washington, chose to attend the closing performance in the Congress Hall, given by an Afghan women’s orchestra joined by young Swiss musicians. The performance was introduced as “a powerful affirmation of friendship and trust across cultures.” Not exactly the mood emanating from the presidential platform on Capitol Hill.

We in Europe know only too well the dangers of aggressive rhetoric. If this is going be the tone in Washington for the next four years, if “carnage” and “ravages” are going to be part of the daily political vocabulary, if we in the rest of the world keep being blamed for making America poorer, then what do we have in common?

As I listened to the inauguration speech, I was reminded of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment, earlier this week, on Mr. Trump’s interview to the German newspaper Bild: “We Europeans have our destiny in our own hands.”

Sylvie Kauffmann, the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, is a contributing opinion writer.


One of the most celebrated moments of the First World War took place on Christmas morning 1914, along the Western Front. Thousands of British and German troops, without prompting, climbed out of the trenches and met in no-man’s land. Gathered together on frozen ground, the men sang carols well into the night; they traded chocolate and cigarettes and kicked soccer balls. “It was a short peace,” a Scottish infantryman recalled, “in a terrible war.”

Inauguration Day, historically, has been a little like that: a pause, a brief truce, “an interlude of national reunion,” as the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. put it. After a divisive election, the inaugural ceremony — and its centerpiece, the presidential address — is meant to reaffirm our common identity as Americans, before we resume fighting about what exactly that means.

Donald J. Trump added his voice to history’s chorus today, and it was shrill and discordant. If any new president had a need to repair the breach, it was Mr. Trump — who was roundly, even vehemently, rejected by some 73 million voters, about 10 million more than the number that supported him. “We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny,” Mr. Trump proclaimed, one of a number of anodyne, unobjectionable phrases urging unity and “solidarity.” Yet he refused — pointedly — even to acknowledge his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Beyond the boilerplate, Mr. Trump’s Inaugural Address was mostly a buttoned-up version of his campaign stump speech, targeting the same audience of “forgotten men and women” who share his disgust for what he called a “small group in our nation’s capital.” He inflamed, again, these Americans’ sense of betrayal by the “establishment” and painted, again, his dark, counterfactual picture of “American carnage.”

A dark cloud hangs over this inauguration that no oratory could possibly dispel. Mr. Trump is hardly the first president to take office in a climate of foreboding: After the election of 1800, Federalists expected that Jefferson would abandon the Constitution and align the United States with France; in 1933, conservatives charged that F.D.R. was a homegrown Hitler.

But none of Mr. Trump’s 44 predecessors offered more reason than we have today to fear for the survival of democracy in America. Mr. Trump’s infatuation with foreign strongmen, including the one who intervened in the election on his behalf; his brazen self-dealing and self-justification; his intolerance for difference and dissent; his appeals to racism and resentment; the contempt he has shown, consistently, for the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the system of checks and balances, the very notion of equal rights — all this puts the American experiment in peril.

Mr. Trump’s compulsive dishonesty makes it foolish to put faith in anything he says, and that includes the most important words he uttered today: that he will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Our era of ill feeling found its standard-bearer today.

Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, is the author, most recently, of “Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court.”



Donald J. Trump, private citizen, held steady backstage before exiting the Capitol hallway. He turned, suddenly noticed a camera, and, without missing a beat, gave it a smile.

As Trump literally crossed that outdoor threshold onto the Capitol dais, the country also prepared to watch Trump become a public servant, not perform his private businessman persona.

What is going through that man’s head, I wonder, as he strides onto the dais? Is he thinking, like many, about his pivot from egocentric mode to serving others? He knows he’s up to the performance of the role, but is he feeling up to the work of the job, the decision-making and the substance of governing?

Behind bravado always lurks insecurity. The more citizen Trump boasted or attacked, the more he sensed himself vulnerable. What internal insecurity is Mr. Trump acknowledging and resolving as he takes the Oath, and assumes his new public responsibility and power?

Any showbiz producer knows that to create gripping suspense you take the unexpected and put it in the realm of the expected; or vice versa. This inauguration is devoid of suspense or drama, just spectacle and horror. Any producer knows you create horror by making your audience wonder if it will survive a drama or transformation, intact. The pristine pomp, with all its chipper bands and bright wardrobes, could not scrub the moment of all it’s ugliness and contrasts. Private and public Trump, smiling and glowering Trump, Obama’s coalition vs. the whiteness of Trump’s supporters. The inauguration appeared to mark a professional transition for the Trump character, but worse, a transition from America: From one that could aspire to pluralism, ideas, and civility, to one that is shuttering the door on the 21st Century.

Rich Benjamin is the author of “Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America”


Donald J. Trump began his first day as president listening to a favorite Baptist preacher, Robert Jeffress, who has suggested that the Catholic Church was led astray by Satan, that Mormonism and Islam both “came from the pit of hell,” that gay people lead a “miserable” and “filthy” lifestyle, that Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, was “paving the way” for the Antichrist — and that God Himself made Mr. Trump president.

It set the tone for a day in which any remaining hopes for reunifying the nation were systematically quashed by this relentless narcissist and the party he commands. A day in which our new vice president, Mike Pence, refused to even shake the hand of the defeated presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump’s address was little more than a litany of right-wing and alt-right complaints and conspiracy theories from the past eighty years. Like many of the commentators, who seemed shellshocked by the address, searching desperately for any hint of unity and reconciliation, Mr. Trump himself invoked what is generally considered the gold standard of recent American inaugurals.

“Let the word go forth,” President Kennedy famously pledged, that America “would pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,” in the cause of freedom around the world, while calling on us to “ask not what our country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America first,” President Trump promised.

For Mr. Trump, there are no real American friends in the world, just countries that steal our jobs and our money, while letting us dangerously deplete our military and leave our borders undefended. (He did, ominously, promise us “new” alliances.) Here at home, we are no longer the active and able citizens of a proud democracy at its zenith, but a collection of miserable victims, beleaguered by an “American carnage” of poverty, welfare, “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” crime, drug addiction and the appeasers of those evil foreigners.

It feels astounding that the Kennedy and the Trump speeches could have been delivered in the same country. The commentators just kept talking about how at least this was “a peaceful transfer of power.” How low our expectations have become.

Kevin Baker is a novelist and essayist and the author, most recently, of “America the Ingenious.”



LONDON — The reflex of British governments is to sift the rhetoric of new American presidents for good news and to ignore the rest. Such are the habits spawned by the postwar “special relationship.” But Prime Minister Theresa May will struggle to find much to welcome in the sophomoric drivel that President Donald J. Trump presented as his Inaugural Address today.

Most British, it is true, are indifferent to American politics. A caucus within Westminster’s political class — those who campaigned for Brexit and the U.K. Independence Party — regards his victory as a continuation of the populist revolution that was set off by Britain’s referendum vote last June to leave the European Union.

For the rest of us, this speech was as alarming in content as it was weak in form. It is a tradition for new presidents to open their arms to the rest of the world: to assert America’s role as the strongest supporter, if not the automatic guarantor, of freedom around the world. But the core message of this speech, in a ghastly echo of 1930s isolationism, was “America First.”

Other nations were put on notice that a new era of protectionism is at hand, that the United States would no longer “subsidize foreign armies,” that America would protect its own borders rather than those of other nations. There was absolutely no sense of global comity.

“We will shine for everyone to follow,” said the 45th president. My way or the highway, in other words.

For a passionate Atlanticist like me, this is an hour of sheer despair. Ever since this spectacularly unqualified man was elected, we have been assured that he would be tamed by the prospect of office. Could it really be as bad as it seemed? Oh, yes: As it transpires, even worse.

Matthew d’Ancona is a political columnist for The Guardian and The Evening Standard and a contributing opinion writer.


Grasping at historical straws, President Donald J. Trump and his supporters have likened him, absurdly, to Andrew Jackson. The analogy is false in every detail.

Jackson came to the presidency with an enormous popular mandate; Mr. Trump didn’t even win the popular vote. Jackson was defeated in 1824 amid charges that corruption and untoward interference had turned the election; Mr. Trump won amid charges of corruption and interference. Jackson devoted his presidency to warring against the system that made Mr. Trump his fortune, the swindler capitalism that defrauds humble and honest Americans.

Jackson thundered against the rich and powerful who thwarted democracy; Mr. Trump thunders against illegal immigrants. Jackson and his party came to power thanks to a steady expansion of the citizenry and the democratic vote; Mr. Trump’s party seeks to narrow the citizenry through unsubtle voter suppression. Jackson vindicated the federal government and crushed those like John C. Calhoun who sought to demonize it; Mr. Trump demonizes the federal government — more Calhoun than Old Hickory.

Jackson bore on his skull deep scars from the wounds he suffered as a boy soldier in the Revolution, and, badly outnumbered, he defeated the British at New Orleans. For the rest of his life, he remained resolute that United States should stand as a bulwark against foreign monarchies and tyrannies. Mr. Trump the draft dodger seeks accord with the murderous President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Historians describe Jackson as a fearless and sometimes fearsome populist who rode a groundswell of public outrage. Mr. Trump has tried to come across the same way, promising, in his Inaugural Address, to return the government to the people. But plenty of politicians over the years have tried the same gambit. Mr. Trump’s phony populism, the latest in a long line of phony populisms, has been his greatest con. It has nothing to do with Andrew Jackson or Jacksonian Democracy, or any kind of democracy at all.

Sean Wilentz is a professor of history at Princeton.


“The time for empty talk is over,” our new president said near the end of his relatively brief Inaugural Address. And if he actually makes good on that promise, if the speech wasn’t just talk but a blueprint for effective presidential action, then we just watched an epochal moment: the last rites of Reaganite conservatism, and the birth of a populist and nationalist new right.

The speech was, as predicted, “Jacksonian”— populist, combative, anti-Washington, thick with promises to eradicate America’s enemies and favor the forgotten man over globalist elites. But if it was anti-Washington, it was not remotely anti-government: Just as he did on the campaign trail, Trump eschewed the rhetoric of liberty in favor of expansive promises of “protection” and rhapsodic paeans to infrastructure spending.

At its darkest, this sort of protective politics veers toward fascism; at its best (and the new president’s rhetoric did try to reach in that direction) it points toward a pan-ethnic nationalism, a right-wing politics of solidarity. But in neither case is it compatible with the limited-government catechism and the Republican politics that pushes for free trade deals and fights against Medicaid expansions.

Thus, the great ideological questions of the Trump era: Will his rhetoric actually define the policy that gets made in the halls of Congress, where a more Reaganite conservatism still theoretically holds sway? Or will his words be a Buchananite patina on an agenda mostly written by supply-siders and Goldman Sachs appointees? Or will the conflict between the two tendencies simply make his administration less epochal than incoherent, less transformative than simply ineffective?

During the Trump transition, observers on both the right and left cited the political scientist Stephen Skowronek’s theory of “disjunctive” presidents who straddle transitions between old orders and emerging ones. One such president was Jimmy Carter, who tried to maintain the creaking New Deal coalition while also grasping at a new vision for liberal governance. He failed because his party simply couldn’t accommodate the tension, and he himself couldn’t effectively blend the old and new.

Right now Trump looks like he might be similarly disjunctive. Like Mr. Carter with the ’70s-era Democrats, he has grasped — correctly — that Republican politics desperately needs to be reinvented. But his populist-nationalist vision has seemed too racially and culturally exclusive to win him majority support, and it’s layered atop a party that still mostly believes in the “populism” of cutting the estate tax.

Combine those brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. But on the evidence of this speech, Trump has no intention of playing it safe: He will either remake conservatism in his image, or see his presidency fail in the attempt.


There was an eerie quiet last night as I walked across the National Mall in the nation’s capital. I was soaking in the silence before a thin-skinned man – who mocked women, immigrants, Muslims, Congressman John Lewis and the musical “Hamilton” in his surreal ascent to political power – was about to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

I had just returned from the Peace Ball held at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Solange Knowles serenaded a crowd of “the rest of America”– beautiful black, white, Latina, Muslim women in ballroom gowns, activists, ordinary citizens coming together to work for an America that includes all of us, especially those who feel excluded from President Trump’s myopic vision.

Listening to Mr. Trump’s speech today, I kept hoping, maybe, he would offer something unique and fresh, considering he said he had been preparing for three weeks. I’ve seen “Home Alone 2.” I know he can act. But despite his best efforts, he resorted to jingoism, fake patriotic populism, grandiose promises and an utter lack of self-awareness and irony as he promised to fight back against the very establishment he’s a part of. There was a predictable shout out to ending radical Islam forever, which is interesting considering the reports that the Islamic State has been actively celebrating his victory because of his divisive, anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.

I did agree with two lines. He said: “United States is your country,” and “you will never be ignored again.”

That’s true. The historically marginalized, the minorities, the Taco Trucks, the Nasty Women, the Skittles, Mexicans, those crime-infested inner cities he talks about, and the “losers,” will not be ignored.

There is hope and there will be resistance. Resistance is the rest of us – the ignored – living, breathing, waking up every day committed to striving, working and demanding equality and liberty, never apologizing for existing, but instead celebrating all the aspects of our identities that make President Trump uncomfortable.

I won’t tell my two young children that they will be victims in Trump’s America. Instead, I will tell them the best revenge against bigots has always been success.

Wajahat Ali is the creative director of Affinis Labs, a hub for social entrepreneurship and innovation.


Hours before Donald J. Trump took the oath, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that it was extraditing the most notorious drug trafficker on the planet, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as “El Chapo,” to the United States. While officials claimed his number just happened to come up on the eve of the power change, it’s hard to believe the timing was an accident. But what did it mean?

Several Mexican political analysts interpreted it as a last word to President Barack Obama: “Thank you for the cooperation, and this is what we do as a good ally.” Others saw it as a first word to President Trump: “Have this present and take it into consideration when we talk about car factories and wall costs.”

Whatever the thinking, it won’t make much difference in ensuing negotiations. President Trump represents Mexico’s biggest foreign policy challenge in recent history, with his proposed triple whammy of import tariffs, mass deportations and a border wall that Mexico has to pay for. And it falls on the shoulders of Mexico’s most unpopular president in recent history, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval rating has slid to 12 percent.

Mr. Peña Nieto’s strategy seems to be to hope to sail through the Trump storm with the least damage possible. But if Mr. Trump pushes too hard, Mr. Peña Nieto may see the whole boat tip over. The Trump effect has already caused the peso to slump and prices to rise, leading to protests and looting. And that was before Mr. Trump even took the oath.

Judging from how fed up many are on the street in Mexico, it’s likely the anger could boil into more significant unrest. On a recent visit to a car plant in Mexico’s industrial hub of Toluca, I heard from workers how scared they were about losing their jobs if the Trump administration slapped a 35 percent tariff on Mexican cars.

“If this factory closes it won’t just be bad for me, it’s going to be bad for this whole city,” said Daniel Ruiz, a line worker. “Things could get really messy here.”

Ioan Grillo is the author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields and the New Politics of Latin America” and a contributing opinion writer.



George Washington gave us the ambition of a quadrennial, peaceful, democratic transfer of power. Abraham Lincoln appealed to our better natures and our charity in the midst of civil war. Franklin Roosevelt gave us the strength not to be afraid. John Kennedy inspired us to serve our nations. Ronald Reagan talked of a prosperous America as a beacon of democracy around the world. And Barack Obama talked about the hope of which he was the living embodiment.

Donald Trump gave us “American carnage.”

Tombstones of rusted factories. Foreign enemies stealing our jobs and swarming our borders. Islamist terrorists threatening our way of life. There was no soaring rhetoric in his inaugural speech, no real effort to heal the wounds of the 2016 campaign, and really only one real, coherent defining theme for his coming administration – the only thing that counts is America.

On this day, he said, there will be “a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power.”

“From this day forward a new vision will govern our land,” he said. “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first, America first.”

Trump’s vision of America on his Inauguration Day was as it has been throughout his campaign – dark and angry.

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he said, shouting that the “establishment protected itself” at the expense of “struggling families across our land,” as though he himself were not a representative and beneficiary of that very establishment.

Absent was any soaring declaration of the values and traditions of our nation. In its place was his belligerent talk of those rusted factories, “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” an “education system flush with cash” (what cash?) that leaves our children behind, and “the crime, the gangs and the drugs.”

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” Trump said. He didn’t say how he would do that, or how he would “eradicate completely from the face of the earth” the forces of Islamic terrorism, but then Trump never tells us how he will do anything, just that it will be great.

Trump said his address was about ordinary Americans, the working class that he said has been ignored by Washington – and he’s not entirely wrong about that.

But like everything the new president has ever said, the speech was as much about him as about anything else. He declared his Electoral College victory (which was not nearly matched by the popular vote) to have been a movement “the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Greater, of course, than Christianity, or Islam, or Hinduism. Greater than the Renaissance or the Reformation. More powerful than the revolutions that created and destroyed Communism. Greater, of course, than the establishment of this very nation.

The best thing about the inaugural speech, in the end, is that it was short.



I get emotional on Inauguration Day. I feel today the same way I did on this day in 2009, in 2005, and even in 2001 as I sat in a hospital with my wife while she recovered from a double mastectomy. I skipped school to watch the inaugurations in 1993 and 1997. I had the same emotions even then.

The emotion has nothing to do with party or president, but with our republic itself. Though a Republican, I was as eager to watch and have my child watch President Obama’s inauguration as I am to watch today. Our system is unique. We come together as a nation for a few hours on one day every four years to celebrate a republican tradition no nation on earth thought would work when George Washington rejected a crown in favor of temporary government housing.

I grew up in Dubai when Ronald Reagan was president. Keeping up with the American political system was a connection back home. There, we had a sheikh. There was a palace with regal pomp and circumstance. I remember the day Prince Charles rode by in a motorcade while visiting the country. I remember once meeting Margaret Thatcher. But none of that compares to the president of the United States. He was and is the leader of the free world and yet even with all the power of his office he is temporary and soon returns to the life he led.

When George W. Bush became president, some Republicans openly fretted that Bill Clinton might not vacate the White House. Some Democrats had the same worry in 2009. I know more than one Republican who expressed that fear after November. But that never happens. The better angels of our republic have always won out. Authority passes peacefully, though not always gracefully, as the people decide to go in different directions.

It really is extraordinary in the history of the world and even more so this year. Even President Trump’s most ardent supporters admit it is somewhat like the dog catching the car. Most of them did not expect it. But here we are and he is our president. I do not expect the partisan rancor to go away. I expect the Democrats to vote in lock step against Donald Trump as Republicans did with Barack Obama. When Republicans complain, Democrats will say they started it. Nothing much will change and where it does change I worry that it will be toward the cruder, more bombastic, and more vulgar.

But today we get to set it all aside for a few hours and enjoy a very American style of pomp and circumstance. There is no crown, just a man. He will eventually go away. The republic so many dismissed at its creation will stay. The people here rule and those people just let one man live in really nice public housing for a few years while he steers the ship.

Erick-Woods Erickson is the editor of the website the Resurgent and a talk-show host on radio station WSB.



At 8:15 in London this morning I emerged from the subway at Westminster. It was bitterly cold, but activists involved in the movement Bridges Not Walls were getting ready to drop a banner reading “Migrants Welcome Here,” one of the 10 banners that would be unfurled from London bridges on the occasion of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. The protest aimed to “defy the rise of the far right and demonstrate solidarity with all those threatened by the politics of fear and hatred.”

The night before, the bridge had been closed, because a World War II bomb had been discovered in the Thames, and there had been a possibility of canceling the action. It would have been too symbolically perfect if the dredged-up past influenced the present (yet again), but the bridge was reopened, and the group of mainly young activists were already passing the leaflets and flowers to the tourists and passers-by when I arrived.

I met my old friend Zrinka Bralo, the executive director of Migrants Organize and one of the coordinators. She introduced me to Sarah, an activist from Citizens U.K., who had a baby strapped to her chest. There was Paul, wrapped in a Mexican flag. Police stood around in their bright yellow vests, smiling and posing for selfies with tourists. Two women held an American flag. I talked to one of them. Mary Lou, from Pennsylvania, told me she had nothing but sympathies for migrants and refugees, as she had spent half of her life in London. She was “apprehensive” about Trump’s program and was “in constant dialogue” with her elected representative in Pennsylvania.

At 8:40 or so, the banner was dropped at the Westminster Bridge, while nine other bridges, and more than 200 around the world, offered similar messages of resistance to Trumpian malice. Wearing a shirt saying “I am an immigrant,” the Big Ben behind her back, Zrinka spoke to a Sky TV camera about the necessity of resistance to hate and fear, lies and division. It was the first day of the Trumpian era, with many more to come, all of them featuring struggle, all over the world.

Aleksandar Hemon is the author of the novel “The Making of Zombie Wars.”


It is beginning. At several inauguration entrance checkpoints, different groups of protesters are locked down. “We have nothing to lose but our chains!” chant the Black Lives Matter protesters, literally using chains to shut down an entrance. A massive banner proclaims, “The Future is Feminist!” At another corner, rainbow-clad protesters break out into a spontaneous dance party.

This morning, though, I’m thinking of Luciano Balbuena, a grandfather and a retail janitor in Minneapolis, who cleans Home Depot stores for $9.50 an hour and whose only raise came when the state minimum increased. Mr. Balbuena is on strike today with many other janitors in the Twin Cities.

“We are trying to put a stop to the poverty wages,” Mr. Balbuena told me yesterday. “Donald Trump, he supports these low wages and he has said that he doesn’t think workers deserve better wages.”

And I’m thinking of Richard Robinson, also a grandfather. Mr. Robinson, a veteran and former truck driver, now lives on Social Security. I met him in the rain on Tuesday standing outside the Goldman Sachs building in New York. He had come all the way from Utah to join a protest of the bank’s influence in the incoming Trump administration.

Mr. Robinson voted for Mr. Trump, he told me, “on the assumption that he was going to keep a promise and drain the swamp, not fill it deeper.” Now, he’s decided those promises were smoke and mirrors. Mr. Robinson and dozens of others spent the week sleeping on the damp sidewalk.

Around the country, today and tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to protest this administration. Many, like Mr. Balbuena, were targets of the campaign from the start: Latino workers blamed for the lack of jobs for Americans, queer and transgender people threatened with legalized discrimination, women who see “Grab them by the pussy” echoed in the reported plans to cuts to grant programs for victims of domestic violence.

But with people like Mr. Robinson already joining the protests, something else is happening. As Americans have lost faith in their elected officials, they have also proved willing to challenge politicians and take power into their own hands. The resistance in the days to come will set the tone for the Trump administration.

Sarah Jaffe is the author of “Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt.”



For the next four years, Donald J. Trump will be America’s president, but what effect his presidency will have on the country will depend largely on what happens not in the White House but 16 blocks away where, constitutionally, much of the nation’s true power rests.

Because Mr. Trump is so erratic and so prone to acting upon impulse rather than information, the four most important people in America today — at least the four upon whose judgment and character we must now rely — are the ones who hold the leadership positions in the House and Senate.

What America becomes in the years ahead will depend largely on how seriously Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer view their roles — not as heads of their parties, not as presidential water-bearers or knee-jerk adversaries, but as those charged with the awesome responsibilities imposed on Congress by the Constitution.

Forty years ago I stood on the House floor and took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. I was a newly elected Republican; most of those who stood with me were Democrats. But the words we spoke promised allegiance to one thing only: our country, not a president and not a political party.

In 2007, when Nancy Pelosi became the first woman elected House speaker, I commended her on becoming the most powerful member of both Congress and her party, but also made a request: “Don’t let Congress become irrelevant on your watch.” In response, and presumably in agreement, she gave me a small lapel pin with the simple inscription “Article 1,” citing the constitutional enshrinement of Congress as the lead institution of the federal government.

In the years that followed, the times when members of Congress acted independently of party or president were unfortunately few. Republicans followed the lead of Republican presidents or swore to block any significant proposal by a Democratic president. Democrats did the same. Presidents set the agenda, parties demanded loyalty.

Like Barack Obama and the other men in the long line of presidents, Mr. Trump can spend only what Congress gives him to spend; he can enforce laws only if Congress creates them; his executive orders can be challenged by congressional action. Even in foreign policy, his authority is largely subject to either congressional approval or silence. Yet for years, under Congresses led by both parties, the legislative branch has ceded its authority to the presidency by submission or inaction.

With Mr. Trump in the White House, that would be a dangerous path to follow. Congress must assert its role as the Article 1 branch of government. Failure to do so may well pose a danger greater than any posed by any foreign rival.

Mickey Edwards, a congressman from Oklahoma from 1977 to 1993, was a senior member of the House Republican leadership.



For a president-elect who’s all about his big numbers, it’s a nightmare in the making: an inauguration that could wind up featuring more protesters than attendees.

It wasn’t yet dawn on Friday when protests erupted in Chinatown, in the Metro Center subway hub, and at security checkpoints on Friday. At one checkpoint, police used pepper spray on protesters who were blocking an entrance to the inaugural festivities.

Meanwhile, tickets to the inauguration have gone begging, as a city that 98 percent of voters went for Hillary Clinton stayed home. In lawyers’, lobbyists’ and congressional offices across the capital, piles of tickets have gone unclaimed.

On Thursday night, at the Lincoln Memorial “Welcome Celebration,” attendees talked about the ease with which they got prime spots. The concert featured Toby Keith, Three Doors Down – with no lines for the portable toilets and large swaths of muddy, unoccupied National Mall. Mr. Trump said the place was full; it clearly was not.

On the subway en route to the capital Friday morning, four New York City police officers had tickets in hand. They got them two days ago: “somebody was supposed to pick them up but never showed” one of them said. “Our gain.”


Surprise, surprise, “Never Trumpism” did not last long inside the Beltway.

In the run-up to the election — when the polls showed Donald Trump with virtually no chance of winning — more than 120 brave souls with varying amounts of government experience in national security signed one or both public letters denouncing Mr. Trump. The organizer of one of the letters, published in The Times, said then “that among the signatories ‘some will vote for’ Mrs. Clinton, and ‘some will not vote, but all agree Trump is not qualified and would be dangerous.’”

Not qualified and dangerous. Yet this week, in a Washington Post article, several of these “Never Trumpers” expressed surprise and hurt that they might be “blacklisted” from serving in the administration, or even offering their wisdom. It is no wonder that many of the Americans who voted for Mr. Trump have said that they did so because of the ego-driven, mealy-mouthed hypocrisy that is rampant in Washington insider circles.

Indeed, one former “Never Trumper” went so far as to meet with the president-elect and told him she was “privileged and humbled” to be allowed to speak with him, given the fact that she had signed one of the letters calling him “fundamentally dishonest” and unfit for the office of the presidency. She noted, in particular, his “maturity and graciousness.”

We get it, you want a job.

Although on its face repellent, is there anything wrong with this particular form of backpedaling? In the interests of our country, is it wrong to step up and offer one’s knowledge and expertise to help this president succeed? Particularly in the realm of intelligence and national security, don’t we all need him to succeed?

No, we do not want Donald Trump to succeed. We want our country and its citizens to be safe, healthy, prosperous, happy and respected around the world. But it is false logic to conclude that any of that will happen if the Republican elite enable or normalize Mr. Trump in any way, particularly by being his sycophants. There is not one national security policy tweeted or bellowed by Mr. Trump that, if put in place, will help this country. His “proposals” reveal his utter lack of knowledge and understanding of the underpinnings and current status of United States foreign policy, past or present, and his derision of the intelligence community makes clear that he is uninterested in learning what is actually happening around the globe that affects American interests, or places us at risk. After all, he often reminds us that the internet is full of information upon which he can, and will, rely.

World history is full of examples of the intelligentsia and permanent governing class offering their services in aid of a strongman who has bullied his way into power. Helping such a man wield and hold on to power has never ended well in the past, and it will not do so now. And if anyone thinks that they are so special that they can change him, persuade him, if only they could work from the inside, please, get real.

Job seekers, we hear you say that you need to go in to “save lives.” Do not be blinded by your view of your own amazingness. All you are doing by groveling at the feet of the brute is to prop him up, reinforce his belief in the rightness of his whim of the day. Make no mistake, if Mr. Trump’s “agenda” is successful more, not fewer, Americans and innocents around the world will suffer or die, and none of us will be safer. Do not be part of that.

Vicki Divoll is a former general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former deputy legal adviser to the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center.



Tonight, my Chinese family and I will be at a restaurant in Brooklyn’s Chinatown eating fried tofu and Peking duck while Donald J. Trump attends Inaugural Balls. If you told me a year ago that we would be commiserating banquet-style while an internet troll was sworn in as president, I would have snorted derisively into my illegal shark fin soup.

Growing up in Manhattan, the American-born child of immigrants from Hong Kong, I was embarrassed by my family’s strange holidays. I never learned to speak the language, or even use chopsticks. Disney’s “Mulan” felt like a caricature of every stereotype I was teased about in school. When “Fresh Off the Boat” aired on television, it seemed that people like me were the butt of a nationally understood joke — especially when Chinese people were portrayed by Korean actors.

I dreaded answering “Where are you from?” When I told an elementary schoolteacher “New York,” she shook her head and asked, “But where are you really from?” As an adult, I cringed when a classmate asked, “What kind of Asian are you?”— or worse, presumed to guess. On a date two years ago, the blond lacrosse player I met from OkCupid said between bites of sushi: “You’re Korean, right? I’m really good at telling Orientals apart.” I was horrified at being fetishized for my race — especially one I didn’t identify with. I just wanted to be American.

It took a trip to Asia — and Donald Trump — to help me embrace my identity.

After resigning from my Wall Street analyst job because of a chronic wrist injury, I took a solo trip to Asia and went everywhere but China. I didn’t want to be around people who looked like me. And indeed, people often treated me like an outsider. In Penang, Malaysia, a smiling woman brought me a bowl of hokkien mee with hot sauce on the side instead of mixed in — a practice reserved for Caucasians. While surfing in Indonesia, a dark-skinned aboriginal laughed at my thin “city people” arms. “You paddle like chicken,” he said, before showing me a better way to propel.

In America, I was viewed as Asian. In Asia, I was viewed as American. I had feared being boxed in by what others thought I was. But belonging is personal, fluid and multicultural. I had clung to being an American as my one immutable identity, not realizing that who I was could not be diluted. Being Asian did not make me less American.

Which brings me to Mr. Trump. Sitting on a stool at my mother’s house in Brooklyn during one of the presidential debates, I watched him accuse China of using the United States as a piggy bank and of inventing climate change. Though I had spent my life distancing myself from Asia, his xenophobia made me feel personally rejected.

Before I knew it, my brother and I were both shouting at the television. I knew who I was. I am Chinese-American, and he was talking about me.

Stephanie Siu is studying journalism at the New School.



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The president-elect and his transition team still have not fully answered the question:

“Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?”

Cecilia Vega of ABC News asked the question at Donald Trump’s news conference on Jan. 11. He ducked it, choosing to answer a different question instead. He issued a short denial while entering an elevator later, but it left plenty of room for uncertainty.

Now there is all the more reason to want an answer. My colleagues in The Times newsroom reported yesterday that the F.B.I., along with the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department, are investigating possible links between Trump associates and Russian officials.

There is no public evidence of any such links, and no one should assume that the existence of an investigation implies a scandal. Yet there are a whole lot of mysteries, including Russia’s known attempts to help elect Trump and Trump’s strange affinity for Vladimir Putin.

The Trump team’s refusal to give a fulsome answer adds to the mystery. The statement yesterday from Hope Hicks, a Trump spokeswoman, was hardly a beacon of clarity: “We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.”

The country needs a better answer from the man who in a few hours will be the president of the United States.


Usually before a major moment of political theater — be it a convention speech, a debate, a State of the Union or an Inaugural Address — there is a lot of talk about what the main player, the candidate or president, can do to reach out, to win over, to unite and to persuade.

I’ve seen rather less of this in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s inauguration, mostly because reaching out is not usually the Trump way. Not for him the “We are not enemies, but friends,” of Lincoln’s first inaugural, one assumes. Instead he’s promised a short, “Jacksonian” speech, which probably means a paean to the national interest and promise to defend hardworking Americans against various malign forces, foreign and domestic.

That message won him the election but not the public’s trust; it inspired Americans to vote for him despite their fears of what his presidency might bring. So reasserting it makes sense, but it’s not likely to make much of a difference to how he’s perceived (not favorably at the moment). This is the most surreal inaugural in modern American history, and there’s no speech in the world that will transform it into a unifying or reassuring day.

The country will warm to its new president (and forgive his Twitter feed) if the economy grows and the world grows more peaceful; if not, not. Trump’s public rhetoric has never made him broadly popular; his Inaugural Address will not be the exception. The only thing that can do that is results.


Like many Americans, I’ve worried about the consequences of Donald J. Trump’s presidency during the long interregnum leading to Inauguration Day, about his unresolved business conflicts, tendencies toward authoritarianism and his policies.

But I’ve found comfort in a surprising group of right-leaning people who share my fears, though not my political outlook: Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker and Michael Gerson of The Washington Post; the conservative intellectual David Frum; the Republican consultants Rick Wilson, Matthew Dowd and Ana Navarro; and the former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.

They and others have not wavered in their prolific critiques of Mr. Trump’s conduct and approach to government.

Their moral clarity, untainted by the Washington instinct to keep open the doors of “access,” has been entirely admirable. Many liberals and Democrats have been at least as clearheaded about Trump’s unsuitability to serve, but it can be hard to separate our fears from ordinary political disputes about, for example, Obamacare. But the conservatives and libertarians who hold tight to their objections to the shattering of democratic norms and constitutional practices by Mr. Trump occupy a different position and can be heard by audiences who are more likely to favor some of Mr. Trump’s or Representative Paul Ryan’s policies.

If their voices don’t waver and Mr. Trump continues along a reckless path, these conservatives, joined by elected officials and grass-roots leaders, may form the basis of a new coalition with liberals — agreeing to disagree on many issues, but sharing a commitment to civil liberties and democratic norms.

It may even evolve into the centrist political alignment that pundits have dreamed of since at least the mid-1990s, often calling for figures like Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, to run for national office, on a platform of deficit reduction.

The new alliance can seek not to restore the political practices of the past but, by challenging Mr. Trump, to develop a new set of norms that can make citizens feel they’ve been heard, in Washington and locally. That would include objecting not only to Mr. Trump’s open conflicts of interest but also, for example, to tactics such as “repeal and delay” of the Affordable Care Act, because it avoids putting basic choices about policy before legislators and the public.

When the threat to constitutional norms posed by Mr. Trump has passed — perhaps because he himself adapts to the constitutional constraints of the presidency — we can return to disagreements about taxation or the role of government in providing a safety net. But perhaps we’ll approach those fights with a newfound appreciation of the dangers of treating these policy differences as if they were existential choices, worthy of victory at any cost, because that is the form of politics that led to the reign of Donald J. Trump.

The new centrist alliance has taken first root among elites — journalists and political figures who had been successful in the existing system. This new community of voices willing to challenge Mr. Trump and stand up for constitutional norms might be the most important new coalition of the dangerous era ahead.

Mark Schmitt is the director of the political reform program at the research organization New America.


His supporters may adore him for “saying what everyone thinks,” but President-elect Donald J. Trump is about to confront the indecipherable jargon of Capitol Hill, which will go well beyond his 140-character norm. Here’s my contribution to the success of his presidency: “The “Congress/English Dictionary.”

CONGRESS: “The distinguished gentleman.” ENGLISH: “The insufferable idiot.”

CONGRESS: “My good friend from the other side of the aisle.” ENGLISH: “My adversary, who must have been raised by, like, aliens.”

CONGRESS: “Broad bipartisan support.” ENGLISH: “Out of 247 Democrats, one co-sponsored the G.O.P. bill.”

CONGRESS: “Will the gentleman yield?” ENGLISH: “Shut up so I can talk.”

CONGRESS: “Reclaiming my time.” ENGLISH: “No, you shut up!”

CONGRESS: “The gentleman’s time has expired.” ENGLISH: “Shut up and sit down!”

CONGRESS: “Ethics reform.” ENGLISH: “Ethics loophole.”

CONGRESS: “The Freedom Caucus.” ENGLISH: “Opposed to gay rights, reproductive rights, voting rights.”

CONGRESS: “The White House Correspondents Dinner? Way too shallow for me.” ENGLISH: “I wasn’t invited.”

CONGRESS: “The special interests.” ENGLISH: “People with whom I disagree.”

CONGRESS: “Strengthen the middle class.” ENGLISH: “Tax cuts for billionaires.”

CONGRESS: “The backbone of our economy.” ENGLISH: “Political bundlers.”

CONGRESS: “Complete disaster.” ENGLISH: “Twenty million insured Americans, slower cost increases, no loss of medical coverage because of pre-existing conditions.”

CONGRESS: “Repeal.” ENGLISH: “Repeal.”

CONGRESS: “Replace.” ENGLISH: No definition.

Steve Israel, a former Democratic United States representative for New York, chairs the Long Island University Global Institute and is finishing his second novel.