TRUMP’S ADDRESS ASSERTED
OUR NATIONAL CHARACTER
The inaugural address was more than just Trump being Trump.
For one thing, it was a ringing and unashamed declaration that America is going to reassert its Judeo-Christian cultural and religious heritage. We saw as broad a representation of clergy as might be expected after eight years of strained multiculturalism.
There was a Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (Trump’s hometown); a Hispanic minister, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez; an Evangelical superstar, Rev. Franklin Graham; a black televangelist, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson; and Pastor Paula White, a female mega-church / multi-media celebrity who’s had an ongoing advisory relationship with the Trump family.
An interfaith prayer service earlier that morning had included Imam Mohamed Magid, former head of the Islamic Society of North America. But the inauguration ceremony’s pastoral A-Team was Christian and Jewish.
Concomitantly, Trump was very in-your-face with his insistence that he intends to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism.” No hedging with terms like Islamist. Not the merest suggestion that our terrorist enemies might be motivated by something other than religious imperialism.
Along with its spiritual assertiveness, the speech was startlingly political — which drew this sharp rebuke from the Washington Post’s preeminent conservative columnist, George Will…
“Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about ‘rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape’ and an education system producing students ‘deprived of all knowledge.’”
I too was taken aback at the two-fisted approach immediately evident in Trump’s talk. But then I realized that The Donald intended for this speech to be something other than the usual civic liturgy. It was his declaration of war.
John Hinderacker of the Powerline blog saw clearly that the speech “didn’t give an inch” from positions taken during the campaign…
“Trump’s message to the world was: if you thought I wasn’t serious; if you thought I might go native; if you thought the weight of responsibility might force me to accept the conventional wisdom; forget it. I meant every word I’ve been saying for the last two years.”
That message was carried through, right up to the jack-hammer finish…
“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.”
…concluding with a reiteration of his campaign slogan…
“And yes, together, we will make America great again.”
George Will and other students of classical rhetoric might be disappointed that there were no shining oratorical gems like Jack Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” But in his own homely way, Trump gave a bravura performance — reassuring his supporters and putting his opponents on notice.
There were even a few memorable zingers, like the line about how…
“we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own…”
Consider that all this was set against a background of leftist outrage pouring out a few blocks away. Trump supporters were being assaulted, windows were being smashed, and cars were being set ablaze by what I called in my last post our…
“champions of tolerance and inclusiveness who care so deeply about democracy, creative expression, and human feelings.”
They were another audience to which The Donald’s message was addressed — they and their enablers in the political / mass media establishment.
(My perceptive wife observed that, cavorting in their black outfits, with their faces masked, the protestors were sort of a leftist version of the Ku Klux Klan.)
Yet, it was the religious aspect of the inauguration which I found most interesting. Once more I was struck by how well Trump — someone who’s lived such a highly materialist, secularized life — has sensed the longing of the American people for a reassertion of faith and ethical clarity.
We’re told over and over that people are falling away from the churches, and this may be true. Nonetheless, most people still want to live lives that make moral sense. And Trump has grasped that fact more fully than any other leading public figure.
As I observed about him in my pre-election post of November 6…
“…I’ve come to recognize a core of inner awareness under all that free-association, stream-of-consciousness jabber.
“I don’t think it quite takes the form of a life philosophy. It’s something more basic and raw, much like the spark of native political instinct that emerged during the campaign.
“It may have something to do with God and faith, even though religious sensibility doesn’t seem to have been a centering point in The Donald’s life so far. But if he can clarify it, refine it, and allow it to give him direction, he could rise to fill the office of President quite well.”
Of course, he’ll have to get his Republican troops lined up behind him, and the harsh rhetoric rather complicates that effort.
I’m not urging compromises of substance. That would be untrue to the Trumpian program and a betrayal of the voters who believed in him. But arguments for the critical policies he needs to push through must be framed in ways that give his GOP allies some political cover, encourage Democrats to come along now and then, and make things uncomfortable for those who don’t.
This is the Washington wheeling-dealing inherent in our system. And whether tough-talking Donald Trump can master it is an unanswered question.
We shall see.
In the meantime, that was one hell of a speech.
NOTE: Sometimes ideas just seem to be in the air. The image above shows how two New York dailies shared an inspiration on Inauguration Day.
Here’s a link to George Will’s Washington Post take on what he calls “the most dreadful inaugural address in history”…
In a compatible spirit, Will’s Post colleagues, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, fact-check Trump’s oratory. Fact-check? What’s to fact-check? It was The Donald’s exhortation. Would you fact-check the Gettysburg Address?…
A week before the inauguration, Republican consultant James G. Wiles looked ahead to what Trump will face over the next few years — essentially a flashback to the early 1970s. Friday’s frolics were a start…
“What I’m predicting is a return to the huge marches on Washington against the Vietnam War. To the 24-hour picketing of the White House. To teach-ins. Student strikes. Full-page ads and petitions. Leaks of classified information. An unceasing drumbeat of media and academic criticism.”
* (I reflected on those heady days of protest in a blog post back in January of last year. Given political developments since then, I would come to a somewhat different conclusion now. But I think my observations are still relevant.)
Real Clear Politics has a written transcript…