WASHINGTON – Except for the cold weather, Barack Obama’s first inauguration reminded me a lot of Woodstock. Throngs of revelers wandering around with no idea whatsoever of where they were going. The crowd was so big, you worried that there’d be a stampede. But no. People bumped into one another, smiled and bumped on. One big beaming community. Peace, love and thermal underwear.
Kind of knew Donald Trump’s day would be different. One hint came when the inaugural committee’s communications director said, “We are not putting on Woodstock.”
You cannot blame our new president for the relatively small number of violent demonstrators who showed up in Washington. You can totally blame him for the crowd that shouted “Lock her up!” when Hillary Clinton appeared at the swearing-in. In between you had a ton of peaceful protesters and cheerful celebrators, doing their best to move forward with their respective missions.
“Those are tears of joy coming from heaven,” one man in the inaugural audience announced when it started to rain the moment Trump began to speak. Other quarters envisioned the judgment of a depressed deity.
And it’s hard to have a love fest when the central character can’t stop bragging about what a big winner he is. “I think I outworked anybody who ever ran for office,” he said Thursday. Take that, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. We will stop here briefly to ask ourselves how many rallies Donald Trump would have made if he’d had to campaign on horseback.
OK, let’s move on. Not a time for small-minded carping. Big carps only.
A number of Democratic members of Congress boycotted the inauguration. This is perfectly fine, but not exactly a big achievement. Boycotting is only impressive if you actually would have liked being at the event. Announcing that you’re refusing to sit out in the dank cold to listen to the runner-up in a TV talent show sing the national anthem is not so much an act of heroism as a reprieve.
Hillary Clinton didn’t boycott, although you could certainly understand if she had just decided to announce she was staying home until somebody came up with a good explanation for the Russian thing. But this is a woman who has never failed to show up for unpleasant duties.
And Bernie Sanders was there, getting booed when his face appeared on the Jumbotron. Poor Sen. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, couldn’t even read a letter from a Civil War soldier without getting catcalls.
So definitely not Woodstockian. “In the event we are needed, we certainly will form a wall of meat,” promised Chris Cox, the founder of Bikers for Trump, offering what may have been the most memorable image of the inauguration. Even in desperate times, we give credit for originality.
The man of the hour was particularly thrilled by the Bikers for Trump. “Boy, they had a scene today,” said the president-elect, describing what he thought was their arrival. “They had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country. And they had thousands of those guys coming into town.”
Actually, the picture he was describing appeared to be from a 2013 blog post on safe biking in large groups. However, in the spirit of new beginnings, we are going to attempt to get through this week without devoting any more time than absolutely necessary to things the 45th president of the United States made up.
Trump also tweeted a picture of himself, allegedly hard at work composing his Inaugural Address. Do you think he really wrote it, people? Cynical minds noted that he seemed to be staring at a blank piece of paper while wielding a Sharpie. All we know for sure is that his impromptu remarks during the inaugural run-ups had … a different tone. “I made a speech tonight at the Lincoln Memorial. … I thought it was a very good speech. … They never give you credit,” he complained at a dinner for his donors. The Lincoln Memorial event was the one where he overestimated the crowd and suggested inaugural concerts at the memorial were his idea. He also complained that nobody ever gives him credit.
There was also the moment when Trump announced that he had nominated “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” In honor of the inauguration we will not dwell on the fact that the guy he wants to be secretary of energy had no idea until very recently what the Department of Energy does.
But about the Inaugural Address. It was definitely what our new president thinks of as inclusive. Instead of yelling about Democrats, he yelled about other countries. (“America first!”) He still seems to think that all poor neighborhoods are terror zones and public schools are something out of “Oliver Twist.” (“An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”)
And then it was over. Donald Trump is president. Wow.