Good morning Austin:
Tomorrow is the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.
Tonight is the Texas Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, which describes itself as a “waterfront resort destination on the banks of the Potomac River,” just far enough south of D.C. to be inconvenient. It is plush with restaurants and stores, and there is a very large Ferris wheel – the Capital Wheel – “that takes riders up to 180 feet into the air, giving them great views of DC and the Potomac River.”
I am thinking that observing the transition of power from President Barack Obama to President Donald Trump from the Capital Wheel may be the way to go, offering just the right surreal – or SirFerrisWheel – distance.
I would probably go with the VIP Experience.
If you are looking for an exceptional experience, The Capital Wheel’s National Harbor One
(the VIP gondola) provides an especially luxurious ride with its leather bucket seats,
and glass floor. National Harbor One can accommodate up to four riders. VIP tickets at
$50 per rider allow you to step right to the head of the line, and a photo package
(a $20 value) is included, too!
Paying to “step right to the head of the line,” is, of course, what’s wrong with Washington, especially in the new Age of Jackson.
From a report on Trump’s day yesterday from Maggie Haberman in the New York Times:
Mr. Trump said that people compared his success to the popular movement that put Andrew Jackson in the White House.
“There hasn’t been anything like this since Andrew Jackson,” Mr. Trump quoted his admirers saying. “Andrew Jackson? What year was Andrew Jackson? That was a long time ago.”
Mr. Trump then gave the year — 1828 — and went on to suggest that his own nationalist movement had usurped Mr. Jackson’s.
He said that even “the haters” who disliked him called his movement “unprecedented.”
It is an open question which is the tougher ticket – the inauguration or Black Tie & Boots, the latter being modestly smaller, with only some 10,000 or 11,000 people.
“The event is larger than the Republican State Convention so bring your A game,” Gov. Greg Abbott said yesterday.
We pause here so you can watch a little ad for the event brought to you by Luchesse Boots and U.S. Rep. Roger Williams who, in addition to being a Republican congressman from Austin, is also president of the Texas State Society of Washington, D.C., sponsors of the 10th Quadrennial Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball.
The entertainment includes Cody Canada and the Departed, the Crawford Pirate Band, Texas State University Strutters, the Lil’ Wranglers, and, my favorite, the Kilgore College Rangerettes.
“I’ll wear black crocodile boots with the seal of Texas on them,” said Abbott, who said he has three pairs of black boots and three pairs of brown boots.
For Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, it’s black ostrich leg boots, off the shelf, Luchesse, that have the Texas seal on them.
“Everybody loves to be a Texan,” Patrick said.
Black Tie & Boots, “gives everyone a chance.”
I have been told by people, let’s just say close to the administration, that said, `Look, this is THE ball. This is just it. There are other balls, there is the Liberty Ball, the balls the night of the Inauguration, but this is it.
Patrick, his wife, their son and daughter and respective spouses, are staying at the Gaylord.
Abbott and his wife Cecilia are staying steps away at the Westin Washington National Harbor.
I spoke with both Patrick and Abbott yesterday and this is what they said.
Last week at the Texas Public Policy Foundation Policy Policy Orientation in Austin, Patrick, who chaired the Trump campaign in Texas (he had previously chaired Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in Texas), said this about his relationship with the president elect: “That penny stock I bought in June … just saying.”
Q: Does the president elect know you that you referred to him as a penny stock?
DP: No, I don’t know. I doubt it, but you know what, it really gets the point across.
Back in June, when I joined the Trump team I had a lot of friends who said, `Dan, don’t get involved in that campaign because he is going to go down and you’re going to go down with him,’ or, `He’s going to say something, and you’re going to have to respond,’ and I just made a decision, I’m a Republican, I’m going to support our candidate. I want to help him defeat Hillary by helping to raise money, but in Texas I want to be sure he wins by a wide margin, and no one else was wiling to step up, and so I stepped up, and I realized there was a risk, but I thought it was worth it.
There’s a risk any time you attach your name to another candidate because you can’t control what they’re going to say or do. But instead of explaining all that to folks, and I do it in a brief way, I say, `You know I bought a penny stock and today I wouldn’t sell it for anything.’
Q: Well they were probably telling you that you were making a mistake right up to the time he won.
DP: They were. And I honestly believed that he had a great shot of winning, despite that audiotape. I believed he had a great shot of winning, but when it happened I was in disbelief that the people actually showed up and fought back against the establishment of both parties. It was a wonderful victory for him and an incredible accomplishment. But it’s really a bigger victory for the people. It should really tell both parties, we will only take so much. If you don’t start behaving better we are going to continue to look for people who are going to work for us and not insiders in Washington, D.C.
Q: Do you think his success will draw more political outsiders into running for office?
DP: I just read that Laura Ingraham is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate from Virginia. She’s a dear friend. I sent her a note saying, if she does, I’m all in to help.
People were looking not only for a different candidate, but a different approach, and look, Ted gave him all he could handle and if not for Donald Trump, we would be here at the inauguration of Ted Cruz, no doubt about it.
This was a once in a lifetime phenomenon and there will never be another Donald Trump because anyone that replicates it, they’ll just say, `Oh you’re trying to be another Donald Trump.’ There’s nothing better than the original. But I think it will inspire more and more people to run for office.
I also think for our party, for Republicans, he is going to inspire people maybe who weren’t as bold before – I’ve never had that problem – to be a little stronger in their convictions, a little more outspoken, surely take on the media in a way that a lot of elected officials run the other way – don’t ever question the media. He’s now pulled that band-aid off. And to question their own party. He definitely has changed politics.
Q: The country is deeply divided over the election result. Some Democratic members of Congress are boycotting the inauguration. Is that polarization inexorable?
DP: As each year goes by our country becomes more polarized. I know there are exceptions, but half the country was not as nasty toward Obama as the left has been to Trump. He has been treated horribly.
Most people I know, Republican or Democrat, when the president is elected, they respect the office and they pray for the candidate. I was asked a question at the Houston Chamber of Commerce before the election, `What if Hillary wins?’ I said, `I don’t expect her to win, but if she wins I’ll pray for her.’ I prayed for Barack Obama.
It’s important for us as Americans for our president to succeed. But there’s this loud voice in America now that wants him to fail. I don’t think the vast majority of Republicans ever wanted Obama to fail, but after so many failures, they viewed him as a failure, and that brought about discontent. Is it always going to be that way. Some of these Democrats said George Bush was illegitimate. This isn’t new. There’s a handful, a pretty large group of Democrats in Washington, D.C., I don’t think at the state level frankly, but in Washington, D.C., they have never accepted Republicans.
Friday should be a day to celebrate the peaceful transition of power from one president to another, from one party to another and for elected officials, who should know better, to be boycotting, it is disgraceful.
Q: Were you expecting Trump’s choice of Rick Perry’s appointment for Energy Secretary?
DP: What a great story that is.
Trump said – we were at a fundraiser in Houston in July, Trump introduced the governor, he introduced me – I’m bringing this guy to Washington with me.’ So he kept his word.
I didn’t know what position. I thought he would be a great candidate for Defense or Veterans Affairs, so I was surprised at the Energy thing, but it’s a brilliant thing. Even though it deals with our nuclear issues, he knows the oil and gas industry better than anybody else he could have selected and he’s run a major state and it’s a major agency.
And I’ve only talked to the governor very briefly a few weeks ago, and I said, `I can’t wait for things to slow down so you can tell me the whole story of how this happened,’ because I know personally that there were some very big names that were pushing very hard to get that position. And the fact that Trump selected Perry – and if you look at his other picks – he’s operating like a businessman, he’s getting the best person for the job. It doesn’t matter if they were at some point on the other side of the issue.
In this case Rick – who campaigned hard for him – it doesn’t matter (that they were somewhat bitter rivals in the primaries). If it’s a choice between a longtime friend of Trump and another person, and the other person is better, he’s selecting the best person for the job, as you do in business. You don’t hire people for your company for important positions,because they’re your buddy.
Look it’s the most conservative Cabinet in the history of the country. Ted Cruz would have had a very conservative Cabinet. No one else would have had it, except these two guys.
I‘m sure the campaign changed him over times in many ways. You meet so many people, you hear their stories, you’re impacted by it. He probably studied issues more than he’s ever studied the issues and really started asking himself, `Is the conservative path forward better or the liberal path?’
And, he has become a Republican in later life, so on issues like pro-life, there’s no question that he’s all in. He is pro-life. Everything he’s said, everything he’s done. His appointments are strong. So I’m sure he’s evolved. Look in the year-and-a-half campaign for lieutenant governor, I evolved, we all evolve. You learn as you go and you meet people and you learn from people. You see what works and doesn’t work.
Patrick said this is his second inauguration. The first was President George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2005, which he attended with his son.
This time, “I brought my son and daughter and their spouses because it’s history, because we may not have this opportunity to do this again together. It’s something you can to back on and say, `I was there.”
Q: Should expect some selfies?
DP: Expect some selfies.
Abbott met with Toyota CEO James Lentz yesterday afternoon at the Westin to talk about their operations in Texas, manufacturing in the United States, and the like.
Earlier, he met with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at his usual spot at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Georgetown.
GA: This morning I met with Newt Gingrich, in part to pay up a bet, a losing bet, but also more substantively to talk about issues, about how states can work with the Trump administration, to really work toward our common interests. They include the kind of issues, frankly, that I’ve been working on for the past eight years.
One is to assemble a group of governors who can provide information at the state level on ways we can go about eliminating onerous regulations that are hampering business. Another, we talked about the structure to create a framework for states to begin the process of how Medicaid is going to change. Will it be block grants? Will it be a series of waivers? But more importantly, how do we go about the process of the states crafting their own standards and then being able to successfully implement them?
I have a meeting tomorrow with members of the Senate Finance Committee to talk about that very issue – the repeal of Obamacare, what the new iteration of health care will look like and what the future could look like for reformation of the Medicaid system.
It will be me and several governors and several members of the Senate Finance Committee, including he chairman, Orrin Hatch. It is my understanding, Sen. Cornyn will be there.
Newt Gingrich and I talked about working with the Trump administration, General (John) Kelly (Trump’s choice for Secretary of Homeland Security) in particular, to forge an effective relationship, to ensure that we are able to secure the border.
It’s clear that (Gingrich) is a person who understands how Washington works. He is a person with a connection to the president and his team, and is a great facilitator of getting things done in Washington, and he is a person who wants to see goals accomplished. It’s one thing to lay out an agenda, it’s another thing to accomplish that. Washington can be a challenging place to get things accomplished. Newt has a bunch of good ideas about how to actually get things done.
Most of the regulations I have thought about – such as Obamacare, such as Dodd-Frank, things like that – now we want to dig deeper, as opposed to the broad-based, let’s either repeal or restructure Dodd-Frank or Obamacare, it’s more talking to the local businessman or woman, talking to the farmer or rancher, what are your challenges, what can be done?
I’ll give you an easy example. There is this regulation called Waters of the United States – WOTUS – that basically allows he EPA to regulate water in ditches on the property of farmers and ranchers, and that’s an easy example of the type of onerous regulations that seem to be hampering either individuals, private property owners or businesses, in ways that seem nonsensical, in ways that can be reformed.
Q: It it different coming to Washington on the cusp of being entirely under Republican control?
GA: I left my legal briefcase behind. I’m not serving process on anybody.
Q: Have you been to previous inaugurations?
GA: Both George W. Bush inaugurals.
The first one in particular – he was a personal friend and a mentor of mine – and it was at that time a really big deal for Texas so it was extra special for Texas. There was a moment from that event, it was just unbelievable. In 2001 we were at the inaugural ball and George W. Bush and Laura came to it and we partied until about 2 a.m. and we left about 2 a.m. and as we were leaving it had just begun to snow and so the town was covered in white. We got into a car and drove through various parts of west Washington, D.C., and Georgetown, until about 4 a.m., by then city was blanketed in white, it was a beautiful experience.
Q: Is the First Lady excited about this inaugural?
GA: Yes. She’s co-chair of the Latino inaugural event, and will be saying a few words at that event and is very excited about it and excited about connecting the Latino culture and the Republican Party, which we’ve already done, with the Trump team.
Q: This will be a dramatic change. Any worries?
GA: The change that is coming about is a change that I fought for, and so I’m heavily immersed in everything that’s about to transition. There’s a transition of people in power but there’s also a transition of the way that America is going to be run, and a lot of the substantive changes are things that I’ve been working to see done. This is more of a sense of fruition to a lot of hard efforts that have been underway for many years now.
Q: What about Trump’s tweeting?
GA: The reality is the world is different and the world constantly changes. Listen the first president to do anything from a radio, the one who used it most profoundly originally, was FDR, that was a transformational moment. The first president to use TV, that was a transformational moment, was JFK.
And now we’ve got a president who’s changing the communications paradigm with social media. Just as there have always been changes in communications platforms, this is another change. It should be viewed as a good change in this sense and that is, citizens want to know what their leaders are thinking, and they want in a way direct access to their leaders and they’re getting information directly from their leader. Now obviously there are some national security based issues and things like that we all assume will be taken care of.
Q – This is kind of a working inaugural for you?
GA: The reality is even during the balls I am going to among constituents, talking to constituents the whole time.