Good day Austin:
I have spent a week in Washington for Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.
I am taking the next week off to go to New York.
But before I do, here are ten takes on what I saw, because lists are where it’s at.
1 – The Curious Case of Donald Trump
Donald Trump’s inaugural address is one for the books if for no other reason than all inaugural addresses are the stuff of history books.
But I think the speech every American should watch or read to get a better idea of what condition our condition is in is his utterly, unmistakably Trumpian remarks to the CIA on Saturday, his first full day as president.
Here is a favorite excerpt:
You know, when I was young and when I was — of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. (Laughter.) Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping — when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young.
When I was young — and I think we’re all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, “The United States has never lost a war.” And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything.
We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” — you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.
I watched myself crawling out as I was a-crawling in
I got up so tight I couldn’t unwind
I saw so much I broke my mind
I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in
From a paean to youth to a disarmingly frank description of a colonialist foreign policy in a few short lines.
But it made me wonder.
We all know about how the presidency ages a man. All that stress.
But what if, in Trump’s case, a la Benjamin Button, he grows younger as his administration wears on?
And, what if, while he is getting younger, the rest of America – everyone else – with all the stress we are all under, wondering, day by day, what he’s going to do next and how the Trump presidency is going to turn out, ages at an an accelerated pace, like Obama did these last eight years?
2. First there was the alt-Right. Now say hello to the alt-Wrong.
Watch here as the new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, uses the occasion of his first press conference, after arriving an hour late, to scold the press, and then depart without taking a question.
And, here is the extraordinary exchange between Chuck Todd and Kellyanne Conway about this on Meet the Press.
And joining me now is the counselor to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway. Miss Conway, welcome to the White House north lawn which will–
–become a familiar place for you I think–
–for the next few years. Let me begin with this question, the presidency is about choices. So I’m curious why President Trump chose yesterday to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size. I guess my question to you is why do that?
Chuck, the president did many things yesterday and the day before that are very meaningful to America. He signed executive orders to stop Obamacare and all of its problems. Many people have lost their– Millions of people have lost their insurance, their doctors, their plans. So that stops right now.
He’s going to replace it with something much more free-market and patient-centric in nature. And on this matter of crowd size, I mean, for me I think the most quantifiable points of interest for Americans should be what just happened a few months ago that brought him here, the 31 of 50 states he won, the 2,600 counties, the 200 counties that went for President Obama that now went to President Trump. And the fact that 29, 30 million women voted for Donald Trump for president. They should be respected. Somebody should cover their voices as well.
I’m about things that are quantifiable and important. I don’t think that– I don’t think ultimately presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inauguration. I think they’re judged by their accomplishments. And we know that President Obama and his accomplishments, that there’s a lot of unfinished business there.
And on this matter of crowd size I think it is a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives. I’m very heartened to see Nielsen just came out with the ratings, 31 million people watching the inauguration. President Obama had 20.5 million watching his second inauguration four short years ago. So we know people are also watching the inauguration on different screens and in different modes. And that there was, I mean, for me there was a prediction of a downpour of rain. I think that deterred many people from coming. But no question there were hundreds of thousands of people out on the mall and–
All right, Kellyanne, let me stop you here because–
–you know, many people enthused.
–you make a very reasonable and rational case for why crowd sizes don’t matter. Then explain, you did not answer the question, why did the president send out his press secretary, who’s not just the spokesperson for Donald Trump. He could be– He also serves as the spokesperson for all of America at times. He speaks for all of the country at times. Why put him out there for the very first time in front of that podium to utter a provable falsehood? It’s a small thing. But the first time he confronts the public it’s a falsehood?
Chuck, I mean, if we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here. I want to have a great open relationship with our press. But look what happened the day before talking about falsehoods.
We allowed the press– the press to come into the Oval Office and witness President Trump signing executive orders. And of course, you know, the Senate had just confirmed General Mattis and General Kelly to their two posts. And we allowed the press in. And what happens almost immediately? A falsehood is told about removing the bust of Martin Luther King Junior from the Oval Office. No, that’s just flat-out false. And the pool writer–
And it was corrected immediately–
But why– Chuck, why was it said?
–but Kellyanne, no, let me–
Chuck, why was it said in the first place because–
–I don’t know.
–everybody’s so presumptively negative–
–climb, climb into the head of that reporter–
No, that it’s okay. No excuse me.
Oh no, no, no, that reporter was writing to– on behalf of the press pool. That falsehood–
I understand that–
–got spread 3,000 times–
But it does not excuse–
–before it was corrected.
–excuse me. It does not–
And it’s still out there.
–excuse and you did not answer the question.
I did answer–
No you did not.
You did not–
Yes I did.
–answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood? Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office–
No it doesn’t.
–on day one.
Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What– You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains–
Wait a minute– Alternative facts?
Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right–
–hey, Chuck, why– Hey Chuck–
–was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.
You can read the rest of the transcript here.
3. Alex Jones’s Night(cap) at the Newseum.
I love this.
Watch and see how Jones proves that, even when he’s a little looser than usual, he can pull off a bravura performance.
The premise here is that Jones, who was broadcasting from Washington for inaugural week, visits the Newseum – the museum of news – treating it as a museum of dinosaurs, with its line of newspaper front pages displayed out front, papers like, as Jones puts it, the Los Stegosaurus Times.
4. Rick Perry tousled my hair.
Yes. This is true.
Rick Perry is going to be confirmed for Energy Secretary because he gives off a good energy.
He is likeable.
The one downside here was that I asked Ken Herman, who was also covering the hearing, to take a photo of the spot Perry had tousled to send with the tweet, and when he complied and I looked at it, I asked him to try again and get it right this time. When he failed a second time, I tried it myself, with the same horrifying result.
You see, while I am aware that my hairline is receding in the front, I had not, until that very moment, realized it was thinning on top and in the back. I still don’t understand how that is possible because when I tousle my own hair on the top and back, it feels to me as if there is plenty of hair there, but apparently, that’s just not the case.
Frankly, this revelation sent me into a deeper funk than anything else last week.
But I don’t blame Perry.
I saw Rick and Anita Perry again at the inaugural parade.
There were on the balcony of the presidential reviewing stand, and I was on the stand right next to it with a bunch of Texans – and some others – who were part of the Mighty American Strike Force, which sent volunteers from red states like Texas to campaign for Trump in critical swing states.
Here is Perry taking a photo of Anita with Candy Carson, Ben Carson’s wife.
I wanted to call over to him to tell him not to sit so close to the edge.
5. Ex marks the spot.
Meanwhile, as I was peering over at the Perrys, I was standing next to Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, who was there to watch her ex-husband’s arrival at the White House, and to cast a protective eye on their daughter, Tiffany, or, as she called her, Tiff.
Here she is taking a photo at the moment of Trump’s arrival.
On Friday, the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a piece, 7 things to know about Donald Trump’s ex-wife, Marla Maples
The two most interesting to me were:
4. The Georgia native competed on the 22nd season of “Dancing With the Stars,” finishing in 10th place.
7. In October 2016, many speculated that Maples leaked Trump’s tax returns to the New York Times.
I would have not known it was Marla Maples, or that she was even there, were it not for Lucy Orlando, a member of the Mighty American Strike Force from Weston, Florida, who asked me to take her photo with Maples.
Orlando loves Trump, but she also carried with her a framed photo of Rudy Giuliani.
And, interestingly, considering how high-energy she is, she began the presidential campaign in Jeb Bush’s corner.
From Jess Swanson of New Times Miami: Jeb’s Biggest Fan? Haitian Granny, Power Broker Lucy Orlando]
In a sea of Jeb supporters at his announcement Monday, Lucy Orlando stood out as a particularly impassioned. The 71-year-old grandmother of nine was decked in a red T-shirt of Jeb’s smiling face above “We love you, Jeb! From the Lucy Orlando Team.” “Jeb is Unique…He loves people…He loves education and the whole country!” She made sure all members of her team were wearing the shirts (including two of her grandchildren). In fact, she kept a few extras draped over her arms to pass out to others.
The woman has a bizarre background, according to the Sun Sentinel . Her answering machine once told callers to hang up if they didn’t support George Bush. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, she wore a Bush hat and glasses so that the New York Sun called her a “walking Bush poster.” By the way , she has also backed both Barack Obama and, *cough*, Hillary Clinton. A half dozen reports have even alleged that she attempted to broker deals that may have helped get weapons to Haiti in more tumultuous times.
But on Monday, even as her grandkids rested their head on her lap during Jeb’s speech, Orlando looked on at the man whom she hoped (and truly believed) would be the next president of the United States. She was brimming with excitement.
6. No coup. No nukes.
I began last week with a First Reading, Alex Jones: Trump inauguration will be `biggest event in human history,’ barring a coup, assassination or nuke attack
I am here to observe the peaceful transition of power at a particularly stressful moment in American political history.
Or, if Alex Jones is correct, I may be here for riots and a coup against Trump orchestrated by George Soros, Rosie O’Donnell, the Deep State and the New World Order, the president-elect’s arrest – or assassination – and the imposition of martial law.
The good news is that, for the most part, power was peacefully transferred.
As I noted last week, Jones didn’t necessarily say these terrible things would happen. He just said they might happen.
So, if the inaugural festivities include tactical nuclear weapons, Alex Jones warned you. And if it doesn’t happen, well, he never said it was going to happen, so stop trying to make him look like some kind of nutty alarmist.
This is the way Jones communicates – in what might be called the conspiratorial conditional.
And, it appears from a poll on the Infowars site, his followers – or at least that tiny percentage who voted – understand this.
7. Dances with Jews
Before he was Dancing with the Stars, Rick Perry was dancing with the Jews.
Last week, Alex Jones was dancing with a few Orthodox Jewish Trump supporters.
8. And a chance encounter with Ted Cruz
Alex Jones, sitting in his car, recalls the chance encounter.
Out of the darkness comes Senator Ted Cruz in a dark black trench coat.
Oh my god. People always talk about him looking like a vampire, Count Dracula.
I don’t mean to be mean. I admire him on certain levels, but it was like Ted Cruz comes drifting out of the darkness, but it was like I was Darth Vader and he was Obi-Wan Kenobi, like Obi-Wan Kenobi comes around the corner and there’s Darth Vader standing there in the darkness.
it was like that and he goes like `ugh,’ `oh,’ and then he kind of smiled and walked up, didn’t fight the interview. Very cool guy, must have ice water in his veins. We get on the elevator. I’m goofing around with him. We end up having a pretty good four or five minutes interview.
9. Making America Make Again
Here is Trump’s Inaugural Address.
Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of communication at Texas A&M University, took time out from writing her book, The Rhetorical Brilliance of Donald Trump, Demagogue for President, to offer me a few thoughts on the speech.
My initial response to President Trump’s version of America as presented in his inaugural address is that it could only be described as a hellscape in which politicians are corrupt and industry will save all.
While Trump did present this ominous vision of the nation, it isn’t new. It’s the version of America that he’s been selling on the campaign trail for a year-and-a-half. The news in his inaugural address is that his vision of Americans emphasizes a nation of makers — the “make” from his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Americans will “rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people” and we will prosper together as makers “rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.” We will unite to make roads, rebuild schools, communities, and etc. Everyone will have a job, making something, and together we will make America great again.
I find it interesting that he views Americans as makers primarily — homo faber — “man making” is the Latin, as did Karl Marx. Is Trump’s version of human nature, Americans, American exceptionalism, and how we can once again become great an outdated concept? Can late-capitalism sustain Americans as makers as a viable income source? Can we literally make America great again?
I want to agree with him that we are most human when we make things — who doesn’t love the satisfaction of making? — but it seems like his ideal America is based upon a turn-of-the-20th century economy rather that a 21st-century economy. Is that economy possible or desirable now? I just don’t know.
Putting aside the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin, he won the Electoral College fair and square.
But, it is hard to watch what happened on Inauguration Day and the next day, with the massive Women’s Marches in D.C., in Austin and across the country, without getting the feeling that Trump is outnumbered.
Crowd estimates from Women’s Marches on Saturday are still trickling in, but political scientists say they think we may have just witnessed the largest day of demonstrations in American history.
According to data collected by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, marches held in more than 500 US cities were attended by at least 3.3 million people.
Trump is president. He is he master of his destiny. He is unbeholden, even to his own party, like few presidents in history.
But the enormous creative energy, and will, arrayed against him from all those women – who, while there were plenty of men there, dominated the rallies – and especially all those younger women, should worry Trump.
(Valentina Von Klencke of Brooklyn at Eastern Market before he Women’s March on Saturday. Behind her is Rosalie Weisfeld of McAllen, who I wrote about in Sunday’s paper.)
Or would worry Trump if it were not for the condition that his condition is in.
From his CIA remarks:
We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? (Applause.) I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech.
In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured. But, you know, we have something that’s amazing because we had — it looked — honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on — and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around — you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.
But then, not that long after.
Meanwhile, when I talked to Roger Stone ahead of the inauguration he said they are not usually much fun and about the only good thing is that it is one of the rare occasions when you can appropriately wear a top hat.