On Friday morning, President Donald Trump placed his left hand on two Bibles, one given to him by his mother and one used to swear in President Abraham Lincoln, and repeated the oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" administered by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
With that, the man who was roundly dismissed as a joke when he came down an escalator and announced his candidacy for president two years ago actually ascended to the highest office in the land, getting in a dig at illegal immigrants right out of the gate that foreshadowed what was to come.
The inauguration ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol was as surreal as one could expect the grand finale of this strange reality show called "President Trump, Seriously" to be.
Every living president — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and, of course, President Barack Obama — the guy whose work Trump declared during his inaugural address that he would undo — was on hand, except for George H.W. Bush, who is still in the hospital here at Houston Methodist along with his wife, Barbara Bush, as we've noted.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also there. Dressed in snowy white, she wore a steely expression and her face barely registered the boos from the crowd when she appeared on the dais.
The crowd wasn't as large as the audience that gathered to hear Obama sworn in back in 2009, but they stood there under gray skies and a steady drizzle to watch the event and hear what Trump had to say.
Based on the actual inauguration speech he gave, it certainly does sound like Trump wrote it himself.
Trump used his 16-minute remarks to make a whole lot of promises about the populist revolution he says his administration is going to oversee. "We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort," Trump said. "We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people."
He gathered steam here and really laid into the Washington establishment, despite the fact that he was literally surrounded by it. "For too long, a small group in our nation's capitol has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," Trump said. "Washington flourished but the people did not share the wealth. The establishment protected itself."
He promised to end "American carnage" of gangs and rusting factories and education systems in which the students don't benefit from the money put in. He said he's going to end crime too, painting a picture of the United States as a decrepit, crime-ridden, rickety bucket of a nation that doesn't actually have a lot of ties to reality. (Right now unemployment numbers are way down and crime rates are actually at historic lows, as NPR noted.)
Without a hint of irony — maybe because he doesn't know the history of the slogan — Trump promised to keep "America first." (America First just happens to have been the name of the pro-fascist group of Americans that opposed getting involved in European affairs and supported the Nazis in the years leading up to World War II.) Trump also swore that the forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no more. He critiqued many of the policies of his predecessor and promised to undo them.
In the middle of all of this promising and pledging, Trump, not known to be a pious man, invoked God several times. On top of the usual array of religious leaders giving readings and offering prayers, Trump turned suddenly religious in his address. Trump was raised Presbyterian but is no longer a member of his childhood church and hasn't exactly exhibited any signs of religious fervor during his political rise, but still he referenced the Bible and name-checked the Big Guy. "We will be protected by God," he proclaimed.
It wasn't all smooth sailing in the nation's capital. About 90 different groups had registered to protest in Washington, D.C. One of the groups, its members dressed in black, started breaking windows and they were sprayed by police with tear gas to get them to calm down. Overall, though, the whole transfer of power happened a lot more smoothly than many had expected based on the bitter election and transition period.
Once it was done, Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama left the Capitol Building, signaling the successful transfer of power. Trump grinned and chatted amiably with Obama.
Meanwhile, protests against Trump are scheduled all across the country on Friday and Saturday, including here in Houston.
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