* George Wills' review in the Washington Post had perhaps the most succinct title:
And I thought it was pretty witty in its withering assessment:
* For a much less amusing, but very worthy take down of Trump, I strongly recommend William Saletan's article at Slate:Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.
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.” Yes, all.
But cheer up, because the carnage will vanish if we “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” “Simple” is the right word.
Saletan starts by noting the ridiculous tweet by Trump, trying to look serious, pretending he is writing the inauguration speech:
A normal president doesn’t do this. He doesn’t assert authorship of speeches and fake a picture of himself writing them. At what ought to be the apex of his popularity and grace, Trump is still groping for praise, even for a speech that was supposed to be about other people.
But the real reason the column is so good is because of the comparison Saletan makes with the inauguration speeches George W Bush gave after he won against Al Gore. Given that I have some history of defending the character and actions of Bush, it pleases me to be reminded why I thought Bush was a decent man:
Bush continued this emphasis on humility in his inaugural address. He introduced America as a “slaveholding society,” a land of “flawed and fallible people united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.” He warned of the persistence of “hidden prejudice.” He praised mosques for cultivating humanity. He said America’s role in the world was to “protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.” He rejected the notion that “our politics can afford to be petty.” He stressed the importance of “private character,” “civic duty,” and “unhonored acts of decency.”
Trump’s week has been nothing like that. On Twitter, he insulted NBC, CNN, “the Democrats,” and the director of the CIA. He branded Hillary Clinton a criminal. He called Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten for his courage in the civil rights movement, a liar who’s “all talk … no action.” (Trump also said Lewis should stick to fixing “crime infested inner-cities.”) Meanwhile, Trump retweeted a picture of himself as “golfer-in-chief” and quoted a supporter who said it’s not Trump's fault that America is divided.Saletan ends with these withering (sorry to repeat the adjective, but there is hardly one better) paragraphs:
On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency. Instead, Trump railed against foreigners and “a small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards of government.” In place of Bush’s praise for mosques, Trump spoke of Islam only as a source of terrorism. The man who ran on a platform of “take the oil” fumed that American wealth had been “redistributed all across the world.” He accused countries of “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”
This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.
So what did I learn about Donald Trump’s inaugural balls after two hours’ worth of circling around outside of them? As I suspect will soon become a theme of Trump’s presidency, they overpromised and underdelivered. And they didn’t even really overpromise! Any ball that starts at 7 p.m. and features Tony Orlando cannot be said to have overpromised anything. I cannot confirm that the balls themselves were lame, but the lines were certainly long, and the people standing in them were cold and angry, though that also might just be their resting state.* Trump is today taking a pounding for his rambling, inappropriate comments to the CIA:
Trump then rambled—as if this were a campaign rally instead of a morale-boosting speech in front of the agency’s most sacred spot—about how smart he is (citing as proof the fact that a brilliant uncle taught at MIT) and about how he’s been on the cover of Time magazine more often than anybody. (In fact, the title is held by Richard Nixon, which says something about what gets a president on a lot Time magazine covers.)
He's off to a flying start, to his failure, then...He also said things that must have baffled many of the 300 CIA employees who gathered for the visit, came in on a day off to see their new boss. He repeated the line, which he’d uttered many times during the campaign, that we should have “taken the oil” in Iraq (a notion that is politically daft, economically unnecessary, and militarily all-but-impossible) and that maybe we’ll have the opportunity to do so now. He also said that he suspected most of the people in the room voted for him in the election—a comment that, whether true or not, is appallingly inappropriate to make to intelligence analysts, who pride themselves on their independence and fear political encroachment above all else.