Sunday, January 22, 2017

Takeaways from Trump's first days: Change will come fast...ish - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Paul Singer, USA TODAY

Inaugural weekend brought two enormous and potentially historic events that were essentially in direct opposition to each other. Here are a few top takeaways from the weekend:

A nation truly, deeply divided

On Friday, tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall to watch the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. On Saturday, tens of thousands of people staged a rally on the same ground to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump, with similar protests in cities around the country. We won't get into a fight here about numbers, and whether Trump or his opponents had better turnout. But the fact that the numbers are comparable demonstrates just how deep the split [JB emphasis] is in the populace Trump now has to lead.
It is clear that Trump has the power to begin making changes in the nation immediately; it is not clear what power his opponents have to stop him. Trump appears to be entering office with historically low public approval ratings, but his trajectory thus far has completely confounded polls and traditional political calculation. The next hundred days will be a test of whether the president and his supporters have the political clout to drive dramatic change in public policy.

Bring your pitchforks, but also your salad forks

Trump's inaugural address was a bareknuckle attack on Washington insiders and political elites. "For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he said. "Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. ... And while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."
But then Trump went inside the Capitol for a lobster luncheon with these same elites, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, whom Trump praised, saying "I have a lot of respect for those two people." Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson was in the room, as were some of the captains of industry Trump has chosen for his Cabinet, including Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs. The new president has assembled a leadership team that is apparently the wealthiest in modern history, and his inaugural committee raised about $100 million from private donors to underwrite the weekend's events, nearly double what Barack Obama raised eight years ago.

Change is going to come fast ...

Before the first day was over, Trump was already reshaping the government. He issued an executive order directing federal agencies to take any steps possible to limit or scale back implementation of the Affordable Care Act until Congress repeals it. The Obama White House website was archived and Trump's barebones White House website went live, with a list of priorities that included eliminating Obama's major climate change regulatory effort.

... but maybe not THAT fast.

The Senate quickly approved Trump's picks of James Mattis for secretary of Defense and John Kelly for Homeland Security, but Democrats balked at quick approval of Rep. Mike Pompeo for CIA director, bumping his vote until Monday. When Obama was sworn in in 2009, the Senate confirmed seven of his Cabinet nominees within hours. Trump may have to wait more than a week to have as many Cabinet slots filled, as Democrats have raised ethics concerns about several nominees.

Has a leaf been turned?

Trump has not tweeted a hostile comment at an adversary since Wednesday morning, when he attacked NBC News for underplaying his role in corporate announcements that they are investing in U.S. jobs. Since then, his tweets have been thanks for groups (including Fox News) and individuals who contributed to or had nice things to say about his inauguration and snippets of his inaugural address.
So perhaps the swearing-in has made his Twitter persona more presidential.

The mystery of Melania remains

For inaugural weekend, Melania Trump played the part of a beautiful, silent spouse. As with all first ladies, her outfits for the swearing-in and the inaugural balls were the talk of the town, and she received universally high praise. But it remains unclear exactly what her role will be in her husband's administration. She said during the campaign that she wanted to take up the cause of stopping online bullying, but there has been no discussion of that effort since the election. She is also not likely to be in Washington much at the beginning of the Trump administration. The president has said she and the couple's 10-year-old son, Barron, will stay in New York until the end of the school year in June.
It is a unique arrangement — like almost everything else about the Trump White House.

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