Donald John Trump, first dismissed as a stuntman, then a nuisance, then a threat to the political order, took the oath of office Friday to become the 45th president of the United States, ushering in one of the most compelling administrations in history.
With a promise that the “hour of action” was at hand, the newly minted president vowed to make good on the political shake-up he promised voters during the campaign, shying away from a laundry list of policy proposals and instead calling for a new American patriotism.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath at 11:59, just minutes after Mike Pence, a former congressman and governor of Indiana, was sworn in as vice president.
Just as Mr. Trump began to deliver his inaugural address, a light rain began to fall. The Rev. Franklin Graham said in his benediction that the sprinkle should be seen as a “blessing” from God.
Taking the lectern, Mr. Trump, a businessman by trade, said the country has some rebuilding to do and vowed, “We will get the job done.”
As he looked over the crowd that stretched back along the National Mall, he said he saw Americans betrayed by their leaders in Washington and promised his presidency would be a major break from decades of stagnation.
“Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people,” he said.
Describing struggling inner cities, broken borders and shuttered factories “scattered like tombstones” across America’s heartland, the president said he would fix the nation’s problems with his vision of “America first.”
“This American carnage stops right here and right now,” he said.
Mr. Trump had kind words for his predecessor, Barack Obama, saying he and his wife, Michelle, had been “magnificent” in handling the transfer of power.
Democrats were nonplussed. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said it was the first time in the 10 inaugurations she had attended that the address sounded like a campaign speech.
She said Mr. Trump shortchanged the economic record of Democrats and that his complaints about Americans left behind fall more on the Republican Party.
“If President Trump is sincere about fighting against that failed trickle-down policy that has increased the deficit, caused job loss and ransacked our investments in the future, Democrats look forward to finding common ground with him,” she said.
The minority leader said she was pleased that Mr. Trump didn’t mention Obamacare, the big political fight roiling Capitol Hill.
Outside of Congress, liberal groups were agitating against Mr. Trump and demanding that Democrats deny him the traditional honeymoon period when presidents are accorded more of a free hand by political opponents.
Even during the inauguration ceremony, protesters on the Capitol’s west front yelled and blew whistles to try to mar the oath. Police escorted away one protester who made it all the way to the platform just beneath Mr. Trump.
The crowd, stretching from the west front of the Capitol up the National Mall, was smaller than the one from the 2009 inauguration, when as many as 1.9 million people turned out to see the country’s first black president take the oath of office.
Most political analysts had predicted that this inauguration would shatter another barrier with Democrat Hillary Clinton as the first female president.
But Mr. Trump derailed that notion by breaking other barriers with a campaign that shocked analysts in its brazen disregard for political conventions: He took on war heroes and American allies, shot from the hip on his Twitter account and feuded with the press.
He lost the popular vote but won an easy victory in the Electoral College, turning Rust Belt states that hadn’t voted for a Republican president in a generation.
At 70, Mr. Trump is the oldest president to enter the White House and the first to have no statesmanship experience.
His election was a political earthquake, but analysts said the Trump presidency may be even more seismic.
“This is going to be a very unconventional president,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said during a recent CNN town hall.
Mr. Ryan sparred with Mr. Trump during the campaign, saying the billionaire businessman was a different kind of conservative.
Now, Mr. Ryan is effusive in his praise, saying Mr. Trump has shown the Republican Party how to campaign in the 21st century and tapped into voters no other politician has been able to reach.
What comes next is a mystery.
Mr. Trump’s campaign promises were myriad, frequently conflicting, and often startling: a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a temporary ban on Muslims visiting the U.S., deportations of all illegal immigrants, cancellations of trade deals and prosecuting his opponent, Mrs. Clinton.
All sides were waiting to see which of those promises he would pursue on his first day in office. It turned out to be less ambitious than he promised.
A raft of Day One orders and actions on everything from energy to immigration to trade did not materialize.
Instead, he put a halt to the Obama administration’s regulations still in the pipeline — a standard move for every new administration that is from a different party than its predecessor — and he issued an order directing the Health and Human Services Department to begin issuing waivers to let families and state governments escape the strictures of Obamacare.
He also got two of his Cabinet nominees approved by the Senate, though Democrats blocked action on others.
⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.