I watched the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States yesterday on television with my kids. I watched the event on a local CBS affiliate, and happened to notice that besides the mention of it in Chief Justice John Roberts’ remarks, they also mentioned the phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address which begins “With malice toward none and charity toward all…” (I think my ears caught this because I’ve been attempting to write a post with this title since early November.) In the case of CBS, I got the feeling that this was the type of tone that they were really hoping for.
However, what they got was a full-on Andrew Breitbart-esque declaration of #WAR. President Trump laid out some very ambitious goals, but more than that, in no uncertain terms, he made it clear that he will radically change the way things are done in the U.S. Government. He starkly detailed many of the ills facing the United States today, and labelled it “American Carnage”. He lambasted the Washington DC establishment, who enrich themselves while their “forgotten” countrymen deal with the hopelessness that comes with higher crime and less opportunity. He made it very clear that the driving force of his policies will be “America First” – that as President, his job is to make the United States his first priority, period, and that our international leadership should be primarily done through setting the example.
While many first-term Presidential inaugural speeches will lay out a new President’s vision for the next four years, most tread lightly in their remarks critical of previous administrations, particularly as the outgoing officeholder is sitting right there along with other former Presidents. Add to this that in this year, Trump’s Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton, was sitting just a few feet away from him. As President Trump spoke, the camera was tightly trained on him, but when it wasn’t, I noticed such things as Former President Obama looking as though he were shooting daggers from his eyes in Trump’s direction and Speaker Ryan looking thoroughly bemused.
In the minds of many, Trump was hardly a Republican. After all, over the years he had donated money to many Democrats’ campaigns, and being part of New York high society, he hobnobbed with the elites of the city and of the US. Many conservatives feared that in a contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton, he would “go easy” on her, because at the very least, they were social friends, the Clintons even attending Trump’s wedding in 2005. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Chelsea Clinton are friends. However, as Trump started showing that he was a serious candidate for the Republican nomination, the long knives for him came out, and nearly all of these ‘friends’ in the elite not only did not support Trump, but went out of their way to paint him in the most horrible ways, and worked to destroy anyone – particularly among the elite – who dared to say a nice word about him. Trump himself is not innocent of some pretty bad trash-talk (come on, does anybody believe that Ted Cruz’ father had anything to do with the JFK assassination?) but even then, it’s measured rather than unhinged or hysterical, and is limited to himself and maybe a few top advisors who speak on his behalf. Contrast this to the Democrats, whose sycophants seem completely unable to come to grips with a Trump presidency, and constantly demonize those who voted for Trump – even months after the election. Add to this that there is a good amount of money being spent to extend the hysteria, that while there are people who are joining some of these demonstrations on a “grass roots” level, there is a LOT of money being put out there to extend the crazy. Whereas any Republican is immediately to make denunciations if their supporters are deemed to have gone “too far”, these Democrats at the top levels encourage this type of behavior, even if they can’t necessarily be very public about this support.
Therefore, it makes sense that Donald Trump, rather than being conciliatory towards those that continue on with this chaos would say, “Enough – if you want war, we’ll have war”. Trump is nothing if not loyal, and I do think this campaign changed him as a person. He may have always been a friend to the “little guy”, but he certainly mixed with the elite. Now, during this campaign, while the elites were shunning him, it was millions of these “little guys” who stood firm in their loyalty to Trump. The media didn’t understand how all these “little guys” – assumed to all be white, rural Christians – could not run away when Trump got bad press, in particular about his supposed mistreatment of women. But they don’t understand loyalty as a virtue (rather than as a means to an end), and that in the big picture, something said braggadociosly in conversation years ago, while crude, doesn’t necessarily mean much in comparison the totality of his life and work. (This isn’t Bill Clinton that we’re talking about, after all.) I don’t think that anyone who voted for him sees him as a god who is going to stop the rising of the sea levels or some such, but as someone whose loyalty doesn’t switch to Washington as soon as a winning number of votes are tallied. Trump used this inaugural speech to acknowledge that “forgotten” man, demonstrating his loyalty to him whilst enduring the ridicule and disdain of the elites.
One ought to remember, too, that Abraham Lincoln only spoke those words of “malice toward none and charity toward all” in the final days of the Civil War. At this point, it was all but a certainty that the Union would prevail. However, he vows that if need be, the war will continue on, even as “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.” In context, these are sentiments of charity, not surrender. President Lincoln was inviting those who may not have been supporters of him as President or of the Union in general that if they were to change their minds, it would not be held against them, that there would be no retribution, and that they would not be treated as a second-class citizen. He was not indicating that he was giving up so that everybody could just get along. Yet our media seems to think that the words that ought to have come out of President Trump’s mouth would not just sound like Lincoln’s, but would mean something opposite of what Lincoln did.
We pray for peace, but sometimes the war needs to be fought. The media has aligned themselves with one ideology and one worldview. For someone in the public life, it can be perilous to run afoul of the media to the point where most won’t even try. What Donald Trump seems to be saying here, to the joy of the “forgotten man”, is that if it be war, so be it; there are some things worth fighting for, and the American people are worth it.