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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Donald Trump is Inaugurated
      •  The Trump Administration Gets Underway
      •  Protests are Numerous, Mostly Peaceful
      •  First Ethics Complaint Filed Against Trump
      •  What Will Trumponomics Be Like?
      •  How to Know If America Has Been Made Great Again

Donald Trump is Inaugurated

And so it has come to pass: As of noon EST Friday (give or take a couple of minutes), Donald John Trump is the President of the United States. The event unfolded as expected; the Obamas and Trumps met at the White House, exchanged pleasantries, and traveled to and from the event together. The Clintons attended, and their lack of enthusiasm was noticeable. George W. and Laura Bush were there, too, with the ex-president looking like he had just eaten a very sour pickle (actually, Michelle Obama looked that way, too). Jimmy Carter was the only former Chief Executive in attendance who did not look like he was about to lose his lunch.

The overall crowd was visibly smaller than for Barack Obama's first inauguration (and his second, for that matter), and came nowhere near the million-plus that Trump promised. Pictures and film footage both make clear that the crowd was noticeably...monochromatic, shall we say. Picking out a person of color was not an easy task, unless you cheated and used the Obamas or Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (who was there to swear in Vice President Mike Pence).

Following the swearing in, which Chief Justice John Roberts managed to complete error-free, it was time for the most significant part of the day, the inaugural address. This is, of course, the new president's first action as someone who is no longer a candidate or the president-elect. The nation and the world are watching, and the address sets the tone for the next four years. Trump's speech was on the short side (1,433 words) and, to nobody's surprise, it was not your usual inaugural address.

What it was: First and foremost, Trump's address was populist. CNN asked more than a dozen commentators of various stripes for their response, and fully two-thirds of them saw populism as the central theme. The President declared, for example, that "we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People," and, "January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again." Andrew Jackson or William Jennings Bryan couldn't have said it better. Nor could Steve Bannon, who clearly had enormous input into the address.

The speech was also ultra-nationalistic. Though speaking for only about 10 minutes, Trump managed to return to this theme multiple times. "From this moment on, it's going to be America First," he announced. "Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families." Later, Trump said that, "At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other." That statement is not only nationalistic, it veers perilously close to fascism. It was Benito Mussolini who said, "[T]he Fascist conception is for the State; and it is for the individual in so far as he coincides with the State." Of course, Il Duce also said, "Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day."

Finally, the speech was the reddest of red meat for Donald Trump's base. He said exactly they wanted to hear, in exactly the way they wanted to hear it. There can be no doubt that people in red states are dancing in the streets. Meanwhile, photos of the inauguration made clear that the vendors selling "Make America Great Again" caps just paid for their kids' college.

What it was not: Usually, inaugural addresses are mostly positive. This one was not. While full of patriotic rhetoric and promises about what America will be (or will be again), Trump dwelled extensively on the horrors of the modern world and the problems that he sees with the country. In a passage that has everyone talking, he lamented poverty, rusted-out factories, a failed education system, and crime, gangs, and drugs, and finished by declaring that, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was among the observers who was struck by the negative overtones of the address, "I was pretty shocked by how dark it was," he remarked. "I love this country, and I don't understand how a president of the United States that loves his country could paint a picture of its failures."

Similarly, the speech was not unifying, despite Trump's repeated promises to bring the country together. Yes, there was the material about patriotism and American pride, and such statements vaguely reference the entire populace. Certainly, that's how Trump's surrogates and supporters were spinning it, but it was just spin. You really can't have it both ways: An address can't be a fiery call to arms for one's supporters and an acknowledgment of the other side. The speech contained no nod to the majority who did not vote for Donald Trump, nor to the opposing political party, nor to any ideas that those individuals hold dear. There was no apology for any missteps in the past year, no tip of the cap to Hillary Clinton (though Trump did mention her at the post-inaugural lunch), nor the slightest whiff of humility. In short, there was nothing in the speech that could be mistaken for an olive branch.

The address was also not great oratory. Some presidents are excellent speakers—JFK, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan. Some are not—LBJ, Eisenhower, both Bushes, Nixon. Trump is very near the bottom of the list—his delivery is halting and stilted, his posture and frequent hand gestures are distracting. We have audio of every president since Benjamin Harrison (1880s), and video back to William McKinley (early 1900s), and there's a very good chance that Trump will give Warren Harding a run as the worst presidential orator in the age of recorded sound. In particular, every president tries to squeeze a signature line or two into their inaugural—they'd all love to have a "nothing to fear but fear itself" or a "ask not what your country can do for you" or a "malice toward none, with charity for all" moment. Judging from his delivery and timing, Trump's attempt at quotable immortality was, "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice." That's pretty far away from FDR, JFK, and Lincoln's poetry, and much closer to Harding's, "America's present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration; not surgery but serenity," which was relentlessly mocked at the time (1921), and has not improved with age. Now, note that there is a very significant difference between delivering a prepared speech (which Trump is definitely not good at) and speaking extemporaneously (where Trump tends to excel). Given his weakness at the former, it would not be a surprise if Trump kept prepared addresses to a bare minimum in the next four years, perhaps even limiting himself to only the State of the Union each year.

So, the Trump era is nigh upon us. Round and round we go, and what comes next, no one knows. (Z)

The Trump Administration Gets Underway

Generally, new presidents spend a few hours in the Oval Office after their inauguration, taking advantage of the symbolism of the "first day." Given the extraordinary number of things he promised to do on day one, Trump was no exception. To start, he officially sent his Cabinet nominees to the Senate for their consideration (a process that has, of course, been "unofficially" underway for weeks). Two of them have now been approved: Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, and Gen. John Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. The very first bill that Trump signed was the waiver that allows Mattis to serve despite having been retired from active military service for less than seven years.

The President also started pumping out executive orders. The first one, in something of a surprise (since nobody knew it was such a priority), overturned an Obama order that reduced mortgage costs (about $15 a month for every $100,000 borrowed). The second executive order, by contrast, was widely expected: It started the process of rolling back Obamacare. The vaguely-worded directive tells federal agencies that they may delay provisions of the ACA that they deem to impose an undue burden on states, individuals, or insurers. Its purpose is largely symbolic, so that Trump can say he fulfilled his promise to attack the law "in [his] first hour in office." Also on the symbolic front, Trump signed an order calling for a "day of patriotism," whatever that may mean. Team Trump also overhauled the White House website, with a list of just six issues that the President considers pressing: energy, foreign policy, jobs, military strength, law enforcement, and trade deals.

While that is a pretty good day's work (or half-day's work, since Trump had balls to get to), it falls fairly short in terms of the lengthy list of things he was supposed to do. There was no proposed congressional term limit amendment, nothing on immigration or ISIS, no lobbying ban, no expansion of drilling for oil. Some of these things are coming, undoubtedly, but it's also a reminder that things are very different once you're no longer just running for office. (Z)

Protests are Numerous, Mostly Peaceful

A lot of people are unhappy that Donald Trump is now president, and some of them took to the streets to express their opposition. It's unclear exactly how many people took part, but there were events in nearly all large (and many smaller) cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. The latter was far and away the most contentious, with a limousine being lit on fire, and over 200 people arrested by police.

The protests will continue throughout the weekend, with the most notable being Saturday's "Women's March." Organizers are anticipating that 673 distinct events will be held worldwide, as women protest Trump's treatment of women and his policy positions. The largest of the marches is going to take place in Washington, with approximately 200,000 participants. There will be smaller events throughout the United States and on every continent (including Antarctica, apparently), with total participation expected to exceed 2 million people. These people aren't going away, of course, and it is to be expected that such protests are going to become a regular feature of American life for the next four years. (Z)

First Ethics Complaint Filed Against Trump

In what has surely got to be a record, Donald Trump became the subject of an ethics complaint just minutes after he was sworn in as president. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) was the source of the complaint, which focuses on Donald Trump's lease on his hotel in Washington. The lease is with the government's General Services Administration, and explicitly forbids the leaseholder from holding government office.

There is really no question that Trump is in breach, the only question is how the situation can be rectified. CREW argues that the lease is already null and void, though that is a pretty aggressive interpretation of the contract. Trump's stated plan is to turn the hotel over to his sons, though it's not at all clear that will be enough (as it certainly won't eliminate the conflict of interest that is at issue). It's impossible to know how this will ultimately turn out, the only safe bet is that Friday's ethics complaint will not be the last one filed against Trump. (Z)

What Will Trumponomics Be Like?

Donald Trump is not interested in most policy details. Fixing problems with VA hospitals and setting price supports for peanuts really aren't on his agenda. One area where he really is interested, however, is economics. So what will Trumponomics be like? It is a bit hard to tell since Trump has said many contradictory things, but there are seven areas where it is possible to make an educated guess of what he might do:

  • Employment: Fundamentally, Trump believes that jobs are a zero-sum game. The number of jobs in the world is fixed and every job that China has is one job fewer for an American. He believes that jobs are "taken" by other countries and his job is to cajole or force them to give them back. Few economists believe the number of jobs is fixed, but Trump does, so rather than focusing on creating entire new industries (like green energy), he will badger or threaten companies to bring jobs back to America. Some will comply, but generally only if they were planning to do so anyway for other reasons. This kind of "jawboning" rarely has a macroeconomic effect, but it makes for great photo opportunities, which Trump values more than actual results since it shows his supporters how effective he is. Expect lots of these.

  • Trade: Trump is a protectionist on trade and will confront all U.S. trading partners and threaten them with tariffs if they don't do his bidding. He has threatened Mexico with a 35% tariff and China with a 45% tariff. Both countries would respond in kind if he actually did this. U.S. exporters would then howl to the moon. Big agricultural companies would scream if Mexico stopped importing large amounts of American corn to make tortillas. Boeing and Microsoft would not be happy campers if China decided to adopt Airbus and Linux. Furthermore, most Republicans in Congress are strong believers in free trade and would oppose any attempt to impose tariffs. Trump's best hope here is to negotiate deals by threatening tariffs but not actually imposing them.

  • Fiscal Policy: Social Security is known as the third rail of American politics and Trump seems to understand that boldly grabbing it is not a good idea. He said he would not touch it or Medicare. He also said he wants a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure, which would create millions of jobs. Finally, he wants to cut taxes (mostly for millionaires) by 10 trillion dollars over a 10-year period. The problem here is that leaving Social Security and Medicare alone, spending a trillion on infrastructure, and slashing taxes would create a giant hole in budget, something many Republicans would vigorously oppose. One possible solution is to use "dynamic scoring," which is a giant wish that magically huge tax cuts generate vast amounts of new revenue. It didn't work in the Bush administration and won't work now, but it does give Republicans a fig leaf for running up the deficit and then acting surprised years from now.

  • Monetary Policy: Trump often accused Fed Chair Janet Yellen of keeping interest rates low to make Obama's economic policy look good. He seems to think interest rates should be like they were in the 1980s and 1990s; much higher than now. He can't fire Yellen, but her term is up in 2018. He is required to pick a new chair from the then-current governors but since there are two vacancies now, he could appoint two new members (which requires Senate approval) and then catapult one of them over the more senior members to become chair in 2018 (which also requires Senate approval).

  • Regulation: Here the plan is clear: remove as many regulations that impact businesses as possible. One target is the Paris climate-change accord. Another is the Dodd-Frank Act that reins in some of the more egregious things that banks did before it was passed. This is classic Trump: Fewer regulations means more jobs. That may or may not work, however. Freeing electric utilities from burdensome rules about emissions may cause some of them to switch to coal, creating more jobs for coal miners, but simultaneously destroying jobs for oil and natural gas workers.

  • Debt: At one point, Trump suggested that the U.S. government should negotiate with creditors with the intention of not paying back everything that is owed to them. One treasury official described this as "lots of very loose talk on a subject where there shouldn't be loose talk." If Trump tried this, financial markets would panic and the treasury would have to pay much higher interest rates on T-bills, which would suddenly be seen as risky investments. Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin, who understands global finance quite well, would move mountains to prevent him from putting the full faith and credit of the United States at risk.

  • The Dollar: The dollar has surged against other currencies since the election. Trump might at first be proud of a strong dollar, saying it shows how much the world respects the United States. The only problem is that a strong dollar makes American exports more expensive abroad, which conflicts with his goal of having more manufacturing jobs come back home. What he needs to create more jobs is a weak dollar. But if Trump heats up the economy with tax cuts an infrastructure spending, it will cause the Fed to raise interest rates, making the dollar more attractive. When you hit the gas pedal and the brakes at the same time, you often get a bumpy ride.

Economic policy—more than, say, foreign policy—is an area where the president does not have full control. He will have to work with Congress on these issues, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is known to have different views on some of these things, so it is far from certain that Trump will get his way on all of them. (V)

How to Know If America Has Been Made Great Again

Donald Trump has promised to make America great again. But how will we know when it is great again? No one will ring a bell when greatness has been achieved, so Scott Lanman at Bloomberg has made a list of indicators to watch for signs of greatness:

  • Factory jobs return (L)
  • The trade deficit is substantially reduced (L)
  • The federal budget goes into a surplus (L)
  • Economic growth gets to 3-4% (M)
  • Number of Americans living in poverty goes down (M)
  • The rate of small business starts goes up (M)
  • Part timers can easily get full-time jobs (M)
  • Businesses start spending again (H)
  • Workers get bigger pay raises (H)
  • Labor force participation for 25-54 year olds hits former peak of 84% (H)

All of these metrics are easily measured and the numbers can be compared to the time when America used to be great—although there may be some disagreement about when that was. The items marked (L) have a low probability of happening, the (M)'s are medium, and the (H)'s have the highest probability of occurring. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan20 Trump Will Inherit a Deeply Polarized Country
Jan20 Trump Starts with Half an Administration
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Jan20 What Kind of Man Is Trump?
Jan20 Trump Plans Drastic Budget Cuts
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Jan20 How Did this Happen? (Part I)
Jan20 How Did this Happen? (Part II)
Jan20 Trump's Victory: A View from the White House
Jan20 Strange Presidential Transitions
Jan20 Discount for Political Wire
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Jan19 Pruitt Faces Withering Fire; Admits Climate Change is Man-made
Jan19 Price Says Stock Purchases Were Legitimate
Jan19 More Questions Arise About DeVos
Jan19 Dozens of Democratic Representatives Now Boycotting Inauguration
Jan19 Five Areas Where Democrats Could Make a Deal with Trump
Jan19 Why Not Al?
Jan19 Canada Gets Its Own Trump
Jan18 At Least 18 Million Would Lose Health Insurance If the ACA is Repealed
Jan18 GOP Representatives Getting an Earful about Obamacare
Jan18 DeVos Has a Rough Day
Jan18 Trump Unready for a National Security Crisis
Jan18 New Poll: Trump's Approval is Deep Under Water
Jan18 Woman Sues Trump for Defamation
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Jan17 White Supremacists No Longer Hailing Trump
Jan17 Poll: Trump Can Keep Businesses but Should Release Tax Returns
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Jan17 Trump Reaches 20M Twitter Followers
Jan16 CIA Director Brennan Rips into Trump
Jan16 Feinstein Says Russia Altered the Election Outcome
Jan16 Trump Calls NATO Obsolete
Jan16 Trump Won't Visit African-American Museum After All
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