The dawn of the Trump epoch

President Trump’s inaugural address was full of sweeping promises:

    Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning.

    Because 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, DC, and giving it back to you, the American people.

Which is counterfactual and ridiculous. He says that no-one listened to the “forgotten people”, but, “Everyone is listening to you now.”

Will he listen to the voters who by a majority of almost 3 million voted for his opponent?

Thomas Friedman points out that during the transition period, Trump’s tweeting carried on as before the election, and seemed intent on dividing people.

    As a leader, you only have one chance to make a second impression. And it is troubling how badly Trump wasted his. A recent Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his transition — compared with 83 percent for President Obama’s and 61 percent for George W. Bush’s.

Trump has the lowest approval rating of any newly inaugurated president since Gallup started polling. Here how the transition has gone for the last four:

He went on to say:

    America will start winning again, winning like never before.

    We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

    We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

    We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labour.

He says we will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but understand America is first. And understand that America united is unstoppable, especially as God is on our side.

The speech ends pretty much in bilge about the American dream, reminding me of Ozymandias:

    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

There has been some unseemly discussion about how many people attended the inauguration, as Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer accused the press of “minimising the enormous support” that had turned out for Trump. The ABC showed this instructive comparison with Obama’s 2009 event:

The Washington Metro showed less than half the trips compared to Obama eight years ago.

On the radio I heard that on Saturday, the day after, 1000 more buses were required for the women’s protest in Washington. Here are the protests in pictures from all around the world.

On Facebook Mark said that as president Trump will be more incoherent than imagined.

    There’s no point ascribing logic to his discourse because it has no grounding in truth or reality. This is what anti-politics looks like.

Stephen Bush at the New Statesman says Donald Trump’s inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era:

    For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

    We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

    That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office. The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

Zack Beauchamp says Trump’s inaugural address showed that he’s serious about his radical foreign policy. The Guardian reports that the Chinese media warns of ‘dramatic changes’ and discord after Trump’s inaugural speech.

If push comes to shove in the South China Sea, it’s hard to see the Chinese backing down.

Now less than an hour after the inauguration, the White House climate web page simply disappeared.

This is not good.

56 thoughts on “The dawn of the Trump epoch”

  1. Among the many scary things about the Trump presidency, is the fact that he is the only person who has the nuclear codes, and the only person to make the decision to launch nuclear missiles. Since he has an exceedingly thin skin this is terrifying.

  2. Yes I thought it was a terrible speech, in content and delivery. He’s certainly not the Baptist preacher like orator that got Obama so far.
    Anyway, 3 things about this interactive photo,
    1) the amazing clarity of todays photos, blows me away the advancement it this area.
    2) You can rotate and zoom to see how many were there while Trump was speaking, rather than hours previous as the ABC mendaciously did.
    3) You can play ” Where’s Hockey ”

    ( answer to 3, Go to very back row above Trumps head, go to the very right of that row, man standing in blue jacket )

  3. The Washington Metro showed less than half the trips compared to Obama eight years ago.

    That mendacious Washington Metro, ceasing to count trips two hours before Trump spoke. Shocking, just shocking.

  4. Maybe the Russians hacked them, what do your own eyes tell you, or did the Russians hack the photo ?

    ( sarc in, sarc out )

  5. Paul Burns

    Look, if it’s OK with you, I’d really prefer not to return to the nuclear weapons tension of 1950-1990…..

    Bomb shelters, NORAD; missiles in silos, on bomber planes, on submarines. That was very unpleasant for everyone, as you no doubt recall.

    I’m reading One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs, a detailed account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Several close calls during those days.

    Two outstanding films from that era: Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, Terry Southern, George C Scott, Slim Pickens, ….etc.

    The War Game, Peter Watkins 1965 for the BBC but not televised on the BBC until 1985.

    Why mention films? Well, as Tom Lehrer said, “if any songs are going to come out of WW3, we’d better write them now”

    Big efforts made by USA and USSR to avoid accidental nuclear war, but that’s unfortunately only one kind of war.

  6. In terms of foreign policy Regan was effective and played an important role in the US winning the cold war. The key here is that Regan convinced the Russians he was a bit insane.
    China has been playing the local bully but seems to suffer from a comparatively sane leadership which will struggle with someone like Trump for the same reason Russia struggled with Regan. Not necessarily a bad thing.
    The left has been complaining of trade agreements like the TPP that are of doubtful value and give even more power to big multinational companies. Looks like Trump is going to give the left what they want.
    A lot of what Trump is doing reminds me of industrial negotiations in the Pilbara in the eighties. Looks to me as though Trump is going to play bad guy to give some of his new team room to play good guy. May work for the US but I hope the rest of America (and the world) is not stuffed up.
    I saw somewhere that Trump’s tax cuts for business will come in the form of concessions to companies making productive investments in the US.
    I am watching with interest.

  7. An interesting analysis of Trump’s foreign policy from the NY Review of Books. Jessica Matthews says that there are some things that three different views of American foreign policy – the neoconservatives, the liberal internationalists and the realists – agree up, which Trump is throwing out the window.

    What he has done is to take the few things on which neocons, realists, and liberal internationalists agree and throw them out the window. These are fundamentals of American foreign policy, taken as givens by both parties for the seven decades since the close of World War II. They include, first, the recognition of the immense value to the security of the United States provided by its allies and worldwide military and political alliances.

    Second, there is the belief that the global economy is not a zero-sum competition, but a mutually beneficial growth system built on open trade and investment. Since the 1940s the United States has invested in the growth of the world economy out of considered self-interest, believing that it was building growing markets for itself that would operate under a set of rules that it wished to live by. And third, Americans of all political stripes have believed that while authoritarian governments may temporarily enjoy greater freedom of action than governments that have to consider public support, in the long run democracy will prove superior. Dictators have to be tolerated, managed, or confronted, not admired.

    She says he has actually been consistent in his views for 30 years.

    I think we are in for interesting times.

    Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian writer who grew up in Bosnia just before it went pear-shaped, but moved to Chicago before it happened, is scared witless.

  8. Thanks zoot. Raymond Briggs is a wonderful writer. His Snowman book, and film are beautiful.

    The War Game was also about the little people rather than the “leadership”. Watkins proved, by arithmetic, that Britain wouldn’t cope with a nuclear attack, but portrayed the effect on little people played by amateur actors. Brilliant, chilling; too emotionally and politically charged to show on TV, judged the BBC “leadership”.

  9. John

    Reagan was a key figure, his missile defence plan would have ruined the idea of mutual destruction if it had worked. More risk then, of a “first strike”?

    But a factor many pointed to afterwards, was that missile defence was insanely expensive. The strong US economy could stand the strain; the slow, inefficient, technologically less advanced Soviet set up could not. USSR deserved to collapse for many reasons. Ironic indeed if it was economic inefficiency which brought it down, rather than direct military assault, or political revolt from below…….

    From what I’ve heard, Richard Nixon was a President who toyed with the ruse of persuading the Russkies and North Vietnamese that he was crazy enough to drop The Bomb on Hanoi and Haiphong…. as a prod towards negotiations.

    I hope The Donald doesn’t ape The Tricky!

  10. Gold curtains installed in the Oval Office? FFS!
    Yes, Ambigulous, I remember the era, and the movies that terrified.
    Just a sobering thought. Apart from the Chinese, sooner or later, Putin is going to piss Trump off. What happens then?

  11. Also, going by Trump’s reaction to the press coverage of his inauguration, having a whole group of amateurs in the White House unable to control their anger is not at all reassuring.

  12. We now have from a Trump spokesperson the phraseology of “alternative facts”. This is a degrading of public discourse.

  13. DH, they have a little bit of wiggle room there. One fact might be that something is one inch long, but an alternative fact would be that the thing is 25.4 millimeters long.

    We’ll have to keep an eye on that one.

  14. I am hoping the good news here is that Trump’s behaviour may make it harder for European and Australian far right parties to win future elections. One Nation and Cornaldi’s sucking up to Trump may backfire.

  15. Re: “alternative facts” – For Spicer there is no wiggle room.
    He lied. Period.

    Hannah Arendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” seems to have Trump’s number (and Abbott’s).

    The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced fascist or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.

  16. From Oxford;


    Relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state:
    ‘a totalitarian regime’

    This is the opposite of the Tea Party, Libertarians and the US Constitution. If Trump turns out that way, they will reject him.

  17. Ask not how many Americans attended the Inauguration, ask what the President achieved

    Reject the audacity of hype.

  18. Well it’s true that the Republicans in the House of Representatives can remove Trump via impeachment. Richard Painter, a lawyer who advised former president George W Bush on ethics, says they must and they will if Trump does not conform to the constitution.

    To do this he must divest himself of his business interests in foreign countries, says Painter.

    But Painter does not speak for the HoR, and I think they are unlikely to impeach for that reason. More likely that someone will take a pot shot at him, or he will have a heart attack or a stroke. Presidents age remarkably and visibly in office.

    However, he mustn’t have much on his agenda if he has time to get upset about numbers at the inauguration.

  19. John Labor has supported ‘free trade’ ever since that boofhead Mark Latham was leader.

    They still do, but this agreement has a provision that some countries investing in Australia can bring in workers without testing the local market.

    It also has an investor-state relations clause which the Americans insist on. It would be good to establish a pattern of agreement without that odious clause which allows foreign companies to sue governments in spite of their own laws, say, protecting the environment or public health.

  20. While Aus governments think they have done something smart by setting up a trade agreement we are going to be lumbered with trade agreements that have been excessively influenced by multinationals.

  21. John, in the early part of this century I read a lot about free trade. The big push came from American transnationals, first in manufacturing and then in services, followed by their European counterparts.

    Later the US was interested in FT agreements as a projection of power.

    Our farmers have always been keen, but not particularly successful. Farmers vote everywhere there is democracy, and their governments are aware of this, which often leads to strange results.

  22. From here:

    If you are puzzled by the bizarre “press conference” put on by the White House press secretary this evening (angrily claiming that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in history, accusing them of faking photos and lying about attendance), let me help explain it. This spectacle served three purposes:

    1. Establishing a norm with the press: they will be told things that are obviously wrong and they will have no opportunity to ask questions. That way, they will be grateful if they get anything more at any press conference. This is the PR equivalent of “negging,” the odious pick-up practice of a particular kind of horrible man (e.g., Donald Trump).

    2. Increasing the separation between Trump’s base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong—that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong—they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here—likely to pay off—is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as “fake news” (because otherwise they’d be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)

    3. Creating a sense of uncertainty about whether facts are knowable, among a certain chunk of the population (which is a taking a page from the Kremlin, for whom this is their preferred disinformation tactic). A third of the population will say “clearly the White House is lying,” a third will say “if Trump says it, it must be true,” and the remaining third will say “gosh, I guess this is unknowable.” The idea isn’t to convince these people of untrue things, it’s to fatigue them, so that they will stay out of the political process entirely, regarding the truth as just too difficult to determine.

    This is laying important groundwork for the months ahead. If Trump’s White House is willing to lie about something as obviously, unquestionably fake as this, just imagine what else they’ll lie about. In particular, things that the public cannot possibly verify the truth of. It’s gonna get real bad.

  23. Or the massive ego of the incumbent requires daily stroking and feeding, like a little puppy.

    Who was it who referred to press conferences as “feeding the chooks”?

    Where has the brief “door stop” been meekly accepted by the chooks?

    There are plenty of “leaders” who see press conferences with detailed, impromptu questions, as quite unnecessary. The Presidential spokesperson didn’t take questions; this was a speech, not a conference.

  24. Jumpy, you can’t be serious, surely! Libertarians? freedom?

    From my experience of them they are all about having freedom for themselves and content with enslavement for everyone else. Freedom is a word used by Libertarians to justify immoral behaviour. And you are completely wrong in your understanding of what conservatives are about. Conservatives are totalitarians through and through, it is spelled out in the very term.

    The term “conservative” is derived from the expression “Connived Servitude”,…”con…servative”. It is embedded in their ethos, everything that they hold dear,…”we’ve acquired all of the money,…you will serve us”.

    It is the minions, though, the ever hopefuls to rise, who prop up any and every totalitarian regime. These are those who slavishly believe and repeat all of the garbage, the propaganda, that the elite throw about to obfuscate, confuse, and disguise their dealings. So what better name could there be for a “minion mag” than ….The Australian…. to give the appearance of total domination.

    Have you learnt nothing at all from history??

  25. I want to wait and see how The Donald goes.

    Will he be obstructed by Congress? Some say US Congressmen form much looser party “blocs” than in UK, Aust etc. They vote more variously, rather than toe a line, it is said.

    Will he be impeached? President Nixon had a very long line of misdemeanours to his discredit before Congress voted to impeach.

    Will he face criminal charges?
    Will Mrs Clinton face criminal charges?

    I hope The Donald will not be assassinated.

    On press conferences and relations with press:

    a) it is not for bystanders to know to whom a message is chiefly directed, e.g. the speech given the other day may have been a plea to The Donald, “Look how I big up your crowds; look how I savage the lying media!!!”

    Intimidation of the press might have been a secondary but important aim.

    b) it’s now a task for US journalists and networks to figure out how to report Washington. Maybe they’ll spend more time dissecting press releases, which should soon be pouring out of Depts?? This was once called “investigative journalism”; it is diametrically opposed to retailing the latest “events” on Twitter. If ever there was fake news, it’s a story about tweets.

    I’ve heard currawongs making more sense.

    c) government employees may be scrambling to find a way to catch The Donald’s ear. Years ago (I think it was Ronald Reagan) the CIA became distressed that the Pres wasn’t bothering to read their daily briefings to him. So they leaked the most important stories to Newsweek which they knew he always read avidly.

    Leaking has always been with us.

    Good luck, fellow citizens!

  26. Oh, and by the way, without getting all sooky and mushy on youse…..

    Thank you to all who blog and post here, especially Brian & John, the zootmeister, the bilby, Val, Douglas, Geoff, Paul Burns, and indeed The Jump.

    I always think it’s best to make sure to thank everyone
    I) before one’s funeral, and
    II) before the nuclear war

    Life can be beautiful.
    Never forget the poor.

    Comedy must come before all else (thanks, Neil C)


  27. … and Ootz…
    I just knew I’d mess it up somehow.

    Sorry mate, Switzerland is a bonzer little country.

  28. There is someone on every blog who really knows how to cheer people up:

    I always think it’s best to make sure to thank everyone
    I) before one’s funeral, and
    II) before the nuclear war

    If you really want cheering up you will be pleased to know that: Donald Trump has declared his inauguration day National Day of Patriotic Devotion! The sort of people who have done that sort of thing over the years haven’t got a good track record for saving the world.

  29. John,
    January 20th has been Inauguration Day since the second inauguration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.


    The term “conservative” is derived from the expression “Connived Servitude”,…”con…servative”.

    Let’s ask Sir Oxford;


    Late Middle English (in the sense ‘aiming to preserve’): from late Latin conservativus, from conservat- conserved, from the verb conservare (see conserve). Current senses date from the mid 19th century.


    1Averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values:

    Also, it is obvious that the people you’ve labeled as Libertarian, were not.

    The definition Oxford gives for Totalitarian fits the Socialist Left like a glove, admit it.

  30. January 20th has been Inauguration Day since the second inauguration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

    And as John pointed out, three days later Donald Trump retroactively declared January 20, 2017 “National Day of Patriotic Devotion” – a move worthy of Kim Jong Un.

  31. BilB – I agree Lehrer is a genius.
    That he is still relevant 50 years later is an indictment of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. We really are a stupid species.

  32. BHO made it ” National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation”.
    That’s 1984 type stuff, he did the opposite.

  33. Jumpy, I stand corrected Trump’s actual declaration was not retroactive, it just became widely known three days later (and officially published 4 days later). That accursed media and its alternate facts!

  34. I thought the socialist democratic republic was right up your ally zoot. 🙂

    Shows how little you know about me. 🙂

  35. Hmm, well help me out then an describe what you don’t like about Socialism, Democracy and being a Republic combined.

    (I’ve gotta sleep now ( work tomorrow as usual ) so I’ll respond latter, thanks. )

  36. I hope there won’t be a Second Nuclear War, the First having been tacked onto the latter part of WW2.

    Apologies John if my comment sounded morose and depressing. I really do hope The Donald doesn’t wax bellicose.
    And I hope he helps get thousands of Americans back into decent jobs with decent wages.

    I’m wary of most of the name-calling directed at him, you know, casually flung epithets like

    Fascist, fascistic, Neo- fascist, Hitlerian, totalitarian, …..

    So far, I believe ‘populist’ and ‘demagogue’ and ‘unilateralist’ and ‘buffoon’ fit the bill. Let’s wait and see.

    Yes, Tom Lehrer is a genius. No wasted words, jaunty tunes. Just the guy to share a few laughs and beers with in the bunker.

    Back to The Donald: much was made of Barack Obama’s success in raising campaign funding through small donations flowing in from across the nation. Donations paid for ads, in the customary pattern.

    The Donald spotted the main feature of the intertubes: costs nothing, goes into nearly every home….. so Twitter can be used as low cost advertising. Add to that the laugh-a-minute pranks, faux pas, abuse of the media, concocted rallies that were airport tarmac “doorstops”, and you have oodles of free publicity.

    Don’t need huge corporate donors, don’t need thousands of small donations; though any of them would be icing on the cake.

    Clever. Fiendishly clever. The Donald understood the power of “antisocial media” better than most. One might weep about it….

  37. An article from the Financial Review points out the signigicance of the dispute about the numbers at the inauguration.

    What it means is that we will never be able to trust the Trump administration on anything they say.

    On another matter, Jumpy linked to the CNN exit polls. As John D has pointed out to me, they show a fractured and divided people along many dimensions.

    There is much of interest. One that caught my eye is that both candidates were rated fairly evenly in their ability to handle the economy. However, when asked what the most important quality was, 39% said the ability to bring change, and those 39% broke 82/14 to Trump.

    15% thought it was “cares about me” and they broke 57/34 for Clinton.

    Of the 22% who thought “right experience” was most important, Hillary won 90/7.

    The remaining category was the 20% who thought “good judgement’ was the most important. They broke 65/25 for Clinton.

    So the ability to bring change was the only thing Trump had going for him, and that seemed to override a distinct dislike for him.

    61% of people thought Trump was not qualified to be president. For Clinton the figure was 47%.

  38. The CNN exit polls that Jumpy directed us to had some amazing figures for Trump support:
    Male 52%, female 41%
    18 to 34 yrs 39%, +45 52%
    White men +65 58%
    White 57%, non-white 21%
    White males 57%, white females 52%
    Black women 4%, black men 13%
    College graduates 42%, non-graduates 51%
    White non college men 71%
    Married 52%, unmarried 37%
    Born again and Evangelical 80%, non 34%
    There is lots more.
    A country seriously divided

  39. John, the US was seriously divided before Trump threw his hat in the ring. Magic Barry O had a part in that for 8 years. Trump just capitalised on the situation at hand.

    I’m not absolving either of them but under Obama the gap widened after Bush jr.

  40. I was not suggesting that these deep divisions were caused by Trump. He simply took advantage of some of them and encouraged others against people like the Mexicans.
    I think what happened under Obama was driven to some extent by the horror felt by some whites that they had a an African American President.
    Would be interesting to see what the exit polls said after other elections.

  41. I heard a comment today that white evangelicals made up 26% of the voting population. Trump got 81%, but Clinton, from memory, only got 9%.

    Apparently Clinton made no effort to reach out to them, whereas Trump did. Traditionally a lot more voted Democrat.

    Moreover, Clinton was a sincere Christian, who learnt her politics in Arkansas. Trump had no such beliefs and was playing politics.

    Even Sanders, as a Jew, made an effort, which was appreciated.

  42. Brian,

    That is yet more evidence of what a dud candidate Hillary Rodham was.

    Around the world, plenty of candidates for office attempt to sow discord and enmity: sometimes with effect, other times their efforts don’t succeed. Why, in Australia, even radio commentators try it, Mr Jones.

    I feel there usually have to be some simmering feelings there already, which an unscrupulous candidate hears about and tries to amplify.

    Sometimes they come a cropper: Madrid bombings, just before a national election; PM tried to pin the murders on ETA; incorrect; PM lost election. Scaremongering doesn’t always work.

    Which is good.

  43. But that’s not to argue that it didn’t “work” for Mr Trump. Maybe it did.

    That figure for evangelical Christian voters is very intriguing. Had most of them spent most of their adult lives knowing that people like Mrs Clinton regarded them as “deplorable”?

  44. Ambi, it was not Trump’s scare mongering rather than his alternative fact of America is “going down fast”, which he consistently played to the hoards of fox and alt news gullibles and predominantly ageing white males. I mean what friggin widening gap in America since Obama are these blind sheep talking about? Nothing but alt-news spin.

    The dissonance between gloomy rhetoric and recent performance is greatest on the economy. America’s recovery is now the fourth-longest on record, the stockmarket is at an all-time high, unemployment is below 5% and real median wages are at last starting to rise. There are genuine problems, particularly high inequality and the plight of low-skilled workers left behind by globalisation. But these have festered for years. They cannot explain the sudden fury in American politics.

    Above is from an good analysis on ‘The Dividing of America’ in The Economist featured in July 16 so pre-poll. Some more below, but the whole article is well worth a read here

    What explains the divergence between America’s healthy vital signs and the perception, put with characteristic pithiness by Mr Trump, that the country is “going down fast”? Future historians will note that from about 2011 white and non-white babies were born in roughly equal numbers, with the ageing white population on course to become a minority around 2045. This was always going to be a jarring change for a country in which whites of European descent made up 80-90% of the population for about 200 years: from the presidency of George Washington to that of Ronald Reagan.

  45. Mother Jones Reports that

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

    This included people who have worked for both Democrats and Republicans.

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