Saturday 21 April 2018

Trump begins his work to prove much of world is wrong about him

Supporters lap it up as President offers a new way of doing things

Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible and his son Barron looks on. Photo: Getty
Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible and his son Barron looks on. Photo: Getty

Jason O'Brien in Washington DC

Picture a typical supporter of Donald J Trump, the new president of the United States. Go ahead - give it a little bit of thought.

What have you got? Male? White? Working class? Middle-aged? Sure, sure.

But this is just between us, remember. Perhaps you want to delve a little deeper?

Reactionary? Uneducated? Angry? Right, now we're going places, getting a little emotional, a little high-pitched.

Maybe you'd go even darker still, like Hillary Clinton did last September?

"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right?" she said. "The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it."

Woah! Did you go there too? Hillary, as it turned out, put 31.5 million Americans, or half of Trump's popular vote, into this 'deplorables basket'. Seems a tad unrealistic and downright depressing, Hillary, all things considered.

Either way, what about the other basket? The focus is so rarely on them, even when they are celebrating victory on Inauguration Day. Who are they anyway?

Outgoing US first lady Michelle Obama watches on at the Trump inauguration. Photo: Reuters
Outgoing US first lady Michelle Obama watches on at the Trump inauguration. Photo: Reuters

On the 10th floor of an office building on Washington's L Street, the prominent law firm Greenberg Traurig was hosting an inauguration party. It's expensive suits and deep-fried lobster nibbles, congressmen mixing with mining company executives, clean-shaven lawyers talking regulations with bored international diplomats at the free bar.

It's big bucks, power and influence; the establishment, but with helpful nametags.

Rudy Guiliani - Mr Trump's close adviser, the former mayor of New York City, and a partner in the law firm - was here, talking about the new president being "a breath of fresh air" for business and politics.

"You're going to see a different approach, an infusion of energy, he's not the caricature we see pictured in the media," he insisted, to warm applause.

And the applause was not simply politeness - many here were Trump people.

"He is now running the biggest corporation in the world, and he will bring that business mentality which is needed," one US businessman in his 50s, who didn't wish to be named but recently sold his management firm that employs 1,100 people for tens of millions, said.

"The government way of doing business, with all the lobbyists and all the people on the gravy train to be paid - that's going to end. That's the swamp to be drained.

"You don't want a politics guy. You want someone who knows how to use leverage, and knows how to deal."

His man wrote the book on that, famously.

The first official chapter of Mr Trump's new story began with hundreds of thousands lining the streets of the capital and braving uncompromising security checks and merchandise-heavy stalls to be part of a seismic day in American political history.

Read More: Donald Trump promises to put 'America First' in inauguration speech

It was the kind of start his critics had gleefully predicted: a rambling, partisan speech on Capitol Hill that broke with tradition to focus on political point-scoring, a limp call for the divided country to come together, and violent anti-Trump protests elsewhere in the city.

Promising to "make America great again", the President said: "From this day forward it is going to be only America first, America first."

As rain began to fall, he said: "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."

You don't have to check Twitter to predict the reaction of his opponents.

But those watching the swearing-in ceremony from the grassy National Mall - with estimates varying wildly from 250,000 to 900,000 before official figures are released - after queueing for hours, well, they lapped it up (what they could hear of it).

You better believe they are Trump people. Mostly 'common' people, if you like. Working people, if given the opportunity.

"I love my son but I want him to move out. I spent $80,000 on his education - get the hell out and work," Joe Gilbert said, explaining he thinks the incoming president will create jobs for Bryce and Billy, who have travelled with him from Charleston, South Carolina.

"The wall at the Mexican border is not about keeping good people out, it's about keeping good people in," the auditor (45) with a natural gas firm said. "It's about holding on to our jobs, as he said, and creating new ones so these guys here can work.

"I'm pumped to be here, excited about our future."

Eamon Shiel, who runs a construction firm in New Jersey but who emigrated from Galway in the 1980s, watched the inaugural parade snake down Pennsylvania Avenue later in the afternoon, with his wife Terry and youngest son Eamon Jnr.

Read More: Don't rush to judgment just yet - Trump may still reveal himself to be the smartest guy in the room

Former president Bill Clinton and defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton salute well-wishers following the inauguration ceremony. Photo: Getty
Former president Bill Clinton and defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton salute well-wishers following the inauguration ceremony. Photo: Getty

He wasn't planning on checking Twitter any time soon to gauge reaction back home.

"It's not up to Ireland or the EU to decide who to elect US president, or to judge - you guys don't understand what's been going on here for years," he said.

"The hard-working people of America spoke. Don't be listening to Hollywood."

Despite his appearance in 'Home Alone 2', Mr Trump is more of a reality TV man, and the reality of the divisions opened up during a fraught election campaign are surely not lost on him.

There was in the region of 90 arrests before 4pm local time amid violent protests, with individuals being charged with rioting, the city's police department said.

The statement said that two police officers had sustained minor injuries from "coordinated attacks" while there were reports of windows in various businesses in downtown Washington being smashed in by marauding rioters, numbering up to 500.

Verbal confrontation was far more common, however.

"I didn't listen to it, he's not my president," said Sally-Anne Bates (24) from Delaware when asked about the President's speech revisiting themes that brought about his improbable victory.

"Well you should have some respect," said a male passer-by in his 40s, "and get a job, we're sick of carrying you."

This was a Trump man too, no doubt about it, although he declined to be named by "the mainstream media". The Irish Independent in Washington was chuffed.

Read More: Revellers celebrate in Moscow as Donald Trump is sworn in as US president

Ms Bates works in a design studio, she explained - with some vitriol - to the gentleman, before the shouting began in earnest.

Time to move on to another show.

Politics, they say, is showbusiness for ugly people. In Washington, the days around the biggest prize in US politics see a sprouting of black-tie events, and a slew of fashion reporters outside entrances asking well-heeled ladies how others can ape their style, dollars permitting.

But there are balls, and there are balls.

While Melania and Ivanka Trump are set to steal some of the limelight from the big man at the high-end events, it is perhaps forgivable to fear the worst when entering an unofficial event called the Deplorables Inaugural Ball at the Ronald Reagan centre at short notice.

Presumably a bigot or an alt-right fascist would look much the same as anyone else in a rented tuxedo - slightly uncomfortable?

It was $500 a ticket, with VIP seating up to $10,000 and with an emphasis on bling.

These were self-styled deplorables, defiantly Trump people. But it transpires you could leave your prejudice at the door too.

The first two we met were a surgeon and a doctor, not attending together but both first-generation Irish-American, and both with a considered, calm view on the incoming administration.

Mary Rusior (55), whose mother is from Roscommon, is a doctor at the US military academy at West Point in New York.

"I'm a doctor working in government for the past 10 years, and I'm often surprised about how many things that work well in the civilian sector are wrapped up in bureaucracy in the government sector.

"There are so many unnecessary layers," she said.

"I can see that because I've come in from outside the government system. I think Mr Trump can see that too. He might not understand exactly how it works, but he'll look at it like a normal person, shine a little light on it and clear it up."

President Trump's work to prove the majority in America and, indeed, much of the rest of the world wrong has begun.

Many wouldn't fancy his chances. But there's one thing we can predict with certainty: that won't faze him or his supporters in the slightest.

Irish Independent

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