Every new elected executive gets to blame the previous regime for whatever went wrong — especially when the party in power changes.
Certainly Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did that for a while after taking office.
Donald Trump embraced this theme his own way Friday in his inaugural speech. He’s setting up a narrative that implies nobody in Washington served the people until he showed up.
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he said. “Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.”
“The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories.”
Don’t ask how he and many in his Cabinet managed to make piles of dough in that time. Don’t ask how Vice President Mike Pence and those in Congress were faring in politics.
By tradition, specifics are for other occasions, other contexts. At 15 minutes, this address proved mercifully short.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” he vowed anew. “America will start winning again,” he said. “Our country will thrive and prosper again.”
As for outreach, he said: “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”
Trump’s fans and detractors among the people may want to note that he said: “The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
In several respects it was a standard inaugural speech with textbook inaugural phrasing.
Case in point: “Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”
That’s some good old populist flavoring.
What distinguishes it from past speeches might be a different discussion.
For the most part, the day had the usual pomp and staging: Family hugs. Predecessors. “Hail to the Chief.” Military review. Receptions. Nonstop chatter about who wore what.
All that, with an extra measure of street protest that Trump may ignore or address as he pleases.
The die is cast. The protest slogans “Not my president,” “Never Trump” and “Not a Mandate” today become the shouts of outsiders, hurled at Washington’s new status quo.