This story was reported by Scott Eidler, Michael Gormley, Paul LaRocco, Yancey Roy and David M. Schwartz.
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump was sworn-in Friday as the nation’s 45th president, echoing the populist and protectionist message that propelled his unexpected victory and promising to restore American jobs and greatness.
In his 16-minute address in the light rain, Trump depicted an America whose best days have gone by — poverty in cities, “rusted out factories like tombstones,” crime that has taken too many lives.
The 70-year-old Republican railed about foreign nations “stealing our jobs” and a bureaucracy that enhanced Washington but not “the people.” He asserted he could return the nation’s luster beginning on Day One of his four-year term.
“The American carnage stops right here and it stops right now,” Trump said. “We’ve made other counties rich, while the wealth and strength of our nation has dissipated over the horizon . . . The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and redistributed all over the world. But that is the past.”
Trump said: “The time for empty talk is over. Now is the time for action.”
Trump’s speech came on a day in which the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, left the White House for the final time after an eight-year tenure. The day was marked both by the peaceful transition of power and anti-Trump protests around the nation’s capital.
Trump didn’t outline specific policies or plans as guidance for the next four years. Instead, he spoke of reframing every decision through a nationalist prism.
“From this day forward, it’s going to be only ‘America first. America first,’” Trump said at the West Front of the Capitol after taking the oath of office. “Every decision on trade, every decision on foreign affairs will be made to the benefit of American workers and American families.”
Primarily, Trump spoke to the voters who put him in office. He didn’t do much outreach to those who didn’t — even though he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But he made some gestures to inclusivity in the speech (“whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots” and “we are one nation and their pain is our pain”) and called for “solidarity’ even when we “disagree honestly.”
Unlike his campaign speeches, he didn’t talk of building a wall along the Mexican border. He didn’t threaten his opponents outwardly. In one of the shortest inaugural speeches in recent memory, Trump sought to portray the day as one for his supporters and the public at large. The forgotten Americans, in his view. It was their day, Trump said.
“Today’s ceremony has very special meaning because we are not merely transferring power from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to you — the people,” the Queens-raised billionaire and reality television star said to cheers.
As a political outsider, Trump indicated he was siding with them, rather than the hundreds of Senate and Congress members seated behind him as he spoke. He described a nation where “politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. Their victories have not been your victories. . . That all changes right here and right now.”
Later, he added: “We will no longer accept politicians that are all talk but no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.”
“You will never be ignored again,” Trump said, a verbal nod to the resentment many of his voters expressed not only toward Democrats but the 16 other Republicans he defeated for the GOP nomination.
“He set the right tone,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in an interview. “He stood by what he said in the campaign and reached out to all Americans.”
King said he believed the audience responded well to the speech: ”You could really feel the energy . . . things are not going to be the same.”
Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle, who had been a Trump surrogate during the campaign, praised the speech for its blunt talk. “He went right at it. He gave a direct look at what kind of president we will have.”
All the living former presidents descended on the Capitol steps for the 58th presidential inauguration, except George H.W. Bush, who is hospitalized. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were joined by former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter and their wives, former first ladies Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking before Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were sworn in, said that “faith in our government, our institutions, and even our country, can erode,” especially when politics are “frequently consumed by rancor.” But he added that the inauguration ceremony was about celebrating “one of democracy’s core attributes: the peaceful transfer of power.”
Trump, dressed in a blue suit with a red tie, his wife Melania at his side, recited the oath administered by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, and thanked the Obamas for being “magnificent” and gracious in the transition.
Without going into detail, he promised to bring back American jobs from overseas, “eradicate” Islamic terrorists, and rebuild hundreds of highways, bridges, airports and railroads.
He ended his remarks with his campaign’s signature refrain: “Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again, and yes, together we will make America great again.”
Later, he signed his first executive order as president, ordering federal agencies to ease the burden of Obama’s sweeping health care law. Presidential spokesman Sean Spicer refused to offer details on the order.
With Michael Gormley, David M. Schwartz and wire reports