Commentary

American Carnage, Part 1: Trump And Pompomony

I wanted to write a lighthearted column about the pomp and ceremony of Trump’s Inauguration Day — you know, the clothes, the gaffes, the memes.

The night before, our president-to-be had even made a semi-self-deprecating joke. He said it would not bother him at all if it rained the next day, because “then everyone can see that my hair is real.”

And never mind the Blue Steel scowl that has become Melania’s facial signature on Thursday, as she marched around in her black coat in her own private Idaho.

But for the inauguration, Melania’s Tiffany-blue outfit was just right: simple, modern, geometric. It featured beautiful draping around the high neck, and her raised coif also stood up to the barometric pressure.

It was a lovely nod to Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy — on supermodel heels. First daughter Ivanka wore a similarly inspired asymmetrical long coat and pantsuit in white.

So did Hillary Clinton. White was the color of the Suffragettes, and Hillary had worn a white pant suit for her acceptance speech. Determined Hillary voters turned out by the droves in white pants suits on Nov. 7,  so Ivanka was being quite shrewd in echoing the sentiment and having it both ways.

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Only Kellyanne Conway took one for the team, allowing herself to be the patriotic equivalent of Bjork at the Oscars. She wore a bright red, white and blue toy-soldier coat dress with brass cat buttons that she accessorized with a red hat, belt, shoes and purse, for a patriot Rockette effect.

She might have just tried wearing a swan around her neck.

But let’s face it: presidential transitions between Democrats and Republicans, after hard-fought battles, are never fun. That’s what all the traditions are about. The ceremonial stuff makes it possible for people to be smiley with the ones they just eviscerated. Every inauguration morning there’s church, coffee with the outgoing president and his wife at the White House, and then a very choreographed leave-taking to the inaugural through the North Portico.

Although Trump had invented that birther stuff (awkward!), the Obamas tried to make the handoff gracious and warm, just as the Bushes had done for them.

And then, to the inaugural address. Trump claimed to have written his speech himself, and even had the photo tweet to prove it: In a shot that looked straight out of a Kremlin-era P.R. move, we saw him in his blue suit and red tie sitting at the otherwise empty Concierge desk at Mar-a–Lago, blank writing pad in hand and capped Sharpie at the ready.

As for the speech, Trump’s delivery, to the steady beat of rain, was good. But as soon as he started, I could feel the Steve Bannon-osity of the words and phrases, dropping like acid rain. There’s something about the way his senior advisor uses populist and nationalist threats and dog whistles that makes Rudy Giuliani’s speech at the RNC look temperate.

There was no mention of women’s issues like sexual harassment or unequal pay — or health care for either gender, for that matter. (No mention of the LGBT community, either.)

But there was a ferocious attack on Washington and politicians who were “all talk and no action,” which I thought referred to President Obama — and worse, Rep. John Lewis, whom Trump had already skewered in a tweet using the same phrase.

The other surreal thing about this massive attack on Washington: Trump has just opened a super-luxury D.C. hotel to appeal to exactly the population he denounced in his speech.

He has promoted the place nonstop, and it was the site of several luncheons, meetings and balls for donors all weekend long. The idea that the President has such a major holding in his portfolio, which used to be a federal post office, is not exactly kosher, either. But that's the least of the worries for now in terms of hypocrisy.

Bannon uses phrases that boys in the 1950s might have liked, such as our “glorious destiny.” And he has two extremes: gratuitously violent or hokey. He writes of “the wealth of the middle class ripped from our homes and redistributed all over the world.” Ripped from our homes? Not our headlines or wombs?

Then there was an attempt at diversity, but it came military-style and with blood: “Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”

By the way, on what planet do we have an “education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge?”

When Bannon tries to get inclusive, he waxes corny, ungrammatical and stereotypical. “Whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska,” Trump said, “they [sic] look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart [sic] with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator.”

Wow! He always sticks it to Detroit with “urban sprawl.” Way to help! And the “wind-swept plains” of Nebraska sport pretty much the same fast-food outlets and malls as Detroit, no?

You’ll notice that while he’s talking about a child being born, it’s not connected to a woman’s body in any way. Rather, the almighty creator has some sort of breathing apparatus, and the children are apparently born in mangers throughout the U.S. It saves massively on hospital costs.

Then the speech really gets nasty, in the “American Carnage: The Apocalypse Tour” part, which talks about a country “ravaged” with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.”

But the worst thing that Steve Bannon does with his weird, violent, brand of nationalistic populism is his insistence on using the phrase “America first.” It’s the only expression that Trump repeated twice in the speech — and, as we know, he likes to repeat himself. “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first.”

The phrase has an anti-Semitic history, and this has come up many times in the Trump campaign already. But Bannon apparently likes it — so it sticks.

We’ll have to see if anyone cares about the massive disconnect — and misdirect, given his cabinet picks — of the speech.  I was hoping Trump would stick to hair jokes.

15 comments about "American Carnage, Part 1: Trump And Pompomony".
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  1. Eric Gutierrez from Hey,, January 20, 2017 at 11:22 p.m.

    Steve/Don use the real heartache of real working people, in the real rust belt, where he/they have no real credentials, to propel themselves into a hate-fueled limelight. 

  2. Carri Bugbee from Big Deal Digital, January 20, 2017 at 11:26 p.m.

    Bless you, Barbara, for watching that speech so I didn't have to. Acid rain, indeed. I see nothing golden on the horizon with Trump in charge. 

  3. charles bachrach from BCCLTD, January 21, 2017 at 3:05 p.m.

    Trump will ruin this country as well as all the good relationships and good will that have been built up with our Foreign Allies over the years.  Lord help us!!!!

  4. Nancy Levine from Self, January 21, 2017 at 5:55 p.m.

    Terrific piece, insightful, and colorful as Kellyanne's Bjork costume! This must be the line that Trump wrote himself when he uncapped the sharpie: “From this day forward, it’s only going to be America first.” Under 140 characters, so doable for him, chilling for us.

  5. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, January 23, 2017 at 10:43 a.m.

    Seeing it for what it really is. Alternative facts not needed. Well done. 

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 23, 2017 at 11:57 a.m.

    Barbara, thank you for your so well expressed anxiety many of us cannot express. The anger, the disconnect, the disrespect is being pent up in the best of us that no march can exude. When it all goes boom, and it will, trumpty dumpty and his comrades will have heart attacks to avoid the backlash from the world.

  7. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, January 23, 2017 at 1:55 p.m.

    It's been America First for some years now.  How have we done that?  By taking the lead in institutiosn like NATO and extending our power all over the world in a series of trade agreements.

    Makes you wonder:  how will it be 'America First' with our head stuck in the sand?

  8. Bruce Dundore from Lazaroff/Dundore, January 23, 2017 at 3:03 p.m.

    What is there to say about this guy? 
    Just one day and so many riches. 
    One of the nastiest, depressing, and scary inauguration speeches 
    of all time. 

  9. Doug Robinson from FreshDigitalGroup, January 23, 2017 at 5:03 p.m.

    America First..he doesn't even have a clue what that means. The best we can hope for is a Trump impeachment plan later this year that address all of the conflicts of interest he is already in violation of.  I'm starting ot see how I can use our digital/mobile excellence to help 25 Senators up for re-election to tip the Senate, that's what's really important over the next 18 months. If the combative nature of the WH with the media continues, it only makes sense that we put all of our efforts to fix the problem instead of just living it. 40,000 votes is what this is all about, we have to fix that.

  10. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, January 23, 2017 at 5:59 p.m.


    Actual facts.  Thank you, Barbara Lippert.

  11. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, January 23, 2017 at 6:23 p.m.


    On a possibly related note; ... has anyone here been watching HBO's new limited series The Young Pope?

    The parallels are, hmmm, "interesting."

  12. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, January 23, 2017 at 6:46 p.m.

    Ha! Thanks, Chuck. Haven't seen it , but from the promos, it looks freaky! 

  13. Feminista Fan from The Past, Present and Future, January 23, 2017 at 7:59 p.m.

    I think it's interesting that you covered the inauguration like an ad campaign with all its camera-ready props and pointed language. At least in advertising we are forced to be truthful. 

  14. Mark DiMassimo from DiMassimo Goldstein, January 25, 2017 at 10:42 a.m.

    Barbara Lippert, you had me at "Blue Steel."

  15. Jim English from The Met Museum, January 26, 2017 at 5:18 p.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  You and Nicholas Kristof will get me through this presidency.

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