comscore Inaugural speech is Trump’s time to rise to the moment | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Inaugural speech is Trump’s time to rise to the moment


    Tradition suggests it’s time for Trump to set aside the say-anything speaking style that got him elected and rise to the inaugural moment. But bucking tradition, or ignoring it all together, is what got Trump to his inaugural moment.

WASHINGTON >> Tradition suggests it’s time for Donald Trump to set aside the say-anything speaking style and rise to the inaugural moment.

But bucking tradition, or ignoring it altogether, is what got Donald Trump to his inaugural moment.

When Trump stands on the west front of the Capitol on Friday and delivers his inaugural address, all sides will be waiting to see whether he comes bearing a unifying message for a divided nation or decides to play up his persona as a disrupter of the established order.

How Trump tends to that balancing act, in both style and content, will be a telling launch for his presidency.

“The inaugural is an address that is meant for the ages,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. “In particular, it’s important when you’ve had a divisive election. You need to become president of all of the people, including those who vehemently opposed your election.”

Trump seems to get that.

He’s spoken admiringly in recent weeks about the speeches of past presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, and is said to be deeply involved in preparing his address.

“This is something very personal to him,” spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday, estimating the speech will run about 20 minutes. “He wants to talk about his vision, where he sees this country and where we are right now.”

Trump told Fox on Tuesday that he’ll start his address with words of thanks to “everybody,” including President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, for being “so gracious.”

The president-elect showed he can deliver a straight-forward, prepared address at the Republican convention, where he largely stuck to a script and shut down anti-Hillary Clinton chants of “lock her up” from the crowd of GOP loyalists.

But that address was strikingly dark in tone, sketching a portrait of an America in crisis, and he later embraced that chant from supporters at his freewheeling campaign rallies.

The inaugural address, by contrast, needs to be “an inherently aspirational speech,” said Michael Gerson, who wrote speeches for President George W. Bush and is a frequent Trump critic. “It has to be about the future and about your vision.”

Veteran speechwriters have plenty of other advice for Trump and his chief wordsmith, Stephen Miller. Keep it short. Don’t overdo the gravitas. Don’t gloat, the victory tour is over. No deviations from script.

Oh, and don’t undo a successful inaugural address with an intemperate tweet — or two or three — a few hours later.

While Trump used his victory speech on Election Night to sound a call to “come together as one united people,” his tweets since then have featured name calling, score settling and petulance.

Wayne Fields, a Washington University expert on presidential rhetoric, said Trump is in an awkward situation, going into his inaugural address as a man who seems to regard precise language with contempt “rather than respect.”

After all, this is a candidate who reveled in taking juvenile potshots during the campaign, labeling his rivals “stupid,” ”dumb” and “bad.”

“I know words,” he declared at one rally. “I have the best words. But there’s no better word than stupid, right?”

Even if Trump delivers a statesmanlike speech that hits all the right notes, Fields says, “nobody would know how to receive it or who it was coming from or how seriously to take it. It’s a huge challenge.”

Any reframing of Trump’s tone for the presidency — if he wanted to do that — would require a consistent, longer-term shift, Fields said.

Trump does go into the speech with the benefit of low expectations: His off-the-cuff and often inflammatory style has long been a big part of his appeal. The soaring rhetoric of Obama, for example, simply wouldn’t ring true.

“Because of the high level of attention and the low expectations, he’s far more likely to exceed expectations,” Jamieson said.

At the same time, Gerson cautions, Trump faces an extra hurdle in his inaugural address because he won the election by dividing the country.

“The method that he won creates the initial challenge of his presidency, which is to rally people broadly around his agenda and vision,” he said.

Trump also knows his audience will include plenty of supporters who elected him to challenge the status quo. An address that doesn’t offer any flavor of Trump-the-disruptor could disappoint those eager for a sea change in the ways of Washington.

Beyond Friday, there is the larger question of how Trump will adjust his speaking style over the next four years. His past pledges to “act more presidential” when the time is right are coming due.

“Any president is going to have to learn how to make use of good speeches,” said Gerson, noting that presidents may have to speak at three public events in a given day. “That may be different from anything he’s ever experienced before, because the campaign rewarded spontaneity and being extemporaneous. There are huge portions of the presidency where that can’t be the case.”

Comments (66)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • I’m sure he’ll deliver a good speech. But what concerns me is that his opponents won’t listen. There are too many people out there who want the nation to remain divided and will oppose him no matter what, and that’s really sad.

    • Well, it’s tit for tat, isn’t it? On Obama’s inaugural day, top Republicans met and vowed to oppose each and every single thing Obama tried to do. How’s that any different? And now the R’s lambast those who want to oppose them? Hypocrites! You can’t complain about being treated the way you were once content to treat others. As far as I’m concerned, they’re getting what they deserve.

      • So it’s not hypocritical for Democrats to do what they accused the Republicans of doing? And then, it won’t be hypocritical of Republicans to do this the next time a Democrat is elected. So this just becomes normal acceptable behavior from now on. So much for the “high road.”

        • @Denom, that’s a separate question. My remarks were to @latenight talking about his opponents. Not saying that those opponents were not also hypocritical. But as to your comment, yes, I do think this is new normal. I do not expect anything different for the rest of my life. I do not think human beings are naturally disposed to taking the “high road.” Since the idealism of my youth burned out in the 1980s, I have never really had much hope for the future.

      • At least all the R’s showed up PoiDoggy.
        But if anyone boycotted O’s inauguration they would have been called racist.
        O’s presidency turned out to be a novelty just because he was black and Americans were curious but he ended up being a fantasy land of BS.

    • Trump does not need any help dividing the nation. He has built his whole campaign on attacking Mexicans, Mexican immigrants, Black Lives Matter, Muslim and Middle eastern immigrants, the environmental protection & climate change movement, women’s health (Planned Parenthood), gun control supporters, gay rights vis a vis Mike Pence his VP, Blacks by nominating racist Jeff Sessions and having White Supremacist Steve Bannon as a senior adviser, attacks on the press & media, attacks on our US intelligence services. With every tweet, he further alienates more people. He has said, the 54% of voters in this country who did not vote for him are his enemies.

    • The Russian hacking of our country has gotten a lot of attention lately. Few have mentioned much about Edward Snowden, who leaked a lot of our countries classified info and then fled to Russia, and now is helping the Russians with their hacking.

      • Texas state lawmaker indicted on numerous corruption charges
        AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A Democratic state representative from Austin has been indicted on numerous corruption charges.

        A grand jury indicted Dawnna Dukes on 13 felony counts of tampering with a government record and two misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity. If convicted, she faces up to 28 years in jail.

        Dukes is accused of misspending campaign funds and doctoring records, as well as directing her legislative staff to work on non-official business.

        Dukes previously had announced plans to resign, citing years-long medical concerns. But she reneged last week and was sworn in for her 12th term.

        She can remain in the House while the case proceeds.

        On Facebook on Wednesday, Dukes said she was disappointed but planned to plead not guilty. She wrote that the allegations were “raised by disgruntled former employees.”

        • Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager, was a consultant to the former pro-Russian President of the Ukraine, and there was huge payments to Paul Manafort from resident Yovenchenko. Publicity about this scandal, led Trump to fire Manafort as his campaign chairman, to disconnect Trump’s connections with Putin and the Kremlin. Even Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, has a Russian wife, whose father is a leading Russian property developer in Moscow. Trump, while in Moscow and in St. Peterborough and many meetings with Russian developers and Russian officials. Cafter Page, a Trump campaign aid, also has numerous meetings in Russia in the past. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s Security adviser, sat next to Putin at a banquet for the state run RT television station. Incredible amount of contacts between Trump and his surrogates with Putin and the Russians

        • Give it up loser. Same old comments. Blagh blagh blagh. President Trump is doing a great job and the world will be a better place. Trump 2020

        • latenightroach – I get it … you call the President “Obummer” to be funny!

          You are very, very clever for a nine year-old! Good for you!

        • Klastri
          Instead of responding at the nine year old level, why don’t you answer his question?

    • I can’nt wait for Trump’s inaugural speech. It should be full of lies, falsehoods, deflections, insults, slander, attacks, and disinformation. Very entertaining iand self affirming if you are among the ignorant, parannoid, gullible, racist and bigoted.

        • latenightroach – How could there not be, considering the way they’ve been, and are, treated? What are you talking about?

          Are you an adult?

        • Ms. Clinton had no chance because of her lies, condescending demeanor, and unequivocal support of her philandering/lying husband. Bernie would have been a much better candidate.

      • Typical Dem/Lib response: if you don’t agree with me you are a bad person. No substance, so you rely on 5th grade name calling. By the way, paranoid is spelled with one “n”.

    • Yes Latenight,Sad Indeed! However,I see it as good thing,because what The democrats are doing is shooting themselves in the foot.Come 2018 add to that list? MORE will keep losing seats.

      • We shall see. Now you have to perform. Will the stock market continue to rise like it did under Obama? Or will it fall like it did under the previous republican president? If the market falls with the deficit and unemployment rising, may not be such a happy time for you republicans.

        • Will the stock market continue to rise like it did under Obama?

          I think it rose, in part due to simply printing up money and flooding the market with low interest loans

          It was great for investors, but by doubling the debt from 10 to 20 trillion, I worry about what will happen when it comes time to pay the piper

          Who will we blame it on?

  • trump’s inaugural committee came up with an emailed commerative ticket for the events tomorrow. the events are free and you don’t need a ticket to attend, but it makes a nice souvenir. too bad obama didn’t have one for his inaugurations. would have liked to have one of his too. hope the 2021 inauguration committee puts one out too.

  • About a million fewer people will be here in Washington for Mr. Trump’s inauguration than for Mr. Obama’s. It looks like there’s not much interest in being present for the inauguration of the first orange President. Go figure!

    And despite Mr. Trump’s lies that there are no dresses left in the DC women’s stores (he lies about the most silly things) my wife had no trouble buying one today.

    It’s supposed to rain most of the day on Friday here in Washington DC – a fitting way to start a disaster of an administration.

    For those of you who are attorneys or paralegals, the ACLU is having organizing meetings starting tomorrow and continuing through Sunday to map out ways for its 50-state volunteer staff to stop Mr. Trump in his illegal and unconstitutional efforts. It’s a great time to be a lawyer!

      • I never wrote anything about Chelsea Manning. You are a serial liar.

        Notwithstanding your inability to ever write anything truthfully, yes, I’m proud of Mr. Obama and his service.

      • Lespark you must be proud of Putin’s hacking of our country and winning the election for Trump. You are in wonderful company, friend of a tyrant and a war criminal, and the head of the Russian cyberwarfare agency

        • BS. Trump won because HRC is/was more of the same but even worse. Hard to admit that people weren’t happy after these past 8 years huh?

        • latenightroach – Mrs. Ciinton won almost 3 million more votes than Mr. Trump.

          Trump is a psychotic. His collapsing opinion polls reflect his incompetence.

        • wrong klastri Hillary won the California popular vote by almost 3 million trump won the popular vote of the other 49 states and D.C. so she is the president of California, take away California votes from Hillary and trump and go by the other 49 states and D.C. here is the actual total popular vote Hillary 54,978,783 trump 57,113,976 that’s why we can’t have 1 state electing a president over the other 49 states that’s why we go by electoral votes. so trump wins in a landslide in the 49 other states 51.3% to her 48.7% so when the liberal dems say she won the popular vote by all 50 states they are lying along with the media stooges.

        • also here is the California vote only hillary 5,860,714 to trumps 3,151,821 61.6% to Hillary and 33.1% to trump exclusive of other candidates so there is your almost 3 million popular votes that Hillary won. California.

        • 64hoo – I see. So Donald Trump won 49 states and Mrs. Clinton won one?

          This may be your most ignorant and ridiculous comment. Why would you lie like this when the vote total by state is in the public record?

          You never know what you write about. Never.

        • 64hoo, by your reasoning, if you take away the electoral votes of texas, trump would not have won. See how nonsensical it gets?

      • DPK, is making a comment about himself, and much like Trump. Totally into his self importance and self serving, and everyone else are inferior and need to be bullied so he can feel more superior

        • Sorry vector. I make no comments about myself. I have no narcissistic orientation and certainly don’t bully. I just enjoy the comedy presented by Dems who think everyone that has a different opinion is less than human. How devoted to nonconformist thinking you are, although you call yourself liberal.

      • Trump is now buying ads on Facebook, asking people to come. I’m in DC now for ACLU meetings (all messed up with the time shift) but the place feels like there’s a state funeral being planned instead of an inauguration.

        There are still hotel rooms – lots of them in a lot of hotels – available here. It’s amazing for an inauguration.

        • Are you lying again? One more day. Thanks for the update and say hi to President Trump. Popular President of all 49 states. My hotel is full.

    • Trump hotel DC has no vacancies.
      Your wife’s dress must be cheap.
      You and the ACLU should do something constructive, like working on all the hate crimes committed towards Trump supporters instead of fighting against Trump.
      Your alt-left agenda is deplorable and there’s way more than a basket of your type.

      • Lots of foreign government folks are staying at the Trump hotel, of course, to buy his favor. He’s already drowning in a cesspool of conflicts and corruption, and Trump believes that he is immune from Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits gifts from foreign powers. Trump is not immune from that of course despite his constant lying to the contrary, and he’ll find out quickly when the avalanche of bad things start piling on him.

        You remain totally clueless about what the ACLU does, of course. No surprise there, since you seem to not know anything.

        We do not prosecute crimes, obviously, so your suggestion about hate crimes further validates your knowledge gap. The ACLU protects people from the government. We actually represented Rush Limbaugh when his drug addiction mess turned criminal and the government overreached.

        Can’t you, just once, do five minutes of research before commenting? It might help to mask your breathtaking ignorance.

        • I can’t believe you are an ACLU attorney! You are the mist cruelest poster and you enjoy it. How does this match with the ideals of the ACLU? Maybe you should read that it is to defend every person, not just democrats.

        • nalogirl – Well, if you knew anything at all about the ACLU, you would be able to answer your own question.

          The ACLU defended Rush Limbaugh and lots of other Republicans. It’s unfortunate that you would comment without having any knowledge of the subject matter. But that’s you!

        • Sorry, I was under the impression that the ACLU’s stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States”, not to be shaded by the hate that you spew daily. Any more name calling or generalizations today?

  • Tough spot for Trump; a no-win situation. If he stays true to himself, he’ll get ripped. If comes out more presidential and encouraging unification, no one will believe him.

  • After his inauguration maybe he’ll go out and do an apology tour and proclaim to the world how ashamed of his country he is. Oh wait, that was none other than Barry Hussein.

  • Could the bar be any lower for this firehose of ignorance, bigotry and misogyny with a six-grade vocabulary and an inability to speak in complete sentences?

    • To add, his screeching and frothing at the mouth on twitter, not becoming at all for a President Elect or President. He has no dignity whatsoever, he is a loud mouth boor, bully, and bold faced liar. He is no gentleman, and will only demean the Presidency and undermine our democracy and it’s institutions

      • Perestroika 2.0
        Trump and Vlad the impaler ruling the world. I can’t wait to pillage by their side!
        Ayatollahs knees shaking under man dresses…Chinese child labor slaves suddenly unemployed…Chubby little North Korean dictator eaten alive by his own starving people. Paradise!

  • Trump tweeted a hilarious picture, posed in front of really tacky wallpaper, claiming that it shows him writing his inaugural speech, but instead of lying on the desk, his writing pad is held up so that you can’t see that it’s blank, and he is wearing his squinty-eyed this-is-what-I-look-like-when-I’m-trying-to-look-like-I’m-thinking-really-hard face. There’s also a statue of an eagle that looks like it is swooping down to land in his hair

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up