The world focuses on US as 45th president is inaugurated amid protests
By Emma Emeozor
The United States of America (USA) is today inaugurating its 45th president. Henceforth, Donald Trump (70) will be the number one citizen of the country, having emerged president in a tight election that shook the US and the world
Trump, accompanied by his family, will be sworn in by Supreme Court Chief, Justice John Roberts Jr., in a ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol building. He will take the oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.”
According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Trump is assuming office with an approval rating of just 40 per cent, the lowest of any recent president and 44 points below that of outgoing President Barack Obama. Obama’s approval rating was 84 per cent, Bill Clinton was 67 per cent and George Bush was 61 per cent. Indeed, the incoming president’s rating has never been good. In all the three presidential debates held before the election, he was trounced by his rival, Democratic Party candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Then, the thinking was that he would not win the election. All the projections and opinion polls were against him. But against all odds, he won the Electoral College votes to be declared winner.
Today’s inauguration comes up amid Trump’s rejection by a cross-section of Americans as well as trading of bitter remarks between him and his opponents, within and outside the opposition party, the Democratic Party, over controversial policy statements he has made since being declared President-elect. Some of his critics believe he is a demagogue, who is unfit for the exalted post of U.S. president, while others have declared outright that he is not a legitimate president.
The issue of political inexperience remains a nagging question facing Trump. Even with enviable credentials in business, some people believe he is lacking in leadership. Reports quoted Texas Republican consultant, Matt Mackowiak, as saying: “Trump is the master of creating a perception that he is successful, when he has used aggressive lawsuits and multiple bankruptcies in attempts to mask huge failures.”
Can Trump prove his critics wrong? That is the question. He proved wrong those who believed he would not clinch the Republican Party presidential ticket, at the beginning. He did prove those who thought he would not win the presidential election wrong. The test for him, at present, is to prove his mettle.
The controversial billionaire believes his critics are daydreamers, who are yet to be in tandem with the realities of the time. He has repeatedly lambasted those who are not willing to join the ‘Trump train.’ Though branded a neophyte in government, he has made a careful selection of Americans, who are experienced in their professions to be part of his cabinet. The Congress commenced the screening exercise days before today’s inauguration. Of note is that he picked the candidates without party, ethnic and religious bias.
But for the first time in recent history, the inauguration of an American president will be taking place in a divided country. Also, for the first time in recent history, the world is bemusing over the personality of an American president. He seems to be at ‘war’ with everybody and himself most of the time, as he makes statements and later recants or makes outright denials.
Trump has created tension across the globe, through his jabs, even before stepping into office. The question that seems to be on the lips of people is, ‘where will a Trump presidency take the world?’
Trump said his inauguration would be low key but unique. Reports quoted him as saying the event will be “very, very elegant day” with “massive crowds,” devoid of the fanfare that usually marks America’s presidential inaugurations. This is because it is being dedicated to the ordinary American. He had pledged to live up to his campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again.”
Boris Epshteyn, director of communications for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, had explained that the inauguration would be smaller than that of previous presidents. He said Trump wants to send a specific message with the three days of events that will surround his swearing-in. “It’s a message of unity. It’s a message of diversity,” Epshteyn said. He said: “It’s about being president for all Americans and getting Americans back to work.”
Though Trump will hold only three inaugural balls, unlike Obama, who held 10 after his first inauguration, his presidential inaugural committee has “raised a record sum, more than $90 million in private donations, far more than Obama’s two inaugural committees, which brought in $55 million in 2009 and $43 million in 2013.” It said any money left over would be donated to charity, according to reports.
Boycott, protests trail inauguration
As world dignitaries converge on Washington today, a likely scenario will be that of protesters, marching on the city to reject Trump. It is not unusual for protests to trail the inauguration of American presidents. According to reports, “there were demonstrations against Richard Nixon in 1973 and George W. Bush in 2001,” but “nothing on the scale Trump faces in Washington, a liberal bastion where he took just four per cent of the votes (even Bush managed nine per cent in 2000).” There is the possibility of clashes between protesters and Trump loyalists.
The Guardian reported: “In Washington, hotels were booked and stands were erected in readiness for thousands of Trump loyalists, reveling in his upending of the political order, and thousands of protesters determined to gatecrash his coronation. Amid splendid pomp and pageantry, the capital is set to stage a battle for the heart of America.”
According to the newspaper, “about 30 groups have secured permits to protest before, during and after the inauguration. District police and the US Secret Service plan to have some 3,000 officers and 5,000 national guard troops available, claiming this will be enough to ensure the inauguration goes ahead, even if protesters try to disrupt it.”
The biggest gathering will be tomorrow with the Women’s March on Washington, which organisers said could draw more than 200,000 people. The newspaper further quoted Ben Wikler, Washington director of the progressive group, MoveOn.Org, as saying: “This is unlike any inauguration we’ve seen. We’ve never seen a counter-inauguration that dwarfs the crowd at the inauguration itself. It will be unmistakable where the energy is. It will be in the broad and diverse movement to oppose the Trump agenda.”
At least, 50 Democratic lawmakers have declared a boycott of the event.
Curiously, on Tuesday, a former contestant on TV’s “The Apprentice” filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump. She has accused him of making unwanted sexual advances toward her. Reports said Summer Zervos announced the lawsuit at a downtown Los Angeles news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred. The action came three days before today’s inauguration.
Zervos and all other women, who have made similar accusations against Trump will join the Women’s March against Trump in Washington today. Reports quoted Zervos, who appeared on the fifth season of the reality show, as saying Trump had tried to seduce her at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007, kissing her on the mouth without her consent and pressing himself against her.
In October, she tearfully described running around a hotel room to avoid physical contact with Trump, even as she sought employment from him. “Zervos said she felt compelled to go public with the accusations after seeing recordings on the set of “Access Hollywood” that had been released days earlier, in which Trump made crude comments about grabbing women by the genitals,” it was reported.
The man Trump
Born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York City, Trump attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, where he read Economics. He made his mark in business, after he inherited his father’s real estate and construction firm, Elizabeth Trump and Son in 1971. He later renamed the firm, Trump Organisation.
On how he became wealthy, available records attribute his wealth to his benevolent father, Mr. Fred Trump, who bequeathed to him his fortune. “Fred Trump died in 1999 with an estimated net wealth between $250 million and $450 million. Most of this money was made when Donald was in high school and college, from the real estate business. It is estimated Trump received an inheritance worth between $40 million and $200 million from his father’s estate.”
He owned the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants from 1996 to 2015. According to Forbes, he is the 324th wealthiest person in the world and 113th in U.S. with a net worth of $4.5 billion.
Trump is a Christian and a Presbyterian. In 1977, he married Ivana Zelnickova and divorced in 1992 and remarried in 1993 to Maria Maples. He again divorced in 1999. He got remarried in 2005 to Melania Knauss, who becomes US First Lady today. He has five children.
Records available say: “Though he has never filed for personal bankruptcy, his hotel and casino businesses have been declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds.”
His presidential ambition dates back to 1987. He expressed the idea in 1988, 2004 and 2012. He joined the Republican Party in 1987 and decamped to join the Independence Party in 1999. From the Independence Party, he switched over to New York’s version of the Reform Party. Shortly after, Trump joined the Democratic Party in 2001 where he remained for eight years. He was on the move again, this time, returning to the Republican Party in 2009.
By 2011, he had no party affiliation. At the time, the Politico quoted his attorney Michael Cohen, as saying Trump made the change “in order to preserve his right to run as an independent if he is (not pleased) with the GOP nominee.” However, in 2012, he again, returned to the Republican Party.
A man of controversy
Trump is one of the most controversial public figures America ever produced. Since hitting the road, he has never stopped issuing controversial statements, sometimes infuriating local and foreign leaders as well as civil rights activities. Below are some of such statements:
Building a wall on U.S-Mexico border was top on his campaign agenda. He said he wanted to stop illegal migrants from Mexico from entering U.S. He said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
One of the reasons women said they wouldn’t vote for him was because of the foul language he used to describe Fox News reporter, Megan Kelly, who had row with him following her questions during the August 2016 primary debate. He said: “She gets out, and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. And, you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
After he was criticised, he twisted the story by saying he was referring to Kelly’s ears or nose.
Commenting on his popularity, which rose early in 2016, he said: “You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”
During the campaign in 2016, Trump incurred the wrath of some civil rights activities, who accused him of not having human feelings for the less-privileged. They accused him of mocking the less-privileged members of the public. The reason for the attack?
According to reports, Trump had cited an article by Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis, which affects joint movement. When Kovaleski did not back up Trump’s claims of Muslim Americans, celebrating after 9/11, Trump said, while moving in his arms in a spastic motion, “Uhh I don’t know what I said. Uhh I don’t remember. He’s going like I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.”
In another instance, after a protester, who had been escorted out of his Las Vegas rally, Trump told the crowd: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
He comically attacked Mitt Romney for expressing concerns over his candidacy. During one of his campaigns in California, he told the crowd: “I understand losers. You can make a lot of money with losers…(Romney) choked like a dog…He’s a choker…Once a choker, always a choker…And he walks like a penguin onto the stage.”
And how did he react to November 2016 terrorist attacks in Paris? In a statement he read, he said: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims, entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Months later, Trump walked back his statement, saying that his administration would perform “extreme vetting” on anyone attempting to enter the country from “territories” with a history of terror.
His remarks on Arizona Senator, John McCain, leaves much to be desired. He described McCain, who spent over five years in a Vietnamese prison after his military plane was shot down, as a “dummy.” Trump went on to ridicule McCain, saying: “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Not even Hillary Clinton was spared. On her success at the Democratic Party primary, he said: “I think the only card she has is the woman’s card. She has nothing else going. Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she would get five per cent of the vote. The only thing she has got going is the woman’s card.”
Trump received knocks over his comments on the U.S. District Judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who presided over a civil suit of fraud charges brought against him, regarding Trump University. In a June interview, he said that Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in deciding the case because he was “of Mexican heritage.” Following the other statements he had made about combating illegal immigration, Trump said: “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”
His first 100-day plan
He has made much ado about his first 100-day in office. He insists, “if we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by and for the people.” He believes that his 100-day plan will restore prosperity to US economy, security to its communities, and honesty in government.
Interestingly, he “plans to do absolutely nothing” for his first two days in office. He has said his “day one is gonna be Monday.”
Trump explained this was because he doesn’t want his signing of orders to clash with the celebrations. He told the Times of London: “One of the first orders I’m gonna sign – day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration, but one of the first orders we’re gonna be signing is gonna be strong borders.”
Speaking at his victory rally last year, he unfolded his plans for the first 100 days in office. Now, it seems he’s beginning to realise that he cannot take unilateral decisions without consulting the Congress and other leaders of Thought. For example, he said he would limit the term of membership of Congress. But the lawmakers have made it clear that he cannot. Meanwhile, he has said the first action he would take is to repeal the health scheme introduced by Obama – “ObamaCare.”
Listed in the plan, tagged: “Donald Trump’s Contract With The American Voter,” are: A Constitution Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress; a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety and public health); a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated; a five-year-ban on White House and Congressional officials, becoming lobbyists after they leave government service; a lifetime ban on White House officials, lobbying on behalf of a foreign government and a complete ban on foreign lobbyists, raising money for American elections.
He said from the day of his inauguration, that is today, he will begin taking the following seven actions to protect American workers: Renegotiate North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205, withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership; direct his Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator; direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact on American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately; lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal; lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward and cancel billions in payments to United Nations climate change programmes and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure
He also said he would take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law: Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama; begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States; cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities; begin removing the more than two million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back and suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.
Working with the Congress
Trump has said he would work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of his administration:
Middle class tax relief and Simplification Act: An economic plan designed to grow the economy four per cent per year and create, at least, 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with two children will get a 35 per cent tax cut.
The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 per cent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 per cent rate.
End the Offshoring Act: Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.
American Energy & Infrastructure Act: Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.
School Choice and Education Opportunity Act: Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kids to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.
Repeal and replace Obamacare Act: Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and letting states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: There are over 4,000 drugs, awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed up the approval of life-saving medications.
Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and eldercare from their taxes, incentivises employers to provide on-side childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.
End Illegal Immigration Act. Fully funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a two-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the US after a previous deportation, and a five-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.
Restoring Community Safety Act: Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programmes that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.
Restoring National Security Act: Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defence sequester and expanding military investment; provides veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.
Cleanup corruption in Washington Act: Enacts new ethics reforms to “Drain the Swamp” and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.
Trump’s Foreign Policy
It is not yet clear what his foreign policy direction is. He has said: “Our foreign policy needs a new direction.” According to him, “Instead of rebuilding foreign nations, it’s time to rebuild our own nation.” He said “interventions” abroad must stop.
Political analysts say he is advocating for a more isolationist foreign policy than that of President Barrack Obama and recent administrations. Meanwhile, what is obvious is his battle-readiness to tackle China over trade rules. Already, he has broken existing protocol by receiving phone call from Taiwanese President, an act China has condemned. He is also upbeat about making Russia a destination for America. Following sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration over the hacking of Clinton’s emails, Trumps has said he would lift the sanctions if Russia agrees to nuclear arms cut. Russia has responded, saying it is ready to hold talks with Trump on nuclear arms and Syria. Of course, Russia was accused of hacking the email to create favourable atmosphere for him to defeat Clinton, an allegation Moscow has denied.
He is not pretending in improving relations with Israel, even at the detriment of the Middle East peace talks.
Reports say “Trump’s transition team has sent the State Department four pages of questions about Africa that reveal an administration deeply skeptical of Africa’s place in US foreign policy. Throughout the queries, obtained by the New York Times, Trump’s team questions the value of US engagement on the continent in humanitarian aid, anti-terrorism campaigns, trade deals, or the search for Joseph Kony, the head of the violent Ugandan guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.”
Questions in the document include: The LRA has never attacked US interests, why do we care? Is it worth the huge cash outlays? How does US business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese? Why should we spend funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the US? This question is asked against the background of massive corruption “from petty bribes to high-level political graft” across the continent. Why is the US bothering to fight Boko Haram insurgency?
The report, however, said: “With better accountability in the army, perhaps, Trump administration will consider changing the US’ position on selling weapons to Nigeria, which some intelligence reports say is poorly equipped to fight Boko Haram.” The document also asked: “Why hasn’t AL-Shabaab been defeated?”
The newspaper quoted Monde Muyangwa, director of the Africa programme at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, as saying that the tone of the document suggests a “more transactional and short-term approach to policy and engagement with African countries.”