How tiny details tell the bigger story of a surreal inauguration

From Melania Trump’s Tiffany gift to Bill Clinton’s firm grip on his wife’s hand, Inauguration Day’s true meaning came down to small things


 
President-elect Donald Trump (L),and his wife Melania Trump (2ndR), are greeted by President Barack Obama and his wife first lady Michelle Obama, upon arriving at the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump (L),and his wife Melania Trump (2ndR), are greeted by President Barack Obama and his wife first lady Michelle Obama, upon arriving at the White House on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Small, telling details of unintended consequence punctuated the much-vaunted peaceful transition of American democracy from one president to the next on Friday—moments of much-needed civility bristled with discontent just beneath the surface. The first was evident early when the Trumps arrived at the White House to meet with the Obamas over coffee, per Inaugural Day tradition. Melania Trump, attired in a pale blue, form-fitting coat and gloves that appeared to channel the memory of Jackie Kennedy, carried a gift: a trademark Tiffany-blue box wrapped with a bow. It was, by all appearances, a gracious gesture. Yet arriving with a present for people leaving the property also could be read as a “house-cooling” present.

The move also reflected Donald Trump’s commercial instincts: the famed jewellery store has its flagship (and now security-barricaded) location in New York’s Trump Tower; the merchant also inspired the name of his second daughter. Receiving the gift, Michelle Obama betrayed a side eye that became her signature gesture during the day. When the two couples posed for the press outside the White House, the blue box became a comical inconvenience. Finally, the President of the United States was forced to return to the White House to hand it off to a minion.

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Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive near the east front steps of the Capitol Building before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in at the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017. (John Angelillo/AFP/Getty Images)

Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive near the east front steps of the Capitol Building before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in at the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017. (John Angelillo/AFP/Getty Images)

The next telling moment came with the much-anticipated arrival of Hillary and Bill Clinton to the Capitol. As they exited their car, Hillary Clinton was pelted with inane questioning from a CNN reporter: “How does it feel to be here today?” he asked. She remained silent, her head high. What the former secretary of state was thinking at that moment no one may ever know, yet the expression etched on her face was familiar to anyone who has attended a funeral. Hillary Clinton’s disgrace as an integral, celebrated aspect of Trump’s election continued to his swearing-in as the incoming president with the lowest approval rating in history, at 32 per cent.

On Friday, his supporters showed up on on the National Mall wearing T-shirts that read “The Witch is Dead” and “Donald Trumps Hillary.” On CNN, panelists also seemed to gloat, speaking about Obama and Trump travelling together to the inauguration: “Two men who denied her the presidency are travelling in one car,” said one.

The Clintons presented as a unified front. As they readied themselves to be announced and then walk down the steps to their seat, the former president took his wife’s hand, squeezing it several times. As they were introduced, the animated, political Hillary and Bill emerged. Hillary Clinton smiled, she pointed, she nodded. “We’re here for you,” one person shouted at her. Simultaneously, her Twitter account spoke for her: “I’m here today to honor our democracy & its enduring values. I will never stop believing in our country & its future. #Inauguration.”

As she did during significant moments of her campaign, Clinton wore white, a hue associated with the suffrage movement; it also provided a foreshadowing of the women’s march that would take place tomorrow on the same site. Yet white would prove an ambitious fashion shade: Ivanka Trump and Tiffany Trump were also boasting it, as was Jill Biden.

Trump advisers Kellyanne Conway (left) and Hope Hicks on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.  (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump advisers Kellyanne Conway (left) and Hope Hicks on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today’s inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In stark relief, there was Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway’s red-white-and-blue Gucci get-up. There’s no doubt she wanted her outfit, which reportedly retails for $3,600, to reinforce the blunt, patriotic messaging of Trump’s inaugural address; she referred to it, with an apparent lack of irony, as “Trump Revolutionary Wear.” Yet the cartoonish, militaristic apparel couldn’t help but summon another association less flattering to her boss: to the costumes worn in Hamilton, whose actor Brandon Victor Dixon famously asked now-Vice-President Mike Pence to value diversity and “to work on behalf of all of us.”

The pledge to work for struggling Americans was one Trump himself made: “This moment is your moment; it belongs to you,” he told the crowd. Yet the presence of gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, major Trump campaign donors, given privileged seats on the dais, suggested other allegiances at play. Trump’s address was an elevated version of his campaign stump speech—minus the attacks on Clinton, which shortened it considerably.

It was a speech absent of nuance, befitting the first inauguration in more than half a century that saw no poetry read. The new President chose not to avail himself of the wisdom or soaring sentiments of other statesmen or artists, again breaking with tradition. In fact, he uttered a disregard for the past: “Now we are looking only to the future,” he instructed the nation. (That said, the new White House Twitter account briefly paid homage to the past by using a photo from Obama’s packed 2009 inauguration as its banner.)

Trump’s speech forged a new American imagery of blood and steel and “America first.” He spoke in code in places—of ending “American carnage,” and identified American citizens as being “infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.” At the end, Obama congratulated him. “Good job,” he said, a graceful lie in a day that called for many.


 

How tiny details tell the bigger story of a surreal inauguration

  1. Your writer must have been drinking heavily before the inauguration started. She was hallucinating the parts I saw. Hilary Clinton looked like Willy Jeff had been caught goosing the upstairs maid this morning. She looked like she was livid with him, she refused to hold his hand when he treed to take hers, she ignored him, clutching her ‘clutch’ instead. He had to hold onto her forearm to stop her walking away on him. His kisser was a novel.

    As far as Trump was cocverned, what were we to expect, he would read up on Woordrow Wilson and go all contemplative? What I’m interested in is the contents of that little red box Melania was holding under the Bible. What was in that thing, the divine foreskin, Daddy trump’s ashes, or something?

    And what were ‘the military’ doing maneuvring around behind him before disappearing in the middle of his inaugural address?

  2. Typical automated response by a hopelessly biased leftist magazine. In fact he did do a superb job on the inauguration speech and every single point he mentioned is what America needs. The greatest job he did was when he pointed out that this orderly transfer of power is unlike any in recent memory. It is not only an orderly and peaceful transition between presidents or between opposing political parties. It is a transfer of power between a long stream of political insiders and an outsider, between Washington and their special interests and the interests of the common people of America. The fact that nary a Canadian understands these basic and all-important facts reveals their disappointing stupidity.

    • A billionaire has convinced you that he has the interests of the ‘common people’ at heart eh?

      Were you born this stupid??

      • I was born “stupid” enough to understand that the fact he is a billionaire is precisely the reason he did not require the usual serving of back room deals and special interest money that has for so long been the cause of America’s poor and middle class being robbed and neglected to the benefit of the ruling class. This is a fact which you clearly do not understand. I guess you have no idea how Washington works or the fact that from Bush I to Clinton to Bush II to Obama, you have been dealing with the same crowd of war mongering, manipulative liars who have impoverished and sold American interests to the highest bidders.

        • In the first place he inherited his money.

          Secondly unless you’re an extreme leftie you’d know that Americans aren’t oppressed by big companies.

          Get real Vince….and stop whining

        • Apparently you were born stupid enough to fall for swindlers. Apparently you were born stupid enough to believe that a person who has made it his life-long mission to take money from stupid people now wants to make stupid people wealthy. How stupid can you be?

          I hope you’re right about Trump and I’m wrong, because if I’m right and you’re wrong we are all in a world of trouble.

        • Rump is in this for Rump. For the fame, and for opportunities to fatten his wallet. And maybe for his pal Putin.

        • “Billionaire”? We only have his notoriously unreliable word for that, since he didn’t, and now won’t ever, contrary to his campaign promise, release his tax records. As far as “back room maneuvering”, where do you think his cabinet came from? “Highest bidders” all.

    • It appears that Trump supporters will tolerate anything he does, anything he says. Love is blind.

        • I’m in a pool trying to predict when Donald Trump might stand on 5th Avenue and shoot someone. I don’t think he’s got the guts to pull the trigger.

          • Ian — that is too funny. I just collected on an office pool this morning. I semi-retired in 2010 and “the guys & I” try to meet for breakfast every once in awhile. Anyways — it took 8 years to collect, but I knew I would collect 4 years ago.

            In 2008, after reviewing Obama’s policies and plans — I created an office pool that basically said “if Obama is elected a 2nd term, he will double the national debt”. Collected on that office pool this morning!!! It took 240 years for the US to accumulated ~$10 trillion in debt — and then unbelievably (well I knew) it took only 8 years of Obama policies to double that debt to ~$20+ trillion. I only wish the office pool had grown at the same rate as the US national debt.

            We tried to come up with another pool this morning — but no one could agree on one. We’re going to give it a month.

            I really doubt you’ll collect on your pool — you need to review the broader context in which Trump said those words. Although the words were crass — he did follow up and say he had no intention of shooting anyone.

  3. “Two men who denied her the presidency are travelling in one car,”

    Actually, there is a third man. Bill Clinton.

    Bill Clinton, whose politically expedient racist criminal justice reforms in the nineties, made Hillary Clinton call young black American men superpredators. The reforms led to the boom in the private US prison system, incarcerating 2 million young black men, many who have not been able to regain their right to vote.

    Bill Clinton, whose escapades in the Oval Office with cigars and stained blue dresses forced Hillary to become Tammy Wynette and stand her man, and attack the victim, just like she attacked many other victims who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault over the years.

    Bill Clinton, who set up the corrupt Clinton Foundation.

    One could go on and on about how the misdeeds of Bill helped doom Hillary.

    • Hillary is female….nothing else mattered.

      • Time to get a new violin Emile. As Obama said, Hillary lost because Trump out campaigned her in states she thought didn’t matter. In Arkansas, Bill is still very popular but Hillary got hardly any of the Arkansas female vote. That should tell you something.

    • Anyone see the video of good ole Bill checking out Trump’s daughter during the ceremonies yesterday? It’s been playing on the Clinton News Network (CNN). Hillary does not look to happy about it.

      • My interpretation of that video is that, yes, maybe he was looking at Trump’s daughter but, also, everyone around her. Anything other than looking at Hillary.

  4. Coming from a 3rd world country, I’ll say this – Notwithstanding the minor details, this is an example to other countries of how power is transferred. With grace, dignity, respect, civil, tradition. If only other countries could do the same.

    • 40 plus years of Trump family swindling is documented in the book ” The Making of Donald Trump” by Johnson, a long time journalist. Page after page of swindles and swindles using government money, your money, Articles and research done over years. Trump can’t sue him because it is ALL true and vierifiable. Book came out in July. Too bad Trump dolts didn’t get a copy…oops I forgot, they don’t read, they only
      watch legitimate news like FOX

      • Therefore, one wonders why the Dems didn’t give everyone a copy?