Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States today at noon. Follow our live updates here.
6:31pm: I hear thousands of people marching down Nassau St. in lower Manhattan, a hundred feet below the window of my office. I can hear them clearly, through the windows and the hum of the halogens and the general, perpetual buzz of the city. They’re chanting, “Four more years, four more years.”
In DC the VMI cadets go by, the tail end of that procession. Trump stands. The parade is over. Even the big plane bubble is half-empty at this point, and the stands to either side have been for a while. I feel bad for the VMI cadets. The Trumps go back out the door at the rear of the box and up a ramp, into the White House. The angle of the lights at the parade casts the shadow of a gigantic American flag onto the facade. Ten minutes later, I can still hear them chanting down below.
Donald Trump is president now. The inauguration is over and all that’s left are the parties. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a proper ball. These are not my kind of parties, and this president is not my kind of president. I am hung up a bit on the idea that the system has failed. I have trusted, have had the luxury of trusting, the system all my life. It has now swapped out some pieces and inserted Donald Trump, as though he were a president like any other, a variation within the normal bounds. I have a feeling that he isn’t. I believe I’m not alone.
I’ll see you out there.
6:08pm: The big glass box that Trump and his retinue are sitting is looks, once you’ve zoomed out enough to see the whole thing, like a giant, cartoon plane—the kind that you acknowledge as a plane, because it has the right kind of shape, and a cockpit, and wings, despite its obvious impracticality, the pieces all being out of scale to one another. Trump stands where the pilot would be, grinning widely and saluting. The salute looks strange on him, as the fake plane does—identifiable but wonky. The people on either side of him begin to clap in time to the music.
5:36pm: I have decided that the tuba is the instrument that most resembles, in both form and function, Donald Trump.
5:21pm: Pence is first to enter the giant glass box from which they will watch the inaugural parade, and Trump follows. They both enter the door to trumpets. Trump looks uncomfortable when he sits, turns and says something to Melania, adjusts himself in his seat and adjusts himself again. He leans across Melania to say something Ivanka. He’s kind of grimacing. Ivanka doesn’t look back at him. I really wish I could read lips, but also I don’t care.
The rifles carried by the Marines who march past Trump’s gigantic glass cocoon are M1 Garands, their bolts removed so they can’t be fired. They were replaced as a standard-issue rifle exactly 60 years ago, but we still use them for official functions. They just look better for parades than the rifles we use now. Which is interesting, I think.
5:01pm: Out in front of the military parade is a band leader with an enormous bearskin hat, the sort that Grenadiers used to wear in the days of Kellyanne Conway’s coat. I have never laid hands on one of these hats, but I would like to very badly, because I’m not sure if they’re as soft as they look but would really like to know.
4:44pm: At some point they got back in the car; I wasn’t really paying attention.
4:31pm: Approaching the White House, they get out and walk again. Trump alternately waves and pumps his fist. This fist pumping I find particularly galling. I’m not sure if this is because I’m seeing both it and Trump’s face at the same time, and so my face-rage is radiating out to hands as well, or if it’s because the fist-pump is an especially unpleasant gesture. Perhaps a bit of both. A wave is inclusive, welcoming. A fist-pump is a gesture of singular victory. I have done it. And while it’s true that he has, I find myself unwilling to grant him (an imaginary him with whom I interact in my mind, totally against my will, like a disease, like a rocking chair mumbler in a psych ward in a film) the satisfaction of admitting it.
4:15pm: They get out of the limo. The president and first lady, waving, strolling. They do this for a block, then get back into the car.
I wonder if the pain of having a finger caught in the door of that limo would be noticeably worse than in any other car. It happened to me once, and the pain and subsequent bruising inspired a fear that my fingernail would fall off. That seemed to me an impossibly evil thing—I imagined feeling cold air on that weird, virgin skin, all bruised up and swollen, and could think of nothing worse.
The fingernail held on. But I’m gaining an appreciation, now, for the version of myself who dealt with that.
4:07pm: The procession from Capitol from White House is excruciatingly slow, as it always is. The long shots from nearby rooftops make for a strange sight: the road seems unusually wide, and the motorcade becomes a blob of flashing lights without a seeming order. Only the Beast itself, flags flopping on its hood, stands apart.
The sidewalks, as best I can tell, are mostly lined with protestors. I imagine Trump eyeing their signs from behind that heavy door. “Thank you,” over and over. He’s looking at his own reflection in the glass.
3:45pm: And now, at the conclusion of lunch, the parade is set to kick off. I like parades, but I have not yet acclimated myself to the phrase “President Trump.” I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.
12:29pm: Trump disappears again, into the Capitol and up the stairs. I’m going to go get lunch.
12:10pm: “We will bring back our dreams,” he says. “America first,” he says, and says again. I’ve reversed the order of these two statements. That is the only note of particular substance I pulled from the speech Trump gave. This is the core of what the Trump administration will be, at least as I imagine it. Our dreams.
There is nothing so personal as a dream. So utterly beyond the capacity to share. When I was a child I was very taken with the idea that two people might have the same dream on the same night. This implied that a dream was not a single thing but something like a river, a rush of thought through some communal, subconscious ether in which we might, from time to time, encounter someone else. I remember lying to some friend of mine, adjusting a dream I’d had until ours matched. A fool’s errand, or a child’s.
But all our dreams are Donald’s now.
12:08pm: “This American carnage stops right here, and stops right now,” says Trump. I don’t know what to make of that. I’m running out of things to say.
12:04pm: “Summer gave us sweets, but autumn wrought division.” That’s Thomas Hardy, quite some time ago. 1913, I believe.
12:02pm: As Trump begins to speak, it rains. That schadenfreude again. A million Tweets take flight.
12:00pm: Chief Justice Roberts administers the oath. I am fascinated by the way Trump moves his mouth. Its tight, strange, grimacing o’s. And then it’s done. He and Eric share a cheek kiss. Blunt returns, to introduce, for the “first time anywhere,” President Donald J. Trump. Always with the “J.” I suppose it makes him sound more regal.
11:55am: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir begins singing. Donald Trump hasn’t buttoned his suit jacket. He reaches down and grabs both sides of it, pulls them closer together, then lets them go again.
11:53am: And I really had no idea that Pence’s middle name was Richard. The look on Paul Ryan’s face, who is behind and to the left of Pence as he stands to take the oath, is alarming. Nobody could be that happy to see Mike Pence made Vice President, Pence himself included.
11:50am: A strange thing to read, on Schumer’s part, the Sullivan Ballou letter. I once got drunk and wept a little bit while listening to a recitation of it on YouTube for a reason I can’t remember. It is wholly unsuited for the occasion, though I respect the sentiment. Or very suited. I’m not entirely sure.
11:49am: Chuck Schumer makes reference to immigrants, subtext: the fundamental humanity thereof, and an audible groan comes up from the crowd.
11:45am: Donald Trump is sitting in a leather chair that is inexplicably too big for him. The Missouri State Chorale is singing, and Trump is looking somewhat mournfully down and to his right. There’s a nice performative parallel between Trump and these singing kids. I like to watch the faces of people in choirs when they’re singing because of their extreme expressiveness. The thinking, so far as I understand it, is that the voice reflects the expression on the face. This is very much the case with Trump. Also the case with me, while looking back at Trump.
Roy Blunt manages to pronounce “Missouri” both ways, with the distinct, terminal “i” and the soft, muddled “uh,” in a single sentence. Consider that a metaphor for politics today.
11:40am: The prayers take a strange turn as Rev. Samuel Rodriguez calls down the wrath of the lord on liars.
11:31am: Somehow I’d forgotten that the J. stood for John. Anyway, that’s what they say when they announce him. Trump’s tie is, as ever, much too long. He pumps his fist in the air.
There was a lot of talk this morning, and over the last few days, on Facebook and so on, about the size of the crowd, and how it’s much smaller than it was in 2009, and how nobody likes this guy. Some measure of satisfaction in that, I guess. But whatever satisfaction can be gleaned from this is empty. Dislike, hatred, even, is no check on power. Donald Trump believes you love him, even if you don’t. You exist, for Donald Trump, only insofar as he imagines you. And he imagines that you look back into the screen and mouth, “You’re welcome.”
There is only one exception to this rule: the Clinton family. Whom Trump, when he arrives, pointedly does not greet.
Roy Blunt speaks, but nobody really cares or listens. And then the prayer.
11:28am: Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, etc. all come out. I am ignoring this. The thing I knew, back at 11:20am, was going to happen has happened. A shot of Donald Trump coming down those same stairs from earlier. He stops at the foot of them, where there’s a camera. He’s standing there alone. He turns to the camera, looks directly into the lens, and smiles. “Thank you,” he mouths.
11:26am: President Obama greets the assembled Trump family. He wanders around, shaking hands. The crowd starts chanting, “Trump!” Here comes Mike Pence. What an unexciting sentence that is, now that I see it written out like that.
11:20am: I’ve known it, without really realizing it, for a while now, but the very sight of Donald Trump’s face sends me spiraling into rage. A friend of mine likes to text me GIFs of him, that sneering face accompanied by a flashing “Deal With It” below, and a pair of pixellated sunglasses that swoop down from above. I can’t remember having this kind of reaction to anybody else. Certainly not somebody I’ve never met before. He’s not here yet, I’m just imagining.
Another hallway shot. Obama and Biden are walking down a hall, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in front of them. Obama turns to Biden and says, “I always loved this room.” Biden agrees. He says, “Yeah.” I wonder how aware President Obama remains, in these last few minutes of his term, of the cameras.
The horns blare.
11:16am: There are cameras in the hallways and stairwells of the Capitol, and microphones, so the maneuvering of the president and president-to-be, the first lady and first lady-to-be, etc. are constantly documented. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden go down the stairs and we hear their shoes clapping on the stone, mumbling, small talk too quiet to make out. It’s a strange moment, and a strange time to pull the curtain back on all the shuffling and scratching and adjusting behind that door. They proceed out into the crowd on the platform.
11:12am: The Trump children have arrived on the platform. As the music dies out, a rousing chorus of “USA, USA” lofts up from the crowd below. They stand very straight, as you’d expect. Eric Trump puts his hands behind his back, chin up, and shifts his weight from one foot to the other, turning slightly back and forth as he does.
Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush speak a little back and forth, both looking out into the distance, without looking at each other. Dick Cheney won’t take his cowboy hat off. The outgoing and incoming executives are soon to be announced.
11:03am: There’s a picture of Kellyanne Conway making the rounds because she’s wearing a Gucci coat that’s highly reminiscent of the red, white, and blue regimental coats we associate with the Revolution. This is absurd and funny on the face of it, which is, I guess, why people are so taken with it. But I think that reading is a bit uncharitable. Plenty of people who fought in that war were political hacks. Nostalgia and schadenfreude are an interesting combination.
11:00am: George W. and Laura Bush have arrived. The microphones pick up Mrs. Bush, who says, “Good to see you, everybody.” Justice Thomas kisses her on the cheek.
10:54am: This is a spectacle, in good Trump form (though, if memory serves, not uniquely so), best suited to television. There’s a great shot of the motorcade rolling down the street, Marines in their dress blues lining the sides, saluting, the red and blue lights on the black SUVs blinking away. It’s very elegant-seeming, which always happens when you’re watching a moving vehicle from the vantage of another one going the same speed. It’s nice to watch the road markings slip by underneath. But if you’re watching from the sidewalk, there’s a giant camera apparatus rolling down the street, and from that vantage what you really want, in that instant, is to be watching through that lens.
Jimmy Carter’s come out at the Capitol and appears to be having a hard time hearing what the ushers are saying.
10:52am: The cameras are lingering on the Clintons. What’s going through her mind? everybody wants to know. I can’t imagine there’s much mystery on this point.
10:48am: The outgoing and incoming first ladies are leaving the White House, getting into the limo. The doors on these limos are really something. When they’re open, they look like the doors on an airliner—that dainty little lip dangling from the edge of a fat block of metal. One imagines the feeling of opening and closing them. How smooth those hinges must be to operate the things. They must weigh a ton.
10:46am: The Supreme Court Justices have arrived.
10:40am: The Trumps, Obamas, Pences, and Bidens have left the White House en route to the Capitol. Democracy is a disappointing thing. This is by nature, if not design. Always, eventually, you’ll lose. In the case of despots you’ve got no choice, and absent choice you can’t be disappointed. A lot of other things, of course, but never disappointed. So it goes.
The music they play at these things seems especially appropriate today. It’s kind of hokey, bloated, flatulent, with its crashing cymbals and belching brass. A silly manifestation of amtscharisma, to borrow a word from Weber and so make very plain where my feelings are today—the pomp of officialdom. Like a great, gigantic hat with a billowing white feather, it inspires less awe than the anticipation of physical comedy. Will the wind catch it, send it tumbling into the mud? Will it slip down over the head of its wearer, like a dog with its head in a bucket? It doesn’t really matter who the subject of this treatment is. Even the chic Obamas seem a little silly in the middle of it all. There are echoes of President Taft in every tuba, still. But Trump, gaudy, gauche, and swollen—boy, oh boy.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that things between Trump and President Obama are very cordial.