TOPICS > Politics > inauguration 2017

How did President Trump fare in his first day on the job?

January 20, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
It’s Day One of the Trump presidency. After the pomp of the day's ceremony, what should we take away from the actions and rhetoric of the new president? Judy Woodruff gets reaction to President Trump’s unorthodox Inauguration Day speech and the broader outlook for his administration from syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks and others.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what to make of this day one of the Trump presidency?

Here with me now are NewsHour regulars syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks, and from our politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. Also joining us, Barry Bennett. He was campaign manager for Ben Carson in the Republican primaries. He then served as an adviser to the Trump campaign.

From George Washington University, politics scientist Lara Brown. Karine Jean-Pierre, she was a senior adviser to during the 2016 elections. And Matt Schlapp, he is chair of the American Conservative Union. He joins us from downtown Washington.

We can see the Capitol behind you, Matt.

So, let me start with the NewsHour regulars, Mark Shields and David Brooks.

David, I will start with you.

What is the main takeaway from this day?

DAVID BROOKS: I feel underdressed.



MARK SHIELDS: You have got that blue-collar Republican look.

DAVID BROOKS: It’s the new populist moment.


DAVID BROOKS: The story of the day was the really unabashed populism and nationalism of the Trump speech.

And so I’m left with two big questions: How big is this nationalist moment? It’s been spread around the world. Theresa May just gave an anti — how they’re going to withdraw from Brexit, the U.K. Le Pen is looking good in France. Putin is riding high.

There’s an international movement. A lot of sort of dismiss as sort of a product of a receding bit of history, but maybe it’s the 21st century. And maybe Trump is riding something, and he will be able to marshal a left-right populist movement. That’s a possibility we should be open to, especially because the anti-populists, people who believe in global trade and global movements, have no guts, no articulation, and really no opposition.

And then the second thing, how is he going to turn this into policy? How does an outsider who runs against Washington actually rally Washington to launch his agenda? That’s just a gigantic challenge.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields?

MARK SHIELDS: In 1940, there were 137 million people in the United States of America and — 132 million — and there were 600,000 more factory jobs than there are today.

There were eight million more factory jobs in this country than when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. So, Donald Trump represents a real grievance, a real constituency.

But what I could not get over in the speech today — and I don’t know what the global impact or meaning is, but I do know that it was unlike any inaugural address I have ever heard. It was a call to arms to those already enlisted in his army. There was no attempt to reach across the divide. There was no attempt to heal wounds. There was no attempt to reassure or allay fears of those who were apprehensive and not supported him.

So, in that sense, it was almost unique, at least in the speeches I have heard. And it was an unbridled attack upon those presidents spoke of who were — in William’s piece who were sitting on the dais with him, having praised the Obamas in one sentence for being magnificent, and then saying that this small group who have profited in Washington have been indifferent, and almost cruelly so, to the rest of the country.

So, I just stand in the midnight in America, American carnage, which is, I think, soon-to-be canceled TV series, but I just have never heard language quite like it or a tone quite like it in an inaugural address.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, since you’re so well-dressed, I’m going to call on you next.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you hear? What are you taking away?

MATT SCHLAPP, Chairman, American Conservative Union: Boy, I just — what I would say to Mark is, is that I think one of the things that was ironic is, you had Donald Trump up on that dais, who hasn’t been a Republican for very long, and who is basically a function of the fact that both those parties and many of those party leaders and some of those former presidents didn’t listen to the American people.

President Obama will leave office with higher approval ratings, but still two-thirds of this nation believe that we’re on the wrong track. And I think the demonstration of the economic pain and the unrest and unease about what’s happening overseas is high.

And, really, what struck me about the address, about the speech is that he is connecting to the political moment. The political moment is not about morning. It’s about — a little bit about M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G, and the fact that there is nothing wrong with a Republican connecting to the fact that a lot of Americans are hurting.

Now, I agree you have to offer solutions and you have to be optimistic and you have to lead them someplace, but it’s important to listen to them and to connect to them. And that’s why Donald Trump is the president.


AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

And to Matt’s point, there was a lot of Donald Trump on the campaign trail where he seemed to switch positions. We really didn’t know — and I still think we don’t know — where exactly his ideological core is.

But there was one thing that was consistent throughout. It’s the same message we saw today in his inaugural speech was the message that we saw on the campaign trial, was the message that we saw at the convention. That has never changed at all.

It’s what won him the nomination, when nobody thought he was going to be able to do that. And it’s what won him the presidency, when, quite frankly, even going into the election night, nobody really believed that he was going to be able to win this.

And so he is taking that same message and he is going to bring it to the White House with him. This was something that he truly, you know, as I said, has stuck with throughout the course of his campaign. And he believes that, if he succeeds, other people are going to join.

The reaching out is not about reaching out to say, well, I’m going to take other people’s opinions and views. It’s, I’m going to do so well, I’m going to be so — we’re going to make America so great, that people who oppose me now are going to have to come on board.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what’s going to happen, Karine Jean-Pierre, somebody who worked against his election?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, Democratic Strategist: Yes, look, it was — and I said this before — it was very disappointing.

It was a right-wing nationalism speech. It was very reminiscent of the RNC convention speech, when he accepted his nomination, had that dooms and glooms type of feel. And I think the most disappointing part of it was, there are people here who are genuinely fearful because of the type of campaign that he ran and the people that he insulted.

And he didn’t do anything to mend those wounds. And, as president, that’s what people look to our leader to do. And I think he missed a really important opportunity as we were going through the peaceful transfer of power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Barry Bennett, missed an opportunity?

BARRY BENNETT, Former Trump Campaign Senior Adviser: I don’t think so.

I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder here. His supporters, me included, we don’t want to half-a-loaf, right? We want him to fight. And today was the beginning of a fight. It wasn’t the end of a campaign.

We’re going to see from the left the protests are big and energetic, and they are going to be so tomorrow. But we want him to fight back. And I think what we saw today was, Monday morning, the fight is still going to be there. And that’s what we — I think the country needs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Should people be fearful, as Karine was just saying?

BARRY BENNETT: I don’t think so, no.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You shake your head no.


I mean, I think no. There are people here illegally. They should be fearful that they’re here illegally, because, you know, they should be deported. Or, you know, the law says they should be deported. But, I mean, if you’re here illegally, of course you’re not going to be deported. That’s silly. That’s fear-mongering.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We are looking at — we have been interspersing our conversation with pictures of that inaugural parade still going on an hour after sunset here in Washington, but it’s still going on, members of the Trump family seated at that reviewing stand just literally right in — built right in front of the White House.

We’re watching that. We’re keeping half-an-eye on the parade, but we also really want to hear what everybody here has to say.

Lara Brown, it is dark at the White House, but Donald Trump is going to bring light to America.


LARA BROWN, Director, George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management: Well, I think that that’s precisely the problem.

Maybe he is going to continue to bring the fight to Washington, but there was no acknowledgment that he had won. His party has won. One of the most important aspects of an inaugural speech is to actually end the campaign, to move beyond the campaign, to bring about a sense of reconciliation and unity with all of those who fought fiercely against you.

And I think there is also this other piece where he failed to recognize his moment in history. He didn’t acknowledge past presidents, those who are sort of lions in the pantheon of presidents, whether it’s Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington. He didn’t notice or witness the ceremony as being important in history.

You know, Bill Clinton, who came to office with only 43 percent of the popular vote, began his speech by talking about how this speech takes place in the dead of winter, but that part of the words and the faces of the people are about forcing the spring, that there is a sense of renewal. And Trump didn’t provide that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, and we should say the reason you are dressed up is because you are going to one of the inaugural balls. And I failed to point that out earlier.



MATT SCHLAPP: No, I think it — Judy, I think it’s because they think people like me live like Thurston Howell III.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What about Lara Brown’s point, though, that we didn’t hear from the new president…


JUDY WOODRUFF: … a connection to history, to his place in the grand pantheon that is the history of the United States?

MATT SCHLAPP: Look, if you want poetry, there was another candidate for you.

Donald Trump was the candidate of very blunt, realistic talk. And I think, if you look through what politicians tend to do — and, obviously, I worked for President George W. Bush in the White House, with Barry Bennett’s wife, I might say.

And there is definitely thought, great thought that goes into these speeches. But so many times, what the voters — what the voter hears and then what they see in their lives, there can be a bit of phoniness, obviously, to politics.

And I think what Donald Trump did, I think what everyone on the panel is failing to understand is that I think the biggest part of the speech was that he broke it down in very basic terms for them, and he made a pledge to them. He said he’s going to fight for them, and he’s not going to let them down.

Boy, it’s not a small pledge. This is a high bar, to me, which is he’s going to change, literally change society and change the way government does these things. And I think that it was bold for him to do that.

And I think there was a lot of people — I will tell you, I talked to a lot of people out on the street today, and they just like the fact there is an authenticity and a directness. We will see how it works over the years, but I think it’s very promising.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, bold and authentic.

DAVID BROOKS: Utopian. He’s going to eradicate disease. He literally said that.

So, I think it was authentic. And I do think it was bold, a bold — boldest mostly on its attack on the Republican Party. It’s a party that has always — never believed in zero sum thinking. It started as the Whig Party, which was based on the idea in part that labor and capital didn’t have to fight. There was enough for all of us in the growing pie.

The Republican Party, through all its permutations, has basically believed in that. Since the Cold War, it’s believed in growth abroad is good for growth at home, democracy abroad is good for democracy at home.

That’s not an America-first philosophy. That’s not the zero-sum philosophy that we heard from Donald Trump. That’s not the combative philosophy we heard from Donald Trump.

So, it’s a stark and a bold attempt to reshape his own party. Whether he can successfully do that, I’m, frankly, dubious about. And whether he can successfully effect change in government, when he’s so anti-institutional and not even willing to embrace the institution of the presidency, it’s — again, I’m dubious about.

But bold, I give him credit for.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, just quickly, did you hear signs, signals — did you signals today that Donald Trump will be able to make the changes he says he’s going to make?

MARK SHIELDS: No, I didn’t.

I didn’t see anything unifying or uplifting in this speech. And I think that successful inaugurals in the past — I mean, they may be writing a new chapter, but I didn’t — I thought that was missing from the speech.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re saying that’s what we should be judging the speech on?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think you have to view the speech as identifying yourself in history, acknowledging who you are, acknowledging humility, acknowledging the importance of the country and its diversity and its strength through that diversity, and your appeal to the people who didn’t support you and your pledge to them.

And I just — to me, it’s politics 101. I mean, he was playing to his base. He’s continuing to play to his base.

And if Matt isn’t too busy going to his nighttime affairs, he could tell us who the candidate of poetry was in 2016.


MARK SHIELDS: Was that Rick Perry? Did I miss it? Or was it Scott Walker? I missed it.


JUDY WOODRUFF: I wish we — do you want to answer that, just quickly?

MATT SCHLAPP: It wasn’t Hillary Clinton. It definitely wasn’t Hillary Clinton.


JUDY WOODRUFF: We will bring you back on. You can answer that. I won’t put you on the spot.

We have only got about a minute left.

Amy, I’m hearing two very different sets of views here about what Donald Trump accomplished or didn’t today.

AMY WALTER: If his goal was to — and it’s been his goal from the entire course of this campaign. He has a vision and a message about shaking up Washington. He’s going to do things differently. He’s not going to do it in a traditional manner. He doesn’t care about the trappings of this.

And you either believe that or you don’t believe that. And he will be successful based on a Washington working for him, despite the fact that he doesn’t think Washington works.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we have how many days, 365 times four, to talk about what he accomplished today and what he may accomplish in the future.

I want to thank each one of you, Mark Shields, David Brooks, Amy Walter, Lara Brown, Karine Jean-Pierre, Barry Bennett, and Matt Schlapp.

You all get a chance to come back and weigh in one more time — or many more times on this.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

LARA BROWN: Thank you.