How Trump's Inauguration Speech Compares To His First Year In Office

Jan 18, 2018
Originally published on January 18, 2018 7:30 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address a year ago this week, he departed sharply from tradition. NPR's Mara Liasson looks at whether that speech has been a useful roadmap for the first year of the Trump presidency.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: One year ago, Donald Trump proclaimed a new approach. From this day forward, he said, it's going to be America first and only America first. He laid out a bleak view of America, a place where rusted-out factories were scattered like tombstones across a land infested with crime and drugs and gangs.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

LIASSON: American carnage was the phrase that stuck in people's minds, that and Trump's blistering attack on the establishment he'd so proudly beaten. They were arrayed behind him on the west front of the Capitol. Jared Kushner told a visitor that week that the speechwriters had considered but then dropped the idea of having Trump turn around and face the assembled dignitaries as he spoke on behalf of the forgotten men and women.

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TRUMP: The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs.

LIASSON: One year later, Trump's rhetoric hasn't changed. It's still divisive and hard-edged. And his America First promise has been fulfilled as the U.S. has pulled back from its traditional role as the leader of the free world, leaving a vacuum for others like China to fill. But despite Trump's protectionist language a year ago, he has yet to terminate an existing trade deal, and his domestic policies - tax cuts and deregulation - would be what any conservative Republican president would be expected to pursue.

KARL ROVE: I think President Trump's inaugural address is only a partial roadmap to what we've seen in the last year and increasingly a less accurate predictor.

LIASSON: Karl Rove is a former top adviser to President George W. Bush.

ROVE: The inaugural address was dark and negative and harsh and bitter and divisive. It did declare war upon everybody who was sitting on that stage with him, including the very people whose votes were needed and whose leadership was essential to the passage of the Trump agenda.

LIASSON: But one year later, those very people seem to be in the driver's seat. Steve Bannon, who helped draft the inaugural speech, has been banished, and with him his plan to run Trumpist (ph) challengers against establishment Republicans. Now, the president states flatly, I'm going to be protecting incumbents. Donald Trump has reconciled with the Republican leadership he once declared war on. Still, others say Trump has never wavered from the insurgent vision he laid out.

DAVE BOSSIE: I was President Trump's deputy campaign manager and deputy executive director of the presidential transition team.

LIASSON: That's Dave Bossie, the co-author of a book about the president - no, not that book. Bossie's book is called "Let Trump Be Trump." And he argues that Trump has stayed true to the America First program he laid out a year ago.

BOSSIE: He is now almost one year into that agenda, and we are seeing the benefits of it. We are seeing an American economy. He got elected to be president of the United States, not president of the world.

LIASSON: There's still a big mystery, though - the disconnect between the large majorities of Americans who say they feel confident about the economy and President Trump's historically low approval ratings. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway thinks the reason is that the mainstream media hasn't given Trump a chance.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Ninety percent - let me just repeat that - 90 percent of his coverage has been negative in his first year. It's amazing he has any kind of positive job approval rating.

LIASSON: Conway and other White House advisers expect the improving economy will turn Trump's numbers around.

CONWAY: Even people who didn't vote for him, they can't deny what they see. And it's fatter paychecks. And it's more confidence they have.

LIASSON: But many Republicans, including supporters of the president, say that despite a solid set of conservative accomplishments, President Trump undercuts himself over and over. And, says Karl Rove, it all began on day one.

ROVE: There's a moment of introduction where the presidential candidate becomes the president, and the American people open their eyes and open their minds and open their hearts and expect to hear something that says, this man now represents all of us. And they did not hear that that particular day.

LIASSON: And according to the polls, they haven't heard it since. President Trump is still seen as divisive, and he gets poor marks for honesty and moral leadership even as he presides over an economy that most other presidents would envy. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.