No matter how many drafts speechwriter Stephen Miller prepares, no matter how often the president-elect practices with a teleprompter, there is no guarantee what Donald Trump will say on Friday after he takes the oath of office. The man who is about to become the 45th president is too impulsive, too much of a creature of his own id, to be slavishly faithful to the final draft of the inaugural address.
The majesty of the moment, the hand-on-the-Bible jolt of emotion for this child of Outer-Borough America, could send Trump in unexpected directions. Even an orator who revels in huge rallies, as Trump does, may be surprised — as Bill Clinton was in 1993 — at the way his oratory echoes off the monuments and how indistinct the faces of his audience appear as he gazes down from the heights of the West Front of the Capitol.
Listening to Trump’s speeches from both the campaign and his victory tour, you get the sense of a political leader torn between a good angel on his right shoulder and a malevolent demon on his left. So here are two imagined extracts from the inaugural address depending on which version of President Trump we get on Friday.
The Good Trump:
“...On this beautiful occasion, looking out on this amazing crowd, I think back to the first inaugural address that I remember. John F. Kennedy on a freezing day in 1961. One line from JFK stays with me: ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.’
Negotiate. That is the word that has defined my life. It is what I do best. And so, with the Congress, at least most of them, as my witnesses, I pledge to you that I will negotiate a better deal for America. I would call it a New Deal, but people tell me that’s been taken. So let’s call it, ‘A Better Deal to Make America Great Again.’
What do I mean by a Better Deal? We will responsibly renegotiate all of our trade agreements. America has lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs since we joined NAFTA. Seventy thousand factories have closed since we permitted China to join the World Trade Organization.
We know what those lost jobs have meant. Dying small towns. Displaced workers without hope. Heroin addiction. Crime. Misery. This is what I saw going to so many forgotten places during the campaign. And for all those forgotten people who have been abandoned by Washington and the elites, I will be your voice in the White House.
But negotiating is about more than just trade. The media, and I say this kindly, misunderstood me when I said that NATO is outdated. Of course, America will always stand by its allies. But that should not blind us to the truth that NATO was created seven decades ago to confront the threat from the Soviet Union and communism. That world is gone — and that is why I call for an era of renegotiation.
When John Kennedy spoke of not fearing to negotiate, he was referring to the Soviet Union of Nikita Khrushchev. This was what Ronald Reagan later called the Evil Empire. And yet JFK was willing to reach out with the hand of peace if the Soviets were ready to do the same. Sadly, they were not — and the world almost blew up over nuclear missiles in Cuba.
I am old enough to remember drills in elementary school as we hid under our desks to try to protect us from the atomic bomb. That is why, like Ronald Reagan, I dream of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. And that is why I extend the hand of friendship to the world’s other great nuclear power, Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin...”
The Bad Trump:
“...On this beautiful occasion, looking out at this amazing crowd, I wonder if you can see this at home. I bet the dishonest media isn’t showing the crowd. Turn the cameras around. CNN’s the worst.
People tell me this is largest crowd for any inauguration in history. People tell me this is the largest crowd to ever come to DC. It’s even bigger than the March on Washington, even if John Lewis isn’t here this time.
The elites never wanted today to happen. They backed another candidate, a crooked candidate, because they wanted to keep their rigged system going. They wanted their corrupt trade deals, their payoffs from Congress, the revolving door of lobbyists in government, their political correctness and their lying friends in the media.
But on election night, they lost, big league. We won Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin. We won the greatest upset and the most glorious victory in American history. Do you remember how the media, the lying media, hated reporting that Trump was the next president? As the Trump returns came in, do you remember the pundits who didn’t know what to say with their whatchamacallits hanging out?
Well, now it’s our turn. And you know what’s the first thing that we’re going to do? We’re going to build a wall. And do you know who’s going to pay for it? I can’t hear you. Yes, Mexico’s going to pay.
Next week — and you are hearing it from me and not from those horrible people in the media — I will be meeting with that great leader Vladimir Putin. It time for America to be great again. And it’s time for us to help our old ally, our World War II ally, to be great again. So let’s make Russia ...”