Today, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Inaugurations are important as the beginning of a new administration, but they are pretty routine affairs. An oath, a bible, a speech, a march and some parties. But substantively they are more of a wrap-up of the campaign than a fresh look at the future. I feel sure Trump, being Trump, will find some ways to break with tradition. Maybe he can find a new oath, or deliver his entire address in sentences of five words or fewer. I don't think we will learn much from watching.
More interesting, I think, are Presidential farewells, in which the public can benefit from an outgoing President's distillation of whatever he has learned from the experience of four or eight years of battle. He may choose to brag a bit, or even a lot, but if he is a thinker at all, he will impart wisdom that will be quoted by future historians and politicians. It's a tradition set by our first President, good ol' truthful George, who warned against the development of political parties, advice that was immediately ignored but which we might look back on wishfully today, as the Mitch McConnell dinosaurs roam our landscape.
Much more recently, gee, wasn't Obama's farewell address last week a really graceful, class act? Not something I suspect we'll ever see DT matching. It's too soon to know what, if anything, that Obama said will become part of political lore, but it will likely be remembered a while for the circumstances under which it was delivered.
At this juncture, however, I'd like to focus on a different farewell, one offered by another Republican - Dwight Eisenhower. You may remember Ike as the fellow who, despite being himself a military man of high reputation, warned against the insidious potential of the "military-industrial complex." Yet a brief glimpse at Trump's cabinet picks shows that that very phenomenon has arrived. Eisenhower was concerned about costs, but also about the power of an oligarchy. Today, wherever we look, even if we occasionally see appointees who aren't actually millitary or industrial, the foxes are in charge of the henhouses. Eisenhower would have known what to think of that, and so would his Democratic predecessor Harry Truman. It's just plain poor judgment, and dangerous for democracy. So begins the Trump Presidency.