- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Even before he takes to the podium and places his hand on the Bible, President-elect Donald Trump is poised to make U.S. inauguration history Friday on any number of fronts.

He’s already on track to become the president to attract the most protesters, as tens of thousands converge on Washington, D.C. About 60 House Democrats have refused so far to attend his inauguration in what may be a record-setting boycott.

There’s more: Mr. Trump, who turned 70 on June 14, will be the oldest president ever sworn in, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who was 69 at his 1981 inauguration, and William Henry Harrison, 68, who died 31 days after taking the oath of office in 1841.

And if Mr. Trump keeps his address to under 135 words, he’ll break the brevity mark set in 1793 by President George Washington, whose speech was the shortest in inauguration history.

That’s doubtful, of course, but if anyone can do it, it’s the New York real estate mogul, whose preferred mode of communicating with the public is through his Twitter account and its 140-character limit.

“As with much about Donald Trump, this inauguration seems to be another unprecedented feature,” said Barbara Perry, presidential studies director for the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Mr. Trump is planning to take the oath with two Bibles — the Lincoln Bible and one given to him by his mother upon his graduation from Sunday School in 1955 — which is rare but not unprecedented.

Three presidents — Harry Truman in 1949, Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, and George H.W. Bush in 1989 — used two Bibles during their swearing-in ceremonies.

“In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln appealed to the ‘better angels of our nature,’” said Presidential Inaugural Committee Chairman Tom Barrack. “As he takes the same oath of office 156 years later, President-elect Trump is humbled to place his hand on Bibles that hold special meaning both to his family and to our country.”

Still up in the air is whether Mr. Trump will use a Teleprompter. Every president since George H.W. Bush in 1989 has used one during his speech.

Ronald Reagan was the last president to forgo the use of a Teleprompter to deliver the inaugural address,” said Aaron Kall, editor of “I Do Solemnly Swear: Presidential Inaugural Addresses of the Last 40 Years” (2017).

Trump’s had a rocky relationship with teleprompters,” said Mr. Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan. “He initially made fun of President Obama and Hillary Clinton for using them, but eventually embraced it to keep on message. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Trump will use one on Friday.”

Mr. Trump also is expected to set another record, although it’s not one he necessarily wants: the lowest approval rating on Inauguration Day since polling began on the question 36 years ago.

A CBS News poll found Mr. Trump with a 37 percent approval rating on how he has handled his transition. An ABC News/Washington Post survey showed 40 percent of adults hold a favorable view and 54 percent have an unfavorable view of him.

Then again, there’s something to be said for low expectations. Reagan previously had logged the worst favorable rating at 58 percent when he was inaugurated in 1981, but he was re-elected four years later in a landslide and is now widely regarded as one of the best presidents in U.S. history.

On the other hand, President-elect Jimmy Carter enjoyed a stellar 78 percent approval rating when he took the oath in 1977, but history has treated him far less kindly, with scholars routinely ranking him in the bottom tier.

The weather also could make the Trump inauguration one for the books. The temperature forecast is for the low 40s, which is average for Jan. 20, but it’s expected to rain on Mr. Trump’s swearing-in ceremony at noon as well as his parade afterward.

That said, Reagan in all likelihood will continue to hold the records for both the coldest and hottest inaugurals. It was a bone-chilling 7 degrees during his inauguration in 1985, which forced the ceremony indoors, but a balmy 55 degrees at his 1981 inauguration.

The wet weather could put a damper on Mr. Trump’s plans for the Lincoln Bible: In 2001, precipitation forced President George W. Bush to forgo his wish to take the oath on the 1853 Bible used by his father and Lincoln.

The centerpiece of any inauguration is the speech, and Mr. Trump has said he wants to invoke two of the most famous inaugural addresses, those given by Reagan in 1981 and John F. Kennedy in 1961.

“Inaugurals are an opportunity for more of a forward-looking, brighter vision. He says he wants to model the speech after Kennedy and Reagan, and I think those are great,” said Mr. Kall.

Mr. Trump is one of only five presidential candidates to win office despite losing the popular vote, which makes his speech especially important.

“If he’s looking at those two, I think it’s going to be a brighter speech, and it’s also a time to heal some wounds,” said Mr. Kall. “He only got 46 percent of the vote, the country is still really divided, so he needs to reach out.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide