WASHINGTON – From a morning stop at church through the swearing-in to the last dance of the evening, it’s going to be an inaugural marathon on Friday. Donald Trump will take Washington by storm, no matter what the weather. (Which, by the way, looks like rain.)
Some things to watch for on Inauguration Day:
35 or 39?
Trump’s oath of office is the only essential on Friday; all the rest is window dressing. The Constitution sets out a 35-word oath for the new president. Some presidents make it 39 by tacking on “so help me God.” There are conflicting stories about when the ad lib started. Some say George Washington added the words when he took the oath at his 1789 inaugural. Others say the first eyewitness account of a president using those words came at Chester Arthur’s inauguration in 1881. Historian Jim Bendat says Washington’s use of the phrase is a myth, but every president since 1933 has done it.
Trump’s inaugural address will set the tone for the launch of his presidency. Will he go the traditional route and offer a message of unity to a divided nation, play the role of disrupter of the established order, or blend a little of both? This won’t be his usual off-the-cuff address. Aides say Trump has taken a big role in writing the speech and has been practicing at Trump Tower. Expect him to keep it short, around 20 minutes or so.
When Trump is sworn in, Hillary Clinton will be sitting on the inaugural platform alongside husband Bill Clinton. She’ll be intent on keeping a poker face, but that’s got to be tough. All eyes will be watching to see whether Trump has any interaction with his vanquished rival, or mentions her in his address.
IT’S (NOT) JUST LUNCH
Washington ate alone after his 1789 inauguration. Trump will go straight from his swearing-in to a lavish luncheon of Maine lobster and Angus beef for 200 in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. It’s not just about lunch, though. Good relations between the new president and the Republican-led Congress will be key to the success of the Trump presidency. Early maneuvering has shown Trump and GOP legislators to be on different pages at times about important issues such as taxes and health care. So amid the toast-making and the gift-giving of the day, the legislators and new president will be feeling one another out.
Start your stopwatch. More than 8,000 people will march in the 1.5-mile inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House. That’s actually a relatively restrained dose of inaugural pomp. Trump’s team wants to keep the parade to 90 minutes so the new president has time to do some work. The longest parade, with 73 bands and 59 floats, lasted more than four and half hours at Dwight Eisenhower’s first inauguration in 1953.
Trump aims to squeeze in a little work on his first day in office, perhaps in between the parade and the evening balls. What to watch for: His aides mention possible executive actions and perhaps the swearing-in of some members of his Cabinet.
Trump has tweeted that “record numbers” of people are pouring into Washington for his inauguration. That’s doubtful. There are still hotel rooms for rent. And, contrary to Trump’s claims, stores still have plenty of ball gowns to sell. No one believes this inaugural will come close to the estimated 1.8 million people who attended Barack Obama’s first inaugural. But with no official arbiter of crowd counts, expect a post-inaugural tussle over how many people really showed up.
DISSENTERS AND BIKERS
Protesters turn out for any inauguration. This year, one of the biggest pushbacks against Trump will be the Saturday women’s march, which could draw 200,000 or more people. There will be plenty of action on Friday, though, with some demonstrators aiming to shut down or cause delays at security checkpoints going in to the swearing-in ceremony. And then there are the Bikers for Trump, promising to come in throngs and serve as “a wall of meat” if needed to protect Trump’s supporters.
Trump says he’s got the “biggest celebrities in the world” coming to town for his inauguration. Yes, there are A-list celebrities in town – but you may need to check out non-inaugural venues to find them.
Trump will have singer Jackie Evancho singing the national anthem at his swearing-in. Performers at his inaugural balls include the Radio City Rockettes, The Piano Guys, 72-year-old Tony Orlando and 81-year-old Sam Moore, from the soul duo Sam and Dave. Over at the nonpartisan Creative Coalition bash, the headliner is Grammy-winning Blues Traveler, and hosts will include Tim Allen and John Leguizamo.
Saturday’s women’s march, organized by women dismayed at Trump’s election, will have Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrara, Amy Schumer, Frances McDormand and Zendaya, among others. Thursday’s “Peace Ball” for liberal activists promised Solange and Esperanza Spalding.
There’s always intense interest in what the new first lady will wear, both for the swearing-in and to the inaugural balls. This year, it’s not simply a matter of fashion. It’s political. A number of designers have said they don’t want to dress Melania Trump because they disagree with her husbands’ policies. The president-elect has shrugged off such talk and suggested his wife wouldn’t even want to be dressed by some of those who are demurring. Musicians who have agreed to play the inaugural have faced a backlash from Trump critics. Watch to see if the first lady’s designer does, too.