tv Washington Week PBS January 20, 2017 8:00pm-8:31pm PST
ed: president donald trump delivers a rather dark assessment of the current state of america, blaming washington's political establishment. we examine the promises and policy shifts under the trump administration tonight on "washington week." president trump: from this day forward, a new vision will governor our land. from this day forward, it's going to be only america first, america first. ed: hundreds of thousands of people flood into water to witness the inauguration of donald~j. trump. newly sworn in, the president lays out his vision for america. president trump: every decision on trade, on taxes, on
immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit american workers and american families. we must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. ed: but his inaugural address also sparks controversy. i'm ed o'keefe. joining me around the table tonight, dan balz of "the washington post, yamiche alcindor of "the new york times," carol lee of the "wall street journal," and peter baker of the "new york times. that's next. >> this is "washington week," funding is provided by --
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once again, from washington, ed o'keefe of "the washington post." ed: good evening. the peaceful transfer of power and the pageantry of inauguration day is uniquely american. but president donald trump's inaugural address was a rather grim vision of a country in trouble. it was a call to arms to americans who feel ignored and victimized. the new president promised sweeping changes to improve the lives of average citizens while attacking political elites and vowing once again to drain the swamp. president trump: for too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. that all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. it belongs to you. ed: dan balz, typically presidents talk about american
exceptionalism and unifying the country but president trump returned to campaign themes we've seen over the last few years and didn't seem to try to use this as an inaugural address. dan: he threw tradition to the side. one of the questions i had going into the speech was how much would it differ from the fairly dark speech he gave when he accepted the nomination back in cleveland in the middle of the summer. and in fact, it was equally so, it was an extension of that, it was remarkable that way. i don't think we've ever heard an inaugural address this dark with less effort to reach out to the people who didn't support him and with kind of a tone of anger about what has happened to this country and then, again, his desire to turn everything around. but most remarkably was right in the opening when he basically, with the entire power structure of washington sitting behind
him, ex-presidents, members of congress, he eviscerated the establishment. ed: and at a time when there were at least three national polls out this week that show that still a majority of the country does not regard -- he's seen unfavorably by the majority of the country. does that put more pressure on him, do you think, in the coming days? dan: i think if he felt pressure he would have given some nod to that in today's speech. he's never going to have a larger audience to convey kind of the themes of a trump administration and i think the fact that he didn't do it today is an indicator that he's prepared to try to govern even with low approval ratings. he knows who his audience is. he's going to continue to try to speak for them and he's going to push an agenda that may or may not be successful. but he's going to try to stay true to the things that got him to the white house. ed: peter, welcome back, after a brief overseas assignment.
peter: thank you. ed: in that regard, he didn't talk specifically today about healthcare or the border wall but instead talked about the threat from other nations. i'm curious if we've assessed what the foreign reaction has been or might be in the coming days. peter: i think real trepidation around the world, particularly in europe, obviously, which sees a trump presidency as something akin to the populist right wing movements in their own countries that scare them, nationalist-time movements. in parts of the middle east he's viewed with wariness. israel, though, he's very popular. i just returned from jerusalem. that's one place in the world that sees his arrival as a good thing. he's going to support them, finally, in their view, after eight years of barack obama who they did not feel was supportive. it's a mixed bag but right now i think the rest of the world is trying to figure out who this is and what does it mean.
ed: yamiche alcindor, i know you were on the mall. you were out there today talking to folks who not only support the president but were concerned about him taking the presidency. what was the mood like? yamiche: for trump supporters, they were so celebratory. all of the things that have been cast as dark, the idea that america is first and he said factories look like tombstones across the country, all those lines really got his supporters to clap loudly. there was a real sense of reveling in the victory. but for protestors, i started my morning at 6:00 a.m. and those protests that were out there were trying to block people's entrances to even getting into the ticketed events. unlike other protests where i've covered -- ferguson or baltimore where they're protesting a specific thing that happened -- in this case they're protesting the entire government and every
agency and policy so people are wary of what's to come. ed: the fact that more than 60 congressional democrats did not attend today, all of them in the house. senators were there. that could have a lasting impact on his ability to unite the country and his ability to win over democrats at all on any attempted policy. carol: that's right. if you look at some of the reaction from democrats after his speech, they were saying that it was not a good way to start off, the way that he cast the state of the country and he didn't seem -- there was no kind of unifying tone although i will say in some of his other public remarks after that, he was conciliatory and he was saying he praised hillary clinton in the luncheon and acknowledged her, shook her hand and he said, whoever you are, democrats, we'll all work together. but that was much more private. but to your point, the president is now going to need democrats to do certain things, particularly if he wants to replace the affordable care act which is at the top of his list
because he'll need democrats to help him in the senate. ed: we know tonight he has issued some kind of executive order that touches on this and tries to ease the burden of obamacare? is that what the white house is saying? carol: it's not clear exactly what that means but it directs the agencies to take steps to ease the burden as they transition from the affordable care act to whatever winds up replacing it. ed: there were also changes in environmental policy and housing policy, right? carol: there was also director from the chief of staff to put a freeze on regulations which is not unusual. but a lot of stuff he said he would do on day one, they're saying monday is day one. and they'll do a lot of those major things and he said he would label china as a currency manipulator on day one. now he's saying, i'll talk to them first. so we don't have a crystal clear picture of what we'll see next week but monday will be the big
day. ed: many thought the president would deliver a message of unity. several of his aides hinted that would be the message. instead, president trump focused on things like, as he said, american carnage, but also patriotism and national pride. president trump: when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. ed: president trump talked about mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities. he went on to talk about gangs and the dlawgs -- drugs that have stolen too many lives and so much potential and went back to the promises of being a law and order president, dan. it's worth dwelling on a little bit more because it was such a unique inaugural address. dan: there were a couple of
things that i think were important and that's certainly one of them. the portrait he painted of the country, american carnage, is the phrase that i think this speech will be remembered for and we've never heard anybody at the opening of a presidency -- i mean, ronald reagan in 1981 was in some ways akin to the arrival of donald trump in this way. he came in with a promise he would shake things up. the capitol was discombobulated by his victory. people weren't sure what to expect and democrats were nervous. he talked about a country in crisis, whose economy was in trouble. but his target was the federal government. he promised to shrink the federal government. trump never took that theme. he didn't take a traditional conservative republican theme but he took a more populist approach. i think that's what's striking about the way he wants to at least send a message, if not
govern. peter: i think it was interesting in that it was not really a republican speech. he talked about protectionism and buying american and the ravages of global trade and immigration. so it was a mix. in some ways trump is perceived as in some ways the first independent president we've had. yes, he's a republican. but he's operated sort of against both parties and today's speech was a decree against the whole system and if he follows that as a doctrine, he'll be operating very differently than any other president we've seen. ed: how, then, do republicans, who run congress, who are not fans of the new president -- i mean, they are now. they say they are and they support him but we know they weren't. and democrats, who are still reeling from the results of the election. how do they adjust? what do we think they start doing, especially come monday, when we don't know what happens.
carol: it's an interesting question because the republicans -- donald trump is operating in washington in a different way. meaning he's not going to mitch mcconnell to have a conversation about what they'll do in the senate. mcconnell is turning around and he's talking to various senators. he's picking up the phone and called rand paul so there's many ways in which this president is unpredictable. they have what they wanted -- control of the house, control of the senate and control of the white house. yet, they don't know how he's going to navigate that. one other thing they've learned in the last week or so is donald trump will out your conversations in public. you've seen him do that in a number of these events he's been at in washington. so there's that, too. it's not really clear to me exactly how they work with him or how they get things done. yamiche: i'm thinking about the fact that donald trump feels like a negotiator. he's really "the art of the
deal" guy. i think one of the things he wants people to feel like is he wants to take credit for things that are going well so i think one of the things that republicans might learn to do is to not openly criticize him, at least at the beginning of his presidency, and to really try to work with him to pass, i think, traditional republican policies, because i think if you start getting paul ryan or mitch mcconnell openly criticizing him or even hinting there might be dysfunction, i feel i've seen eviscerate people and i think that's going to be a problem and i want to add quickly, i covered bernie sanders during the campaign and while i was listening to the inaugural address, i thought if bernie had been elected, some of those lines would have been in bernie's speech so i agree that he is probably one of the first independent presidents. you think about trade, you think about factories. even when he was talking about race -- of course there are people that have real problems on whether or not he actually believes some of the things he
says because when he talked about the portrait of inner cities, it was similar to how he described the inner cities of african americans. dan: watching the speech, i kept wondering what must the republican leadership be thinking as he's going through this agenda, this set of priorities. because they have to be concerned that they've got somebody who they can't control. on the other hand, they could look up there next to him and see vice president pence who they are very comfortable with, who is a conventional conservative republican, who has ties to those folks. so the question is, can pence and the leadership get together on enough things. trump goes partly in his direction and they have a happy marriage. or is there real friction in how quickly that happens. peter: it was striking to listen to paul ryan, the speaker of the
house, rhapsodize, you could hear his praise of the vice president, like this is my guy, we'll be locked in tight. we'll see what happens with the guy in the oval office. carol: and i think the question is, is it pence? is he going to be the one trump listens to the most? ed: i was struck because if you look at the staff being put together, a lot of that has the touch of reince priebus, the new chief of staff, who was chairman of the republican national committee. a lot of folks coming in are long-time g.o.p. operatives who have experience in washington, yet the speech had touches of stephen bannon, steven miller and virtually none of the sort of mainstream republican messaging that reince priebus and the r.n.c. and broader republican party has been embracing over the last few years. it was a stunning juxtaposition.
dan: this was very much a bannon-esque vision he laid out. i guess part of the question is, how did he reassure his chief of staff, reince priebus, who's part of the republican establishment, that i'm going to give this speech but things will be all right and we'll be able to work harmonuously and i trust you. what he set out today is so far from where reince priebus has been all his life except for a couple of touches in it, that as we watch this white house begin to operate, the potential for conflict and power centers and internal battling seems to me enormous. carol: you have very senior people around the president with not real clear portfolios and that is where you get into danger zone, when you're in the white house. it's all about proximity, it's all about who has the president's ear, who's where, who's doing what. when you have people running
around without being in clear lanes, it can create a chaos. that said, that's something that trump seems to live in. maybe he wants it this way. ed: they take over the west wing tonight, through the weekend, but most of the government still has not been filled in. tonight, james mattis was confirmed as defense secretary. john kelly as homeland security secretary. we hear mike pompeo, the kansas congressman, will be c.i.a. director likely by monday but thousands of jobs remain unfilled, which is typical at the start, yet dozens of the top ones are still vacant. peter: exactly right. the new president asked 50 or so hold-overs from the obama administration to stick around, particularly security agency officials, brett mckirk, helping to run the isis war, tom shannon, undersecretary of state. than anticipated to have some continuity of government because they don't have their team in place yet. what was really interesting, too, about this, as you
mentioned, two cabinet secretaries were confirmed today but you saw today that there's not going to be a grace period. new presidents tend to get a little bit of a grace period and in this case you didn't get one from him to his opposition or from the opposition to him. from the start you're hearing scratchiness and tension. democrats on the hill today were wearing buttons "protect healthcare," meaning president obama's healthcare program. senator schumer gave before president trump's speech. we have to get this right. that was pretty in his face a little bit, setting down a red line. we're off to the races from the start. yamiche: there were also a couple of those people he held on to -- brett mckirk in particular but also adam zubin, treasury official, who republicans held up for a long time, is deep in the president
obama's iran deal so you can see they need to get up to speed on this thing. you talked about the idea of not having the grace period. i was talking to one protester who was undocumented and he said there's no time for a grace period. i want him to know that we will not be attacked, this is our stance. that struck me because these young people were saying, i want it to be very clear that i'm going to be the thorn on your side and you should be thinking about me. the idea that they were blocking the entrance of the inauguration -- these were not protestors that were going to go into a park and be seen on twitter. these were people in the faces of trump supporters and making them uncomfortable. ed: you covered sanders, you covered the clinton campaign. i'm struck by the fact that eight years ago tonight opposition republicans got together at the capital grill downtown and started plotting how to defeat president obama. tonight, as far as we can tell, there isn't necessarily as much
of that organized plotting going on amid democrats who seem to be trying to figure things out. sanders has a coalition remaining active to some extent but he's not necessarily leading the charge on the hill. what do democrats do going forward? yamiche: the democrats i'm talking to sound somewhat confused and are also trying to figure out how to pick their battles and part of that will be what donald trump does first. right now we've seen his carried out his promise to attack the affordable care act on day one. now they have a very clear target. but when i sat in a lot of those confirmation hearings and i saw elizabeth warren running from one confirmation hearing to another asking for a second arrival, by the time she got there, she was grilling another appointee. so democrats have to look at the field and decide how to deploy. also bernie sanders, someone who's a voice for the party -- i don't think they have a clear leader. you look at al franken and
elizabeth warren, they're big voices but in terms of who will bridge the gap between the bernie sanders people and the clinton people, i don't think that person has emerged yet. peter: if there's not a dinner tonight of democrats akin to the one eight years ago, it's mainly because they're not organized. but it's not the lack of desire. they're going to be no more deferential to this new president than the republicans were to president obama. in obama's case, they successfully conveyed to many voters that it was obstructionism. the question is will trump be able to do the same thing? will democrats who oppose him be seen as obstructionists against a president who's trying to get things done? or will they be seen as principled opposition? dan: i think one of the obstacles to president trump is that the election went in both directions. he lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote.
he doesn't come in with seemingly a mandate and he doesn't come in with the kind of goodwill that president obama arrived with in terms of the country as a whole. the public response to the trump victory, transition and presidency, has been much more negative. he's got some limits and some boundaries on what he's going to be able to do. he can't simply rale at them and expect that to turn the tide. carol: yet he set the expectations very high today. he literally said i will never let you down. that's not each -- even possible. president obama never said that. a president won't say that because there will be times they let you down but typical trump style, he said definitively, i will never let you down. ed: carol, i wanted to ask you -- because you covered the obama presidency from start to finish -- is it too soon to start assessing his legacy?
have they started thinking about it? carol: he probably started thinking about it early on when he came into office what his legacy would look like. no, we've all written a number of legacy stories. there's different stories to tell. there's a legacy on race relations. there's a legacy on foreign policy. people will pick apart syria for decades, i think, and stack that up against what the president's doctrine was. there's a number of things. i don't think it's too soon to look at his legacy. ed: we'll continue to talk about that for the years to come. he is tonight in palm springs, california, likely hitting the links tomorrow morning. thanks, guys. this conversation will continue online on "washington week" extra when we take a closer look at president trump's cabinet picks. you can find it at pbs.org/washingtonweek after 10:00 p.m. and all weekend long. test your knowledge of inauguration history on a
additional funding is provided by -- boeing. newman's own foundation, donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity and nourishing the common good. the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation. the ford foundation. koo and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tom brokaw: a sisign of transitn at the white house today, moving vans. reporter: inauguration day of course means moving day over at 1600 pennsylvania ave reporter: they're going to begin unpacking the white house today tom brokaw: the presidential transition ends on wednesday with bill clinton moving reporter old: the white house will be readied over the next two hours to receive reporter: the historic moment of the inauguration is fast approaching. it's the obama family moving into a new house. narrator: it's the most famous address in america -- 1600 pennsylvania avenue. [ helicopter blades whirring ] brian williams: we're gonna switch live to the white house where one of the unique aspects of american tradition is taking place. narrator: but the residents only have a four-year lease. transitions in the white house are just a matter of course, are a matter of life. it's a function of our democracy.