Familiar Transfer of Power Will Usher in a Different Kind of President

Andrew Rafferty
Countdown to Trump's Inauguration Day

Americans will watch a familiar ritual of U.S. democracy usher in an unfamiliar style of leadership and governing on Friday when Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

The first day of Trump's presidency will be predictably filled with the pomp and circumstance that has accompanied the inaugurations of all modern presidents. He and his family will attend a morning service near the White House at St. John's Church at 8:30 a.m. before then visiting his soon-to-be home to have tea with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Then they will travel together to the U.S. Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony.

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There, Trump will take the oath of office at the constitutionally prescribed noon hour and deliver his inaugural address. The new president will then attend a luncheon with lawmakers and take a celebratory trip back to the White House to view the inaugural parade before attending the inaugural balls Friday night.

What happens after the ceremonies and celebrating are over is less certain for a man who defied political norms and beat long odds to go from brash billionaire businessman and television celebrity, to become President of the United States.

While details of Trump's historic address are thin, it's expected to focus on his vision for the nation. The president-elect provided a potential glimpse when he addressed a crowd of supporters at a pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial Thursday night. Trump promised he would "make America great for all of our people."

He promised to "bring our jobs back" and "strengthen our borders," declaring, "we're going to do things that haven't been done for our country for many, many decades. It's going to change. I promise you, it's going to change."strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,' as he claimed in December."

A different approach

n the more than two months since the election, Trump has done little to curb the unorthodox and unpredictable tendencies he displayed as a candidate. He has feuded with U.S. intelligence leaders over their findings that Russia was involved in efforts to influence November's election, only acknowledging that probability last week.

He has startled traditional U.S. allies with his favorable talk toward Russia while at times questioning western alliances like NATO. He has sent mixed messages to Capitol Hill about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and his cabinet nominees have publicly disagreed with him on several of the above issues.

He has used Twitter to chastise Democratic Rep. John Lewis for saying he doesn't view Trump as a legitimate president. That prompted nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress to boycott the ceremony.

In addition to Lewis, Trump has used Twitter to respond to actress Meryl Streep's dissent at the Golden Globes and continues to blast the media for what he perceives as unfair coverage. He has sent stocks plunging by calling out companies in 140 character posts.

He even tweeted his former rival Hillary Clinton is "guilty as hell" after reports the Justice Department inspector general will review the FBI's handling of the investigation into the former secretary of state's email use.

Despite that, Clinton will attend the swearing-in ceremony. She will be joined by her husband, former president Bill Clinton and two other former presidents — Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. The lone surviving president not attending is George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week and wrote the incoming president a note apologizing for his absence.

Attendance from the former presidents will be a show of bipartisanship as Trump prepares to inherit a segmented nation following a contentious presidential election during which he was accused of fanning the flames of division. Though he earned a commanding victory in the electoral college in November, he did it while earning nearly 2.9 million less votes than rival Hillary Clinton.

Thousands of protesters are expected descend on Washington, D.C. as well, some in an effort to disrupt the ceremony and others to voice opposition to his presidency.

Unpopular but room to grow

Trump will be sworn into office with the lowest ever approval ratings for an incoming president, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, say they disapprove of how he's handled his transition, and nearly 70 percent of Americans say the president-elect's use of Twitter is a bad idea.

And the top priority of the incoming administration is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act at time when the law has never been more popular, according to the poll. Forty-five percent of Americans now say the law was a good idea, the highest percentage since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking the question in April 2009.

But Trump will also enter the White House as the country grows increasingly optimistic about the future. The NBC News/WSJ poll found a plurality of the country will be better off five years from now and the number of Americans who say the country is heading in the right direction has gone up.

He has already claimed a number of victories as president-elect by using tax breaks to entice Carrier to keep some jobs in Indiana it had planned to move to Mexico. He also took credit for Ford's decision to scrap a plant in Mexico and add jobs in Michigan. Ford's CEO called the move a "vote of confidence" in Trump but said the company would have made the same decision had he not the White House.

The jockeying with corporate America has helped him build on his image as a populist hero for parts of the country that have felt forgotten. And it's a theme, aides say, Trump will build on during his inaugural address.

"It's a movement like we've never seen anywhere in the world, they say. There's never been a movement last this," Trump said at the inauguration-eve concert at the Lincoln Memorial. "And it's something very, very special, and we're going to unify our country."