Current Events Write-Up: The Trump Inauguration, and the First Days of the Trump Presidency

Time for another Current Events Write-Up, where I link to news and opinion pieces and comment on them!  As you might expect, the focus this week is on Trump: the inauguration and his first days in office.

The Trump Inauguration

Christianity Today: The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner, by Kate Shellnut.

Paul White-Cain is a controversial pastor who delivered a prayer at President Trump’s inauguration.  In this Christianity Today article, she defends herself against criticisms and clarifies her stance on the prosperity Gospel.

Progressive former Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich found things to praise in President Trump’s inaugural address!  And why not?  Trump was criticizing the outsourcing of American jobs, calling for more and better infrastructure, condemning bigotry, and saying that we should leave other countries alone.  Sounds progressive to me!  At the same time, Kucinich was also criticizing transferring money from cities to the federal government, which sounds rather conservative.

Trump’s use of the term “America First” in his inaugural address was controversial.  For critics, Trump is echoing the America First Committee of the 1930’s, which opposed American entry into World War II.  For many critics, the America First Committee was an anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi organization.

Let’s respond to that!  First of all, a rabbi delivered one of the prayers at Trump’s inauguration.  Why shouldn’t that be considered when we deliberate on whether or not Trump is anti-Semitic?

Second, Trump does not always know the historical significance of the catchphrases that he uses.  He just uses them because he likes them.  See Jonah Goldberg’s article here.

Third, the America First Committee was not, in itself, anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi, even though there were anti-Semites in its midst.  To quote Bill Kauffman’s article:

“In September 1940, Bob Stuart and several Yale Law School classmates—including future President Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart—founded the America First Committee, the largest antiwar organization in American history…Speaking of which, there were Kennedy footprints all over America First…Joe Kennedy kicked in a few bucks, and John F. Kennedy sent the AFC a check for $100, with a note reading ‘what you all are doing is vital.’ Mr. Stuart’s long-time friend Sargent Shriver, Kennedy in-law and the last pro-life Democrat to run on the national ticket, was present at the creation…The America First story has been told well by historians Justus Doenecke and Wayne Cole. Its personalities ranged from Main Street Republicans to prairie populists, from pacifist novelists to Midwestern manufacturers. Behind its banner stood figures as various as Socialist Norman Thomas, American Legion commander Hanford MacNider, and Sears Roebuck chairman Robert E. Wood. And, of course, Charles Lindbergh.”

Fourth, Pat Buchanan’s column explained what Trump meant by “America First,” as it quoted excerpts from Trump’s inaugural address.  What does “America First” mean for us and for other countries?  Read Pat’s column and find out!  Pat also responds to the charge that Trump’s inaugural was dark by saying: “Indeed, it carries echoes of FDR’s second inaugural: ‘I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. … The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.'”

The Early Days of the Trump Presidency

I was depressed to read this Mother Jones article, which said that one of Trump’s first acts as President was to suspend an Obama Administration policy that helped low-income homeowners with their mortgages.  I mean, did not Trump just give a speech about the forgotten Americans?  Why make things more difficult for economically struggling people?

Fortunately, the Trump Administration quickly reversed its own policy, according to this CNBC article.  The CNBC article explains the rationale behind Trump’s initial move to suspend the Obama Administration’s policy: there was concern among Republicans that the program would have to be bailed out.  But the Trump Administration caved in to pressure and reversed what it was about to do.  Criticisms of Trump do get on my nerves, but they may be necessary to keep him on track, from a progressive perspective.

There was the hooplah over how many people were at President Trump’s inauguration, and how that compares with the number of people at President Obama’s inauguration.  I liked something that Cokie Roberts said on last Sunday’s ABC This Week:

COKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: But see, that’s what I think we’ve done is right. We shouldn’t take the bait. And what — here we are, having a whole conversation and leads in the papers and all of that about what Trump said…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I couldn’t disagree more.

ROBERTS: Well, no, no, no, no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He doesn’t tell the truth…

ROBERTS: But — but…

STEPHANOPOULOS: — what are we supposed to do?

ROBERTS: I know. But — but — it — what he’s managed to do was to minimize the incredible demonstrations yesterday all over the world of women turning out by more than a million and instead of that being what everybody is talking about today, it’s Donald Trump again…

This raises interesting questions.  On the one hand, I don’t like how the media make every little thing Trump says and does into Watergate.  On the other hand, one can argue that the media, in doing so, actually helps Donald Trump by making the entire news cycle about Donald Trump.  On the PBS documentary “The Choice 2016,” someone commented that Trump actually liked the coverage when his past marriage was crumbling because at least people were talking about him: he loved the attention!  It is obvious that Trump creates hooplah, and media reaction plays a role in this.  I hope that this can be channeled into productive directions, though: that Trump’s hooplah can challenge the establishment, start important discussions, and accomplish needed reforms.

Over at Townhall, Rachel Marsden has an article about Trump’s move to abandon the TPP.  Marsden agrees with Trump on this, but her article highlights a variety of nuances, some of which favor the TPP.  For one, the TPP could undermine China’s unfair protectionism and give the U.S. a greater foothold in Asia, undermining Chinese economic dominance there.  (On the latter, John McCain made a similar argument.)  Second, trade between China and the U.S. benefits the wealthy of both countries, and that has sometimes defused tensions between the U.S. and China.  Although she raises these nuances, Marsden ultimately opposes the TPP because she believes that it undermines American manufacturing and benefits Wall Street rather than Main Street.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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