Politics & Policy

The Inaugural Address We Won’t Hear, but Should

(Larry Downing/Reuters)
Here’s what the new president should say when sworn in.

The mere possibility of a Donald Trump presidency — gold-plated faucets in the house first occupied by John and Abigail Adams — will perhaps have a salutary effect. It might demystify an office that has become now swollen with inappropriate powers and swaddled in a pretentiousness discordant with a republic’s ethic of simplicity. This wholesome retreat from presidential grandiosity would be advanced if on January 20, 2017, the 45th president delivered the following inaugural address:

My fellow Americans, brevity is not only the soul of wit and the essence of lingerie, it is, on occasions such as this, polite. You who are arrayed in front of me, losing the feeling in your feet as you stand on the frozen Mall, should be spared a long soliloquy by someone who, as a presidential candidate, inflicted on you an excruciating amount of talk.

Besides, you have hired me only to administer one of our three branches of government, and only for four years. So let’s avoid unseemly excitement about today’s routine transfer of power. Years ago, Dallas Cowboy Duane Thomas said this about another recurring extravaganza, the Super Bowl: “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?” I may ask Mr. Thomas to be my press secretary, if I decide to have one.

I probably will not have one because I hope weeks will pass without having to bother you with reminders of my existence. Weeks during which there will be nothing much of importance to hear from or about me as I go about the humdrum business of seeing that the laws enacted here on Capitol Hill are faithfully executed.

In the next four years, beloved entertainers will die, local law-enforcement disputes will occur, March Madness will come and go — and I will have nothing to say about any of these things because they are unrelated to my duties, which do not include serving as national pastor-cum-pundit.

#share#As is traditional, at the conclusion of these remarks I shall eat lunch in the Capitol with Congress. But before doing this, I shall pay a tribute to Congress, which the Constitution’s Article I establishes as the first branch of government. My tribute will be to delay joining its members for the ten minutes or so it will take to sign a stack of executive orders nullifying most executive orders issued by my predecessor. He used them to wield executive power to institute policies and alter laws that properly should be initiated by Congress.

If you want the United States to be Puerto Rico writ large — or, even worse, Illinois — just stay the course you are on.

This will be enough business for Day One of my first 100 days. And I promise you this: On the 100th day of my administration, America will be . . . pretty much indistinguishable from what it is today. Would you, my over-excited countrymen, really want it any other way? Would you really want to live in a nation that can be substantially changed in a matter of a few months by a hyperactive government?

For efficiency, and to minimize unnecessary folderol, I am going to take a minute right now to deliver my first and last State of the Union address. It is this one sentence: Things are much better than they once were — slavery? gone; the Oregon Trail? replaced by the Interstate Highway System — but things could be better.

There. Wasn’t that less disagreeable than the annual midwinter prime-time pep rally that presidents stage because of the Constitution’s blurry mandate that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information” about the country’s condition? How quaint. As though Congress is interested in information.

#related#After today’s lunch, Congress should try nibbling at the edges of our problems, many of which Congress created to please you, the clamorous people. To you I say: We have nothing to fear but your insufficient fear of what has been done on your behalf and at your behest.

In the 2016 “contest of opinion through which we have passed” — Thomas Jefferson’s decorous description, at his first inauguration, of the ferocious 1800 campaign — a trillion words were spoken, approximately none about the public’s appetite for unfunded government-entitlement programs.

If you want the United States to be Puerto Rico writ large — or, even worse, Illinois — just stay the course you are on. In words Lincoln spoke at his first inauguration, the nation’s fate is “in your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine.”

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