WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible and his children watch. US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (not seen in the picture) administered the oath.—Reuters
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible and his children watch. US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (not seen in the picture) administered the oath.—Reuters

• Sworn in as 45th US president
• Promises to put ‘America First’

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and telling a bitterly divided country he would pursue “America First” policies at home and abroad.

As scattered protests erupted elsewhere in Washington, Mr Trump raised his right hand and put his left on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and repeated a 35-word oath of office from the country’s constitution, with US Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

Later, he stretched his arms wide and hugged his wife, Melania, and other members of his family. Then he turned around to a podium and delivered his inaugural address.

“This moment is your moment, it belongs to you,” President Trump told a large crowd that had earlier booed Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate.

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow,” he said.

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” the new president announced.

Revisiting themes from his improbable campaign victory, Mr Trump said his presidency would aim to help struggling middle-class families, build up the US military and strengthen the country’s borders.

“We are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you,” he said.

“From this day forward a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward it’s going to be only America First,” Mr Trump declared.

The transition from a Democratic president to a Republican took place on the West Front of the domed US Capitol before a crowd of former presidents, dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of people on the grounds of the National Mall. The crowd stretched westward on a cool day of occasional light rain.

“Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done,” he vowed.

“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you,” he said amid applause.

“Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”

He said that Jan 20 would be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of “our country will be forgotten no longer”.

Mr Trump said that Americans wanted great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

“These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said.

“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; Subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon,” he pointed out.

“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American,” he said.

New, uncertain path

Mr Trump, 70, takes over a country divided after a savage election campaign. A wealthy New York businessman and former reality TV star, he will set the US on a new, uncertain path at home and abroad.

Away from the Capitol, masked activists ran through the streets smashing windows with hammers at a McDonald’s restaurant, a Starbucks coffee shop and Bobby Van’s Grill steakhouse several blocks from the White House.

They carried black anarchist flags and signs that said, “Join the resistance, fight back now”.

Police used pepper spray and chased them down a major avenue, an eyewitness said.

In another location not far from the White House, protesters scuffled with the police, at one point throwing aluminium chairs at them.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate who Mr Trump defeated on Nov 8, attended the ceremony with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were also present with their wives. Mr Bush’s father, former president George H.W. Bush, 92, was in Houston recovering from pneumonia.

Mr Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, began the day attending a prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House. Mr Trump, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and Melania Trump, clad in a classic-styled, powder blue ensemble, then headed into the White House for a meeting with Mr Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Mr Trump took office with work to do to bolster his image. During a testy transition period since his stunning election win, he has repeatedly engaged in Twitter attacks against his critics, so much so that one fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, told CNN that Mr Trump seemed to want to “engage with every windmill that he can find.”

An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found only 40 per cent of Americans viewed Mr Trump favourably, the lowest rating for an incoming president since Democrat Carter in 1977, and the same percentage approved of how he had handled the transition.

The agenda

His ascension to the White House, while welcomed by Republicans tired of Mr Obama’s eight years in office, raises a host of questions for the United States.

Mr Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist path and has vowed to impose a 35pc tariff on goods on imports from US companies that went abroad.

His desire for warmer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and threats to cut funding for Nato nations has allies from Britain to the Baltics worried that the traditional US security umbrella will be diminished.

In the Middle East, Mr Trump has said he wants to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at the risk of angering Arabs and stirring international concern. He has yet to sketch out how he plans to carry out a campaign pledge to “knock the hell out of” fighters of the militant Islamic State group.

Published in Dawn January 21st, 2017

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