The remarkable consistency of the unpredictable Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump (centre) is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, on Jan 20, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (centre) is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, on Jan 20, 2017.PHOTO: EPA
US President Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible on the West front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Jan 20, 2017.
US President Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office as his wife Melania holds the bible on the West front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Jan 20, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

For months his staff and aides suggested that a pivot was on the way – that the blustery, bombastic election candidate would soon give way to a more restrained, more “presidential” version.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning (Jan 21), in his first act as the 45th President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump made it clear that there is no other version.

The Donald Trump that everyone saw on the campaign trail is the Donald Trump people are going to get. 

Mr Trump’s first speech behind the presidential pulpit – delivered amid a slight drizzle – read like a campaign stump speech. The populist, nationalist undertones that ran through his election rallies all made an appearance in his presidential address. 

If not for the absence of the “lock her up” and “build the wall” chants, one might be forgiven for mistaking the presidential inauguration in the US capital for a Trump campaign rally in rural Wisconsin.

In some cases, he even sharpened his arguments.

Despite recent strong remarks from world leaders in defence of globalisation, President Trump’s speech suggests he intends to significantly change the US global posture.

“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,” he said.

“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

 

While people may now have grown accustomed to Mr Trump talking about an “America First” policy, to hear the so-called leader of the free world equate protection to prosperity and strength was jaw-dropping.

And if some had harboured hopes that President Trump might use his inauguration to at least start bringing back together a bitterly divided nation, they would have been disappointed.

There was nothing akin to John F . Kennedy’s opening line proclaiming the day “not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom”. He did not so much as acknowledge the presence of his vanquished opponent seated in the stands, waiting until the lower profile luncheon to offer her praise.

This was a speech that was tailored to the supporters that swept him to power.

Despite standing on the steps of Congress, being surrounded by Congressmen, he launched an attack on the Washington political establishment, effectively renewing his campaign promise to “drain the swamp”.

Said President Trump: “Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.

“The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.  Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”

He also spoke about defending borders, eradicating terrorism and bringing back jobs.

And just like every speech he has given in the year and a half since he announced he was running for president, he ended his remarks with a pledge to make America great again.

In some ways, he also reminded observers of some of the reasons behind his November win. The speech was sharp and his message was simple, clear and constant. For all his apparent unpredictability, there has been a tremendous amount of consistency.

The language may have been refined but the ideas have stayed the same throughout his campaign. 

What remains to be seen is what his relationship with Congress will look like and how that will affect his ability to push through his agenda. We will also have to wait and see what the specific policy details will end up being.

But there should be little doubt now as to what direction he intends to take the US. 

He’s told us enough times.