Did you know that Donald Trump took the Presidential oath of office while grasping two bibles? In order to honor his family, he held his mother’s bible. And to signal his admiration for our sixteenth President, he simultaneously held Abraham Lincoln’s bible.
Considering this gesture, it may be instructive to compare Trump’s inaugural speech to Lincoln’s pair of inaugural addresses. And what better way to conclude this year’s surreal political campaign than by imagining a conversation between the two men on the morning of the Trump inauguration?
Except for a few brief transitional phrases, all of the following text has been copied verbatim from these three actual speeches. We may never enjoy a better chance to eavesdrop on a conversation between these two Presidents …
ABE: Good morning, Don.
DON: Hello, Abe. Would you mind if I take the oath of office on your bible today?
ABE: No, of course not. In fact, I’d be honored. Many different and greatly distinguished Presidents have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. It’s your turn now, and if my bible can help you establish a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections, you’re welcome to it.
DON: Actually, Abe, I wouldn’t call our recent Presidents “greatly distinguished.” For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. When I address the people today, I intend to tell them that “their victories have not been your victories, and their triumphs have not been your triumphs.” While they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
ABE: Really, Don? That sounds a little harsh to me. But sometimes a President must reassure the people that “the Government will not assail you.” I know that’s not easy when apprehension seems to exist among the people that their property and their peace and personal security are endangered. But there has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension.
DON: No reasonable cause, Abe? I disagree. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods 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 unrealized potential.
ABE: Good lord, Don! Is life really that bad in the 21st century? Or is there any possibility that portions of these ills have no real existence?
DON: I don’t exaggerate, Abe. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, and subsidized 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 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. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.
ABE: In that case, Don, you’ll need to unite the people to solve these problems. I hope you’re working hard to pull the entire world together.
Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them.
A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our world can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them.
DON: Pull the world together, Abe? I don’t think so. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
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.
Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
ABE: You can’t declare war against the world forever, Don. Suppose you go to war. You can not fight always. And when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will yet touch the better angels of our nature.
DON: I’m no angel, Abe. And my government officials won’t govern like angels. We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American. After all, it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
ABE: I governed the nation differently, Don. With malice toward none, with charity for all, to bind up our wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. That was my vision for governing the United States of America.
DON: Not my administration, Abe. We will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, we will make America great again.
That’s my vision, Abe. Thanks for the Bible.