Sam Clench: Donald Trump has set a dangerous trap for himself

By Sam Clench

Donald Trump has created a minefield for himself, writes Sam Clench.

Yesterday's inaugural address was utterly unsurprising. Like most of Mr Trump's campaign speeches, it was fairly dark in tone, light on details and full of extravagant, populist promises, reports news.com.au.

The obvious takeaway is that President Trump will be no different from candidate Trump.

That might seem fine now, while Mr Trump is still basking in the glow of his election victory, but as a long-term strategy it's incredibly risky.

Candidate Trump could promise the world to his supporters and never face a day of reckoning. Apparently he never expected to win anyway.

But President Trump will ultimately be judged on whether he fulfils his promises, and that is where he just backed himself into a corner.

Consider just a few of the promises from today's speech:

1. An end to 'American carnage'

"Americans want 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."

There is so much to unpack here. He's promising great schools, good jobs, an escape from poverty, the return of manufacturing and a drop in crime. Any one of those issues alone could take an entire presidency to fix. And this isn't a pledge to try to fix the problems in question, or to give it his best shot - he says the carnage "stops right now". That's unambiguous.

2. America first

"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."

Mr Trump is essentially claiming he will stop globalisation. Good luck with that.

Donald and Melania Trump. Photo / Getty Images
Donald and Melania Trump. Photo / Getty Images

3. The end of Islamic terror

"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."

Compared to this one, stopping globalisation should be a breeze.

If Mr Trump runs for re-election in four years, he will no longer be a blank slate for anyone who hates the establishment to project on to. Instead, he will be the establishment, and the voters who just propelled him into the White House will be judging him on his record.

If he fails to revive the manufacturing industry, his own words will be used against him. If inner city crime and poverty continue unabated, his own words will be used against him.

If Islamic terror groups continue to run riot, his own words will be used against him.
You get the picture.

The point is, Mr Trump is extremely unlikely to solve all those problems. Heck, he may not find answers for any of them - not necessarily because of his own deficiencies, but because every president's powers are limited.

In his keynote speech to the Republican National Convention last year, much like in his inaugural address today, Mr Trump showed no signs that he understood those limits. His pitch was simple: everything is broken, the system is rigged against ordinary people, and he is the saviour.

"Only I can fix it," he insisted.

Even now, having assumed the responsibilities of the presidency, Mr Trump is portraying himself as that all-powerful hero, a strongman who will march into the White House and immediately fix every problem through the sheer force of his braggadocios personality.

He never explains exactly how he'll do it. He's asking people to take a leap of faith - and that could easily backfire.

"We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it," Mr Trump said today. "The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action."

I doubt any politician in history has talked a bigger or less plausible game than Donald Trump.

He has given himself a gauntlet of seemingly impossible promises - and if he fails to deliver on them, he will be exposed as an even worse fraud than the insiders he was elected to torment.

- news.com.au

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