The barbarians are in the mansion. Right now, Friday afternoon in Washington, if all has gone to schedule, the sidekicks of Donald Trump will be invading the West Wing, pushing through stately doors like Visigoths storming Rome, trying out the desks for size, shouting loud, showy complaints to each other about the modest furnishings and confined spaces.

But maybe they are just suppressing an unexpected and overpowering sense of awe. I hope so.

Trump himself will be immune to it. He may have already found the Oval Office is so much smaller than the one he probably has in his tower, and the residence not a patch on his penthouse, that he is going back to Manhattan. Either that, or he could move into the new Trump Tower on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I hope not, but former National MP Michael Cox, who hosted him for a day in New Zealand when Cox was a trustee of the Casino Control Authority, doubts Trump will find the White House a suitable abode. Back in September Cox speculated in this paper that Trump "will build his own home and office in Washington from which he will operate as President using his own people and rules".


It is a chilling thought. At least if he takes up residence in the White House and sits at the desk in the Oval Office, the awesome position he has been given might impress itself on him and the dignity and conventions he flouted during the campaign might seem worth respecting. When the sidekicks come into his office the famous room might make them feel like responsible courtiers of state rather than wideboys trying to impress a boss who needs constant flattery.

Wishful thinking, probably. None of the civilised practices of Western politics can be assumed to apply in Washington after today. To really understand what has happened, we need to remember that fully half the population of America normally doesn't vote. This time many of them did. It was apparent from the first primaries that Trump the entertainer was appealing to people who take only a passing interest in politics, usually after the party primaries have produced two conventional candidates.

National affairs, let alone international, are not on their minds and not often in their conversation.

It is the reason elections are held on a weekday, never on a Saturday. You might get Americans to vote on their way to work or coming home but going to a polling station on the weekend? Forget it. It's the reason a grand ceremony such as a presidential inauguration happens on a freezing mid-winter Friday morning.

Millions of Americans will have turned on a television this morning to watch Trump ride to the Capital with President Obama and take the oath of office on the steps, weather permitting, but many millions more will not have watched. Trump's Americans are on a different channel.

They have stormed the barricades, shaken up the place, registered their support for a big guy who knew their minds and said exactly what they have always said about politicians and lobbyists and immigrants and the media and all that political correctness they serve up to you these days. Trump was their channel.

And now he is there they probably don't care what he does. They never took him literally. He doesn't have to "lock her up", build a wall, torture terrorists' families or scrap any trade treaties. He just has to keep talking the way he does. Trucker talk. Politically incorrect, bombastic, wildly wrong a lot of the time. They love it.

Trump's devotees are everywhere in the Western world, including here. The rest of us, and governments everywhere, will need to quickly work out when, if ever, the President of the United States really means what he has just said.


He has just said in his inaugural address something about the grace and decency of the departing President, and I think he means that.

Barack Obama has watched the ceremony, listened quietly, left with Michelle - by helicopter if tradition holds true. But before he disappears over the horizon it is worth acknowledging the impeccable example he has given his successor. No previous President in memory has had to greet someone who has questioned his birthright, none that I can remember has had to endure a transition during which the President-elect weighed into events foreign and domestic as though he was already in power.

Imagine if Trump served eight years and a successor did that to him. Yet Obama's farewell speech last weekend was a model of professionalism in references to the incoming President.

Watching Obama depart, those who value civility in public life, reflection and restraint in the use of power, liberalism in the economy and tolerance in society, can but hope those have not entirely departed too.