Craig Dunn: Trump, Pence inaugural reflections
Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:04 AM
KOKOMO – Some people put on their bucket lists big events like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Indianapolis 500 and other similar extravaganzas. You may end up crossing the event off of your list with joy and other times with a shrug that says, “I can’t believe that was ever on my list.” Attending the inauguration of our 45th president was the fulfillment of one of my personal bucket list items and I was not disappointed.
My wife and I arrived in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and packed a week’s worth of activities into three days. During our time in the nation’s capital I experienced a plethora of interesting sights, sounds and, yes, smells. Here are just a few of my observations in no particular order of occurrence nor significance:
Heading to Washington, we were concerned about security. Reading national publications and watching network news reports pretty much had us convinced that we would be lucky to make it out alive, considering the “millions” of anti-Trump radicals who would be in town to disrupt the inauguration and exact their revenge on the Trump faithful. The reality of inauguration week was much different than the story line hyped by the media.
Security precautions for the inauguration and all of its associated activities were top notch. It seemed like there were three security officers for every ball gown. In my opinion, security people outnumbered protesters by a 10-to-one ratio. One look around and you felt instantly safe.
Protesters were few and far between. In fact, I didn’t see my first protester until walking out of Union Station on Friday morning on the way to the inauguration ceremony. Instead of a slobbering, mad dog group of wild-eyed anarchists, I saw a peaceful hodge-podge of protesters who either were too cold or too old to work up much enthusiasm for their cause. The demonstrators standing outside of Union Station should be given credit for exercising their rights to free expression without interfering with our right to attend the inauguration.
Some radicals expressed their concerns for the plight of the politically oppressed by ransacking a Starbucks and a McDonald’s restaurant. They then piled up some boxes, set them on fire (possibly to warm themselves) and then staged a vicious assault on a stretch limousine. After being sprayed down with Tabasco sauce by the Washington police, these bad boy insurrectionists went looking for another Starbucks so they could grab a chai latte and lick their wounds. This all happened about three blocks from our hotel, but if it had not been for the media, you would have never known it was going on. I’ve seen better fights in the grandstands at Wrigley Field over a foul ball.
There was also some concern over the type of service that visiting Republicans would receive from the working people of Washington, D.C. After all, it was no secret that Hillary Clinton received about 10 votes for every one Donald Trump received in the district. That being said, the hotel employees, taxi drivers, restaurant workers and Metro staff were absolutely wonderful. They were kind, considerate, smiling, helpful and great ambassadors for their city.
Our first taxi driver, Mr. Chaudhry, told us that even though he voted for Hillary Clinton, he believed that everyone should give the new president a chance. A Hispanic worker at our hotel told my wife that she had been afraid during the campaign, but that now she was hopeful. These two small examples seemed to reflect the views of most people we encountered.
Call me a sucker for American exceptionalism stories, but I heard a touching one from our waiter, Antonio, a Bolivian-born American citizen. He has been in the United States for 30 years but he volunteered to us why he came. He told us that when he was a boy in La Paz, there was a statue of John F. Kennedy in the park. The park had been donated by Franklin Roosevelt. Antonio said that he felt that if an American was good enough to build a park for children in his country and that his government thought positively enough about an American to erect a statue, then he wanted to come to the United States. You could see his pride in being an American.
On Thursday we attended an event at the AT&T Forum. What a great surprise when former senator, and now Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats dropped by a group of Hoosiers. I can’t tell you how proud I am that such a good, conscientious patriot like Dan Coats is in the position of keeping us safe while we sleep. Personnel decisions such as this one give me enormous faith that Donald Trump will be a great leader on national security issues.
Thursday afternoon we navigated the Metro system, once again, to the Capitol Hill Club for a meet-and-greet luncheon with our Hoosier Republican Congressional delegation. Indiana is truly blessed to have such a talented group of public servants working for us in Congress. Our entire squad are all stars!
This might be a good place for me to admit a past mistake on my part. In 1974, I worked in Washington, D.C., for former Rep. Bud Hillis. Each day I would take a bus from my dorm room on 19th Street NW to my office in the Longworth House Office Building. It was pretty quick transportation and there was always something interesting to see above ground. While I was in Washington, construction was being done on the monstrous project to build the Metro. It was an enormous project with a huge price tag. At the time, I viewed the expense as an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money for no net benefit. Mea culpa! Fifteen trillion dollars later in federal debt and the expense of building the Metro looks quaint. The Metro moved hundreds of thousands of people during inauguration week without the first hiccup. It was clean, safe and very fast. Although I miss the view from above ground, the Metro rocks!
Thursday night was the time for the Indiana Society of Washington, D.C., inaugural ball, or what I like to fondly refer to as the adult prom. Boy would I have liked to have had the tuxedo rental and Spanx concession for this memorable event! Twelve hundred Hoosiers and friends were shoe-horned into the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt. I had high hopes that after I put on my tux and looked in the mirror I would be staring at James Bond. I quickly discovered that I still looked like Dr. Evil.
The Indiana Society ball was a great event featuring a wealth of political luminaries, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, a full orchestra, glitz and $11 beers after the cocktail hour.
The beneficiaries of the event’s profits were a housing program for veterans and the art therapy program at Riley Hospital for Children. Karen Pence gave a nice presentation on the charities to an appreciative group of proud Hoosiers. I almost said proud Indianans, but thanks to Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young straightening out the U.S. government, I can now tell it like it is. Yea, Hoosiers!
The highlight of the evening was the appearance and speech of Vice President Mike Pence, who gave a tearful parting speech that focused on the many great accomplishments of our great state. It was not a boastful speech, but rather one given with immense pride.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people from other states told us how thankful they were when Mike Pence was chosen as the vice presidential running mate. Reading a steady dose of the negative local media over the months can make you forget just how capable and talented Mike Pence is. The United States and maybe even Matt Tully may learn that Mike Pence’s skill set is uniquely tailored to make him a great vice president.
Friday and the big event of the inauguration finally rolled around. The planning for this event was not to be taken lightly by the inauguration attendees. The temperature was to be in the high 30s with a 90-percent chance of freezing, sneeze-like rain. Another critical consideration was restroom facilities. By my guess, there was one portable toilet for every 50,000 people. The odds didn’t look good for those with weak bladders. Many a woman was heard to talk about the adult-sized Depends that they planned to wear to the event. Folks, I’m here to tell you that there are some things that you cannot un-hear!
With no coffee to wake us and no liquids to refresh us, Mrs. Dunn, dressed like Mukluk of the North, and I made our way to the Capitol. Along with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends, we zipped on the Metro Red Line to Union Station and set off on foot for our viewing seats. As stated earlier, security was very tight and obtrusively visible. The inaugural attendees were very appreciative of the heightened security presence. It would be no exaggeration to say that the average security person heard, “Thank you for your service,” at least 5,000 times.
The shivering crowd moved trance-like for their seats or standing room viewing areas like the exodus scene in “Fiddler on the Roof,” showing our tickets at least eight times on the way. The crowd would lurch to a stop occasionally for the women to make a mad dash for the toilets scattered along the way. Mrs. Dunn can now conclusively state that the portable potties at the inauguration are equal to the design, quality and smell of those at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The seats we enjoyed, courtesy of Congresswoman Susan Brooks, were awesome. What a view! I must have taken 200 photos. Looking behind us down the long mall toward the Washington Monument, all we could see was a sea of humanity. In all fairness to Donald Trump, and as a counter to the outright lie of some media pundits, when the ceremony started, the mall was completely packed from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. Sorry CNN, I saw it with my own eyes and I took pictures. The crowd for the inauguration was enormous.
As we were waiting for the ceremony to begin, I was impressed by the incredible diversity of people packing in for the event. There were people of every race, creed and color standing side by side. There were Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus shoulder to shoulder wearing red “Make America Great Again Hats” and “Trump/Pence” shirts, hoodies, jackets and even pants. Defying the stereotype of the average Trump supporter propagated by the media, it became clearly obvious to me that Donald Trump offered a vast cross section of the American people a message that they believed and a vision of a better tomorrow for our nation. There was a palpable feeling of joy that exceeded mere happiness that “our guy won and your gal didn’t.” It is hard to describe the incredible smiles that lasted through the cold, the rain and the long wait for the big moment of the oath ceremony. I will remember this joy for the rest of my life.
For all of my adult life, being a conservative meant losing slowly. We never won. We only delayed the process of erosion of our freedoms, the dry rot of our free enterprise system and the loss of status as the Shining City on the Hill. The joy I witnessed was a joy that emanated from a people who, for the first time in their lives, could believe that we can turn back the clock to a time of greater freedoms, greater prosperity and greater national security.
The most moving moment for me was when a youth choir sang, “God Bless America.” Looking up at the Capitol Building with flags flying and every view adorned in patriotic bunting, I thought of the countless thousands of young men who lay at Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac River from where we were gathered. This moment, this time of peacefully and freely transferring the reins of government from one administration to another was what those men fought and died to sustain. I had chills go up my spine and my eyes misted over.
I won’t go into great detail about the Trump speech; it has been covered by the media, shaded negatively for the most part. I encourage you to read his speech on the Internet or watch a video of it on the internet and judge for yourself whether it was dark and negative or a speech of hope and promise. The thing that struck me most about our president’s inauguration speech was that he unabashedly promised that he would act with America’s best interest first. What a novel and shocking concept that the president of the United States would put the economy, health and security of the American people first! I will sum up my thoughts very succinctly. It’s about time! The speech wasn’t flowery or full of wistful prose that makes Chris Matthews’ leg tingle. It was a promise from the new sheriff in town that there are going to be some changes. Power to the people! Right on!
Friday, evening, just as we were returning from our revelry, former Indiana Republican State Chairman Mike McDaniel guided me to the appropriate metaphor that neatly summed up the status of the 2017 election. In the very back of the hotel gift shop, there was a coffee mug with Hillary Clinton’s and Tim Kaine’s photo on it. Beside it was a sign, 75 percent off.
Dunn is chairman of the Howard County Republican Party