Today's short and grim speech reinforces and reveals how Donald Trump will govern as the 45th US president, and it won't serve his people well
The bully victorious. That's what today's inauguration of Donald Trump means to me.
And why should it mean anything else? That is the very essence of the man we have come to know over the past two years – the man who mocks, grabs pussy, calls opponents childish names, incites violence at rallies and is mollified by no-one. The man is not for turning.
In Trump's world, this is what passes for strength. And greatness. His and America's. It is, of course, neither. Rather, you might call it swagger. Conceit. Bombast. Hubris. It's about building yourself up, not to bring others with you, but to make others feel small. It's about taking power, not to serve, but for the sake of vainglory. It's about intimidating others, so that you win and they lose. It's about pride; not the kind that promotes respect, but that which looks down on others.
It's bullying. It's all the things I teach my children not to be. And while it may be a tactic that has seen him rise and fall in business more than once, it's a terrible way to run a country.
Inauguration speeches are not always as great as we like to think. But almost always they speak to the best of America. They often express the sense of humility and weight that comes when someone takes high office; they speak of unity.
Trump bothered little with those niceties today. In line with the rest of his campaign and transition, he ignored tradition and re-wrote the rule book with a bleak, bitter view of modern America that spoke to his supporters, and no-one else.
This lack of respect for those crucial institutions, those expressions of soft power, for me, are one of the scariest parts of the Trump way. Be it revealing his tax and medical records or respecting the will of an independent judiciary, he just pushes by. These are what truly make America great and bridle the power of any presidency.
Yet in transition Trump is still vandalising them; the unpaid taxes and hiring and firing of illegal immigrants, for example, have seen past nominees do the decent thing and stand aside. Trump seems set on muscling through his people.
Even as he moves into the White House, his is still the rhetoric and behaviour of the outsider, the victim, the bully who wants to dominate.
His supporters will see in today's speech a consistency of message. They may hang onto the hope that he will genuinely work to 'drain the swamp', take on "the elites" he was still condemning today and change the system. They will be disappointed.
This is one of the rich ironies of this Trump era. Consider this: An American president took office today who has denounced his own intelligence organisations and US adventures in other countries, already intervened in the market to pressure big corporates and promised repeatedly to give power back to the people. He is promising to 'drain the swamp' and take on 'the elite' in his country. On his first day he torpedoed the TPP and delivered an ultimatum on NAFTA. He's also signalling significant government spending on infrastructure.
Viewed through that lens, the left should be cheering and any self-respecting Republican dismayed. This is a revolution along the lines Bernie Sanders was preaching. It's Rogernomics in reverse.
Except, of course, it's nothing of the sort. It's – mostly – a mirage. As I've written before, one of the tragedies of Trumpism, is that the promised "change" will benefit few of those who voted for him. That change will be as ashes in their mouth.
At heart, Trump has the resentment of an outsider, but also the interests of the elite. It's a terrible irony. A fair chunk of the anger that propelled him to the presidency comes from the Global Financial Crisis and the misuse of money and power by big banks and financiers. But he will double down in the interests, not of those who voted for him, but of those who caused the damage in the first place.
Trump's policies are about deregulation, lower taxes, higher national debt and a 'greed is good' mentality. Alongside anti-trade measures, one of his first announcements today was more military spending. His team to enact this is a cabinet of billionaires. As with all things Trumpian, his promise to put the people back in charge is a con.
And today's speech helps us understand how the con will play. He says he will "eradicate" radical Islamic terrorism. He will "rebuild" the factories and bring back the jobs. And "every decision", he says, will be made to benefit America.
So this, it seems, is how the bait and switch will work; he'll keep eyes on the red, white and blue, while he takes the money and runs.
But to play this con, he has to do some very real things. And here's where it gets worrying for the rest of the world, countries like New Zealand in particular. To win, he will make others lose. Today he blatantly tossed globalisation in the dustbin and ushered in a new era of protectionism. At least, he has tried. There will be stiff global opposition and the tide of history to take on. He may be like Canute before very long.
But his intent is clear. He will put "America first" and urged other countries to put their own interests first as well. This is a dog-eat-dog international order where 'might is right' and the weak suffer; not one of cooperation, win-win and goodwill to all. His Christian supporters must tremble at this most un-Christ-like world view.
Look at his first proclamation on NAFTA. Either Canada and Mexico renegotiate the deal, or he pulls out. This isn't diplomacy. Again, it's the tactic of a bully.
"From this moment on, it's going to be America First," he says. "Protection," he says, "will lead to great prosperity and strength". And for good measure: "We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American".
This is the gauntlet laid down to globalisation; a clear threat to the smaller trading nations of the world. What's interesting is that it will again compel a debate on trade and open markets and it will force us all to re-think what serves our interests long-term.
That is a conversation worth having. But in the meantime, we face a new era, with a Bully-in-Chief in the oval office. And so, as is always the case when faced by a bully, we can choose to be cowed or to hold our ground and our values. That is the test for today, and for as long as Donald Trump remains in the White House.