Immediately after Donald Trump finished his Inaugural Address, CNN’s Jake Tapper called it “one of the most radical inaugural speeches we’ve ever heard.” His colleague John King added the speech offered “A dark view. Even a pessimistic view of where we are at the moment.”
This is in sharp contrast to how the CNN welcomed Barack Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address. Back then the hosts were wowed by the “marvelous” and “iconic” address in the vein of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. At the time, David Gergen gushed: “He’s come along with a statement that firmly addresses a progressive, liberal agenda that's very much in the tradition of King and of Lincoln, and he has rallied his base.” CNN historian David Brinkley hailed Obama’s speech “Gigantic. And he connected it all to the patriots of 1776 that we keep widening in our democracy. And he made those places almost like battlefield spots in American history, like Oxford, Mississippi, or Normandy or Iwo Jima. And it's an iconic speech.”
Fast forward to today and there was quite a different reaction from CNN panelists.
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The following was aired on CNN’s January 20 coverage of Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address:
WOLF BLITZER: And so now the United States has a new president. The 45th President of the United States. There he is. Donald J. Trump. He takes office after delivering a speech, Jake. A speech that he could have delivered and he often delivered throughout the 18 months of his campaign. He delivered the speech that got him elected President of the United States.
JAKE TAPPER: It was very consistent to the Trump brand absolutely. I have to say, I think it’s fair to say this is one of the most radical inaugural speeches we’ve ever heard. It was purely populist. It talked about the forgotten people. It attacked Washington while standing inside the center of Washington, D.C. surrounded by Washington insiders. There was nothing really particularly conservative about this Republican president’s speech. It was pure populism. And in fact, it looked at the United States and the role of the United States in a way that departures greatly from what we’ve heard from all of his predecessors on the stage: Obama, Bush, Carter. It talked about America first as his priority. It was completely consistent with his brand I have to say. Had a nice part at the end talking about how whatever color you are like the soldier, black, brown or white, we all bleed the red blood of patriots. But I have to say, I think it will go down in history as one of the most radical speeches ever given by a president.
BLITZER: And John, so many times the themes that came through during the campaign. When he says, when he wrote that speech, he clearly had a tremendous influence in writing those words.
JOHN KING: If you are a Trump voter, you heard from your new president what you wanted to hear consistent with the campaign. Every decision, he said, would be America first. Whether it’s a taxes decision, infrastructure decision, a border decision, a national security decision. Said everything would be through the prism of America first.
But it was a dark, a dark view. Even a pessimistic view of where we are at the moment. The statistics would tell you illegal border crossings are down. Didn’t sound like that from the speech. The statistics would tell you we have 4.7 percent unemployment. He talked about how terrible things were and how horrible it was in the country. He spoke of gangs and drugs and American carnage at a time, again, the outgoing president, I think, would tell you not that there aren’t problems in America but that crime is largely under control in America.