The in­au­gu­ral ad­dress we won’t hear, but should

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ge­orge Will

— The mere pos­si­bil­ity of a Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency — gold-plated faucets in the house first oc­cu­pied by John and Abi­gail Adams — will per­haps have a salu­tary ef­fect. It might de­mys­tify an of­fice that has be­come now swollen with in­ap­pro­pri­ate pow­ers and swad­dled in a pre­ten­tious­ness dis­cor­dant with a re­pub­lic’s ethic of sim­plic­ity. This whole­some re­treat from pres­i­den­tial grandios­ity would be ad­vanced if on Jan. 20, 2017, the 45th pres­i­dent de­liv­ered the fol­low­ing in­au­gu­ral ad­dress:

My fel­low Amer­i­cans, brevity is not only the soul of wit and the essence of lin­gerie, it is, on oc­ca­sions such as this, po­lite. You who are ar­rayed in front of me, los­ing the feel­ing in your feet as you stand on the frozen Mall, should be spared a long so­lil­o­quy by some­one who, as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, in­flicted on you an ex­cru­ci­at­ing amount of talk.

Be­sides, you have hired me only to ad­min­is­ter one of our three branches of gov­ern­ment, and only for four years. So let’s avoid un­seemly ex­cite­ment about to­day’s rou­tine trans­fer of power. Years ago, Dal­las Cow­boy Duane Thomas said this about an­other re­cur­ring ex­trav­a­ganza, the Su­per Bowl: “If it’s the ul­ti­mate game, how come they’re play­ing it again next year?” I may ask Mr. Thomas to be my press sec­re­tary, if I de­cide to have one.

I prob­a­bly will not have one be­cause I hope weeks will pass with­out hav­ing to bother you with re­minders of my ex­is­tence. Weeks dur­ing which there will be nothing much of im­por­tance to hear from or about me as I go about the hum­drum busi­ness of see­ing that the laws en­acted here on Capi­tol Hill are faith­fully ex­e­cuted.

In the next four years, beloved en­ter­tain­ers will die, lo­cal law en­force­ment dis­putes will oc­cur, March Mad­ness will come and go — and I will have nothing to say about any of these things be­cause they are un­re­lated to my du­ties, which do not in­clude serv­ing as na­tional pas­tor­cum- pun­dit.

As is tra­di­tional, at the con­clu­sion of these re­marks I shall eat lunch in the Capi­tol with Congress. But be­fore do­ing this, I shall pay a trib­ute to Congress, which the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Ar­ti­cle I es­tab­lishes as the first branch of gov­ern­ment. My trib­ute will be to de­lay join­ing its mem­bers for the 10 min­utes or so it will


take to sign a stack of ex­ec­u­tive or­ders nul­li­fy­ing most ex­ec­u­tive or­ders is­sued by my pre­de­ces­sor. He used them to wield ex­ec­u­tive power to in­sti­tute poli­cies and al­ter laws that prop­erly should be ini­ti­ated by Congress.

This will be enough busi­ness for Day One of my first 100 days. And I prom­ise you this: On the 100th day of my ad­min­is­tra­tion, Amer­ica will be ... pretty much in­dis­tin­guish­able from what it is to­day. Would you, my over- ex­cited coun­try­men, re­ally want it any other way? Would you re­ally want to live in a na­tion that can be sub­stan­tially changed in a mat­ter of a few months by a hy­per­ac­tive gov­ern­ment?

For ef­fi­ciency, and to min­i­mize un­nec­es­sary folderol, I am go­ing to take a minute right now to de­liver my first and last State of the Union ad­dress. It is this one sen­tence: Things are much bet­ter than they once were — slav­ery? gone; the Ore­gon Trail? re­placed by the In­ter­state High­way Sys­tem — but things could be bet­ter.

There. Wasn’t that less dis­agree­able than the an­nual mid­win­ter prime- time pep rally that pres­i­dents stage be­cause of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s blurry man­date that the pres­i­dent “shall from time to time give to the Congress in­for­ma­tion” about the coun­try’s con­di­tion? How quaint. As though Congress is in­ter­ested in in­for­ma­tion.

Af­ter to­day’s lunch, Congress should try nib­bling at the edges of our prob­lems, many of which Congress cre­ated to please you, the clam­orous peo­ple. To you I say: We have nothing to fear but your in­suf­fi­cient fear of what has been done on your be­half and at your be­hest.

In the 2016 “con­test of opin­ion through which we have passed” — Thomas Jef­fer­son’s deco­rous de­scrip­tion, at his first in­au­gu­ra­tion, of the fe­ro­cious 1800 cam­paign — a tril­lion words were spo­ken, ap­prox­i­mately none about the pub­lic’s ap­petite for un­funded gov­ern­ment en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams.

If you want the United States to be Puerto Rico writ large — or, even worse, Illi­nois — just stay the course you are on. In words Lin­coln spoke at his first in­au­gu­ra­tion, the na­tion’s fate is “in your hands, my dis­sat­is­fied fel­low coun­try­men, and not in mine.”

Ge­orge Will is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at georgewill@ wash­post. com.

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