WASHINGTON — In a forceful, uncompromising inauguration address, US President Donald Trump placed the battle against Islamic extremism at the heart of his foreign policy as he took office on Friday, vowing to work with allies to destroy the jihadist threat.
“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth,” he declared, referring to the Islamist terror threat in language that his predecessor always preferred not to use.
That focus conformed strongly with the mindset of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted his congratulations “to my friend President Trump” even before the 45th president had been sworn in.
Trump’s predecessors George W. Bush — who invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban regime — and Barack Obama — who ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — also fought extremism. But Trump has gone further than both in his use of language, suggesting that he sees the fight as a civilizational battle between America and a threat springing from the Islamic faith itself.
And, in an inaugural address otherwise thin on policy specifics, his vow to form new alliances against terror suggests that he intends to work with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Moscow has deployed forces to Syria to protect Bashar al-Assad’s regime from Islamist rebels, but Obama’s administration has argued their brutal tactics alienate moderates and only boost support for the extremist Islamic State group.
Congrats to my friend President Trump. Look fwd to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel&USA stronger than ever. ????????????????
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) January 20, 2017
Capping a morning of inaugural pomp and pageantry, Trump stepped before a sprawling crowd at the U.S. Capitol, and was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His ascent puts Republicans in control of the White House for the first time in eight years.
He promised to lead a “great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise.” He said he was giving power back to the people: “This moment is your moment, it belongs to you,” he said.
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” he promised in his inauguration speech.
He vowed: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he said.
Under his presidency, “We will seek friendship and good will with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
He concluded his address with the pledge that dominated his campaign for the presidency, to “make America great again.”
Trump gave a thumbs-up, pumped his fist, and mouthed “thank you,” as he walked to his seat before the swearing-in, next to incoming Vice President Mike Pence, who took his oath of office minutes before him.
Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, Trump and his wife, Melania, were greeted at the White House by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for the traditional private meeting of outgoing and incoming presidents and their spouses. Posing for photos on the North Portico, the couples exchanged hugs as Barack Obama chatted about the demands of protocol.
Trump has pledged to upend many of Obama’s major domestic and national security policies, including repealing his signature health care law and building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. But he’s offered few details of how he plans to accomplish his agenda, often sending contradictory signals.
People flocked to the nation’s capital for the inaugural festivities, some wearing red hats emblazoned with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. But in a sign of the deep divisions Trump sowed during his combative campaign, dozens of Democratic lawmakers were boycotting the swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill.
One Democrat who did attend was Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished campaign rival, who smiled tightly as she took her seat among the dignitaries alongside her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
All of the living American presidents were attending the swearing in ceremony, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also admitted to the hospital after falling ill.
After taking the oath, Trump was to enjoy a celebratory lunch with lawmakers and parade up Pennsylvania Avenue, passing his newly opened Washington hotel. Meanwhile, workers at the White House were setting about the frantic process of moving out the Obamas and preparing the residence for its new occupants.