It was breathtaking. It was heartening. It was....pink.
The Women's March blanketed Washington Saturday as hundreds of thousands of women from across the country gathered in what some are calling a counter-inauguration, the largest post-inaugural demonstration in U.S. history.
It started in the morning with rush-hour traffic congestion and rivers of young people walking from every corner of the city -- and region -- toward the National Mall. Crowd scholars said there may have been three times as many people here for the March as attended the official inauguration the previous day. Metro ridership was roughly double Saturday what it was Friday, according to WMATA.
The Georgetown Dish must say, we have never seen so many people on the Mall. Ever.
We caught up with Italian news broadcaster Liana Mistretta of RAI News24. She's a veteran of conflict, reporting from around the world -- Europe, the Middle East, Africa -- the hot spots.
Her perspective: "We know a little bit about what you're going through. [Ex-Prime Minister] Silvio Berlusconi was a similar type of personality."
Roger Cohen of The New York Times wrote, "Widely ridiculed, endlessly written about, long unscathed by his evident misogyny and diverse legal travails, Berlusconi proved a Teflon politician [...] Nobody who knows Berlusconi and has watched the rise and rise of Donald Trump can fail to be struck by the parallels." Berlusconi served in four governments.
In The Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau wrote, "If Americans are wondering just what a Trump presidency would look like, they only need to look at the traumatized remains of Italy after Berlusconi had his way."
Italy is an economic basket case in the European Union.
But the feeling on the National Mall was of hope, unity, and the power of women's voices to make a difference.
We're not in Kansas anymore. Keep your pink hat handy...
On the eve of the inauguration, business leaders are looking ahead to what the new administration portends. Lifelong Republican Richard Hunt, President & CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, is consistently ranked among the top industry leaders and "people to watch" when it comes to business advocacy in Washington. We caught up with him after a speech to Women in Housing and Finance.
You represent most of America's well-known banks. What do your members think of the election results?
To say it was a shock on election night is 100% true. What we have found from our membership is a thirst for information. We’re doing more membership calls and more communication than ever, because [Trump’s victory] was so unexpected. So even though we think it’s in the best interest of the banking industry for the Republicans to be in control of the House and Senate, and for a Republican to be in charge of the White House, this is not a typical Republican, this is not going to be a typical Republican president. The fact that we have a president that tweets nonstop is in and of itself different for everyone. We have our work cut out for us. It is better than the alternative, no question, but it’s a different set of problems and concerns. But most of the people in the banking industry know this is an opportunity to right-size, balance regulation. We’re not trying to eliminate the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] CFPB or Dodd-Frank, we’re trying to perfect it all. We need to have good consumer protection. We’re looking at the next 20 years of regulation. Not just the next two years of a political life.
One thing that’s breathtaking is the unconventionality of the appointees. It’s one thing to say, “These people from Goldman Sachs are really going to understand the financial sector.” But what about policy? These are big bureaucracies to run. Governing is difficult.
Historically, Washington and the establishment in industry usually know the winner of the presidential race pretty well. We know their philosophy, we know their close aides, we know what their agenda is going to be. So yes, this is 180 degrees from that scenario. Of the 20 people President-elect Trump has put forward, I may know two. This is totally run out of New York, not Washington. That is different for us all, as well. The one thing I would say about the appointments so far, most of these people come from job-creating industries. Most of his nominees have been in the private sector and understand what it means to meet payroll. They’re not academics, they’re not philosophers, they’re not from think tanks. I do believe this, though. This president has a very close inner circle. I think this president is going to control things more so than a lot of other people may have in the past. Although he says he’ll be a CEO-type president. I hope he relies on [House Speaker] Paul Ryan, I hope he relies on [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell. These people have been working on various plans from health care to tax reform to financial regulatory reform for most of the last seven years. So most of the plans are ready to go. I hope Trump doesn’t come in here and try to change all these plans. I hope he does act like more of a CEO than hands-on.
You’re a big fan of Paul Ryan.
I am. He is one of the only, if not the only member of Congress, to whom I would say, “Paul, whatever you decide on any issue, I would support.” Because I’ve known Paul since he came to Congress and before he came to Congress. He put his head down. He’s a very studious individual, became very substantive. He’s not a political hack. And sometimes we were mad at him for not doing the political end of things, like raising money for the party or raising money for himself and helping out. He had more fun studying that anything else. So he would sit down with members of Congress and even staffers to pick their brains about the tax code, about health care. Fun to Paul Ryan is holding meetings at union halls. That’s what he likes to do on weekends, besides hunting and fishing, pulling for the Green Bay Packers. He’s just a very studious individual.
You spent some time in Congress.
Yes, as a staffer. Don’t insult me by saying I was a member.
How is it different on Capitol Hill now?
It’s night and day different. Cable news has changed everything.
How did you get interested in politics?
I think when you’re from Louisiana, you’re born with it. It was part of our everyday life. We all knew our mayor, we all knew our governor.
Was it a mix of Democrats and Republicans?
It was all Democrats.
So why did you become a Republican?
Jimmy Carter is the simple answer. I hate to say that it was a negative. But I saw Jimmy Carter. I didn’t like where the country was going, and this guy came along named Ronald Reagan. I saw my mother refinance her house with a 13% mortgage rate and go and celebrate it by buying a cake at Piggly Wiggly because we could now afford it. Ronald Reagan had the vision that we could have less government not more. We should have more entrepreneurs, not less. Let the small business person get out there and take a risk. Let the government get out of the way. That’s been my core philosophy. So my entire family – every single one of them historically were Democrats. In the decades since then nearly everyone has turned to the Republican Party, because the Democratic Party went left on them.
You’re married to a Democrat. Some people might say that that sets a good example, because it shows an openness to a different philosophy.
That's a stretch. We’re not extremists. I wouldn’t call myself a Ted Cruz Republican. She is not a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. But it was very interesting at my house on election night.
Does it help you to be married to somebody who comes from a different political perspective, to inform your own thinking?
You have to understand each person’s point of view. You don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to take it. But you should at least understand where they’re coming from.
Scott Fisher, Managing Director at Treliant Risk Advisors, asked me to ask you where you got your love of the Redskins.
(Richard laughs.) You mean the Cowboys.
He said the Redskins.
I hate to use the word the “hate.” That’s as far as I’m going to go…I think it’s the obligation of every American to be a fan of America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Tell me about your parents.
My mother worked as a nurse in the emergency room for 31 years and my father was a flight instructor, teaching people how to fly. So I grew up in a single wide trailer on the grounds of an airport next to the prison farm. I loved every minute of it. I didn’t know we didn’t have it nice. I thought everyone lived that way -- having prisoners as your friends, playing basketball with prisoners, and flying every day.
Have your politics changed over the years?
I don’t think so. I love people who take risks. My sister was an air traffic controller who got fired by Reagan. She remains the only Democrat in the family. She opened up her own small business – exterior/interior gardening. She’s been running it for 30 years. She says every single day is a struggle. It’s tough to be a small business person in this climate. Health care, minimum wage. So I’m very proud of her. She’s also one of my heroes in life.
So your politics haven’t changed at all.
Maybe my tactics have changed. Understanding the other side. I thought it was black and white, you’re either a Democrat or Republican. Maybe more of an appreciation of where the Democrats are coming from. I get it, I just don’t agree with it.
Do you have any advice for President-elect Trump and his government?
Compromise is not an ugly word. You don’t have to look at the other person as your enemy. You don’t have to tear someone else down to succeed. And you better have a thick skin in this town. This is politics. This is governing. It’s not easy. It’s hard. Someone might have a difference of opinion with you. So be it. You just move on…
Thank you, Richard.
You can follow Richard Hunt on Twitter at @cajunbanker and learn more at ConsumerBankers.com.
Ben White, native Washingtonian, cut his journalistic teeth in D.C., working for Washington Post icon David Broder before continuing his career at the Financial Times, the New York Times, and now POLITICO, where he writes the influential Morning Money column. Relying on Ben each morning as our first read on what is happening in politics and what matters, we caught up with him after an insightful public interview with CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow.
You grew up in Chevy Chase and live in the New York area. Do you miss Washington?
I miss D.C. a lot. It was an incredible place to grow up -- both to be steeped in politics in Washington but also to be connected to the town. My dad was a real estate development lawyer who could tell you about any building at any time. He worked in the [D.C.] city planning office and spent a lot of time on the formation of the government before going into private practice. I learned a lot about D.C. from him and grew to love it as a city both for the politics, which I loved, but also as a home town.
The city has changed a lot.
Going to church at Luther Place on Thomas Circle, it was pretty rough then. Going through the parking lot we walked over crack vials, and all that sort of stuff. And it's obviously been transformed into a very nice and gentrified area, like so many of the neighborhoods that were not as "happening" then. It's awesome to see.
Barron Trump may go to school here. He's 10 years old. You went to St. Alban's and Edmund Burke, another private school. Any thoughts?
Barron seems like someone who might end up at St. Alban's. It's a school for a lot of the elite politicians’ kids in Washington. I would see him more as a St. Alban's guy than let's say a Sidwell person.
Georgetown has been a little "out of the spotlight," in recent years, some say. But if Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner move here, that could change.
If they're there, they'll do a lot of entertaining, I would think. If you're in the inner circle, you'll want to be there. A lot of the leading media people will want to be there. So maybe the days of the Georgetown salon will come back.
Do you think Trump needs sort of a "softening" figure around him?
100%, yes. He absolutely does. There are a lot of people who are scared of Trump. He's not coming into office with a sky-high approval rating by any means. Ivanka and Jared are well known in New York for moving in social circles with a lot of people, and a lot of people know the Trumps' softer side and know the family side of Trump through Ivanka and Jared. They have a lot of social connections. And people like her. She's very popular.
The Obamas were part of a blossoming of restaurant culture in Washington. Do you think the Trump administration is going to be better for steak houses?
I would imagine this administration will be very good for steak houses. And cigar sales. There will be a throwback feel to it. He's a guy who likes to eat steak.
Have you been to the Trump Hotel?
It's beautiful. I was kind of taken aback by how pretty it is. I've gotten a lot of pushback on Facebook for saying that.
It's not like he's not made nice hotels before. He's obviously very proud of that one. There will be people who stay there because Trump likes it when people stay there. The currying favor aspect...diplomats and others…that gives some people pause. I don't think he really cares. He's made it pretty clear that he doesn't.
Culturally, are we going back to the 80s?
Trump's hayday was the 80s. That's when he became "Donald Trump." So I think from a style perspective, there will be some of that, and from a policy perspective, he wants to do what Reagan did, which was slash tax rates, create faster economic growth and get people out there spending more money. And that's what happened in the 80s. Of course, we had a hangover -- a recession, a financial crisis. There are costs to be paid when you govern in that way and create big debts and deficits. But those come later and you do tend to get boom years in the intervening time.
When did you know you wanted to be a journalist?
Probably as soon as I was in elementary school. I loved writing, I always loved talking about politics and reading the Washington Post. I worked for David Broder at the The Post and then the Financial Times, The New York Times, and then Politico.
Politics are in your blood.
Yes. I wound up deciding between being a minister and being a journalist. I even did a little divinity school before going full-time into journalism. We have a priest in the family -- my brother is a Catholic priest.
Who are your heroes?
Broder is definitely one. Dietrich Bonhoeffer has always been a personal hero of mine.
Remind us who that is.
He was a German theologian who was part of the resistance in Nazi Germany. I've always been influenced by his example. The other ones would be obvious: Jackie Robinson. I'm a big sports guy. Martin Luther King, Jr., leaders of the Civil Rights era.
Speaking of that, what's your advice for Donald Trump regarding the Tweeting and attacking people? What's the danger there?
I think the danger is that he often punches down at people who will have a hard time fighting back and will come in for a lot of abuse if he criticizes them on Twitter. I don't think he should do that. I also think he should ease up on the constant attacking of the press. I understand that he feels that he wasn't covered fairly during the campaign and that all the stories about him were negative. But his modus operandi now is to turn on the TV and if he sees anybody criticize him, to immediately lash out at them as biased and unfair. He does it to the New York Times, he does it to NBC, etc.
Should they just develop a thicker skin?
I’m worried that he is poisoning people's minds against good, factual journalism. We can't operate as a country if we don't operate from a common set of facts that are accepted as truth. We can't traffic in conspiracy theories all the time. The relentless attacking on a free and fair press is dangerous.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
You can't have a democracy without a free press. And what Trump is doing right now is trying to intimidate the press into not being critical of him. This gets into the whole question about cable TV news and the extent to which it is sort of dependent on "all Trump all the time" coverage. That's definitely good for revenue, but to do that you need access to Trump people and you need them on your air. And they can definitely threaten to deny that presence and that access if they don't like the coverage. That's a bad situation to be in.
Thank you, Ben. We hope to see you (and your mom!) in Washington again soon...