WASHINGTON – Working-class voters are credited with delivering Donald Trump his victory, but it was a high-heel-and-tuxedo crowd featuring Republican donors and a smattering of celebrities led by Caitlyn Jenner who celebrated the 45th president at the Liberty Ball in the Washington Convention Center on Friday night.
The crowd was decidedly older than the ones that boogied at Barack Obama’s first inaugural balls navigated a maze of barriers and chain-link fences into the convention center. It was just a few short blocks from where protesters vandalized businesses and set fires in the street earlier in the day.
They entered a 150,000-square-foot meeting space to dine on tortellini, cheese, fruit, and red, white and blue cupcakes. The tiny paper plates and plasticware brought a blue-collar feel to the black-tie affair.
Dozens of people stood in line to have their photos taken in front of a presidential hedge and Oval Office backgrounds. Two white stages reaching the ceiling were situated at one end of the room in front of a blue carpet.
Every guest was greeted with four $5 drink tickets, all of which were needed for a single glass of champagne.
Presentation of colors by a military brass band began at 7:42 p.m., followed by the national anthem.
Though the event – on and offstage – was thin on Hollywood names, there were some notables in the crowd that attendees tried to get selfies with.
Jenner hung out in the back wearing a long, blue one-shoulder dress, surrounded by selfie seekers; Rex Ryan, the recently fired Buffalo Bills head coach, enjoyed cocktails in the VIP area with Mark Sanchez and Nick Mangold, players from his days with the New York Jets; nearby Department of Energy nominee Rick Perry enjoyed meaty appetizers.
It remained mostly a cocktail party with background music as people waited for the real star.
And when he arrived, he didn’t stay long.
Trump and the first lady were announced after 9 p.m. during the welcome speeches. The crowd cheered and held up their cellphones to video chat with friends and family.
“We began this journey and they said we – we and me – we didn’t have a chance,” Trump told the crowd. “But we knew we were going to win, and we won. And today we had a great day. People that weren’t so nice to me were saying that we did a really good job today. They hated to do it but they did it, and I respect that.”
Then Trump put down his mic and the first couple began awkwardly stepped side-to-side to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
When they left, so did a lot of the party.
The president and the first lady shared their first dance well after 9 p.m. at the Liberty Ball. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, as well as the couples’ children joined them on the stage.
Minutes later, they all repeated the ritual at the Freedom Ball, concluding with Trump leading the crowd in a chant of “U.S.A!”
There, Trump also asked the crowd whether he should “keep the Twitter going?”
The crowd roared in apparent approval.
Trump said his all-hours tweeting to his more than 20 million followers is “a way of bypassing dishonest media.”
That first dance is the most-watched moment of most inaugural balls, with extra emphasis on the first lady’s choice of frock (it usually ends up in the National Museum of American History). Melania Trump wore a strapless, column white Hervé Pierre dress, with a white ruffle cascading down the front.
Eager to demonstrate his readiness to take actions, Trump went directly to the Oval Office Friday night, before the inaugural balls, and signed his first executive order as president — on “Obamacare.”
The order notes that Trump intends to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law. But in the meantime, it allows the Health and Human Services Department or other federal agencies to delay implementing any piece of the law that might impose a “fiscal burden” on states, health care providers, families or individuals.
It may take weeks or months to discern the full impact of Trump’s directive on “Obamacare.” Departments like Health and Human Services and Treasury will have to issue policies that embody the new president’s wishes.
Trump made clear he is not unilaterally suspending the Affordable Care Act. It remains on the books, and his directive instructs agencies to act within “the maximum extent permitted by law.”
Changing the underlying law would require Congress to act, but the Trump administration can rewrite regulations carrying out the legislation. New regulations cannot be issued overnight, but would have to follow a legally established process that requires public notice and an opportunity for interested parties to comment on the administration’s changes.
– With files from The Associated Press