Mesabi Daily News: RANGERS SEE TRUMP TAKE POWER
VIRGINIA — President Donald Trump took the oath of office Friday in Washington, with a group of Iron Rangers not far in the distance.
Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe Jr., City Councilor Nevada Littlewolf, Fire Chief Allen Lewis and William Maki of Eveleth were in attendance Friday as guests of the Minnesota Congressional delegation. Their VIP seats had them close to the stage, about three rows back, as the 45th president officially took power.
“It was phenomenal, an experience of a lifetime,” Cuffe said in a phone interview. “I’ve been trying to get inauguration tickets since way back when [Bill] Clinton was elected, but was never able to.”
U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan provided the tickets, where a crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered near the U.S. Capitol.
Cuffe said they had to navigate some of the protests heading back to the hotel, but otherwise the historic inauguration was uneventful.
“It made me very, very proud to be American and know we live in a country where a peaceful transition of power can occur in a matter of minutes,” Lewis said. “That means something to you when you’ve seen other countries where that doesn’t occur.”
Trump’s speech Friday focused primarily on the middle class voters he appealed to on the way to a November election win over Hillary Clinton.
Cuffe was particularly struck by the president’s call for infrastructure investment, comparing it broadly to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that helped rebuild after the Great Depression. He also praised Trump’s governance on changing the political system and giving some power back to the voters.
“Government can’t control what people do, and I like that model,” he said. “Take care of your citizens first and don’t be spending all your revenue and wealth on other countries, which is fine if they need help.”
Lewis called the event inspiring, a chance to see history in the making.
“It was a very, very moving ceremony,” he said. “An absolute honor to be here and represent the city of Virginia and Virginia Fire Department.”
The inauguration was the main event of the weekend for the Iron Rangers, but time allotted for sight-seeing trips, too.
They visited the offices and Franken, Klobuchar and Nolan, and also Arlington National Cemetery. Cuffe’s previous trips to Washington consisted of all the monuments, but not the cemetery.
Their visit came right at the changing of the guard ceremony, and right before a private ceremony where Trump placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“It was very somber, a great opportunity,” Cuffe added.
Thursday night the Range delegation made it to the National Mall for a pre-inauguration rally that featured an appearance by Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
As for the congressional delegation, Franken, Klobuchar and Nolan all attended the inauguration, which was protested by about 50 members of Congress.
Klobuchar tweeted a photo of herself from a near stageside with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Arizona Sen. John McCain. She later joined a congressional lunch at the Capitol with President Trump.
Franken had made several headlines with a tough interview of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, and said through a statement Friday that the peaceful transition and inauguration was one of the “cornerstones of our democracy” and “one of our nation’s longest and most important traditions.”
“For over 200 years, from George Washington to Barack Obama, presidents have voluntarily passed the power of their office on to their successors,” Franken said. “That’s bigger than any one person and it’s something to be proud of.”
Nolan took a seat closer to the front this year, after sitting with House classmates in 2012. This year he chose to sit with his class from the 1970s. While critical of Trump in some respects, Nolan has closely aligned himself with the president in others, including supporting “Buy America” clauses on infrastructure bills that would support the Range’s steel industry.
“I’ll be the first to speak up and oppose him and let him know where I stand, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as we start this journey — on infrastructure, trade and budget,” Nolan told Forum News Service last week.