For President Trump, the inauguration should have been his Super Bowl – the kind of spectacle everybody talks about at work all day Monday and beyond.
But for once Trump, the self-styled showman who upended media and politics to become chief executive, got upstaged. The Women's March on Saturday, a day after the inauguration, gave the world a far bigger and better show.
The event packed all the elements of a yuge spectacular: epic scale (a cast of hundreds of thousands spread across the globe); family drama (emotional moments shared by multiple generations); humor (creative signs and chants, the cleverest of which can't be repeated here); colorful costumes (most prominently those pink hats); celebrities (Scarlett Johansson, among many others); songs (Alicia Keys sang “Girl on Fire”); and high stakes (the future of women's rights).
It marked a defiant, raucous and joyful display of force by masses angry about Trump's taped vulgar comments declaring his carte blanche to accost women and fearful of life under his leadership.
As comedian Aziz Ansari put it on "Saturday Night Live," a program Trump went from hosting to regularly decrying: “Yesterday, Trump was inaugurated. Today, an entire gender protested against him. Wow."
The New York Times reported three times as many people participated in the main march in Washington than attended Trump's inauguration. The rookie president, though, wasn't only behind in the in-person audience category. In another sense, the marchers, all performers of a sort for the day, outnumbered him on the world stage.
That seemed to unnerve the now officially powerful Trump, who vastly exaggerated inauguration attendance Saturday and scapegoated journalists for using photographic evidence to show Obama attracted a far larger crowd to the National Mall eight years ago. Meanwhile, Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, made the demonstrably erroneous claim that his boss commanded the "largest audience ever to witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe."
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that his inauguration ratings were bigger than President Obama’s 2013 numbers (true, though Trump’s viewership tally landed well below that of Obama’s history-making 2009 festivities). The new president said he watched march coverage and suggested something that he could not possibly know: that the protesters hadn’t cast ballots: “Why didn't these people vote?”
He later posted a tweet that most would recognize as presidential: “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”
Still, the overall tone Trump set in his first weekend as star of the biggest reality show of them all echoed his attention-at-all-costs campaigning style.
The point of Trump's sore-winner act remains unclear. The inauguration, despite a lack of major performers (Toby Keith, Sam Moore and the Rockettes were among the bigger names), offered some memorable moments.
The limited dancing prowess Trump exhibited while shuffling to "My Way" with his wife, Melania, actually helped humanize him. The stylish new first lady showed signs of becoming a fashion leader (unlike his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, whose Paddington Bear-like outfit inspired mocking memes).
Some folks, on both sides of the political aisle, likely found something comforting and elegant in the pageantry and tradition surrounding the peaceful transfer of power, even amid Trump's speech, with its jarring "American carnage" declaration.
His strong words, like his attempts to steal back the show from the marchers (and just perhaps deflect attention from the major challenges facing his administration), defy presidential precedent.
But it's not unprecedented behavior for Trump.
After Arnold Schwarzenegger debuted Jan. 2 as the new ringmaster of "Celebrity Apprentice," then-President-elect Trump taunted his successor via Twitter.
"Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT," read the tweet, written in the third-person with Trump referring to himself by his initials.
This weekend, President Donald J. Trump got swamped, if not in the ratings, then in the race for notice that appears to drive him. The throngs from around the world who marched grabbed the spotlight and beat him at his own game.