231 HOURS

1. It’s Wednesday, January 11, 2017. It’s the birthday of Alexander Hamilton and Clarence Clemons.

2. Because I’m a journalism professor, I feel compelled to say this about the latest Trump development:

We don’t know the truth. So it is not ethical to jump to a conclusion. Even the intelligence chiefs who told Trump and President Obama about the claims aren’t certain they’re true.

Buzzfeed is well within its journalistic privilege to publish what it says is the report given by the intelligence community. If it is.  As a CNN alumnus, I am inclined to believe its reporting on this. 

So I’ll leave the elimination jokes – funny as some of them are – to others.

Here’s what I think is really important to keep in mind:

— Trump’s initial response to this matter – an all-caps tweet decrying fake news and a witch hunt – is idiotic.

Either he doesn’t understand the gravity of what he and his campaign are being accused of, or he understands it and thinks he can whistle past the graveyard with the same strategy that got him elected.

Not this time.

Unless he makes a serious refutation of the reports, or a serious admission to inappropriate behavior, he will not be to reassure the rest of the world that the leader of the United States isn’t a WikiLeaks revelation away from humiliation.

The people in the Baltics and in Ukraine need to know that Putin can’t blackmail Trump – this isn’t a joke to them.

— Trump’s first opportunity to refute these stories comes at tomorrow’s scheduled news conference.

He has to take that seriously; he can’t talk about dishonest media and witch hunts and fake news. He has to address the facts.

I’m not betting he will.

  There will be some who believe the intelligence community is getting back at Trump for his recent criticism of their belief that the Russians hacked into our election.

But revealing this information doesn’t make these people look good or heroic. It makes them look bad.

It is information they should have known well before the American people voted on Nov. 8.

And it is information – this is for you, FBI Director James Comey – that far overshadows anything that might have been in a Hillary Clinton e-mail that might have been on Anthony Weiner’s old laptop.

The inability to know precisely whether these allegations are true or not is a monumental failure of organizations that are supposed to protect Americans. If the report on BuzzFeed is accurate, the Russians have been cozying up to Trump and his people for years.

Either they did or they didn’t. Why don’t we know for sure?

And because we don’t, a lot of Americans will question the legitimacy of the man taking the oath of office on Jan. 20.

3. There’s a lot to say about President Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago, and others will say it and say it well.

Here’s what important to remember:

If you watched the speech, either on TV or at McCormick Place, you watched a master of American political oratory. You watched a man whose eloquence shakes a room, who conveys confidence and trust and compassion and strength without screaming or resorting to barbs.

The speech was delivered just after 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Jan. 10.

There will be a speech delivered 231 hours later, just after noon EST on Jan. 20. It will not be given by Barack Obama.

It will be given by Trump, who will have taken the oath of office moments before.

What kind of inauguration speech will this guy give?

Despite its inevitability, it’s hard to imagine.

Will he deliver something carefully written by his people, crafted to address the ideas that brought him to this point?

Is there any chance in the world that it will be conciliatory? Or will it just be another shoutout to the voters who got him there – knowing there are 2,849,974 more who voted for someone else?

Can you imagine him tearing up at the thought of his wife, his third one? Do you imagine him signaling any parental emotion for his daughters and sons?

Or will he wing it, like his victory speech in New York in the early hours of Nov. 9? Will it ramble through incomplete sentences and unfinished thoughts? Will it be a mess? Will it insult certain people?

Will Lincoln and FDR and JFK turn over in their graves hearing it?

Last night, you saw a master of oratory. You saw someone trying to shape a future that he’ll no longer control nearly as much. You saw him try, one more freakin’ time, to reach out to people who don’t agree with him – as futile as that has been, for reasons he described too well.

The difference between 9 p.m. on Jan. 10 and noon on Jan. 20 will be stark. It will symbolize how much our world and especially our nation are about to change.

It will be quite a 231 hours.

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