On Wednesday, Donald Trump wanted a hero's sendoff, and the ceremony planned for him outside Washington at the Air Force Base looked just like one. But there's one thing missing: the huge crowd that he loves.
Trump had to hurry to make his way out of the White House to Florida with less than four hours remaining before Joe Biden took over, before losing the trappings of the presidency.
But it was 8:18 a.m. after that. Departing from the South Lawn on Marine One, he landed next to the gleaming presidential Boeing 747-Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews.
A band from the Air Force played "Hail to the Chief." And a 21-gun salute was fired by black army field guns.
But the one thing Trump loves most of all for all the military precision is enormous, adoring crowds chanting "We love Trump!"—was absent.
In the freezing wind, standing in a fenced-off area in front of the stage, about 500 fans turned out. Half of the section remained vacant glaringly.
Trump said, "We have the greatest country in the world," in a brief speech that sounded a lot like his campaign addresses, except that it was a farewell now.
"Being your president was my greatest honor and privilege," he said. "Have a nice life."
The occasion may have resembled something celebrating a leader at the height of his powers, not a vanquished one-term president with the unusual distinction of facing an impeachment trial after he's gone, ignoring the small crowd.
But looking closer, with the message Trump, who makes a point of insulting "losers," wanted to convey, not anything quite clicked.
The awkwardness of meeting at a windswept foundation at breakfast time in the Washington suburbs was the first hint.
There was no choice for Trump, not if he wanted all the presidential toys: the clock ran down to the moment when he would have to give them up.
So he needed every minute, literally, to make it to Florida in Air Force One and still use the presidential motorcade to enter his Palm Beach golf club residence before the clock reached 12.