President Biden’s Inauguration: Day One for Forty Six
President Biden’s Inaugural Address, the flurry of executive orders, and two takeaways, neither really political but practical observations.
The first day of the President Biden administration had two distinct parts to it.
The first was the ruffles and flourishes of our civic ceremonies. The 59th Presidential Inauguration was a decidedly pared-down affair, both from the social distancing and the increased security following the madness of the January 6th riots. President Biden was sworn in and gave a speech that was widely praised and noted for its wide-ranging theme of unity. Frankly, it would be hard for anyone to find much objectionable in the speech at all, and being the old pro he is President Biden delivered it well.
The usual parade was cut down to a short walk to the White House following the usual presentation of gifts by Congress in the Rotunda and a trip to Arlington with the assembled group of former presidents and first ladies. That is a scene I hope is repeated in future inauguration, as the ex-presidents club — the most exclusive club in all the world — joined the new Commander in Chief on America’s most hallowed ground to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. President Trump excluded, of course, having ducked out to Florida earlier in the day, and an absent and ailing Jimmy and Roselyn Carter.
Once in the White House, the second part of the day kicked into high gear. CNN has a handy chart of the 15 executive orders and 2 proclamations signed by President Biden. New Press Secretary Jen Psaki spent time in the Brady Briefing Room taking questions from the assembled White House Press Corps to round out the business part of the day before the evening’s entertainment festivities got rolling.
As a proud American I always enjoy things like inauguration day regardless of the politics and who is involved. The optic of the “Field of Flags” over the covered reflecting pool was an awesome sight, one that I hope they reuse at future moments of national ceremony. The optics of kitted out military cordoning off most of Washington DC was the opposite sight, a sad reminder that the twin terrors of our times — pandemic and misbehaving citizens — necessitated desperate measures in these desperate times. But still the Republic endures and managed most of its usual pomp and circumstances, considering.
There are two primary thoughts I leave this day of change with, neither really political but practical observations.
The first is on the man himself. Many commentators took a line on Joe Biden as someone who has wanted to be president for decades and finally achieved that goal. True enough, as this was his third attempt at gaining the White House, over a period of 34 years since his first declaration of intent in 1987. But I think that unfairly leaves out one of the most important details of now-President Biden’s story. He had to have given up that dream, not only because as Vice President to Barack Obama he was all but told not to run in 2016, but also age and circumstance. Biden himself has openly spoken of how he thought he would be attending the inauguration of not himself, but of his son Beau Biden to high office. His son’s death at a young age from brain cancer changed that dream, and Joe Biden, the man who had already endured personal tragedy, now had another inflection point to his story. It’s all rather improbable, when you think about it: a twice-failed candidate, and one who was dead in the water in this latest primary before one of the all-time political comebacks culminated in his rise to the highest office in the land at the oldest age anyone ever has. Yet here he is. I suspect I will find little policy-wise to agree with the new president on, but it is undeniable that the rise of Joe from Scranton to Senator Amtrak to President Biden is a uniquely American story.
The second observation was the difference in the White House. The talking heads will babble on about the change in tone from adversarial Trump years from the now-friendly confines of the Brady Briefing Room, but I’m talking about something far more meaningful. The contrast in administration — not the Biden administration but the unseen grinding work of handling the levers of governmental power — from the previous was stark. The flurry of executive orders, and a laid-out agenda for the next few days of when what was going to be signed, signaled one thing very clearly. This administration, staffed up with plenty of Obama and Clinton-era veterans, knows how to wield power and aren’t going to waste a second in doing so. The Trump administration throughout was always chronically understaffed and frankly incompetent if not uncaring at how most of the government worked. President Trump’s supporters will point to distrust and his outsider status, but that is rather the point: if you are going to do things your own way, it better work or else the criticism you didn’t know what you were doing is going to be apparent to everyone. The seasoned Biden team is moving fast, know what they want, and know how to get it. If the Republican party plans on fulfilling their role as the right honorable opposition, they best get their ducks in a row and back to the business of governance as opposed to their previous 4 years of being bit players in the President Trump Show.
At any rate, day one is in the books. For supporters of President Biden and his political opponents alike there will be no easing into things. The hard work of achieving the administration’s goals or opposing them if you are of the Republican persuasion, now begins in earnest for both groups.
President Biden will have my prayers, as I have prayed for every president of my lifetime. I wish him and his family well and good health in the hardest job in America. When I think he is in the right I will support him. When I think he is in the wrong I will oppose him. In both I will be as honest as I can not only with you, the readers, but especially myself as to why. To take a phrase from President Biden’s speech today:
The battle is perennial.
Victory is never assured.
Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.
In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.
And, we can do so now.
Very well said, Mr. President. A fine sentiment. Now go live up to it and lead the nation in doing so. For all our sakes.
Originally published at https://ordinary-times.com on January 21, 2021.