Normalcy has been restored in America, or so believe the supporters of Joseph Robinette Biden or Joe Biden, the 78-year old political veteran who was sworn in as the 46th, and oldest, president on Wednesday (US ET). Chief Justice of the US John Roberts administered the oath of office to Biden in a restrained and sanitised setting on the steps of Capitol where two weeks ago, a mob had run amuck.
Earlier, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the Supreme Court bench, had administered the oath to Kamala Harris, 56, the country’s first woman vice president and the first of black and Indian heritage — the last identity out of which she had been uncomfortable about and which she had reminded the Indian section of the American electorate not before the election campaign.
The events drew the curtain on four years of a turbulent presidency of Donald Trump, whose breaking of norms climaxed with his characteristic boycott of the inauguration.
Some four hours before Biden took the oath of office in a solemn ceremony, given the Covid-19 situation and the security threat from mobs that either could not come to terms with Trump’s exit or from Antifa that might like to defame the last president, Trump bid adieu to the White House, with a few aides and staff seeing him and the former first lady Melania Trump off as they boarded Marine One helicopter to the nearby Andrews Air Force Base.
There, Trump addressed a small band of passionate supporters who chanted “we love you,” telling them, to the chagrin of those celebrating the occupation of the most powerful office in the world by leftists, “We will be back in some form.”
The ex-president is said to be considering forming a new political outfit called the Patriot Party.
Republicans Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy joined Biden and Kamala Harris, and their spouses, for a mass at the church across from the White House, shortly thereafter. Trump’s vice-president Pence, who did not go for the Trump farewell either, attended the presidential inauguration as did past presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton and their spouses. Jimmy Carter, who is 96 and in Covid isolation, could not attend the ceremony. Three senior Supreme Court judges did not attend because of Covid concerns, but six others did.
Pence welcomed and cheered Harris and left a welcome letter for his successor. Several other GOP legislators heard Biden make the inaugural speech that contained an expected call for unity, saying, “The American story does not depend on any one of us but on all of us.”
Joe Biden raised the issues of “political extremism, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism” in the US. He said unity alone could address these issues. “Let’s start again… politics should not be a raging fire,” he said.
“The answer is not to retreat inwards,” Biden seemed to be telling Trump supporters to whom to said further, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red versus blue, rural versus urban… we must open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.” Biden conspicuously avoided mentioning Trump.
Earlier, in brief remarks at Andrews Air Force base before he emplaned for Florida, Trump said he wished the new administration great luck and great success without mentioning his successor by name or congratulating him. He talked up his family and its great sacrifices initially as his sons held back tears and then recalled briefly his “greatest hits” of achievements. “Have a good life; we will see you soon,” he concluded.
The 45th president is reported to have left a note for his successor on the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, as is the tradition, but its content was not released.
Joe Biden undoes Donald Trump legacy
Soon after taking the oath of office, Biden was reported to be rolling back a posse of policies of his predecessor. Biden’s first-day executive orders and legislative proposals include rejoining the global climate (Paris) accord and the China-friendly World Health Organisation, legitimising infiltration and initiating steps to control the coronavirus pandemic with mask mandates and 100 million vaccinations in 100 days.
Besides the full-scale assault on his predecessor’s legacy Wednesday, Biden is expected to bolster the sluggish economic recovery and restore federal efforts aimed at promoting diversity.
Biden signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon. Among the steps the president took was an order to end Trump’s travel ban on predominantly Muslim and African countries.
The left intelligentsia has viewed these policies of Trump as specific, egregious abuses during the last four tumultuous years. Biden’s top advisers say he had to “reverse the gravest damages” done to the country by Trump.
With a determination to quickly erase much of the Trump agenda, Biden’s actions fell within four broad categories that his aides described as “converging crises” that he inherited at noon on Wednesday — the pandemic, economic struggles, immigration and diversity issues, and the environment and climate change.
In some cases, Biden’s actions unilaterally and immediately reverse policies and procedures that Trump had put in place. In others, limits on his authority warrant the president to direct others in the administration to act or even to begin a possibly long process to shift the federal government in a new direction.
“A new day,” Jeff Zients, coordinator of Biden’s coronavirus response, said Tuesday. “A new, different approach to managing the country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.”
One of Biden’s first acts was to sign an executive order making Zients the government’s official COVID-19 response coordinator, reporting to the president. The order restored the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council, a group that Trump had disbanded.