It was as much a sermon as a political speech, more an exercise in healing than the recitation of an agenda.When Joe Biden urged America to "stop t
It was as much a sermon as a political speech, more an exercise in healing than the recitation of an agenda.
When Joe Biden urged America to “stop the shouting, lower the temperature,” the new president was returning to the raison d’etre of his candidacy, that he would defuse the animosity that has gripped Washington for decades and especially the last four years. The most succinct sound bite: “We must end this uncivil war.”
Again and again, the 46th president struck variations on that note, hearkening back to a time when party leaders fought by day and shared a drink by night.
“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,
” he said.
And when Biden, quoting Lincoln, said he would put his whole “soul” into the effort, he was–as the nation’s second Catholic president, six decades after JFK–using a term that has deep resonance in all the Masses he has attended.
Biden sent a message to the media as well, calling for a rejection of the culture in which “facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.” That might also be seen as a shot at the ex-president who blew off the inauguration, but there was more. Biden spoke of “lies told for power and profit,” and appealed for understanding people who “don’t get their news from the same sources you do.”
And he would have been derelict in his duty had he not highlighted Kamala Harris’ swearing-in as our first female vice president.
AN EMOTIONAL JOE BIDEN TRIES TO PUT THE TRUMP SHOW BEHIND HIM
Some portions of the speech reflected the extraordinary circumstances of his ascension, such as everyone wearing masks and Biden asking for a silent prayer for the 400,000 victims of the coronavirus.And the ceremony unfolded just two weeks after, in the same spot on the Capitol’s West Front, where hundreds of rioters stormed the building in an attack that left five people dead. Thus we had the new president vowing to defeat “political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism.”
The day was choreographed with gestures of bipartisanship, such as Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy joining the Bidens and Nancy Pelosi for an early morning Mass.
That was perhaps intended to compensate for the decision by former President Donald Trump to skip the ceremony and hold his own farewell at Joint Base Andrews before flying to Florida. Trump didn’t mention Biden’s name, though he wished the new administration well, and asked the televised audience to “remember us” when things improve, suggesting he had laid the groundwork. And there was this: “We will be back in some form.”
He’ll certainly be back, in a manner of speaking, when the Senate begins its impeachment trial, and undoubtedly in some form after that.
As a measure of the media’s continuing Trump addiction, some liberal websites yesterday morning–on the day Biden was being sworn in–led with Trump stories.
Salon: “Stop Being Afraid of Donald Trump.”
Slate: “Goodbye, Donald Trump.” (And in a small box in the corner: “Joe Biden’s Chance at Greatness.”)
Huffington Post: “Trump Final Hours: Pardon Spree.”
Politico: “Like a Ghost in the White House: The Last Days of the Trump Presidency.”
Politico’s second story: “Trump Pardons Dozens, Including Steve Bannon.”
Politico’s third story: “He Was the Ringmaster in the Demise of his Own Circus.”
Then the site finally got around Biden’s slew of executive orders.
On the right, National Review’s lead story was “The Tragedy of Trump’s Presidency: So much good tenaciously done. So much good gratuitously undone.”
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There’s a tradition of softer-focus coverage of a new president on inauguration day, and there has been some outright gushing about Biden. That’s in part because plenty of journalists know him and like him, and many wanted him to win. It’s in part because of a sense of relief after the violence at the Capitol two weeks ago and months of debate over the unproven charges of election fraud, not to mention the pandemic.
But what has struck me is many pundits kicking Trump on his way out the door, even given the extraordinary circumstance of him skipping the inauguration and giving his own farewell speech a few hours earlier. CNN referred to the “pathetic, tiny little crowd” at Joint Base Andrews. We are seeing a journalistic celebration of Trump’s departure as much as Biden taking the oath.
Almost all presidents talk about unity; the real test comes with governing. The political polarization that has gripped this country, fueled in part by the media, didn’t start with President Trump and won’t end with President Biden. His challenge now is to make measurable progress toward the elusive goal he promised in the campaign: normalcy.