The Biden presidency begins
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20 in front of the U.S. Capitol. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
On a windy, blue-sky day in Washington, a new U.S. president took office. My Washington Post colleagues were there to give you a front-row seat to the final stage of what has been one of the more turbulent transfers of power in U.S. history…
“Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, pledging to unite the country and confront an array of convulsing challenges dividing a fractured nation,” wrote my colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa and Annie Linskey.
“‘This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge,’ Biden said in an inaugural address that called on the nation to end its “uncivil war” and embrace a united front amid a series of daunting problems. ‘Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.’
“With his hand on his family Bible, Biden recited the oath taken by his predecessors, the pinnacle of a career in public leadership that began a half century ago.
“Moments before, Kamala D. Harris took her oath of office, making her the country’s first female vice president, and also the first Black American and first with Indian heritage to hold the second highest office in the land. She had placed her hand on twin Bibles, one from a family friend and the second belonging to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American justice of the Supreme Court.”
(Here is the full text of Biden’s inaugural address.)
“Harris, 56, has yet to offer any grand vision of what kind of vice president she hopes to be, although few vice presidents have by Inauguration Day,” wrote my colleague Chelsea Janes.
“In her dozen or so appearances since the ticket declared victory, Harris has praised Biden, lauded his nominees, assured the American people that change is coming and outlined the urgent crises facing the country. Her social media feed, never exactly uninhibited, is now an even more carefully curated thread of lines from speeches and supportive platitudes. She has been a dutiful partner, making little news and no public waves.
“People familiar with her role in the transition say that loyalty is Harris’s primary goal. Biden has also made clear in multiple interviews since the election that he wants to empower Harris to take the lead on certain issues when his plate is full. Harris, meanwhile, has avoided outlining any priorities for herself.
“The most consistent through line of her political career has been a commitment to opening the doors of American leadership to more people like her.”
Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump “departed Washington Wednesday morning with a melancholy farewell — and a vow to return to the political arena — although he still did not directly acknowledge that voters had turned him out,” wrote my colleagues Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker.
“Trump had imagined a showy military send-off that more resembled authoritarian pageantry than the placid rituals of American electoral democracy, but those dreams were dashed as only a modest crowd of a few hundred aides and other loyalists showed up at Joint Base Andrews to see him off.
“As Trump concluded his remarks, he vowed, ‘We will be back in some form,’ and he told his supporters, ‘Have a good life.’”
(In a final act, Trump granted clemency to 143 people, including a number of political allies and well-connected celebrities. Critics argued that, for a president who vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption, his pardons illustrated how much a swamp creature Trump was.)
My colleague Adam Taylor tracked the international reaction to Biden’s inauguration: “Some leaders and officials have reached out to embrace the incoming Biden administration, offering congratulations and speaking of their hopes for cooperation, especially on issues that fell by the wayside under Trump, such as climate change. Most took a somewhat reserved tone, but a few, including some U.S. rivals, were more vociferous.
“’Good Riddance, Donald Trump!’ China’s state news agency Xinhua wrote on Twitter.
“Others echoed widespread alarm and fears for U.S. democracy that spread in the wake of the violence at the Capitol earlier this month. ‘Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world’s most powerful democracy,’ Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Wednesday.”
Not long after his oath ceremony, Biden got straight to work. He signed “a blizzard of executive orders Wednesday that will lay out his coronavirus, immigration and climate policies — launching a 10-day cascade of administrative actions aimed at reversing the policies of his Republican predecessor,” reported my colleague Seung Min Kim.
“The most pressing of his priorities will be measures to combat the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic. Biden plans to sign executive actions that will require masks on all federal grounds and ask agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and on federal student loan payments.
“He will urge Americans to don face coverings for 100 days while reviving a global health unit in the National Security Council — allowed to go dormant during the Trump administration — to oversee pandemic preparedness and response. Biden will also begin to reverse steps taken by former president Donald Trump to withdraw from the World Health Organization by dispatching Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, to speak at the international group’s executive board meeting on Thursday.”