Dawn of new era as Biden takes over as Trump skips ceremony

Thursday, January 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Joe Biden takes oath as the 46th President of the US. Photo/PD/AFP

Washington, Wednesday

Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th US president, ending one of the most dramatic political transitions in American history.

“Democracy has prevailed,” he said after taking the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts.

Outgoing President Donald Trump, who has not formally conceded to Mr Biden, is not attending the ceremony.

The new president announced a raft of executive orders aimed at reversing Mr Trump’s key policies.

Vice-President-elect Harris was sworn in ahead of Mr Biden - becoming the first woman and the first black and Asian-American person elevated to serve in a role a heartbeat from the presidency.

The inauguration took place at the US Capitol. There was extra-tight security after the building was stormed by violent pro-Trump protesters in a deadly riot on 6 January.

Some 25,000 National Guards were protecting the inauguration ceremony, which missed the traditional hundreds of thousands of spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump left the White House for the last time as president shortly after 8am. He boarded a helicopter, flew to the nearby Andrews Air Force base, before flying to his home in Florida.

He is the first president not to attend his successor’s inauguration since 1869.

In his inaugural address, Mr Biden said it was a day of “history and hope”. “My whole soul is in putting America back together again,” he added.

Highlighting a message of unity after the turbulent years of the Trump presidency, he promised to be a leader “for all Americans” - including those who voted against him.

Among those who attended the ceremony were three of his predecessors: Barack Obama - under whom Mr Biden served for eight years as vice-president - Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

Outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence also attended. He skipped Mr Trump’s farewell military salute event at Andrews base.

The ceremony included musical performances by Lady Gaga - who sang the national anthem - as well as Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks.

An evening concert at the Lincoln Memorial in the city was hosted by Tom Hanks and include Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake, and Demi Lovato.

Earlier on Wednesday Mr Biden, 78, attended Mass at a cathedral in Washington - along with four Roman Catholic congressional leaders, both Democrats and Republicans.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle graced the inauguration of their friend. Photo/PD/AFP

In his address at Andrews Air Force base the outgoing president Trump highlighted what he regarded as the successes of his presidency. “What we’ve done has been amazing by any standard,” Mr Trump said.

The 74-year-old flew off to begin post-presidential life at his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Palm Beach.

In his last hours, Mr Trump granted clemency to more than 140 people, including his former adviser Steve Bannon, who had been facing fraud charges.

The political drama surrounding Mr Trump is far from over. The US Senate is expected to put him on trial soon, following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives for allegedly inciting the Capitol riot.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said the mob had been provoked by Mr Trump and fed lies.

Biden knows he has a hard job ahead of him. 

Inaugural address

In his inaugural address, he outlined the biggest challenges facing his presidency - a devastating pandemic, massive job losses, a threatened environment, calls for racial justice, and a resurgence in political extremism.

Biden will offer his laundry list of solutions soon enough, but in his first address as president he has offered one overarching prescription: unity.

“Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury,” he said. “This is our historic moment.”

The new US president took a moment to acknowledge the inauguration of Kamala Harris.

“Here we stand 108 years ago, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote.

“Today we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected vice-president - Kamala Harris.

“Don’t tell me things can’t change,” he said.

Biden has set out a flurry of executive orders. In a statement on Wednesday he said he would sign 15 orders after he is sworn in. They will:

  Reverse Mr Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate accord

  Revoke the presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists and Native American groups

  Revoke Trump policies on immigration enforcement and the emergency declaration that helped fund the construction of a Mexican border wall

  Bring about a mask and distancing mandate for federal employees and in federal buildings, and a new White House office on coronavirus

  End a travel ban on visitors from some, mainly Muslim, nations

  Other orders will cover race and gender equality, along with climate issues.

Mr Biden’s vice-president will swear in three new Democratic senators on Wednesday, leaving the upper chamber of Congress evenly split between the two main parties. This will allow the vice-president to act as a tie-breaker in key votes.

Mr Biden’s legislative ambitions could be tempered by the slender majorities he holds in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, Mr Biden delivered a speech in his home state of Delaware, telling reporters “these are dark times... but there’s always light”, before heading to Washington.

Kamala Harris was sworn in just before Joe Biden took the oath of office to become the 46th US president. 

Ms Harris, who is of Indian-Jamaican heritage, initially ran for the Democratic nomination. But Mr Biden won the race and chose Ms Harris as his running mate, describing her as “a fearless fighter for the little guy”.

Prior to taking the oath at the US Capitol, Ms Harris paid tribute to the women who she says came before her.

“I stand on their shoulders,” she said in a video.

Eugene Goodman, the Capitol police officer who was hailed as a hero for steering a pro-Trump mob away from Senate chambers during the January 6 riot, escorted Ms Harris at the inauguration.

But it was not all swearing in Lady Gaga moved the crowd with her vocals and dressing. By her standards, it was a relatively low-key performance in Washington.

Power of vocals

There were no dancers, no pyrotechnics and the only outrageous part of her outfit was the outsized golden brooch in the shape of a dove of peace (the colour matched her microphone and earpieces).

That put the focus on her vocals, which were strong and assured, as she glided through the notoriously wide-ranging melody and its tricky vocal leaps.

Gaga, a vocal critic of the Trump administration, tweeted shortly before the ceremony that she wanted her performance to provide a moment of coming together after the divisions of the last four years.

“Singing our National Anthem for the American People is my honour,” she wrote. “I will sing during a ceremony, a transition, a moment of change - between POTUS 45 and 46. For me, this has great meaning.

“My intention is to acknowledge our past, be healing for our present, and passionate for a future where we work together lovingly. I will sing to the hearts of all people who live on this land.”   -BBC

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