Joe Biden speaks at a memorial for victims of the coronavirus pandemic at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. AFP
Gulf Today Report
Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times and charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.
Biden is assuming the helm of a country beset by deep political divides and battered by a raging coronavirus pandemic. Outgoing President Donald Trump entered the White House four years ago as a brash billionaire outsider, but he is being ousted by a polar opposite whose devotion to service, deep knowledge of Washington, and personal scars will unquestionably set a different tone.
Biden, 78, will become the oldest US president in history at a scaled-back ceremony in Washington, will take the oath of office at noon (1700 GMT) on the US Capitol’s West front, the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a deadly insurrection, according to AFP.
It has been largely stripped of its usual pomp and circumstance, due both to the coronavirus as well as security concerns following the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump.
While a transition of power will occur much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.
Official Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing any repeat of this month’s attack.
And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to unprecedented optics: an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day.
With the death toll soaring past 400,000, Biden on Tuesday led a powerful tribute to victims of Covid-19 as he arrived in Washington.
Biden, who has suffered deep personal tragedy and is known for his public displays of emotion, has stressed the need to unite the country after Trump’s chaos.
“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in sombre remarks at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Inauguration eve is normally a time of massive crowds gathering in the capital, but Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, was almost alone at the reflecting pool.
On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.
Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence with a pre-recorded farewell video address on Tuesday.
For the first time, he asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming administration — a change from months spent persuading his Republican followers that the Democrats cheated their way to election victory.
Trump, whose efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticized, will snub Biden by not attending the inauguration.
He has also yet to personally congratulate Biden, who first ran for president in 1987, on his win, and did not invite him for the customary cup of tea in the Oval Office.I’ll get right to work
“We don’t have a second to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face as a nation,” Biden tweeted late on Tuesday.
“That’s why after being sworn in tomorrow, I’ll get right to work.”
His inaugural speech will last between 20 and 30 minutes, according to a source familiar with preparations, and “he will reach out to all Americans, and call on every citizen to be part of meeting the extraordinary challenges facing all of us.”
To symbolize the new spirit, Biden has invited the two top senators — Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell — and other congressional leaders to attend a church service with him Wednesday before the inauguration.
Biden’s first day is expected to be packed, with aides saying recently he would sign perhaps a dozen executive orders that could address the pandemic, the ailing US economy, climate change and racial injustice in America.
And the inauguration will look different from other presidential inaugurations because of last week’s riot, with extremely tight security around the entire capital region.
Joe Biden has named his onetime rival Kamala Harris as his running mate, the campaign revealed on Tuesday, elevating California’s junior senator as the first woman of colour to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.
“President and Mrs. Bush look forward to returning to the Capitol for the swearing in of President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Freddy Ford tweeted.
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