Discovery is always a moment of hope and warmth, followed by the cold, messy reality of governance.
And this is especially true with the inauguration of Joe Biden. It’s like going from Lady Gaga’s silly tones to Mitch McConnell’s rough monotony.
Stories of President Biden’s first full day – and the first full day of media without Donald Trump – have a bold tone, as if journalists suddenly remembered that the country was suffering in extremely difficult times.
“Biden is facing a merger of crises,” exploded the headline of the New York Times banner.
And even if Biden somehow bears the nose of the FDR, no president will have the superpowers needed to defeat the pandemic, revive the economy, achieve racial justice, and heal the deep divisions that have reached their depressing peak in the Capitol siege. A long slogan is coming.
Biden acknowledged all of these issues, and even more so in his speech on unity, but the prevailing emotion that engulfed the media landscape on Wednesday, rightly or wrongly, was the relief that Trump was gone. Until yesterday, there was a sobering recovery from this peak.
Every candidate faces the transition from poetry to prose, as Mario Cuomo once put it, using the clumsy tools of the state bureaucracy to move mountains. Biden certainly didn̵
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As the president put it in Covid’s speech lowering expectations yesterday, “We didn’t get into this mess overnight and it will take us months to turn this around.”
But just as Democrats have fought Herbert Hoover for half a century, Biden and his allies will no doubt say, at least for a year or two, that Trump has left him a crippled state.
Dan Bals wrote in the Washington Post: “If it was a day for him to celebrate this achievement, it was also a day to take into account what the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency have done to the country and the monumental task of repair and restoration is the responsibility of the new president.
CBS’s John Dickerson, writing in the Atlantic, said: “Joe Biden has a real experience of being a boring president. It will require constant work …
“A president who tries to fit into this form may not maintain the country’s levels, but he will be effective. A presidency based on ratings or trail of the news signal, by contrast, is so different from the vital demands of work as much as “The apprentice was one of the habits of effective corporate governance. “
Rich Lowry of the National Review, writes Politico, says Biden is set to fail on the unity front. He says the media are more polarized and “parties are becoming more and more purely organized in ideological, cultural and geographical opposition to each other. These differences cannot be overcome by good faith and goodwill alone.”
Lowry writes: “In essence, Biden will not seek consensus, a bipartisan program, but a progressive one. That is his right. He is a Democrat who has always been at the center of his party’s weight, which has been constantly moving to the left for decades.”
True; the election has consequences. Biden did not say he did not expect disagreements, he argued that they could be resolved in a more civil way. Maybe it’s a fantasy. Biden’s faith is rooted in the endless negotiations he led as a senator and vice president, but this world has changed.
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It was also fascinating to see Jen Psaki, the White House’s new spokeswoman, praise the normal and somewhat boring briefing with reporters. Making inevitable comparisons to Sean Spicer’s biggest debut to date, Psaki won the room by professing “deep respect for the role of a free and independent press.” So the “enemy of the people” is now officially retired.
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A former chief spokeswoman for the Obama administration, Psaki is very smooth behind the podium, diverting questions (such as the Trump impeachment process) that she was reluctant to answer. She said on one of the morning broadcasts that Biden had stressed the importance of “tons,” so while I’m sure there would be combat briefings, they probably wouldn’t get nasty. Most of them may not be broadcast on television.
For me, the best part of Biden’s special edition – apart from Springsteen’s song – was the video of three former presidents chatting about unity and a peaceful transition. George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton put it differently, but they were on the same page. Maybe the boring business of the slow government will still be a relief.