Wednesday Night #2027 Inauguration 2021

Written by  //  January 20, 2021  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

News reports on Tuesday evening led with “On his last night in the White House…” a cheering thought, even though we all know that 45 will continue to cause mischief from wherever he calls home in the future.
The actions of the departing Trumps are best described as churlish: Melania’s failure to invite Dr. Biden for the traditional tour of the family living quarters; 45’s early departure from Andrews on Air Force One ahead of the Inauguration, thus avoiding any and all appearances with his successor. At least that gave the White House staff more time to perform a deep cleansing along with the usual fast-forward activity of moving one family out and the other in.

Even before this Inauguration like no other there were clear signals that POTUS 46 is focused on restoring dignity and empathy to the occasion. With Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, he paid tribute to the 400,000 Covid victims at the sundown ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial.
“To heal we must remember,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of the Reflecting Pool, which was surrounded by 400 lights meant to mark the 400,000 victims of the virus. “It’s hard sometimes to remember. But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all whom we lost.”
Meanwhile Trump was busy issuing 73 pardons to Steve Bannon and others and commuting all or part of the sentence of 70 additional individuals.

Did you wonder who had the Nuclear Football while Trump was en route to Mar-a-lago and Mr. Biden had not yet been sworn in? The answer involved choreography that includes two nuclear footballs and two sets of launch codes.

Wednesday morning’s Mass at St Matthews Cathedral neatly one-upped Trump’s departure ceremony, as GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden (Compare and contrast the Trump photo op at St. John’s Church).

The Inauguration ceremony went off without a hitch. It was a delight to watch on the NYT site, with the accompanying commentary from correspondents and reporters. In contrast to the 2017 ceremony, the tenor, while serious, was hopeful and there was an air of  conviviality among the VIPs. The young poet laureate, Amanda Gorman is extraordinary. President Biden’s well crafted speech, which he delivered without any hesitation was positive,  emphasizing unity of purpose, concluding with  “I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”

Heightened security concerns and pandemic precautions precluded large crowds at the Capitol and the endless parade that follows the swearing-in (a considerable cost saving). Instead the inaugural committee designed a virtual parade.  And there are no balls and glitzy parties to attend. However, the Hollywood A-listers are returning in droves: Superstars Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks all performed at the Inauguration, while the prime-time inaugural special, “Celebrating America,” includes a host of other stars — Tom Hanks, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Lin-Manuel Miranda among them.

The Biden/Harris administration has a challenging agenda -to put it mildly- of issues to address, policies to reverse, governance issues to address, all while promoting unity, healing a divided nation and reassuring traditional allies. Some can be dealt with through Executive Orders, others will require patient coaxing of somewhat unwilling political coalitions to pass legislation. Many are domestic, while others -equally important- are of far-reaching international import, from rejoining the multilateral world to enunciating clear  positions on human rights, sanctions, trade alliances …  vis à vis allies and rivals.

Two critical and historically connected domestic reforms are the abolition of the Electoral College, which is already in (slow) motion and reduction of the long lame-duck period which not only has allowed Trump supporters months to plan a violent uprising, but weakens any administration in the eyes of its partners around the world. A hold-over from horse-and-buggy days, it no longer makes sense.
This fine piece from Vox,  Abolish the lame-duck period , makes the case. But these must take a back seat while, during the magical/mythical first 100 days, the new administration tackles the proposed $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan, broadening the federal government role in distribution and production of Covid vaccine; confirmation of the Cabinet nominees; a bill to reform immigration policy …; while the Senate must also conduct the Trump impeachment trial.
Moving ahead, check out the Biden White House website

Jeremy Kinsman and Larry Haas put the new administration’s foreign policy challenges in clear perspective in Tuesday night’s Diplomatic Community. We were sorry that time did not allow for a discussion of Aleksei Navalny’s return to Russia and immediate arrest.

Newly-minted Foreign Affairs minister Marc Garneau may wish to take note of Larry Haas’ concluding comments about relations with Canada in the context of President Biden’s announced plan to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, although it appears that the PM is taking the lead.
Daniel Livermore‘s Memorandum for the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Welcome to GAC! (Structural Challenges Ahead) is an instructive and discouraging read for Minister Garneau. Starting off In a phrase, Global Affairs Canada is broken. It’s a top-heavy, expensive, slow-moving, barely manageable beast with low productivity and mediocre output., it goes on to make a number of useful recommendations, although some may (and do) argue that there are many other things going on, including the fact that other departments operate in international policy independently and, finally, that the bureaucracy will find a way to stymie the minister, no matter how competent s/he may be.

While the Covid  death toll mounts every day in the U.S. and around the world, the panel of experts led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted their interim report on Monday. Findings include: Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January with the spread of the coronavirus and the World Health Organization (WHO) took too long to declare an international emergency. The Panel calls for reform, says WHO is underpowered and underfunded. The news that Canada will receive zero Pfizer vaccine deliveries during the last week of January, and the overall Pfizer vaccine dose shipments for the next four weeks will be chopped by half. was received with a combination of dismay and resignation.

Next week: Davos (25-29 January)
China’s Xi Jinping to discuss coronavirus-era challenges with Merkel, Suga and Modi at virtual Davos
Xi Jinping is expected to emphasise China’s success in combating the coronavirus and call for international cooperation on the pandemic and climate change. The timing of Xi’s address this year will come days after the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden, and may be used to send a message to the new administration about China‘s view on the outlook for bilateral and multilateral relations.
No word yet as to whether there will be representatives of the Biden administration, but Anthony Fauci is confirmed. Do we know what Canadians are going?
Before homing in on Davos, it would be a good idea to check out the 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report

Varia
Did you know that a Vegan Restaurant in France has been awarded a Michelin Star in France, a First?
“It’s a new movement in France, where diets are still very meat-based,” said Claire Vallée, the chef at ONA, which opened five years ago in Arès, a small Atlantic Coast town about 25 miles west of Bordeaux.
The restaurant’s very name speaks to France’s shifting culinary landscape: It stands for origine non-animale.

Maclean’s Power List of 50 Canadians who are breaking ground, leading the debate and shaping how we think and live. How do you react to Justin Trudeau ranked #1? Who is missing from the list?

Grifter to the end: Trump extended Secret Service protection to his adult children as he left office

Biden replaces Andrew Jackson portrait in Oval Office, adds Cesar Chavez bust
The new layout includes busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy on either side of the fireplace as well as the Chavez bust. Other busts in the office include Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt. A portrait of Jackson, the seventh president, has been removed and replaced with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

Good reads
Heather Cox Richardson’s January 19 Letter reviews the highlights of the Trump years and the consequent impact on the Republican Party.
The Post-Trump Reconstruction of America and the World

A very long read
The Last Handoff: It was a fraught, utterly uncharted presidential transition — four years ago, from Obama to Trump. It was a prelude for so much that followed.
A seemingly exhaustive examination of “what would become an all-consuming political war over Trump’s relationship with Russia, a fight that would consume both his presidency and the country for years.”
And another one
After Alarmism The war on climate denial has been won. And that’s not the only good news.
Our time has been so stuffed with disasters that it was hard to see the arrival of perhaps the unlikeliest prophecy of all: that the plague year may have marked, for climate change, a turning point, and for the better.

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