Joe Biden begins his term as the 46th president of the United States with a notable accomplishment: He has personally met every single person in the country. Or it seems like he has. The least valuable possession that anyone could have is a picture with Joe, because nearly everyone has at least one. I use his first name because it seems only natural, and it’s going to be difficult to call him “Mr. President” as he stops impromptu, causing his phalanx of Secret Service agents to collide because he can’t resist a conversation and a selfie.
This is the man who urged American “folks” to “start afresh” after his predecessor (I’ve decided not to name him; we need a break) talked of “American carnage” as he described the nation in his inaugural address four years ago, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Starting afresh is easy to say, but the devil is in the details. In fact, the devil has fled the scene and absconded to his Mar-a-Lago headquarters.
Now, one might think that West Palm is not your idea of Hades, with its golf courses, but the previous POTUS faces a future of meeting with his attorneys to fend off a seemingly infinite number of legal actions that are piled up with his name as defendant. And if you don’t think endlessly meeting with a bunch of lawyers ain’t hell, you have never received
an itemized account of billable hours.
Of course, the lawyers face their own anguish too, trying to collect the money that he invariably stiffs them on, along with everyone else with whom he does business.
Meanwhile, back in The Swamp, protected by thousands of police and armed soldiers, Joe -- excuse me, Mr. President -- is guaranteed a bit of a honeymoon. He can start by just cleaning up the obvious garbage that has been left behind by youknow- who. It’s a massive pile of rubbish, complete with a writer’s cramp worth of executive orders that need his signature. This includes reversing policies inspired by cruel xenophobia that defined the past four years, tax breaks for the wealthy and deregulation to enrich them too. There is joining the world in fighting off calamitous climate change before the entire planet is consumed -- in fact, joining the world in general -repairing alliances and rejecting tyranny.
Speaking of repairing, he is going to have to pretend he likes journalists or at least can tolerate skeptical news coverage, as opposed to treating media as “the enemy of the people.” That should be easy, considering how Biden used to hang out and schmooze with reporters every chance he got. Actually, Vice President Kamala Harris did too. We’ll see how long it takes for all that glad-handing to turn into a fist.
And the new Biden administration has made some grandiose promises about defeating the coronavirus pandemic and its economic
wreckage, beyond acknowledging them, as his prior job holder refused to do. A moving tribute to the 400,000 Americans who died is one thing, but moving on to snuffing out COVID is an imperative.
Also imperative is making good on the inequities that have plagued the United States since before our beginning, when our colonists brought the first people of color here in chains. The promise made in the Declaration of Independence was a big lie: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ...”
The time for patience is over. First we need to destroy the vicious white supremacist militias, then we need to attack the vestiges of polite racism. Or Joe Biden’s presidency with its pledge that “We can deliver racial justice” will be just another empty promise and our last chance to survive as a nation.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.