Joe Biden took his oath of office Wednesday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol well aware he has become the 46th president of the United States in a time of deep crisis. But he promised a return to something approaching normalcy in a speech that implicitly rejected his predecessor’s worst decisions and impulses.
“America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge,” Biden said in his address, a speech about uniting the nation after four years of Donald Trump’s governance. “Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate but of a cause — the cause of democracy.”
The speech echoed much of Biden’s rhetoric from his campaign and the presidential transition. It was replete with promises to tackle the environmental, economic, social and health crises rattling the United States, and to do his best to unite the nation and cool the country’s political temperature.
“Unity is the path forward” from an era of “exhausting outrage,” Biden said.
“Politics does not need to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,” he promised, adding later: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue; rural versus urban; conservative versus liberal.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a ceremony that was meant to be like any other: Democrats and Republicans, after years of bitter partisanship, sat side by side, and Biden delivered a speech about unity. Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez performed.
Still, the strange times loomed large.
Now-former President Trump was not in attendance, breaking with long-standing tradition. Former Vice President Mike Pence did attend the event, as the representative of an administration that was perhaps even more isolated from Washington’s inner circle at the end than it was when Trump came into power.
Biden never mentioned his predecessor by name in the 21-minute address, though he implicitly condemned Trump’s penchant for lying and his ability to create an...