“My fellow Americans, a moment we have all been waiting for,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar introducing the former Delaware Senator and VP as the 46th POTUS.
1st UPDATE,8:41 AM: Kamala Harris has just been sworn in as America’s 49th Vice President, the first woman and the first person of color to hold the office.
President-elect Joe Biden and now Vice President Harris are on the West Front of the US Capitol as the President-elect awaits being sworn in himself Accompanied by the Marine Band, an eagle sweater wearing Lady Gaga has just delivered a soaring rendition of the National Anthem. Jennifer Lopez is now singing, to be followed by Biden taking the oath of office.
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Accompanied by Dr. Jill Biden, the ex-Vice President strolled on to the flag strewn stage to applause in an Inauguration unlike any America has even known – in good and bad ways.
The soon-to-be POTUS and VPOTUS are joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. With security at an all-time high and tens of thousands of National Guard troops deployed, soon-to-be ex-VP Mike Pence is there representing the outgoing administration, along with former VP Dan Quayle and Congressional leaders. On a chilly chilly day and with the threat of Covid-19, 96-year old former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter are not at today’s ceremony, the first one they have missed in 44 years.
Some attendees are wearing special masks with inauguration printed on them. Some sitting on the stage are wearing body armor and bulletproof vests, as recommended by the Secret Service, we hear.
In a nod to the historical occasion as a woman become Vice President for the very first time, both Harris and 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton wore purple in homage to Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. At candidate herself for President in 1972, the former representative for New York’s 12th district was the first woman of color to serve in the House of Representatives. Harris will be the first person of color to serve as VP, the 49th in the nation’s history.
In a symbolic move on many levels. the Vice President-elect was accompanied onstage by Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer. Recently promoted to acting deputy Senate sergeant-at-arms, Officer Goodman saved potentially dozens and dozens of elected officials on January 6 when he lead a rampaging hoard of MAGA supporters away from the upper chambers – a true American hero.
“This is the day when our democracy picks itself up,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar today to the assembled luminaries and the watching world in reference to the horrible Trump inspired assault on Congress just two weeks ago. “We pledge today to never take out democracy for granted,” the Minnesota Democrat added. A former candidate in the 2020 bid for the Democrats nomination, Sen. Klobucer took her moment at the podium to commemorate Harris’ ascension to the upper echelons of the government of the most powerful nation in the world, as an inspiration for “little girls” everywhere.
Another former contender for the White House was at the ceremony this morning – Pete Buttigieg and husband Chasten mingled with Biden supporters.
“Really excited to be here,” the incoming Transportation Secretary told Deadline. He had been to one other inauguration, the first for Barack Obama, but he was “standing out there somewhere,” pointing to the expanse of the Capitol lawn and Mall, now largely empty.
“It is a really important moment for the country. I have been thinking about this day for a long time,” he said. “This will be our chance to turn the page.”
Chris Dodd, the former MPAA chairman and US Senator, was at the inaugural with his two daughters. He attended John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961, and has been to everyone since 1976.
Even though this inauguration is so different, with so few people, Dodd said that it was “appropriate right now.”
“I was shocked by what they did, but I wasn’t surprised,” he said of the siege on the Capitol. “It was the culmination everything else.”
Dodd said that he thinks Biden has “handled the transition beautifully. He’s brought in a lot of great people. There is a calmness to him. He is better prepared, in terms of his experience than perhaps anyone else who has ever held the office,” the ex-Senator said of his long-time friend.
Alex Padilla, who will be sworn in later today as California’s next senator, said on the stage this morning that “it feels like a huge weight has been lifted.”
“I know that we are deep in the middle of a health crisis and a pandemic, but to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris raise their right hands today gives me hope that we are turning a corner.”
Of his own history making today, Padilla said, “It is a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous responsibility. I am humbled and honored and couldn’t have scripted it better than to stand next senators elect Warnock and Ossoff to be sworn in by Vice President Harris. Only in America.”
PREVIOUSLY, 7:32 AM: When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in as the 46th President and 49th Vice President in an hour and a half, the setting will be like no other recent inauguration. The Capitol siege and the Covid-19 crisis that has seen more than 400,000 Americans dead, two legacies of Donald Trump’s failed presidency, loom over the ceremony, much as Biden’s team has tried to replicate the festivities of the past.
Like past inaugurals, the swearing in will take place outside on the steps of the Capitol as it has since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office as America’s third President. In fact, former Delaware Senator Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden have just arrived at the Capitol itself.
Like most modern administrations, things will kick off for Biden and Harris with celebrity performers, including Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks. With all the cable newsers and broadcast networks covering the transfer of power, up on the West Front of Congress’ home there also will still be a media presence along with elected officials, families and friends, and some past Presidents – including one who offered his former VP a digital backslap this morning:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2021
But everything is different too, in terms of scale, security and tone.
For one thing, in a nation battered by the coup attempt attack on the Capitol of two weeks ago and ravaged by the coronavirus, the petulant outgoing POTUS will be absent for the first time since 1869. After a flurry of pardons and commutations issued in the last hours of his term, Donald Trump scurried off early to start his post-presidency in Florida.
Coming off a morning visit to DC’s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with Congressional leadership, Biden and Harris’ inauguration is one of historic firsts too. Former California Senator Harris will be the first woman and the first person of color to be VP. At 78, Biden will be the oldest president on day one. Yet, the duo also are coming into office at a time of multiple crisis from the raging pandemic, faltering economy and rampant polarization.
In the place of hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall, today there are 200,000 flags and 400 lights commemorating the horrors of the pandemic Instead of high stepping marching bands and floats, there are tens of thousands of members of the National Guard set to quell any attempted repeat of the January 6 insurrection incited by Trump
To help halt the further spread of Covid-19 as vaccine distribution has tragically faltered, the inaugural event itself will be socially distanced and masked. To balm some of the wounds of the last four years, Oval Office racism and violence, the heavily vetted troops and armed camp DC are a show of force hoping to scare off white supremacists and the alt-right. Though the event will be streamed more than ever before, the number of journalists credentialed for the ceremony is 1/10 of what it normally is.
This morning, as dignitaries began to arrive, the west front of the Capitol was a majestic scene compared to two weeks ago, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the complex and climbed atop the makeshift stage. Security was like none other. Bridges and many Metro stops were closed. At the still open Eastern Market station, about a mile from the Capitol, National Guard members holding automatic rifles were spaced about 10 feet apart at the stop.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the chill. Although it is a relatively balmy 40 degrees in DC, a cold wind has kicked up at Capitol Hill.
That winter weather will not permeate all of today’s ceremony.
Under the veteran producing hands of Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss, the traditional inaugural parade has been reimagined into a hybrid affair. As part of a primetime special hosted by Tom Hanks, there will be a celebrity filled concert on Wednesday night, but much of it will be virtual.
Perhaps more than any time since the Civil War, national unity will be the theme of the often loquacious Biden’s speech, we hear.
In that vein, Washington, D.C. officials have been urging people to stay away from the militarized, locked down city, with many Metro stops and even bridges shut down out of fears of more domestic unrest.
“We hope that you and they will come back to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 4th of July, and we will be able to have somewhat different, but still celebrations of our new administration. What do you think about that idea?” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Tuesday, as if to signal that eventually things will be back to normal.
That is what Biden promised during his campaign, and what he likely will also emphasize during his inaugural address, which is estimated to last about 20 minutes.
His campaign always had the simplest message of all of his rivals, that in the ever growing chaos of the Trump years it was he who was best positioned to restore some sanity.Having wrestled back control of the Senate with Democrats winning both of the seats in Georgia’s runoff races earlier this month, Biden’s apparently ambitious agenda for his first 100 days now has a much better chance of becoming reality and rolling back most of the former Celebrity Apprentice host’s reign of error and terror with a Day One flurry executive orders and soon to follow legislation.
In a 50-50 split upper chamber, Veep Harris will likely often be the deciding vote.
Biden and his running mate further established the direction they aim to take the nation with a service yesterday at the Lincoln Memorial to honor the American lives lost to Covid-19. In the occasion, where Biden and Harris spoke, The Washington National Cathedral bell rang out 400 times for the 400,000 dead, and 400 lights shone around the reflecting pool. Though the pandemic has raged for almost a year, Tuesday was the first such national service of memorial to the dead so far out of this trauma.
The contrast between the 45th and 46th POTUS is made all the more apparent by the tumult of the transition, one that will linger with a second Senate impeachment trial and ongoing arrests and other fallout from the Capitol assault.
What will be especially different come noon ET today is that Biden and Harris will finally have the spotlight to themselves, as Trump, as an ex-president banned from social media platforms, no longer will be able to automatically seize each news cycle – despite his worst attempts with a self-congratulatory exit this morning.
Still, a test of broadcast and cable networks, especially Fox News, will be whether they can resist temptation and maintain their focus on the new administration. We may even see them put to that very test today.