There’ll be no arguments about crowd size at Joe Biden’s inauguration — because there won’t be a crowd.
In an extraordinary move that reveals the extreme state in which President Donald Trump leaves the nation, the entire monument-dotted National Mall in Washington will be closed on Wednesday. There are fears that violent pro-Trump mobs that stormed the US Capitol will return — and concern for the safety of Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and other dignitaries at the open-air ceremony.
Past presidents took the oath of office before huge, carnival-like crowds that stretched as far as the eye could see down the Mall, in a powerful national unifying moment. Whatever the party, the sight of a new first couple exiting the presidential limo and walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, yet to be beaten down by the burdens of office, crushed ideals and White House scandals, was a symbol of political renewal.*
But this year, there are more US troops in Washington than in Iraq and Afghanistan. Massive iron and concrete barriers have been erected blocks away from the inaugural platform on the West Front of the Capitol. One official said well-wishers would be lucky to even glimpse the top of the Capitol’s white dome if they show up.
It was always going to be an unusual inauguration, with mass gatherings now lethally dangerous due to the coronavirus pandemic, which Trump ignored. And the outgoing President, still lying about his election defeat, has said he won’t show up, denying Biden yet another important legitimating symbol.
When the world watches on Wednesday, it will take away a tragic truth: Two great icons of US democracy, the Capitol and the White House, must now be sealed inside a vast cage to protect them from the people they serve.
*True, Trump’s inauguration also lacked the traditional sense of joy, as he warned the country of “American carnage” in an address reportedly described by ex-President George W. Bush as “some weird sh**t.”
‘There is real pain overwhelming the real economy — one where people rely on paychecks, not their investments’
Biden has outlined a massive $1.9 trillion emergency legislative package to fund the fight against the coronavirus and provide direct financial relief to Americans. His proposed “American Rescue Plan” would allocate more than $400 billion toward addressing Covid-19, cut $1,400 stimulus checks and expand unemployment benefits. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy — one where people rely on paychecks, not their investments, to pay for their bills and their meals and their children’s needs,” the President-elect said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware — drawing a pointed contrast to his predecessor’s fixation on the gravity-defying stock market. What Biden did not address was how to get the package through Congress.
‘There’s never been any first lady as stubborn and defiant as Melania Trump’
As the President publicly railed against the election, fraudulently claiming it was rigged and clinging to the false hope of staying in the White House, his wife was packing up their things to move out, say multiple sources who have observed Trump’s activities since late November, CNN’s Kate Bennett reports.
“The first lady is now more than halfway done with the job of shipping belongings either to Mar-a-Lago or to storage, having bit-by-bit overseen the moveout for weeks. The residence staff has had to help with the semi-clandestine operation, facilitating packing logistics without raising the ire of the President, who truly believed he would be staying put.
“As the weeks of her tenure come to a close, she has not, however, established an office for continuing her platform in the post-White House years, according to a source familiar with her activities. Nor has she helped with the onboarding of incoming first lady Jill Biden — with whom she has still not made contact, a senior White House staffer said.
“The only thing she has done, besides pack the White House, work on photo albums of her time as first lady and oversee photo shoots of a rug and decorative items, is make a convoluted statement on Monday about last week’s events, five days after they occurred.
“In it, she stood by the President, something she hasn’t always done before in times of turmoil. Trump did not mention her husband’s name, nor did she indicate he should receive an iota of responsibility for the insurrection. Instead, she appeared to lift parts of old statements and speeches into this new one, and added in a paragraph painting herself as a victim of a former staff member’s continued criticism.
“There’s never been any first lady as stubborn and defiant as Melania Trump,” says Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.” “I think she’s digging in. I think she has channeled her husband’s fury and is obviously not interested in playing the traditional role of a first lady who, in times of crisis, seeks to unite and soothe the country.” Read the full story here.
‘Ask your provider about monoclonal antibodies’
Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatments are being “underutilized,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services under Trump, and agency officials are urging the public to request these therapies. “If you test positive, we need you to ask your provider about monoclonal antibodies as a way of keeping you out of the hospital,” US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during a briefing on Thursday. Two such treatments — one by Eli Lilly and one by Regeneron — have received emergency use authorization.
‘We really need to be thinking about other antivirals’
Infectious diseases expert and adviser to the Biden administration Dr. Celine Gounder, however, expressed concern about the outgoing administration’s focus on monoclonal antibodies. “We’ve been mostly focused on monoclonal antibodies and to some degree, remdesivir and some of the other immunomodulators, but we really need to be thinking about other antivirals,” she said during a webcast sponsored by Johns Hopkins University, adding that monoclonal antibodies might lose efficacy if the virus evolves much. “Here I am speaking as a member of IDSA — the Infectious Diseases Society of America. IDSA still does not recommend the use of monoclonal antibodies, despite emergency use authorization being granted by the FDA,” she added.