Biden And Harris Sworn In At The U.S. Capitol
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Stepping up now, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: We just heard some of the highlights of the day there - Joe Biden being sworn in, Kamala Harris becoming the first woman and woman of color to serve as vice president. All the while, as we just heard Biden nod to, the pandemic and the Capitol riot of two weeks ago hung over the ceremony. So let's start there with the ceremony, with the big speech, the speech of Joe Biden's life. What struck you about his message?
KEITH: Yeah, in so many ways, it was an utterly abnormal day and then, at the same time, completely normal. You know, there was this ceremony. It had almost a sacramental church-like feel - the church of American democracy. There was the swearing in, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, the poem, the benediction, this ritual of American democracy that is conducted every four years but seemed all the more miraculous today.
And Biden certainly nodded to that, though he was also quite frank about the challenges that the U.S. faces. He was also optimistic, urging Americans to come together and unify. As we heard earlier, there was this moment of silence for pandemic victims, a moment of public mourning that throughout this pandemic hasn't really happened in the U.S. as one grim milestone after another passed without much acknowledgement. Biden wanted to acknowledge it. And also, he talked a lot about wanting to get past the divisions.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus - or rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.
KEITH: And that certainly is a continuation of his campaign themes around the - restoring the soul of the nation.
KELLY: I want to ask about the looming presence who was not there for today's ceremony, former President Trump. He departed the White House this morning. He headed for his home in Florida. How has he spent the day?
KEITH: Well, first, he started in the very wee hours of the morning with a flurry of pardons and commutations, an executive order reversing an ethics order from earlier in his presidency. Then he left the White House around 8:00 a.m. He stopped briefly to say hi to reporters and said that being president had been the honor of his lifetime, glancing back up at the White House a few times. He flew on Marine One one last time to Joint Base Andrews, where he had something of a goodbye party, a small rally-like event. And he went through his accomplishments, inflating reality as he does. And he did, however, not ever mention Biden by name or congratulate him.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation to do something really spectacular. And again, we put it in a position like it's never been before.
KEITH: Which is to say, he took credit, as he does. And he ended by saying, have a good life. But he also said, we'll see you soon. "YMCA" played him off. A spokesman did tell me that he did keep the tradition of leaving a note at the White House for his successor. There's no word on what that said.
KELLY: Real quick, Tam - President Biden and his team have now taken over all the social media accounts. I was watching. Biden's first tweet from the POTUS account came at 12:36 today. It began, there's no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crisis we face. Just briefly, what's top of the list?
KEITH: There are 17 executive actions that he's planning to take in the first days - any number of items. It is a long list, and there will be something of a shock and awe of policy changes happening all at once.
KELLY: And you will be helping us track them all. NPR's Tamara Keith, thank you.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.