Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What to listen for in Biden's inaugural address

Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, Jill Biden and Joe Biden

Vice President-elect Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, and President-elect Biden and Dr. Jill Biden arrive in Washington yesterday. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Reflecting both the man and the times, President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.'s inaugural address needs as much reality as poetry.

What to watch ... The president-elect will do both, sources tell me: Biden’s biography equips him not just to deliver a great speech, but also to start putting the public sector back in good working order.

  • That includes a federal mask mandate, vaccine mobilization and other practical steps that make up his 100-day plan to, as he put it in December, "change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."

A test for this unusual inaugural address is whether Biden can combine prose poetry with his “Here’s the deal” common touch.

  • The country wants both, his advisers believe — to be elevated as in presidencies of old, and to be reassured that Biden is grounded in the grim reality so many Americans are feeling, including his warning of the "dark winter" ahead.

Rahm Emanuel — former Chicago mayor and President Obama's first chief of staff — told me Biden faces a "(d) all of the above" presidency:

  • He has the civil and social strife of Lincoln, JFK and LBJ ... Wilson's pandemic ... FDR's economic depths ... and Truman's cold war with Russia.
  • Biden's speech will connect America's crises, including racial equity and justice.

Mike Barnicle writes in a Daily Beast column, "Why Joe Biden Will Be Our Most American President" (subscription):

  • "Joe Biden arrives now to tell America the truth."

What's next: After the festivities, Biden will take 15 "Day One Executive Actions," getting a head start on reversing Trump policies.

👀 What to watch ... Full schedule.

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