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WASHINGTON (AP) – When Joe Biden is sworn in outside the Capitol next Wednesday, he will begin to reshape America’s own presidency. He will have his sights set on leading a divided nation grappling with a devastating pandemic following a revolt that sought to halt his rise to power.
Biden campaigned on the rejection of President Donald Trump, a singular figure whose political power was fueled by discord and grievance. The Democrat framed his election as something to “heal the soul” of the country and repair the presidency, restoring the image of the White House as a symbol of stability and credibility.
In ways small and large, Biden will seek to change the office he will soon occupy. No more provocative tweets. Biden, as institutionalist as Trump a troublemaker, will try to change the tone and priorities of the office.
“It’s really about restoring dignity to the office, opting for truth over lies, union over division,” Biden said after launching his campaign. “It’s about who we are.”
Down Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House is about two miles from the Capitol, where broken windows, heavy fortifications and hundreds of members of the National Guard provide a visible reminder of the power of the president’s words. On January 6, hundreds of Trump supporters emerged from a rally near the White House led by the outgoing president to commit violence on his behalf on Capitol Hill, besieging the building in an assault that highlights the Herculean task facing Biden to deal with. to heal the nation’s intense divisions.
Few presidents have come into office having thought more about the brand they want to leave than Biden. The veteran politician has spent more than 40 years in Washington and arrives at the White House after two previous failed attempts. He frequently praises President Barack Obama, his former boss, as an example of how to lead during a crisis.
“Biden’s main task will have to be to restore the symbol of the White House to the world as a place of integrity and good governance, because right now everything is in chaos,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian and professor at the University. Rice. But Biden is in a unique position to do it. He has spent his life in Washington and spent eight years observing work closely. “
The changes will be radical, beginning with the incoming president’s focus on the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused nearly 400,000 deaths in the United States. The drastic difference from Trump will not only be in federal policy, but also in personal conduct.
Trump scorned the virus, with his aides largely ignoring the use of face masks in the West Wing offices of the White House, while the president held mass events on the grounds and at campaign rallies. Biden’s team notes that many employees work from home. Those who enter the building will have to wear masks. Biden has already been vaccinated, something that Trump, who contracted the virus last fall, decided not to do, despite signs that it would set an example for the nation.
Biden’s focus on his daily responsibilities will also be a sign of departure from his predecessor. For starters, Twitter is not going to be a main source of news.
Trump’s incessant tweets muddied the capital for four years. In Washington, phones rang every time the president used his most powerful political weapon to attack Democrats and keep Republicans in check.
Biden’s tweets tend to be rather bland press releases and policy details with popular phraseology. It is unlikely now that his allies in Congress will, as before, pretend not to have seen the president’s latest message to avoid commenting on it.
Biden has said he wants Americans to see the president as a role model again. No more crude and degrading language or racist or divisive rhetoric. His team has promised to restore daily encounters with the press. The president-elect has not referred to the media as “the enemy of the people,” but it remains to be seen whether he will be as accessible as Trump was, who until his recent post-election hibernation received more questions from reporters than anyone from. its recent predecessors.
While Trump has packed his cabinet and White House staff with family members and political novices, Biden has chosen people with experience. In his administration there will be Obama-era veterans and career officials. Documents detailing the policies will also be returned.
Trump was largely indifferent to the workings of Congress. Instead, Biden – a veteran lawmaker who will now have Democratic control in both houses – will be in a position to use his office to advance an ambitious political agenda.
His team, however, will be put to the test by the whirlwind in the country: a virus that is killing more than 4,000 people a day, a slow vaccination program, a worsening economy and a second impeachment of Trump.
Biden also has a lot of work to do to repair the image of the presidency, both abroad and at home.
Trump put the United States elsewhere in the world, pulling the country out of numerous multilateral trade treaties and climate agreements in favor of a more insular foreign policy. Their changing beliefs and moods damaged relationships with some of the nation’s oldest allies, including most of Western Europe.
As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, Trump encouraged competition, not cooperation, in studying and creating a vaccine. Trump also abandoned the traditional role of the president in drawing attention to human rights violations around the world.
Biden, who spent years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had an extensive foreign policy portfolio as vice president, has promised a course change. He vowed to repair alliances, reintegrate the country into the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, and said he will strengthen the national security of the United States, first dealing with the public health, economic and political crises in the country.
Offering the White House as a symbol of stability to other global capitals is not going to be easy for Biden after the Trump presidency.
“He has a structural problem and he needs to make America more trustworthy. We are diminished in stature and less predictable, ”said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that after Biden’s victory, the European Union strengthened its ties with China with a new investment treaty.
“Everyone is securing positions. He has no idea if Biden is going to be a one-term president or what will come after him, ”Haas said. “There is a fear in the world that Trump or Trumpism will return in four years.”
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