President-elect Joe Biden an hours from inauguration, paused on what might have been his triumphal, gracious, and sober entrance to Washington on Tuesday evening to mark instead of the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost. Biden ready to assume power as America reels from the coronavirus pandemic, soaring unemployment, and grave concerns about more violence as he prepares to take the oath of office.
He instead flew into a military airbase just outside the capital on Tuesday afternoon and then motorcade into fortress D.C. — a city that’s been flooded by some 25,000 National Guard troops guarding a Capitol, White House, and National Mall that are wrapped in a maze of barricades and tall fencing.
Shortly before Biden departed for Washington, the U.S. reached another grim milestone in the pandemic, surpassing 400,000 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“These are dark times,” Biden told dozens of supporters in an emotional sendoff in Delaware before departing for Washington. “But there’s always light.”
Biden, who ran for the presidency as a cool head who could get things done, plans to issue a series of executive orders on Day One — including reversing President Donald Trump’s effort to leave the Paris climate accord, canceling his travel ban on visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries, and extending pandemic-era limits on evictions and student loan payments.
Trump won’t attend Biden’s inauguration, the first outgoing president to skip the ceremony since Andrew Johnson more than a century and a half ago. The White House released a farewell video from Trump just as Biden landed at Joint Base Andrews. Trump, who has repeatedly and falsely claimed widespread fraud led to his election loss, extended “best wishes” to the incoming administration in his nearly 20-minute address but did not utter Biden’s name.
Trump also spent some of his last time in the White House huddled with advisers weighing final-hour pardons and grants of clemency.
Trump plans to depart from Washington Wednesday morning in a grand airbase ceremony that he helped plan himself.
Biden at his Delaware farewell, held at the National Guard/Reserve Center named after his late son Beau Biden, paid tribute to his home state. After his remarks, he stopped and chatted with friends and well-wishers in the crowd, much like an Iowa rope line at the start of his long campaign journey.
“I’ll always be a proud son of the state of Delaware,” said Biden, who struggled to hold back tears as he delivered brief remarks.
After arriving in Washington, Biden went directly to an evening ceremony at the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial to honor American lives lost to COVID-19. He was joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who spoke of the collective anguish of a nation.
“For many months we have grieved by ourselves Harris said.”Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together.”