In front of a broken nation, President Joe Biden committed to being a healing force. His inaugural address on Jan. 20 will go down as one of our country’s great tributes to the value of national unity.
“This is America’s day,” the president declared. “On this hallowed ground…we come together as one nation…the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On ‘We the People’ who seek a more perfect Union.”
The president recognized the immense task before him: “I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.”
And yet, he pledged that “I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
His courage was inspirational: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility.
“If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment.”
A few moments after uttering those poignant words, the president walked into the Oval Office and ignored the feelings of half of the country, or, as The New York Times reported, “began demolishing [Trump’s] legacy at breakneck speed.”
Instead of kicking off his presidency by focusing on issues that unite the country—such as the pandemic, vaccine distribution and reviving the economy—Biden signed a series of executive orders as a “means of erasing” the legacy of a man who got 74 million votes.
In his first 48 hours in office, the Times reported, “Mr. Biden cranked out about 30 executive orders, of which 14 target a broad range of Trump executive mandates.” Ironically, one of his orders was to terminate the newly formed 1776 Commission, which dealt with our nation’s founding ideals.
As commission member Victor Davis Hanson noted, “The unanimously approved conclusions focused on the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the historical challenges to these founding documents and the need for civic renewal. The 16-member commission was diverse in the widest sense of the familiar adjective. It included historians, lawyers, academics, scholars, authors, former elected officials and past public servants.”
In any case, whether one agrees with the orders or not, whether one hates Trump or not, the new president had every right to sign them. That’s not the point. The point is that Biden’s actions severely undermined his words. Right after promising to “bring America together” and asking “every American to join me in this cause,” he thumbed his nose at millions of Americans who didn’t vote for him.
Right after promising to “start afresh” and calling on us to “listen to one another, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another,” he himself went the other way.
Had Biden began his first day with, say, an emergency meeting dealing with pandemic relief and vaccine distribution, he would have shown us immediately that he wasn’t kidding about bringing America together.
Maybe he forgot that in politics, timing and optics are everything. If you promise to unify and your first photo-op is to divide, that is more telling than any inspirational speech.
The executive orders Biden signed on Jan. 20 to “demolish” his predecessor’s legacy could have been introduced gradually and with more sensitivity and consideration for the other side. Especially on his first day, they should have played second fiddle to the national crises that currently preoccupy every American.
Instead, they were signed with a “breakneck speed” that dominated the news cycle.
In his first moment of truth, in his first real test, our new leader abandoned his own pledge to heal a broken nation. He teased us with greatness, and then settled for politics as usual.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp, and the “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.