A day of hope and relief

Yesterday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris was a joyful day of renewed hope for America and a day of relief, that this four-year long nightmare under Donald Trump is over and that, finally, we will have a national strategy to combat the Covid pandemic which has now killed over 400,000 Americans.

It was a day of hope and relief for this nation but also personally, as my wife and I drove out to Cal State University in Northridge, in the flat, enormous San Fernando Valley that is part of Los Angeles, to get vaccinated against Covid. It took about half an hour and we never left our car. We still have another shot in a few weeks, but we are on our way, relieved and with renewed hope that everyday life in America will improve, not only for us but for everyone.

So while yesterday was a day of hope and relief, it was also a day of joy. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech hit just the right notes for this divided, suffering, and confused nation. What has happened to America? That has been a common question these few past years with the chaos, the meanness, the lies, the ignorance emanating from the White House. As the pandemic swept over the country, the lack of leadership became more and more evident. No one was at the helm, because the man in the White House not only did not want to do anything, but he did not know what to do. That’s the danger of having a political amateur run a country.

The contrast, as Joe Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th President, could not be more stark. It was a seasoned, trusted, measured politician who took over, who urged unity and promised professional leadership. Here was also a man with a good heart that further reassured the country and gave it new hope just hours after his predecessor slipped out of Washington, DC almost unnoticed, still refusing to concede and refusing to be part of the ceremonial traditions on the steps of the Capitol. Yes, Trump broke all historical traditions by his absence, but no one seemed to miss him and maybe everyone was better for it. His presence would have been a distraction at the glorious event that took place yesterday in front of a pandemic-empty National Mall.

Instead, Biden and Harris got to have it all to themselves and they clearly cherished the moment. Biden’s speech, 21 minutes long, was superb, hitting all the right notes — the best inaugural speech he has ever heard, said Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Biden talked about unity, about lies and the importance truth, and about democracy, which we have learned once more, he said, that it is “precious.” And although democracy prevailed this time, referring to the Trump years and to the storming of the Capitol just two weeks ago, we have also learned that it is “fragile.”

It was a speech that America needed at this time, as one writer put it in today’s Los Angeles Times, and so, the start of the Biden Administration is full of promise and hope that he and the country will be able to erase the stain of the Trump years and steer America onto a better path. It won’t be easy, although the Democrats now control the White House as well as both branches of Congress. The resistance from the Republicans to change will be fierce, as Trump and Trumpism still control the party. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, but right now it’s unlikely that Biden and the Democrats will have any easy victories although so much is needed to be done.

Paul Ryan: a sign of a campaign in trouble

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, congressman from Wisconsin, as his running mate was surprising, but no bolt out of the blue like when John McCain nominated Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate. But Romney is taking a big chance with Ryan, just like McCain did. Ryan is untested, like Palin, largely unknown to the general American public, like Palin, and Romney’s choice gives the impression of desperation, as McCain’s did.

Romney’s campaign is in trouble, if not in a crisis. He needed to do something drastic to. In three recent major polls, President Obama’s lead over Romney has increased, and according to Fox News, it is now 9 per cent. Romney needed to do something drastic to wake up the slumbering conservative Republican base.

The choice of Ryan means that Romney has succumbed to the harsh pressures from the party’s right wing and leading press voices like The Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard, which demanded that Ryan, seen by them as a leading conservative intellectual, be nominated. These voices opposed candidates such as Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty and Ohio’s Rob Portman, too plain, too much like Romney himself and without any chance to inspire the conservative Republican voter base.

Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republican Party’s chief economic and budget spokesman, is a controversial figure, best known for the heavy-handed, radical cuts, in the country’s entitlement programs, particularly Medicare, while lowering the taxes for higher income groups and increasing them for the middle class. Ryan as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee means that the campaign will now completely be about pensions, health care for the elderly and a fair tax system. That debate will be favorable to President Obama.

Conservative columnist David Frum describes the problems in his comments on the Daily Beast today. The election will not be at about jobs and the economy but about security, about pensions and Medicare.

Economic conditions are so tough – the Obama re-election proposition is so weak – that Romney may win anyway. But wow, the job just got harder.

The choice of Ryan, according to Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog in the Washington Post, means that “both the Democrats and the Conservatives have the exact debate they wanted. I’m not so sure about Republicans. “

To learn more about Paul Ryan, 42 years old, Catholic, father of three children, born in Janesville, Wisconsin, which he has represented in the House of Representatives since 1998, you must not miss Ryan Lizza’s recent stellar profile of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in The New Yorker.