WASHINGTON (AP) When Joe Biden first walked into the Oval Office as President a month ago, his pens were ready. Already.
Lined with a beautiful wooden box, they bore the presidential seal and an imprint of his signature, a micro-mission accomplished before his swearing-in.
Four years ago, pens were just another little drama in Donald Trump’s White House. The gold-plated signature pens he preferred had to be placed on rush order on his opening days. Over time, he preferred Sharpies to government-issued pens.
On subjects much deeper than a pen, Biden wants to demonstrate that the time of a presidency at headquarters is over.
He wants to show that the inflationary cycle of outrage can be contained. That things can be done by the book. That the new guy can erase the legacy of the old one, as Biden called Trump.
On politics, symbolism and style, from the Earth’s climate to what’s not on his desk (Trumps button to summon a diet coke), Biden purged Trumpism as best he can at first which is totally different from the hustle and bustle of its first month predecessors.
The test for Biden is whether his stylistic changes will come with policies that offer a marked improvement over Trump, and a month is not long enough to measure it. Additionally, Bidens’ honeymoon duration will likely be short in highly polarized Washington, with Republicans already claiming he has caved in to the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The first time the country saw Biden in the Oval Office, hours after he was sworn in, he sat behind the desk resolute with a mask on his face.
Trump, of course, had avoided masks. Not only that, but he had made their use a cultural war totem and a political club even as thousands of Americans died every day from a virus that properly worn masks can ward off.
Although Biden wore a mask during the campaign, seeing it on the new president’s face in the office of the famous Oval Office sent a different message. Biden wanted to make a sudden break with his predecessor while his administration appropriated the deep and intractable crises that awaited him.
The strategy had been in the works since before the election and began with Biden in office signing a wave of executive orders. The intention was clear: to unroll the core of the Trump agenda on immigration, the pandemic and more while joining international alliances and trying to secure historic allies that the United States could again be called upon.
The subtext below each of the images we see of the White House is the banner: Under New Management, says Robert Gibbs, who was President Barack Obama’s press secretary.
Whether showing it overtly or subtly, the message they are trying to deliver, without committing the former president, is to make sure everyone understands that things were going to work differently now and that hopefully they will work differently now. results will also be different.
In a white veil over management’s actions in his first few weeks, Biden reversed Trump’s course on the environment and put Obama’s health law at the center of the pandemic response with a period extended special registration for the insurance program Trump has sworn to kill.
The Iran nuclear deal that Bidens’ predecessor abandoned is back on the diplomatic plate. The United States is back in the World Health Organization as well as in the Paris climate agreement.
But membership and diplomatic outreach do not go any further. The world wants to see how far Biden will actually go to meet climate goals, if he will bring more aid to poorer countries affected by the pandemic, and if his words of renewed solidarity with NATO will only last until the next pendulum of American politics. .
In addition, Biden is faced with the reality that over the past four years, China has moved in to fill the US trade vacuum, and that the allies have learned to rely less on the United States. United States during Trump’s more hostile era.
A month after the start of Trump’s presidency, he had already lost his national security adviser and his choice of labor secretary due to the scandal. The revolving door of burnt, disgraced or disadvantaged assistants was already moving.
The forces of the bureaucracy fled information and resisted its policies. Revelations were emerging about an FBI investigation into his campaign contacts with Russian intelligence officials, the precursor to a special investigation that would eventually turn into impeachment. Judges had previously blocked his order to suspend the refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Bidens’ first month has been relatively drama-free, with many of his Cabinet picks approved and no obvious convulsions among his staff other than the departure of a White House press secretary who made a lay threat to a reporter.
After 40 years in Washington, eight years as vice president of Obamas and two failed presidential campaigns before his success, Biden has had his whole life thinking about what mark he wants to make as president and how. to get started.
No one who has observed Joe Biden as a candidate should be surprised by any of this, said Senior Advisor Anita Dunn. He didn’t have a learning curve in terms of the problems but also the way he was president.
There were challenges nonetheless: the distraction of Trumps’ post-presidential impeachment trial, a more narrowly divided Senate than that which his predecessor faced, and a candidate for head of the Bureau of Management and Budget who was busy removing years of social media posts assaulting Republicans and some on the Democratic left.
Much of what Biden undertook was to mark a change from Trump in both style and substance.
The Democrat framed his first month as one to begin healing the soul of the nation, repairing the presidency and restoring the White House as a symbol of stability and credibility.
He acted to curb partisan grudge against Washington, almost completely disengaging himself from the Trump impeachment spectacle that consumed the capital for much of the month and not watching it live on television. Yet his early efforts to work with Republicans on COVID-19 relief have stalled.
No more pre-dawn tweets that rocked Washington with impromptu political announcements and inflammatory rhetoric. No more prolonged, spontaneous and combative exchanges with the enemy of the popular press.
Gone are the optimistic projections about the virus, with unfortunate promises that the nation is turning the corner from the pandemic.
Unlike his predecessor, Biden rose with the public about the pandemic and the resulting economic devastation, acknowledging that things would get worse before they get better.
You asked the old guy to say, well, you know, we’re just going to open things up, and that’s all we need to do, Biden said in his first public meeting as president, last week. We said, no, you have to face sickness before you deal with reviving the economy.
A pattern has emerged: The president and his team deliberately set low expectations, especially on vaccinations and the reopening of schools, and then attempt to achieve a political victory by beating that timetable.
How low? On Friday, in Michigan, he only raised the possibility of the country returning to normal by the end of the year. God willing, this Christmas will be different from the last, but I can’t make that commitment to you, he said.
The Bidens team has installed a new discipline in the walls of the west wing. The new president only held a long question-and-answer session with reporters, and his interactions in the Oval Office or before Marine One boarded were brief.
The White House messages follow the assessments Biden delivered in his inaugural address: The United States is being tested and the answers will not be easy.
Daily press briefings are back, this time with sign language. Pets roam the White House lawn again. Fires crackle in the fireplace of the White House. Biden says he starts his day working out, making coffee, and eating yogurt or Raisin Bran.
During his event at town hall in Wisconsin, Biden repeatedly said he didn’t want to talk about the old guy.
I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump, I don’t want to talk about him anymore, he said. For four years, all that made the headlines was Trump. The next four years, I want to make sure all the news is about the American people.
It is a tall order. The ex-president maintains his grip on millions of supporters and his lockdown on much of the Republican Party whether he ends up running again or not.
But as far as Biden can, he’s doing what Obama planned in the 2020 campaign if the Democrat wins. Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris would make it possible to ignore the Washington Circus again, Obama said at a rally, and give Americans some predictability whether they like Bidens’ course or not.
You won’t have to think about it every day, Obama said. It won’t be that exhausting. You can go about your business.
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