WASHINGTON — In a few hours, the sulking, twice-impeached Donald Trump won’t be president. He’s skipping Joe Biden’s inauguration. He’ll be in Mar-a-Lago by noon on Wednesday. The snub is historic — and given everything, for the best.
We’ll be getting back to normal.
Doesn’t mean the end of polarized politics. Conspiracy theories won’t vanish. We’ll still be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll continue to have partisan battles over Trump’s upcoming Senate trial and Biden’s agenda.
Simple definition of normal after four years of the truth-denying, conspiracy-peddling Trump: We’ll have a president who is not crazy, erratic, self-serving and intellectually dishonest.
And to put a bow on this, a president not out to overthrow an election and spark an attack on the Capitol by frenzied domestic terrorists on the hunt to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.
A show of how normal is back will be Wednesday, at a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery after the inauguration ceremonies on the West Front of the Capitol.
That’s when the band gets back together.
Ex-Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and spouses Michelle, Laura and Hillary will join President-elect Biden, wife Jill, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff — his official title will be Second Gentleman.
These former presidents, plus Jimmy Carter, 96, and wife Rosalyn, 93, were together at the funeral of President George H.W. Bush on Dec. 5, 2018, at the National Cathedral. When Trump and Melania joined the row of presidents, Obama and Michelle — sitting next to them — shook hands. Otherwise, the Trumps were ignored, and they returned in kind.
At 12:01 p.m. on Wednesday, the nation will have five living former presidents.
Trump, impeached a second time a week ago for helping to incite the Capitol siege, will never be part of that exclusive club.
Biden has a packed first week; his transition already announced he will be kicking off with a series of executive orders.
The plan is for Biden to sign about a dozen of them on Inauguration Day — reversing the Muslim ban; rejoining the Paris climate agreement; continuing the pause on student loan repayments and interests; and extending COVID eviction restrictions.
Biden will have to navigate getting his Cabinet picks confirmed while the newly Democratic Senate at some point — unless Democrats reverse course — holds Trump’s impeachment trial.
Biden’s biggest test will be making good on his plan for 100 million coronavirus inoculations in his first 100 days. Biden and his team has to speed up manufacturing of the doses and install a much more efficient system for getting shots in people’s arms.
It’s not a matter of building back better — that’s Biden’s slogan — it’s about building the nation’s biggest mass vaccination program in the first place. Biden’s presidency depends on beating this pandemic. With Democrats in control of the House and Senate, Biden is highly likely to quickly pass another COVID relief bill with urgently needed financial lifelines for millions.
On Tuesday evening, Biden and Harris will speak at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at a national COVID-19 memorial service with a component in Chicago and other cities.
At 6 p.m. local time, Chicagoans will be asked to turn off the lights — and after going dark, step outside to light a candle and spend 10 minutes reflecting on lives lost and the pandemic’s toll.
Biden’s inaugural address is expected to have a call for national unity, even if today that goal seems aspirational as the shock of the Capitol riot by election-denying Trump supporters remains.
Country music star Garth Brooks is a last-minute add to the swearing-in ceremony, and he said during a Zoom news conference Tuesday — throwing a message to Trump’s base — “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity.”
Trump reveled in spreading distrust of government. Biden may — and it’s a may — begin to rebuild trust in our institutions if he delivers on his vaccination pledge. Biden’s 100-day voluntary masking challenge will be harder, since masks sadly remain political statements.
Trump is planning to give himself a big send-off at Joint Base Andrews early Wednesday morning before he boards Air Force One for his last ride.
He will land at Palm Beach International Airport at 11 a.m., an hour before Biden is sworn-in.
Trump is looking for a crowd at Andrews to send him off to Mar-a-Lago. The farewell will be fitting. It’s the anti-masker Trump’s last presidential superspreader event.