Los Angeles Times

Bi­den gives U.S. a Thanks­giv­ing mes­sage of hope

Pres­i­dent- elect strives to re­as­sure and unite a COVID- weary nation in lead­er­ship vac­uum.

- By Evan Halper U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Thanksgiving Day · Celebrations · Joe Biden · United States of America · Wilmington, DE · Delaware · Donald Trump · Pennsylvania · Republican Party (United States) · Michael T. Flynn · Mike Pence · White House

WILMINGTON, Del. — As Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ued to down­play an out- of­con­trol virus that is tak­ing more than 2,000 Amer­i­can lives a day, Pres­i­dent- elect Joe Bi­den sought to step into the lead­er­ship void Wed­nes­day by de­liv­er­ing a solemn ap­peal for Amer­i­cans to put pol­i­tics aside and unite to beat the pan­demic.

Bi­den’s Thanks­giv­ing eve ad­dress sig­naled a new phase of the of­fi­cial tran­si­tion, one in which he is buck­ing tra­di­tion and mov­ing early to claim the bully pul­pit and re­set the tone of the pres­i­dency.

While he didn’t men­tion Trump by name, Bi­den said Amer­i­cans de­serve “to al­ways hear the truth” from the pres­i­dent, a clear con­trast to Trump’s daily stream of mis­truths.

For his part, Trump spent the day fo­cused on his false claims of elec­tion fraud. He phoned in to a meet­ing hosted by Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­cans to voice more base­less charges, and said the elec­tion re­sults must be in­val­i­dated.

Trump also is­sued a par­don to Michael Flynn, the only White House aide charged in the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Flynn served less than a

month as Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor be­fore he was f ired in early 2017 for ly­ing to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and other of­fi­cials, and he later pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI, a felony. He re­cently sought to with­draw his guilty plea, and his case has been in le­gal limbo.

In a state­ment, the White House said that Flynn “never should have been pros­e­cuted” and that Trump’s par­don would “end the re­lent­less, par­ti­san pur­suit of an in­no­cent man.”

Bi­den urged Amer­i­cans to con­sider how the toxic pol­i­tics grip­ping the nation is un­der­min­ing the f ight against COVID- 19, which he said “has di­vided us, an­gered us, and set us against one an­other.”

“I know the coun­try has grown weary of the fight,” he said. “But we need to re­mem­ber we’re at war with a virus, not with one an­other.”

Bi­den’s ap­peal to Amer­i­cans “to write a newer, bolder, more com­pas­sion­ate chap­ter in the life of our nation” had the mark­ings of an in­au­gu­ral or State of the Union ad­dress.

There were calls for ac­tion and sac­ri­fice, nods to his­tory, and prom­ises of mo­bi­liza­tion by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Bi­den en­gaged the sym­bol­ism of Thanks­giv­ing and his sig­na­ture em­pa­thy in try­ing to unite a nation that he ac­knowl­edged is dis­cour­aged after los­ing so many loved ones and fac­ing a hol­i­day week­end when it is un­safe to gather.

Bi­den said he would forgo a decades- long tra­di­tion of large fam­ily gath­er­ings for the hol­i­day, and he im­plored other Amer­i­cans to do the same.

“For so many of us it is hard to hear that this f ight isn’t over, that we still have months of this bat­tle ahead of us,” Bi­den said. “Many lo­cal health sys­tems are at risk of be­ing over­whelmed. That is the plain and sim­ple truth, and I be­lieve you de­serve to al­ways hear the truth from your pres­i­dent. We have to try to slow the growth of the virus.”

Bi­den is de­ter­mined to im­ple­ment a pub­lic health of­fen­sive im­me­di­ately upon tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary. It will rely heav­ily on largescale buy- in by Amer­i­cans.

Ex­panded use of masks and so­cial distancing — guid­ance of­ten mocked and f louted by Trump — is a cen­tral pil­lar of the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to keep Amer­i­cans safe be­fore vac­cines are ex­pected to be widely avail­able in the late spring or sum­mer. Bi­den promised that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will do its part — once he takes charge — with ex­panded test­ing, a com­pre­hen­sive con­tact­trac­ing pro­gram and clearer, co­or­di­nated guid­ance for schools and busi­nesses on open­ing safely.

“I com­mit to you: I will use all those pow­ers to lead a na­tional co­or­di­nated re­sponse,” he said. “But the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can’t do it alone.… None of these steps we’re ask­ing peo­ple to take are po­lit­i­cal state­ments. Ev­ery one of them is based in sci­ence.”

Ear­lier in the day, Bi­den’s ad­vi­sors said the of­fi­cial fed­eral tran­si­tion — which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had blocked un­til Mon­day night — is now well un­der­way, with Bi­den’s team al­ready hold­ing dozens of meet­ings at fed­eral agen­cies.

Yet the ad­dress Wed­nes­day high­lighted how ac­cess to of­fi­cials in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will only get Bi­den so far in ad­vanc­ing his agenda, par­tic­u­larly in con­fronting the pan­demic.

Once in of­fice, he needs broad pub­lic sup­port for pub­lic health mea­sures in or­der to ex­e­cute his plan. That may be dif­fi­cult after the gov­ern­ment’s top med­i­cal ex­perts were un­der­mined and side­lined by a pres­i­dent who saw po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity in pro­mot­ing di­vi­sion and mis­in­for­ma­tion about the virus.

While Bi­den’s le­gal team con­tin­ues to f ight the Trump law­suits al­leg­ing — with­out ev­i­dence — mass voter fraud, the pres­i­den­t­elect has largely stopped talk­ing about them.

His speech Wed­nes­day sug­gested that go­ing for­ward, Bi­den will speak to the nation as if he is al­ready in the White House.

He talked about how the vac­cine will be dis­trib­uted, and how the hope it pro­vides should for­tify the nation for the bat­tle ahead, when con­tain­ing com­mu­nity spread will be vi­tal.

“Don’t let your­self sur­ren­der to the fa­tigue.… Amer­ica is not go­ing to lose this war,” he said.

Bi­den put the chal­lenge in the con­text of other his­tor­i­cally dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods: the Civil War, the two World Wars and the Jim Crow pe­riod of le­gal seg­re­ga­tion. He said “love of coun­try and love of one an­other” ul­ti­mately en­abled the nation to over­come them.

“We don’t talk much about love in our pol­i­tics,” he said. “The pub­lic arena is too loud, too an­gry, too heated. To love our neigh­bors as our­selves is a rad­i­cal act, yet it’s what we are called to do.”

‘ I know the coun­try has grown weary of the fight. But we need to re­mem­ber we’re at war with a virus, not with one an­other.’

— Pres­i­dent- elect Joe Bi­den

 ?? Carolyn Kaster As­so­ci­ated Press ?? PRES­I­DENT- ELECT Joe Bi­den’s Thanks­giv­ing eve ad­dress sig­naled he is claim­ing the bully pul­pit early.
Carolyn Kaster As­so­ci­ated Press PRES­I­DENT- ELECT Joe Bi­den’s Thanks­giv­ing eve ad­dress sig­naled he is claim­ing the bully pul­pit early.
 ?? Mark Makela Getty I mages ?? THE PRES­I­DENT- ELECT urged Amer­i­cans to join him in for­go­ing tra­di­tional large fam­ily gath­er­ings to help rein in the coro­n­avirus.
Mark Makela Getty I mages THE PRES­I­DENT- ELECT urged Amer­i­cans to join him in for­go­ing tra­di­tional large fam­ily gath­er­ings to help rein in the coro­n­avirus.

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