A note on the inauguration

You may have heard that Joe Biden was sworn in as the forty-sixth president of the United States. A new age begins, so to speak: we’ve never had a president this old before. Biden turned 78 this past November 20.

And he’s not a young 78 either. As I’ve noted a few times before, he looks like an escapee from Madame Tussauds (and I don’t mean one of the tourists). However, he did make it a few blocks down Pennsylvania on his own power. Observing the delivery of Biden’s speech, Dominic Green noted:

Two paragraphs of coherence before the left side of his mouth drops down like he’s having a mini-stroke. Twenty minutes of gasping and croaking, the words sliding out of the other side of his mouth without rhythm or sense, the pin eyes visibly lost and fearful. And the inevitable flubs and malapropisms — ‘rural and Ural’ instead of ‘rural and urban.’ Xi and Putin and Rouhani will be quaking in their boots, once they stop laughing. A great politician knows how to lie. Biden doesn’t even know what he’s saying.

The inauguration put several crises vividly on display. Among them I would count a crisis of rhetoric and a crisis of doggerel. I found the rhetoric of Biden’s speech almost unbelievably flat, but the content was worse. Beneath a veneer of calls for unity he carried on a campaign of smashmouth politics. As Heather Mac Donald puts it, “It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency.”

The campaign extended to the alleged poetry. I learned from yesterday’s event that we have a national youth poet laureate. One Amanda Gorman was named our first ever youth poet laureate in 2017. Now age 23, she may be too old for her work to be characterized as juvenilia. If not, she gives new meaning to the term.

Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb.” The hill goes on forever, that much I can tell you. Part doggerel, part vacuous word play, part concatenation of leftist cliches, the poem carried on the smashmouth politics of Biden’s speech in a different form. “We braved the belly of the beast,” she intoned. And you know who she’s talkin’ about.

Gorman performed the difficult task of making me look back on Maya Angelou’s contribution to Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration with “strange new respect” (as the New York Times used to formulate its praise of Republicans who sold out to the left). Incidentally, that’s “Dr.” Maya Angelou to you.

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