Dick Brass: The crazy guys are gone – we have a new President

OPINION:

I am actually not a big Lady Gaga fan. And our ‘Star Spangled Banner’, however important here, is actually a meandering old English drinking tune that’s very hard to sing. And it only became our National Anthem in 1929.

But when Lady Gaga belted it out flawlessly at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, and turned her eyes with perfect drama toward the flag just as she sang that it “was still there,” you knew that something big had changed in America: the A-listers are back.

It’s not just the show biz replacement of C list talent like Kirstie Alley and Scott Baio with top stars like Lady Gaga, Garth Brooks, Jennifer Lopez, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks at various Inauguration venues yesterday. It’s a sea change in the government itself.

For example, the widely admired former Federal Reserve President Janet Yellen is replacing the hapless Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin’s most famous moment on the job came when he and his wife posed gloating over a giant display of dollar bills.

At State, the highly experienced Antony Blinken, a Deputy Secretary of State under President Barack Obama who has promoted American alliances around the world, replaces former Congressman Mike Pompeo. Pompeo’s latest embarrassment came this month when several European nations asked him not to visit. He and his wife were also known for giving lavish mask-optional parties for hundreds at State Department expense.

Our new Director of National Intelligence is Avril Haines. Under Obama, she served as Deputy CIA Director and Deputy National Security Advisor, the first woman to hold both those positions. She replaces John Ratcliffe, a former Congressman and Trump loyalist who was initially rejected by the Republican Senate because he misrepresented his national security experience.

In the battle against Covid, an all-star team including America’s most prominent epidemiologists, virologists and public health experts comprise the new Covid-19 task force.

They replace far less impressive players, including Dr Scott Atlas. Atlas is best known as a radiologist with little experience in epidemiology who Trump found on Fox News. Atlas promoted widely discredited theories of intentional infection to achieve herd immunity. In November, Atlas shocked the medical profession by urging Americans to travel despite the surging number of covid cases and deaths here.

Anthony Fauci, our most famous infectious disease expert, has become Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor. Fauci will attend the meeting of the World Health Organisation next week to reinstate the American membership Trump cut.

We will also rejoin COVAX, the international organisation that provides vaccines for low-income nations. Under Trump, Fauci and his family required bodyguards after Trump attacked him repeatedly.

On Tuesday, for the very first time since the pandemic began, Biden held a national memorial service for the 400,000 Covid dead here that Trump refused to similarly acknowledge.

Biden reached out to all Americans and delivered a totally acceptable Inaugural Address, articulate, and with grace notes like calling for an end to our “uncivil war”. It easily trumped Trump’s oratory which, when spontaneous, resembled the stream of consciousness patter of a deranged comedian. And when scripted, looked like a hostage video.

As though the replacement of the talent wasn’t enough, Biden made some impressive changes just hours after the swearing in ceremony.

He ended the ban Trump designed to block Muslim immigration into the US. He halted construction of the useless Mexican border wall that was a special symbol for Trump’s war on immigrants.

We will officially rejoin the Paris Climate Accords in 30 days. Biden yanked approval for a controversial oil pipeline Trump had granted. He undid Trump’s rollback in vehicle emission standards. He announced a moratorium on oil and gas leases in our Arctic Wildlife Refuge. He extended a federal moratorium on evictions due to covid. He halted the resumption of mandatory student loan payments during the pandemic.

Among my liberal and democratic friends, and perhaps among you too my New Zealand friends, a giant sigh of relief could be heard throughout the internet. They posted things like: “Whew.” “Suicide by nuke is no longer an option.” “This smells better.” “I didn’t realise how much I was holding in. I cried during the anthem.”

The crazy guys are gone. We have a new President. The feds continue to arrest the January 6 insurrectionists. There was no attack on the Inauguration. Indeed, only a tiny number of protesters showed up in Washington DC or at state capitals elsewhere.

At the state houses in New York and California, reporters counted one single protester each. My theory is that they didn’t want to show because a fat guy in camo, with his belly hanging over his gun belt, looks much less impressive in front of 500 well armed young and fit National Guardsmen.

Among the devotees of the online conspiracy cult Q-Anon, a similar disappearing act may be underway. Qsters were promised that the great secret paedophile deep state conspiracy would be ended at the Inauguration. They were told, and apparently believed, that Biden and hundreds more would be arrested and imprisoned by the troops guarding the event. When it didn’t happen, angry members complained online that they had been tricked. Well, yeah.

In my own family, the Trump voters are willing to give Biden a chance. They suspect he will be a terrible failure, but they now admit he won and as good Americans they intend to give him at least two weeks or maybe a month to prove himself.

Phew. We made it. The Republic held. But at quite a price. Perhaps 600,000 Covid dead here before it’s over. The Capitol assaulted at the President’s command. The economy wrecked. Our international reputation dented.

But the A-listers are back, and suddenly it seems like America will make it back too.

So far, so good.

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