Today’s forecast for our nation’s capital is bearable for January – 43 and sunny – but, mindful of what befell William Henry Harrison, I’ve been worried about old Joe Biden.
The story goes that Harrison was sworn in on a cold, damp day and did himself no favors by not bundling up and worst of all, slogging through a nearly two-hour inaugural address. Three weeks later, he took to his bed. Nine days after that, a month after he took office, he died.
At the time, old Tippecanoe was, at age 68, our oldest president. Then along came Reagan, 69, and then Trump, 70. Now here’s Biden, 78. (Woody Allen would tell him he doesn’t look a day over 77.)
Why a guy Biden’s age would want such a monumentally difficult job at such a monumentally difficult moment in our history is a mystery to me. I’m more than a decade younger and if you lean in close you can hear the ambition hissing out of me like air from a punctured bike tire.
As it turns out, the story that Harrison caught his death of cold on Inauguration Day was fake news, 1841-style. The real cause of his demise, apparently, was death by sewage.
Our Nation’s Capital lacked a sanitation system in those days. A “field of human excrement,” as the New York Times puts it, was seven blocks – upstream — from the White House. The Times’ diagnosis: WHH contracted enteric fever from the bacteria percolating in that stinking marsh.
However you feel about the election of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., you have to admit that 20 days in, we’ve already had enough chaos for one year. The last thing we need is for the new president to go all William Henry Harrison on us.
I, for one, was relieved to hear the Harrison story debunked – until I considered that Biden’s predecessor did not keep his promise to drain the swamp. Indeed, Donald Trump’s version of “be the change that you wish to see in the world” (a quote erroneously attributed to Gandhi) was “be the swamp that you wish to drain in the world.”
Even if Trump takes the swamp with him when he and Melania drive the Winnebago down to Mar-a-Lago today (what’s another swamp to south Floridians?), we’ll still have to worry about Old Joe inhaling noxious vapors emitted by the likes of Ted Cruz and Matt Gaetz.
Not to mention some nutball in a hotel room. Having visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and seen the boarding house window from which James Earl Ray took aim at Martin Luther King, I can’t help fretting about the Secret Service’s ability to ensure that such a thing doesn’t happen today.
I get that presidents feel the need to show the public, “right from the gecko” (as one of my students once wrote), what badasses they are. But really, after the January 6 debacle, a solid case can be made for moving the ceremony to some warm, secure, non-swampy location and letting us witness the proceedings on TV. We do everything else on screens these days, do we not?
But let us assume that all goes well this afternoon. As my grandmother would say, what’s so terrible about a Biden White House? The most baffling aspect of this whole “stop the steal” business, apart from the fact that millions of Americans fell for one last lie from the most spectacular liar in human history, is the fear that our new president will usher in an era of ultra-radical far-left tyranny.
Joe Biden? The moderate’s moderate? The centrist’s centrist? You’d think we’d just elected the second coming of Fidel Castro.
Or, judging from some of the nonsense emanating from the Bozo Rebellion, you’d think Biden is the puppet of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her pals in “The Squad,” who are in turn working for George Soros because, don’t you know, there always has to be a rich Jewish guy calling the shots.
Remember how, way back on New Year’s Eve, the world rejoiced at being able to say good riddance to 2020, worst year of all time? Then came January 6, ever-rising daily body counts from COVID-19, the arrival of a variant strain of the virus and a less-than-stellar rollout of the vaccine.
Thus far, 2021 looks like it isn’t going to be any picnic either. Still, there are causes for optimism. The Swamp King is over and done with. Georgians delivered those two Senate seats (thank you, Stacey Abrams and company), which means the Biden administration just might be able to fix at least some of the many things that are broken in America.
And maybe, just maybe, we who survive the pandemic will be able to go hug our far-flung friends and families this summer.