Leaders across the globe welcomed the arrival of US President Joe Biden and the end of the often confrontational presidency of Donald Trump, noting the world’s most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, require multilateral cooperation, an approach Trump ridiculed.
Many expressed hope Wednesday that Biden would right the world’s largest democracy two weeks after they watched rioters storm the Capitol, shaking the faith of those fighting for democracy in their own countries.
Governments targeted and sanctioned under Trump embraced the chance for a fresh start with Biden, while some heads of state who lauded Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism were more restrained in their expectations for the Biden administration — and in some cases spoke nostalgically of the Trump years.
But a chance to repair frayed alliances and work together to address problems extending beyond any one country’s borders carried the day.
Biden “understands the value and the importance of multilateralism. He understands the importance of cooperation among nations,” said former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos, who left office in 2018.
“As a matter of fact, if we don’t cooperate – all nations – to fight climate change, then we will all perish. It’s as simple as that,” Santos said.
French President Emmanuel Macron also noted the urgency of addressing the perils the world faces from climate change after Trump withdrew the US from the Paris climate accord, a move Biden was to reverse in the first hours of his presidency.
With Biden, “we will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet," he wrote on Twitter. “Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!”
Elsewhere in Europe, close US allies finally saw a chance to come in out of the cold after strained security and economic relationships with the Trump administration.
An Israeli electronics store employee looks at a wall of televisions broadcasting live the 59th U.S. Presidential Inauguration ceremony, in Ashkelon, Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. AP photo
“This new dawn in America is the moment we’ve been awaiting for so long,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, hailing Biden’s arrival as “resounding proof that, once again after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”
European Council President Charles Michel said that trans-Atlantic relations have “greatly suffered in the last four years. In these years, the world has grown more complex, less stable and less predictable.”
“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and how it’s perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” added Michel, whose open criticism of the Trump era contrasted with the silence that mostly reigned in Europe while the Republican leader was in the White House.
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In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a video statement, calling Biden's inauguration a “good day for democracy.”
“Despite the attempts to tear at America’s institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress have proven strong,” he said.
With Biden and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris, Steinmeier said the US would again be a “vital partner” to tackle issues like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, security issues including arms control and disarmament, and multiple conflicts.
In Ballina, Ireland, where Biden’s great-great- grandfather was born in 1832, a mural of a smiling Biden adorned a wall in the town, where some of the president’s relatives still live.
“As he takes the oath of office, I know that President Biden will feel the weight of history — the presence of his Irish ancestors who left Mayo and Louth in famine times in search of life and hope,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
Pope Francis urged Biden to help foster reconciliation in the US and build up a society “marked by authentic justice and freedom” and looking out especially for the poor.
The “grave crises” facing all of humanity call for farsighted responses, Francis said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who formed close ties with Trump, noted a “warm personal friendship” with Biden. “I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance ... and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran,” Netanyahu said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has accused Trump of unfair bias toward Israel with policies like moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, expressed hope for a more even-handed approach from Biden. He urged “a comprehensive and just peace process that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose country has had a tumultuous relationship with Washington, having been criticized for aiding the Afghan Taliban, said in a tweet he looked forward to building a stronger partnership through trade, economic engagement and countering climate change.
In Latin America, Biden faces immediate challenges on immigration and the leaders of the two most populous countries — Brazil and Mexico — were chummy with Trump. The Trump administration also took a hard line against governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, expanding painful sanctions.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro's government urged dialogue with the Biden administration, while hoping the incoming president abandons the avalanche of damaging sanctions Trump imposed to attempt a regime change.
Some Venezuelans, however, like retired accountant Jesús Sánchez, 79, said he was disappointed to see Trump leave power. Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, giving Venezuelans like him hope that Maduro’s days in power were numbered.
Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy in Washington who the US recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden's inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the US has strenuously rejected until now.
Cuba’s leaders perhaps have a more realistic hope for improved relations: Biden was in the White House for the historic thaw in relations in 2014, and various officials expressed willingness to reopen a dialogue with Washington if there was respect for Cuba’s sovereignty.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel railed against Trump via Twitter, citing “more than 200 measures that tightened the financial, commercial and economic blockade, the expression of a despicable and inhuman policy.”
In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who cultivated an unexpectedly friendly relationship with Trump and was one of the last world leaders to recognize Biden’s victory, read from a letter he sent to Biden in 2012, calling for reorienting the bilateral relationship away from security and military aid and toward development.
He urged Biden to implement immigration reform, and added: “We need to maintain a very good relationship with the United States government and I don’t have any doubt that it’s going to be that way.”
For the opening salvo of his presidency, few expected Joe Biden to be so far reaching on immigration.
A raft of executive orders issued Wednesday undoes many of his predecessor’s hallmark initiatives, such as halting work on a border wall with Mexico, lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries and reversing plans to exclude people in the country illegally from the 2020 census.
Biden is also ordering his cabinet to work to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program known as DACA that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the US as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. In addition, he is extending temporary legal status to Liberians who fled civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022.
But that's just the beginning. Biden’s most ambitious proposal, unveiled Wednesday, is an immigration bill that would give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before Jan 1 — an estimated 11 million people — and reduce the time that family members must wait outside the United States for green cards.
Taken together, Biden's plans represent a sharp U-turn after four years of relentless strikes against immigration, captured most vividly by the separation of thousands of children from their parents under a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings. Former President Donald Trump's administration also took hundreds of other steps to enhance enforcement, limit eligibility for asylum and cut legal immigration.
Biden's package dispels any belief that his policies would resemble those of former President Barack Obama, who promised a sweeping bill his first year in office but waited five years while logging more than 2 million deportations.
Eager to avoid a rush on the border, Biden aides signaled that it will take time to unwind some of Trump's border policies, which include making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court.
It "will take months to be fully up and running in terms of being able to do the kind of asylum processing that we want to be able to do,” Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, told reporters.
The administration has been mum on a 100-day moratorium on deportations that Biden promised, though he is revoking one of Trump's earliest executive orders making anyone in the country illegally a priority for deportations. Susan Rice, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said any moratorium would come from the Homeland Security Department, not the president.
Despite the deliberative pace in some areas, Biden's moves left pro-immigration advocates overjoyed. Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, called the legislation “the most progressive legalization bill in history.”
“We made it,” she said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "We made this day happen."
It is even more striking because immigration got scarce mention during the campaign, and the issue has divided Republicans and Democrats, even within their own parties. Legislative efforts failed in 2007 and 2013.
More favorable attitudes toward immigration — especially among Democrats — may weigh in Biden’s favor. A Gallup survey last year found that 34% of those polled supported more immigration, up from 21% in 2016 and higher than any time since Gallup began asking the question in 1965.
Seven in 10 voters said they preferred offering immigrants in the US illegally a chance to apply for legal status, compared with about 3 in 10 who thought they should be deported to the country they came from, according to AP VoteCast. The survey of more than 110,000 voters in November showed 9 in 10 Biden voters but just about half of Trump voters were in favor of a path to legal status.
Under the bill, most people would wait eight years for citizenship but those enrolled in DACA, those with temporary protective status for fleeing strife-torn countries and farmworkers would wait three years.
The bill also offers development aid to Central America, reduces the 1.2 million-case backlog in immigration courts and provides more visas for underrepresented countries and crime victims.
The proposal would let eligible family members wait in the United States for green cards by granting temporary status until their petitions are processed — a population that Kerri Talbot of advocacy group Immigration Hub estimates at 4 million.
Unmarried adult children of US citizens who have been waiting outside the country for more than six years are just getting their numbers called this month. Waits are even longer for some nationalities. Married sons and daughters of US citizens from Mexico have been waiting outside the United States since August 1996.
The bill faces an enormous test in Congress. Sen Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Wednesday that he would lead the Senate effort. Skeptics will note that Ronald Regan's 1986 amnesty for nearly 3 million immigrants preceded large numbers of new arrivals and say to expect more of the same.
In a taste of what's to come, Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, described the bill as having “open borders: Total amnesty, no regard for the health and security of Americans, and zero enforcement.”
To be clear, enforcement has expanded exponentially since the mid-1990s and will remain. Biden's bill calls for more technology at land crossings, airports and seaports and authorizes the Homeland Security secretary to consider other steps.
Biden warned advocates last week that they should not hold him to passage within 100 days, said Domingo Garcia of the League of United Latin American Citizens, who was on a call with the president.
“Today we celebrate," Carlos Guevara of pro-immigration group UnidosUS said Wednesday. "Tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
U.S. stocks are rallying to records Wednesday on encouraging earnings reports and continued optimism that new leadership in Washington will mean more support for the struggling economy.
The S&P 500 was 1.4% higher at 3,851 in afternoon trading, topping its record closing level of 3,824.68 set earlier this month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 220 points, or 0.7%, at 31,151 as of 3:13 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 2.1% higher.
Joe Biden took the oath of office to become U.S. president, and he has a flurry of executive actions at the ready. He has also pitched a plan to pump $1.9 trillion more into the struggling economy, hoping to act quickly as his Democratic party takes control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
The hope on Wall Street is that such stimulus will help carry the economy until later this year, when more widespread COVID-19 vaccinations get daily life closer to normal. Such hopes have helped stocks and Treasury yields rise, even as the worsening pandemic digs a deeper hole for the economy. Spiraling coronavirus counts and deaths have more workers applying for unemployment benefits and shoppers feeling less confident.
“Most of Wall Street is assuming that the second half (of 2021) is when we will see pent-up demand start to show up in the economy, and that will push economic indicators higher and will likely cause a ramp up in earnings projections,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.
The incoming Biden administration is taking control of the White House from Donald Trump, who pointed again on Wednesday to the stock market’s level as validation of his work.
Trump’s preferred measure is often the Dow Jones Industrial Average, even though the S&P 500 is much more important to most workers’ 401(k) accounts. Under Trump, the Dow had an a annualized return of 11.8% from his inauguration until his last day in office, according to Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. That’s better than any Republican president since Calvin Coolidge during the roaring 1920s, but it’s not as good as the returns for Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.
Trump has said in the past that he should get credit for the stock market’s gains following his election but before his inauguration. The market got a “Trump bump” then on anticipation of lower tax rates, less regulation on companies and faster economic growth. Much of that did come to fruition, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to it upended everything in 2020.
Gains for stocks have also been accelerating since Biden’s election, before his inauguration, on enthusiasm about COVID-19 vaccines and hopes that he and Congress can deliver more stimulus for the economy. The bump for stocks between the most recent Election Day and Biden’s inauguration is bigger than Trump’s bump before his inauguration.
“The market is up more than 13% since Election Day,” Stovall said, noting that since World War II, the S&P 500 has risen an average of 3.5% in the first 100 days of a Democratic president’s administration, versus an average gain of 0.5% when a Republican was in the White House.
Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee to be Treasury secretary, told the Senate Finance Committee during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the incoming administration would focus on winning quick passage of its $1.9 trillion plan.
“More must be done,” Yellen said. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later.”
A better-than-expected start to earnings reporting season is also helping to lift the market Wednesday. Analysts came in with low expectations, forecasting the big companies in the S&P 500 will report a fourth straight drop in earnings per share because of the damage from the pandemic. But the vast majority of the earliest reports have managed to top forecasts.
Analysts have been expressing concerns about pricey stock values heading into the latest round of corporate earnings, but they look more reasonable amid the backdrop of historically low interest rates, said Solita Marcelli, chief investment officer, Americas, at UBS Global Wealth Management. The low rates, along with new stimulus and the continued rollout of vaccines, will likely help bolster markets and the recovery.
“We think that global growth is going to continue to pick up,” she said.
Netflix jumped 17.9% for the S&P 500′s biggest gain after it said it ended last year with more than 200 million subscribers. It also said it made more in revenue during the end of 2020 than analysts expected, though its earnings fell short of forecasts. Business is good enough for the company that it says it likely doesn’t need to borrow anymore to cover its day-to-day operations.
Companies will need to meet the market’s expectations — including for a huge rebound in profit growth through 2021 — to validate the big runs for their stock prices during 2020, even as their profits plummeted. Stocks of several companies slipped on Wednesday, even though they reported stronger profits than expected. Procter & Gamble fell 1%, for example.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.09% from 1.07% late Tuesday.
A full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in a very Gaga way — with flamboyance, fashion and passion.
The Grammy winner wore a large dove pin and an impressively billowing red sculpted skirt as she sang into a golden microphone, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” She was followed at Wednesday’s ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, with a moving medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” throwing in a line in Spanish.
And country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a gospel-tinged, soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song. He asked the audience to sing a verse with him: “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.” Leaving the podium, he donned his cowboy hat again, shook hands and hugged former President Barack Obama.
The three superstars were among a slew of glittery celebrities descending on Washington — virtually or in person — to welcome the new administration of Biden and Kamala Harris, a duo popular in Hollywood, where former President Donald Trump was decidedly not.
But Brooks was careful to call his decision to perform on Wednesday non-political, and in the spirit of unity. Brooks performed during the inaugural celebration of Obama in 2009, but turned down a chance to play for Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.
Other top-tier performers will be part of “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network evening broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that takes the place of the usual official inaugural balls. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will contribute a classical recitation, joining musicians like Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi. Hosts Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria will be joined by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef Jose Andres, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history.
The inaugural committee has made sure to blend this high-powered list with ordinary Americans and inspiring stories. Segments will include tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings will be carried by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC and PBS as well as the committee’s social media channels and streaming partners.
There’s also a virtual “Parade Across America” on inauguration afternoon, hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn with appearances by Jon Stewart, Earth Wind & Fire and the New Radicals — reuniting after more than two decades — among many others.
The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes.
The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities.
Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball.
As newly inaugurated leaders often do, President Joe Biden began his tenure with a ritual call for American unity.
But standing on the same Capitol steps where just two weeks ago violent rioters laid siege to the nation’s democracy, Biden’s words felt less like rhetorical flourishes and more like an urgent appeal to stabilize a country reeling from a spiraling pandemic, economic uncertainty, racial tensions and a growing divide over truth versus lies.
“We must end this uncivil war,” Biden declared shortly after being sworn in as the nation’s 46th president.
Repairing the badly battered nation amounts to one of the greatest challenges to face an American president. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 400,000 Americans and is still raging out of control. The economy keeps shedding jobs, with unemployment hitting women and minorities the hardest. And the insurrection at the Capitol made clear the extent of the risks posed by the nation’s deep political divisions and the embrace of conspiracies and lies by many followers of Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
“Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we are in now,” Biden said.
Indeed, Biden, 78, is taking office at as grim a moment as many Americans can remember, and his inaugural celebration reflected that reality. There was no cheering crowd spread out before him on the National Mall when he took the oath of office as a consequence of the pandemic, but there were 25,000 National Guard troops securing the streets of Washington in response to the Capitol attack. Officials who did gather there wore face masks and were seated at a distance.
Trump wasn’t on hand to witness the fallout of his tenure, having defied tradition and left Washington earlier Wednesday morning.
Historians have put the challenges Biden faces on par with, or even beyond, what confronted Abraham Lincoln when he was inaugurated in 1861 to lead a nation splintering into civil war or Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he was sworn in during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933.
But Lincoln and Roosevelt’s presidencies are also a blueprint for the ways American leaders have turned crises into opportunities, pulling people past the partisan divisions or ideological forces that can halt progress.
“Crises present unique opportunities for large scale change in a way that an average moment might not,” said Lindsay Chervinsky, a presidential historian and author of “The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.” “The more intense the crisis, the more likely the country is to get behind someone to try to fix that — the concept of uniting in war or uniting against a common threat.”
But by some measures, Roosevelt and Lincoln had advantages Biden does not. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party had solid majorities in Congress, helping him power through his expansive agenda. Lincoln’s Republican majorities were added by the secessionist push that dwindled his opponents’ ranks in Congress.
Biden, meanwhile, will have the narrowest of Democratic majorities in Congress; in the 50-50 Senate, it will fall to Vice President Kamala Harris to break any ties. The Republican Party faces an existential crisis of its own making after the Trump era, and it is deeply uncertain how much cooperating with the new Democratic president fits into its leaders’ plans for their future.
Still, Biden has signaled he will press Congress aggressively in his opening weeks, challenging lawmakers to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to address the public health and economic crisis — all but daring Republicans to block him at a moment when cases and deaths across the U.S. are soaring.
Biden’s ability to get that legislation passed will significantly shape both his administration’s ability to tackle the pandemic and his overall standing in Washington. He’s staked much of the promise of his presidency on his ability to court lawmakers from across the aisle, touting his long working relationship with Republican senators and the reputation he cultivated as a dealmaker while serving as President Barack Obama’s No. 2.
But Washington has changed rapidly since then, a reality Biden’s advisers insist he is clear-eyed about. Unlike Obama, he will quickly flex his executive powers on his first day in office, both to roll back Trump administration policies and to take action on the pandemic, including issuing a mask mandate on federal property. He’s also pledged that his administration will vaccinate 100 million people against the coronavirus within his first 100 days in office, laying down a clear marker to judge his success or failure.
Laura Belmonte, the dean of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and a professor of history, said that while Biden would be “naive” to think Washington is the same as it was when he was a senator or even when he left it as vice president, the experience he brings to the job will be invaluable in this moment.
“We don’t have time for a learning curve,” Belmonte said. “I cannot think of a modern president that has faced a more daunting landscape.”
As he addressed the nation on Wednesday, Biden was plainspoken about the challenges ahead and the reality that his presidency will be judged on his ability to overcome them. He also nodded to some of the reasons for optimism on the horizon, including the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and an economy poised to rebound when the pandemic ultimately passes.
But there is far less certainty about the ultimate challenge the new president faces: bridging the deep ideological, racial and factual divides that have pushed the nation to the brink.
“Unity is the path forward,” he said. “We must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.”