He leaves, finally

He leaves, finally

Outgoing US President Donald Trump

After months of tweets and messages to his supporters that the November 2020 presidential election had been stolen from him, Donald Trump will finally leave the White House on January 20 (Thursday in Manila) as his successor Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Trump earlier this month, after the Epiphany, promoted a rally to “Stop the Steal” and, rightly or wrongly, encouraged thousands who laid siege to the US Capitol in what media observers described as a “stunning attempt” to do just that.

But the fallout of their failed insurrection, quick like some thunderclap, resulted in five deaths and Trump, pictured by some as the worst president the United States ever had despite his slogan “Make America Great Again,” was immediately deplatformed from almost every key social network.

If that was not enough, he suffered the ignominy of a historic second impeachment, only days before his four-year term, which started in January 2017, would end on January 20 (21 in Manila).

There have been options considered by the Trump party, which included leaving Washington on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), when Biden is scheduled to arrive in the capital, or even on the morning of the inauguration, potentially minutes before Biden is sworn in.

Media reports suggested Trump would hold an unprecedented farewell event at Joint Base Andrews at the same time as Biden’s inauguration, before his final flight aboard Air Force One.

The American news agency AP, quoting a person familiar with the planning but who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement, reported that officials were considering an elaborate military-style send-off event reminiscent of the receptions Trump had received during state visits abroad, complete with a red carpet, color guard, military band and even a 21-gun salute.

But Trump, the drama rising to fever pitch depending on how one looks at it, is not planning to deliver a farewell address or to take questions from reporters for one final time, nor does he have any confirmed public events on his calendar, an aide said.

Reports from Washington D.C. say Trump has requested a large sendoff to be planned for the morning of Jan. 20, after he choppers via Marine One to Joint Base Andrews, where he is expected to give remarks to supporters and departing members of his administration.

Sources add that Trump has requested his departure ceremony to have a “military-like feel,” although details are not finalized. He hopes to depart to the blare of a military band, with a red carpet and military honors. Even some sort of military flyover has been suggested, they say.

The president will then fly down to Mar-a-Lago aboard Air Force One with a small number of staffers who will be part of his post-presidency operation.

One interesting question has been: Will he speak with Biden?

Highly reliable sources have said Trump did not make a concession phone call or invite Biden to the White House after his victory.

In fact, he has not spoken to Biden since their controversial final debate in October. But last week, the White House invited Biden to spend the night of January 19 at Blair House.

Officials do not expect Trump to invite Biden to the White House for the traditional pre-inauguration tea on Wednesday, but they said it is still a remote possibility.

They also wondered what – if anything at all – Trump, at 74 four years Biden’s junior, would write to his successor in the customary note left in the Oval Office for the next occupant.

As the days roll on from here on, the world, including the Philippines, will be watching Biden as he flexes muscle against the challenges confronting his administration, which include the coronavirus pandemic.

Only last week, in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden finally detailed his plan to fix America’s troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout, proposing to more than double the nation’s current investment in vaccination to $20 billion.

This is to be done while partnering with states and localities to create community vaccination sites, invoking the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine supply and launching a new, 100,000-person public health force to assist with deployment.

At this point when COVID-19 cases are rising in nearly every state of the 50 are regularly topping 4,000 a day, Biden’s message was clear: Help is on the way.

In sharp contrast to Trump, who had treated vaccination as the responsibility of individual states, Biden believes it is a national issue that demands federal resources and a federal plan.

“Our plan is as clear as it is bold,” Biden said. “Get more people vaccinated for free. Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get the shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.”

“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country,” he continued. “But you have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation.”

Biden’s moves are particularly interesting for the Philippines, which said the other day it may still turn back on 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., replying to questions, said “No vaccine can be used by the government without EUA (Emergency Use Authorization).”

During a Senate hearing last week, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez and testing czar Vince Dizon were grilled on why the government was bent on purchasing the Sinavoc vaccine when its efficacy lagged behind other brands.

In the government’s defense, Dizon said if the vaccine-expert panel would not recommend the vaccine and the Food and Drug Administration would not grant it an EUA then the government would not purchase and administer the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights called on the national government to ensure an “equal distribution of and access to” COVID-19 vaccines.

“From a human rights perspective, equitable vaccination promotes and protects public health of the entire nation for ‘no one will be secure until everyone is secure,'” Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said in a statement.

Many are watching government moves.(AI/MTVN)

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