The date was Friday, April 7, 2023, just two weeks after the opening ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and rays of sunshine pierced Washington’s vivid blue sky as thousands filled the National Mall while members of Congress gathered on the lawn of the Capitol.
Winter in the nation’s capital had heated up earlier than expected, and Fox 5’s Caitlin Roth had previously mused in March that Washingtonians were having a “strawberry spring,” a term some use to describe an early warm spell.
While the early spring weather was warm, the corridors of the White House were cold as a number of offices in the West Wing and even the Old Executive Office Building were now empty. In the past few days, as rumors began to surface from the residence, dozens of Biden appointees resigned or were “offboarded,” a polite term the Office of Presidential Personnel uses when it fires people.
The night before, as millions nostalgically cheered the former cast of “Friends” in a special reunion edition of “Celebrity Jeopardy,” network television interrupted their regularly scheduled programming. It flashed to a sullen President Biden, who addressed the nation in a televised Oval Office speech reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s 1974 farewell address.
The 46th president talked about the achievements of his administration, the hard work his staff had done, and the importance of all Americans coming together in this time of need for the sake of the nation’s future. Throwing his hands in the air as if to signal he was at a loss as to why any of this was necessary, Mr. Biden apologized for making the mistake of keeping classified documents at the offices of his Washington think tank and in the garage of his Delaware estate.
And then, with a nod, a wink and a smile, he talked about the bright side as he would soon be cruising Bethany Beach with his wife, Jill, in his famous 1967 hunter-green Corvette convertible.
At 10 a.m. the next day, The Washington Times broke a story by veteran journalist Stephen Dinan, who reported that White House aides had clashed earlier in the day, arguing whether Mr. Biden should attend his successor’s swearing-in — or if, in light of the growing scandal, it could taint the image of the incoming president.
Ultimately, Mr. Biden, who was still commander in chief, decided he should attend the ceremony simply because his predecessor did not do so two years before. In traditional Biden fashion, the 46th president remained consistent by avoiding anything Trumpian in fashion.
At high noon, the vice president raised her right hand and, with a sunny California smile, solemnly swore to faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and then, with a coquettish head tilt to the right as if to move a strand of the caramel bangs draping across her eyes, the new commander in chief added she would, to the best of her ability, “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
And then President Harris, Kamala Devi Harris, embraced her predecessor, who, for the first time in a long time, showed warmth to his former running mate and said, “God bless you, Mrs. President, God bless you.”
“Thank you, Joe,” she said as she turned to her chief of staff, Lorraine Voles, a veteran Democratic operative who previously helped candidates such as Vice President Walter Mondale and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and later served alongside Vice President Al Gore.
“We did it, Lorraine, we did it!” she said with jubilation.
As Ms. Harris waved to a cheering audience of thousands of Democrats sprawled across the National Mall, she smiled and then, using both hands, blew kisses to her thousands of liberal admirers.
Flanked by the Secret Service, the first female president in U.S. history began her descent into the Capitol and was escorted by her agents downstairs to where a presidential limousine awaited. In minutes, she returned to the White House as the 47th president of the United States, and in her first act, she pardoned her predecessor. She would soon be the first female incumbent president to announce her candidacy for the upcoming race in 2024.
If you think this scenario is far-fetched, think again.
In the last few days, Mr. Biden’s fate, which looked bright after the midterm elections, has darkened in ways no one could have imagined.
Perhaps it is a stunning twist of irony that the reported discovery of classified documents at Mr. Biden’s home and office would have most likely gone largely unnoticed had his administration not made a federal case (literally) of the documents former President Donald Trump had at his beachfront compound in Palm Beach, Florida.
But that horse is out of the barn and galloping fast into the horizon of the Oregon Trail.
Mr. Biden, unable to move on from Mr. Trump, based much of his presidency on targeting his predecessor, who, in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots, was literally fading from public view. Thanks to the Biden administration, however, that didn’t happen. Mr. Biden’s soldiers managed to restore Mr. Trump to the limelight.
It appears that Mr. Biden, while getting his infamous “three degrees from undergraduate school,” missed the chance to read “The Mikado’s Empire,” a respected historical account of late 19th-century Japan by William Elliot Griffis. Among Griffis’ many memorable revelations about the Land of the Rising Sun is a proverb about the perils of revenge: “If you call down a curse on anyone, look out for two graves.”
This may truly be the case since, unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden was not president when he allegedly took possession of classified documents, a fact that may shortstop his presidency now. The real victim, however, amid all these mishaps aren’t the politicians under scrutiny. It’s the average American who is losing faith in its leaders.
President Harris may be on her way into the passages of America’s history soon — but she has her work cut out for her if she’s going to restore trust and confidence in Washington.
• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former Washington prosecutor who also served as a senior U.S. official from 2017 to 2021. He now serves on the editorial board for The Washington Times.