Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumata: Departing President Donald Trump will be the first American President in more than 150 years. Only the fourth in U.S. history to skip the ceremony where his successor is sworn in. Former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are planning to attend Mr. Biden’s ceremony on January 20. At the age of 96, Jimmy Carter is the only living former President who said he would not be there. The outgoing President traditionally attends the next President’s inauguration as a symbol of the peaceful transfer of power.
Defeated candidates who did not win the White House also sometimes attend an inaugural ceremony. Hillary Clinton was at Mr. Trump’s swearing-in in 2017 after her electoral defeat. Al Gore attended George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001 as the outgoing vice president after their contested election went to the U.S. Supreme Court. President-elect Joe Biden had previously suggested it would be good for Donald Trump to attend the inauguration to show the world a peaceful transition.
Fatoumatta: It is a long-standing tradition for every United States sitting President to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected President to take from departing presidents in the spirit of a peaceful transfer of power and an artifact of political humility, also a weighty symbol of Presidential power. It is a letter that is meant to share what the predecessor President knows, what he learned, and what small wisdom may help his successor bear the President’s office’s great responsibility on the “Resolute desk.”
However, outgoing President Donald Trump has also chosen to break with tradition. He has refused to reach out to the Bidens. He has not invited them to the White House. He is not even likely to leave a farewell note for his successor on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. He wants it on record that he is not happy he lost the election. Donald Trump is such a sore loser, isn’t he? He will not even attend the Inauguration on January 20.Mr. Trump is the first president to skip his successor’s ceremony since Andrew Johnson in 1869. Johnson, a Democrat, was so unpopular with his party that he did not secure a nomination for a second term, and Republican Ulysses S. Grant won the election of 1868.
According to political historian Ronald Shafer, Johnson and Grant detested each other so much that they refused to even ride in the same carriage on Inauguration Day.
Johnson was also the first U.S. president to be impeached — and Mr. Trump is the third, following Bill Clinton.
Before Johnson, only two previous presidents had snubbed their successor’s inauguration. John Adams left Washington in 1801 before the ceremony for Thomas Jefferson, who had defeated him. Adams, the second U.S. president and the first to lose an election.
Fatoumatta: President Donald Trump is the first American President in modern history to shun his successor’s inauguration. However, he is not the first in American history, and he probably would not be the last. The first U.S. president to refuse to attend his successor’s inauguration because of an injured ego was John Adams, the second U.S. president. He refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, Thomas Jefferson, a former friend of his. Adams is said to have left Washington under cover of darkness on the eve of the inauguration.
In 1801, John Adams, America’s second President, was so angry he took the 4.30 am the coach for Baltimore out of Washington DC on the day his friend and successor, Thomas Jefferson, was being sworn in. His son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. President, similarly shunned his successor’s swearing-in, Andrew Jackson in 1829. He went horse-riding on the day of the inauguration. The contempt was mutual. Andrew Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for the death of his wife! In 1869, Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln’s successor, also did not attend Ulysses S. Grant’s swearing-in as President. Johnson was in the cabinet room signing some bills and chatting with friends as another President assumed office. In 1974, Richard Nixon missed Gerald Ford’s swearing-in. He had just resigned, so he left Washington immediately.
Tomorrow, President Trump intends to leave Washington early morning for Palm Beach, Florida, about 1 000 miles away. He will still have in his possession the nuclear briefcase and the nuclear codes called the “biscuit.” However, that would not matter. The nuclear codes will be changed at 12.58 noon EST. Donald Trump can then keep the empty briefcase in his possession as a memento! The nightmare is thus over. It is a new dawn in the United States.
Continuing a White Houseritual, President George W Bush left a letter in the Oval Office for President-elect Barack Obama, wishing him well as he takes the reins of the executive branch. Obama dated January 20, 2009. It reads partly: “There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you. However, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me.” Departing President Bush wishes incoming President Obama the very best.
Fatoumatta: On January 20, 2016, during the waning moments of Barack Obama’s Presidency, he wrote a letter to incoming President Donald Trump. It has been customary for outgoing Oval Office occupant to leave advice for their successors, and President Obama’s letter offered four observations on his eight years at the helm.
In his letter, President Obama, noting that there was no blueprint for success as President, told Donald Trump four essential things: That they were both privileged and lucky to have made it to the White House to serve the American people. That those who hold the highest office in the land do so temporarily, and they must ensure that the instruments of democracy are at least as strong as they found them when they leave. That America remains an indispensable player in world affairs and that stature cannot be ceded. That is the rough and tumble of politics, and in the hard times, the importance of family and real friends can never be underestimated.
Fatoumatta: While President Donald Trump’s behavior has been beyond the pale, this is not the first time an American president has behaved so outrageously. President John Adams refused to attend the inauguration of his successor Thomas Jefferson. James Buchanan did nothing to stop a bloody civil war as the southern Confederates sought to secede. After a series of rallies in which he showered himself with praise, Andrew Johnson suggested that his opponent Thaddeus Stevens be hanged. He was impeached before that grim wish was granted. President Richard Nixon, who served as the 37th President of the United States, hired thugs to break into an opponent’s headquarters to fish for dirt in what came to be known as the Watergate Scandal.
Fatoumatta: Moreover, when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of anyone. The single most powerful word in planet earth democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome in the borrowed words of President Barack Obama “Yes, we can.”
Alagi Yorro Jallow