Mr. Biden hoped to use his Inaugural Address to strike a sharply different tone from his predecessor, who favored provocation over conciliation. Mr. Biden began working on it before Thanksgiving in a process run by his longtime adviser, Mike Donilon. He received help from Jon Meacham, the historian who is serving as an outside informal adviser, as well as from Vinay Reddy, his speechwriter, while relying on his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who has long been an important sounding board.
But even as the new president called for unity, he wanted to use the speech to call out white supremacy in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the siege of the Capitol by extremists. And while he did not want to name Mr. Trump by name, he intended to talk about the need for truth and the consequences of lies after four years in which the president made tens of thousands of false or misleading statements.
Beyond age, gender and race, Mr. Biden could hardly be more of a contrast to the president he succeeded. A longtime senator, former vice president and consummate Washington insider, Mr. Biden prides himself on his experience working across the aisle and hopes to forge a partnership with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, and other Republicans.
Garrulous and loquacious, known for an incandescent smile, a sometimes overly familiar shoulder rub and a proclivity for gaffes, Mr. Biden practices the sort of feel-your-pain politics of empathy mastered by Mr. Clinton and the call-me-anytime politics of relationships exemplified by the first President George Bush.
At 78, Mr. Biden is the oldest president in American history — older on his first day in office than Ronald Reagan was on his last — and even allies quietly acknowledge that he is no longer at his prime, meaning he will be constantly watched by friends and foes alike for signs of decline. But he overcame the doubts and the obstacles to claim the prize of his lifetime nearly 34 years after kicking off the first of his three presidential campaigns.
While he has strong center-left beliefs at his core, he is not ideologically driven, willing and even eager to move with the political center of gravity. The progressive wing of his party remains skeptical and he may find it daunting to hold together his electoral coalition, whose main point of agreement was shared antipathy for Mr. Trump.
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