On Monday in Ohio, Donald Trump suggested (in a teleprompter speech) that rival Hillary Clinton "lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face — not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn our great country around." The Clinton camp, and many outside observers, took that comment as a nod to conspiracy theories about Clinton's health that have be spread around in the internet's fever swamps as well as Trump-friendly media outlets like The Drudge Report, Sean Hannity's Fox News show, and the National Enquirer. (You can find a summary of the debunked #HillaryHealth claims at BBC News.)
The Clinton campaign accused Trump of "peddling deranged conspiracy theories" and released a letter from Clinton's doctor reiterating that the former secretary of state "is in excellent health and fit to serve as president of the United States." On Thursday, Clinton strategist Joel Benenson told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that the "ludicrous" and "ridiculous" theories being spread online "do not even rise to a level of rebuttal." Then he offered one. "Hillary Clinton flew around the world as secretary of state," he said. "People saw her stamina testifying against Congress for 11 hours and not wavering for one minute."
When Mitchell asked why Trump, who at 70 is a year older than Clinton, would attack Clinton's mental and physical stamina, Benenson suggested, "Because I think he's terribly weak right now; I think his ego is probably battered because he's getting battered in the polls." But there's another possibility, suggested in the 2005 Doctor Who episode "The Christmas Invasion." The plot involves a newly regenerated 10th Doctor, played by David Tennant, saving the Earth from an alien invasion, and ends with fictional Prime Minister Harriet Jones destroying the ship as it flees the planet. The Doctor is furious.
"I could bring down your government with a single word," he tells Jones. "You're the most remarkable man I've ever met, but I don't think you're quite capable of that," she replies. "No, you're right — not a single word," the Doctor says. "Just six." He walks over to an aide and whispers in his ear, "Don't you think she looks tired?" The episode ends with Jones being questioned about her health before losing a vote of no confidence.
The controversial ending is apparently a reference to a media frenzy near the end of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister after an aide suggested she looked tired, but people who spend a lot of time thinking about Doctor Who are split over what it means. Jones "was deposed because the Doctor manufactured a health scare by having everyone judge her solely based on her appearance (you have to also remember that any actual medical evaluation would've revealed she was fine)," argues Whovian feminist Alyssa Franke. "And attacking a politician based on their appearance is a particularly gendered attack." Racheline Maltese disagrees, calling the exchange "a criticism of the modern scandal-obsessed news media." Either way, Jones lost. If the media gloms onto unfounded Clinton health rumors, Clinton may suffer, too. Peter Weber
A Delaware News Journal reporter captured a powerful, private moment on Wednesday as Joe Biden gave his first address as president of the United States. "Poignant moment," the reporter, Patricia Talorico, captioned the photo, which swiftly went viral. "While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau."
Poignant moment: While Joe Biden gave his inauguration speech, a lone man in a uniform knelt at the Delaware grave of his son Beau. pic.twitter.com/QkCuJRHzTz
As Talorico explained in a subsequent article, "Delaware is a tiny state." She described how back in 2002, when she was struggling with an assignment from her editor, Beau Biden approached her to ask if she was okay while she sat alone on a bench at an elementary school in Wilmington. "He wasn't in office at the time," she wrote. "He was just being kind. It wasn't a grand gesture, just a small one, but somehow, it made a difference that day. I never forgot that act of kindness."
On Wednesday, Beau — who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at the age of 46 — was on Talorico's mind, and she decided to drive by his grave to say "a short prayer" when she saw "a lone man in a blue uniform kneeling at Beau's grave. No one else was around … In my car, I had the radio tuned to CNN. Joe Biden was being sworn in as president and was about to begin his address."
As Talorico writes, "The journalist in me wanted to go back and find out [the man's] identity and ask why he was there. The person who once received a kind gesture from Beau when I needed it most knew it was a time to be respectful, and I drove away." Read her full story at Delaware News Journal.Jeva Lange
President Biden has entered the Oval Office — and has immediately started undoing former President Donald Trump's legacy.
After his inauguration Wednesday, Biden made his way into the White House for the first time as president, and found what he called a "very generous letter" Trump had left there for him. And after sitting down at the Resolute Desk, Biden signed a wave of executive orders overturning Trump's policies and installing others the former president would've opposed.
For starters, Biden instituted a mask mandate on all federal property across the U.S. Biden can't force Americans to wear masks everywhere — that's up to governors — but he does have jurisdiction over any federal government-owned property. He also stopped Trump's planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which Trump criticized for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and started the process of putting the federal government in charge of vaccine and testing coordination.
After four years of Trump's hardline immigration policies, and seemingly in an attempt to counter the Obama administration's immigration legacy, Biden quickly took action on immigration as well. He signed orders reversing Trump's Muslim travel ban and stopping construction of the southern border wall, and plans to bring a massive immigration reform bill to Congress on Wednesday. Kathryn Krawczyk
The Democratic Party gained a slim majority in the Senate on Wednesday, when Vice President Kamala Harris — who just a few hours earlier took her own oath of office — swore Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), and her successor Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) into the upper chamber.
The Senate now has a 50-50 party split, though Harris would serve as the tie-breaker in simple majority votes, which means the Democrats hold the edge.
With the addition of three new Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has taken on the role of majority leader, while Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is once again the minority leader, a post he held between 2007 and 2015. Tim O'Donnell
"One part [of the inauguration] that caused me to get real emotional was, we've been a country for 243 years, and in all those 243 years, we have had women citizens but we have never had a woman hold national office," Fowler said, his voice breaking as he went on. "So to see Kamala Harris put her hand on the Bible today — also being her and I are of Jamaican descent, and I just think about my grandmother and my mom and so many other women who saw this, and so many young girls who can finally believe that they can be president, too, because of what we did as a country back in November."
Fox News contributor Richard Fowler gets emotional when talking about Kamala Harris being the first woman VP, and how it makes him think about his grandmother and mom, who like Harris are of Jamaican descent pic.twitter.com/Wdlo8Ca3uh
Fowler was not the only contributor on Fox News on Wednesday to be audibly moved by the significance of Harris' oath. Political analyst Juan Williams also emotionally explained, "It's visceral, and I'll tell you why. I have granddaughters, I'm the son of a Black mother — you think about American history, you think about the status of Black women in this country for most of our history. And the idea that a Black woman would assume such power in this moment as a national leader — truly inspiring." Jeva Lange
Fox News' Juan Williams gets choked up talking about Kamala Harris:
"You think about the status of Black women in this country for most of our history. And the idea that a Black woman would assume such power in this moment as a national leader, truly inspiring." pic.twitter.com/K13K0Q1vVX
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office Wednesday, marking the end of former President Donald Trump's term. After the inauguration ceremony, Biden and Harris embarked on a short parade around the Capitol Hill area that ended at the White House. That's where Biden and his family got to step inside for the first time since Biden was vice president four years ago.
Shortly after Biden's arrival, Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff made it to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The vice president has a set of offices in the building next to the White House, but lives in a house on the grounds of the Naval Observatory about two miles northwest.
The White House got a thorough cleaning after the Trump administration departed Wednesday morning. Biden administration members will be required to wear masks once they start working, unlike Trump's staff. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Biden's team is reportedly worried the COVID-19 pandemic they're inheriting will be even more difficult to handle than they anticipated, and some advisers say a new, more contagious variant of the virus — as opposed to vaccine distribution logistics — is the main reason why, Bloomberg reports.
Biden has promised to work to curb the virus' spread with a push to inoculate 100 million Americans in 100 days. He plans to encourage widespread mask usage, increase testing, and safely reopen schools. But the fear is that the new variant, which was initially discovered in the United Kingdom, but has made its way to the U.S. and elsewhere, will upend the entire plan and subsequently damage his prospects of achieving other legislative priorities like immigration reform and infrastructure development, Bloomberg notes.
While the mutation is seemingly at the center of the apprehension, Biden's aides also reportedly blame their predecessors for putting them in a bad spot. Some aides, per Bloomberg, privately allege the Trump administration "dragged its heels in showing them details of the federal response and its data." Ultimately, they reportedly opted against making those concerns public because they wanted to avoid publicly criticizing the Trump administration during the transition, potentially motivating them to cut them out of the loop completely.
A former senior Trump official told Bloomberg that description of the situation was just the Biden team's way of lowering expectations, adding that they were given unprecedented access to pandemic-related information. Read more at Bloomberg.Tim O'Donnell
Former President George W. Bush described House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) as "the savior" for helping President Biden make his way to the Oval Office, according to Clyburn himself.
The South Carolina Democrat revealed Wednesday he spoke with Bush ahead of the inauguration ceremony and that the former president called him the "savior" because of his key endorsement of Biden's campaign, The Associated Press reports.
"George Bush said to me today, he said, 'You know, you're the savior," Clyburn explained. "Because if you had not nominated Joe Biden, we would not be having this transfer of power today.'"
Clyburn backed Biden prior to the 2020 South Carolina Democratic primary, which Biden went on to win in what was widely seen as the major turning point in his presidential campaign; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) subsequently dropped out of the race and endorsed him.
Bush, according to Clyburn, also described Biden as "the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president." Brendan Morrow
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) says President George W. Bush told him he's "the savior" for his help in getting Joe Biden the nomination.