The ground is granite

Congratulations, America. And, 7 other things worth your time.

Quote of the Day: “I wanted to get to know Biden. I wanted to understand why ‘President Joe Biden’ has such a preposterous ring to it, and I wanted to know if he knew it did.”

—Jeanne Marie Laskas, in a 2013 profile and interview for GQ with then-Vice President Biden, about how yes, it was kind of absurd to think that Biden would one day be president…

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20th Amendment

It’s funny: You meet First Amendment lawyers, you might meet some Second Amendment lawyers. I’ve never once heard of a 20th Amendment lawyer.

But that’s the Amendment that is most relevant today, since it governs when a president’s term ends — 12 noon on January 20th — and as a result, when another one begins.

This has been by far, the least peaceful U.S. transfer of power in 150 years or more. I’m sure everyone is hoping and praying the inauguration will go smoothly.

As it happens, I’ve written a lot about corporate succession over the past few years— United Airlines (good; they planned ahead), Subway restaurants (bad; they failed to plan), and McDonald’s (ugly; it’s never fun to have to change CEOs over a weekend due to scandal).

Oh, and Warren Buffett, just shy of his 90th birthday, admitting that perhaps it would be a good idea to allow his two likely heirs as CEO to have a bit of stage time at the annual shareholder meeting.

People don’t like to face succession and transition—often because they don’t like to admit to themselves they’ll one day need to be succeeded. Also, it’s sometimes hard to know if the new leader will be better or worse than the outgoing one.

But the moral of every story I’ve see like this is that in a crisis, you want to know first who’s in charge. Challenges are harder to overcome if you don’t know who has the authority to made decisions—even harder than if they don’t know.

We came closer than most of us would like to think this time, but as a bit of a metaphor, I cobbled together that two-photo combination, above. They’re two images of the same steps, almost exactly 160 years apart.

The one on the left shows Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration in 1861 (the yellow arrow points to him), shortly after he escaped an assassination plot en route to the capital through Baltimore.

The one on the right, which I grabbed from Pro Publica’s cache of more than 500 Parler videos last night, is of the moment that the mob broke into the east side of the Capitol during the January 6 riot.

I think there’s something symbolic and hopeful about the fact in both photos, the crowds are large, but the ground under their feet is granite.

Presidential transitions have been so seamless and so peaceful for so long that I’ve found myself using them as cliches.

When I wrote about United and McDonald’s and Warren Buffett for example, I’d talk about the benchmark: 75 days between election and inauguration. We didn’t get that this time, and the country suffered as a result. But let’s hope in the long run it won’t matter.

7 other things worth your time

  • Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in today as the 46th president and 49th vice president of the United States. Biden starts the day first by going to Mass in Washington with GOP congressional leaders, including Mitch McConnell. It will be a different kind of inaugural, for certain, with much of the area around the Capitol closed to visitors due to the pandemic and unrest. (Axios)

  • President Trump will head to Florida before the ceremony without acknowledging Biden by name or talking with him, although he did record a farewell address in which he acknowledged that there would be “a new administration,” adding, “[we] pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous. We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck — a very important word.” (WashPost)

  • Just because it’s funny, here’s my 100 percent wrong take from two years ago, when I predicted confidently that Bill Gates would run for president. (, $)

  • A bit of an older article that somebody sent me, but it’s so logical I have to include it: Why on earth do we still make car alarms, since nobody ever responds to them and they’re just noise pollution? (Popular Mechanics)

  • Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old New Hampshire boy who bonded with Biden over their shared experience with stuttering, will be part of a prime-time special capping off the inauguration. Harrington went viral over the summer after he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention. (CNN)

  • Trump’s 143 total pardons and commutations on the way out of office Tuesday evening included rapper Lil Wayne (weapons charge), former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (racketeering, among others), Paul Erickson, the ex-boyfriend of an alleged Russian spy (fraud and money laundering), and his former aide Steve Bannon (fraud). The three co-defendants in Bannon’s fraud case did not receive any clemency, however. (CNN)

  • Not on the pardon list so far (although Trump has until noon): any members of Trump’s family, or Trump himself, Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, or Edward Snowden. Also, albeit completely different: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a/k/a Joe Exotic, who starred in the popular Netflix show Tiger King. He’s serving a 22-year sentence for murder, and his supporters were confident enough of a pardon that they had rented a limousine and were waiting outside the Federal Medical Center prison in Fort Worth. (Fox News)

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