Joe Biden pledged in his inaugural address that he would be “president of all Americans.”
The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.
Come on, man! If that’s true, Biden has a long way to go to show he wants to be president of more than just some Americans who think a certain way.
He can start with his choice of busts for placement in the Oval Office. Granted, the Oval Office is the president’s office and he can decorate it as he sees fit. But the oval room at the White House is also the most iconic, most recognized room in the country, if not the world. So it’s a very public space and a good place to start proving that he would be president of “all Americans.”
He’s falling a little short in that pledge so far.
A bust of Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, as well as civil rights icon Rosa Parks and labor leader Cesar Chavez, surround the large portrait.
“Biden is … nodding to segments of the Democratic Party’s base via [these] historic references,” Linskey concluded.
Still, evoking his pledge to be a “unifying” force, Biden paired portraits of noted historic rivals President Thomas Jefferson and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, signifying his openness to hearing opposing views.
Note that Biden is checking off all the boxes as he decorates. Women? Yep. Blacks? No problem. Hispanics? Got it. Old dead white guys that he has to include or get bad press? Yeah, okay.
Gone is the bust of Winston Churchill, who was banished during the Obama presidency, apparently for being too much of a colonialist. Trump rightly restored the British icon to a place of honor in the Oval Office, but questions persist about exactly why Obama felt it necessary to cancel Winston Churchill.
The controversy simmered for years, with then-London Mayor Boris Johnson noting in 2016 that “some said it was a snub to Britain.”
“Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire — of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” he said in an article. Johnson, who is now U.K. prime minister, was widely criticized for the article — particularly the description of Obama as “part-Kenyan.”
As for Biden, his removal of the Churchill bust is not just a slap at Great Britain but also a tweak of conservatives in the U.S. Churchill’s oratory still inspires the right in America and Biden knows that.
There’s nothing wrong with including busts of Americans of all races, colors, and ethnic backgrounds. But there are few symbols of the opposition in evidence. With the country so evenly divided, maybe a token bust of Teddy Roosevelt or U.S Grant would have been appropriate.
But wait…he’s already checked that box. Old dead white guys got their portraits already.