PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It is truly remarkable that tomorrow a new President of the United States will peacefully take over what is arguably the most powerful office in the world. He will immediately have at his command all of the powers of office and the former president will be a citizen with no more power than you or me. No shots will be fired. There won’t be any captors or political prisoners. President Obama and President-Elect Trump will peacefully ride together from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other. After noon, the new leader will ride to the White House and the former will depart the nation’s capitol.
It is shameful that 60 duly elected members of the United States Congress refuse to be witness to this handoff of power that is so unique to the American experience. They choose instead to grandstand as a sign of “resistance.” Resistance to the peaceful transfer of power? Resistance to the democratic process? Resistance to the spirit of bipartisanship cooperation that the inauguration should represent?
I attended the 2004 inauguration of President George W. Bush. The day remains seared in my memory for I was a witness to history. In many countries a new leader comes to power through a very dark and violent process. Even if you disagree with the man taking the office, the process is one to be respected. The representatives who are boycotting the inauguration are sending a message that our transfer of power is no big deal. Sad when you consider that in some countries decades will pass before there is any transfer of power whatsoever.
Some pundits have criticized President-Elect Trump for saying he will start work on Monday. I say good for him. Spend the weekend embracing the will of the people. Even before he takes the oath of office, he is having to contend with a chorus of detractors who argue the Russians are to blame for the result. I don’t think the Russians thought the blue wall would collapse anymore than the Clinton campaign did. I doubt Putin thought Michigan and Wisconsin were in play or that Pennsylvania would decide the election. Sadly, this Russia thing will haunt Trump as the Democrats have found a way to delegitimize his presidency before it begins. The media is all to willing to entertain this line of thinking as are some warmongering Republicans.
We should also use tomorrow as a time to reflect on what the presidency is and what it is not. The founders intended Congress to be the most important branch. They have the power to declare war; raise revenue; and pass laws. The president is there to command the forces, ensure the money is spent as intended, and that the laws are faithfully executed. The outgoing president expanded the powers in ways the founders never imagined. Perhaps the new president will restore balance between the branches although power is rarely, if ever, nullified voluntarily.
Let us send our prayers and wishes to the 45th President of the United States and let tomorrow be another day for us to witness the peaceful transfer of power that has become a hallmark of the American experience.