Inaugurations ought to be hopeful times.
Joe Biden's inauguration today as the nation's 46th president is -- and isn't.
It is a time of celebration for many reasons, including the fact that the former vice president is replacing an ogre of a president, one Donald Trump, who is arguably the worst of American presidents.
Historians may suggest other presidents vie for the "worst" label in the nation's history, but Trump is hands down the worst in recent memory.
The reasons why make up an interminable list. The list starts and ends with presidential lies to the American people.
Trump now has the distinction of being the first president ever impeached twice, most recently for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
The Trump-inspired insurrection brought both death and destruction to that cherished seat of government, all based on Trump's lie that he was cheated out of re-election.
He lost the 2020 election to Biden. Period.
Court challenge after court challenge failed to produce any evidence of the widespread fraud he claimed.
Trump's big lie set up the insurrection on Jan. 6, when the Congress was to count the votes from the Electoral College. Trump recruited supporters to attend a rally near the White House, then instructed them to march on the Capitol.
The protesters-turned-rioters answered Trump's call, breaking through police barriers and storming the Capitol as Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress had to be herded into safe rooms.
It was a nightmare that won't soon be forgotten.
Washington, D.C., is now necessarily a fortress, secured by thousands of National Guard troops assisting federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in maintaining peace.
Yet, today is still a day for participants in the inauguration -- from the president-elect and vice president-elect to each and every observer -- to look over their shoulders, to worry that something might go awry in what's supposed to be a peaceful transfer of power in America.
You can blame that atmosphere, too, mostly on Trump's big lie, that same lie that triggered insurrection at the Capitol and prompted his second impeachment.
His attempt to overturn the 2020 election was totally unjustified, despite the number of people he has duped into following him.
Among them are U.S. senators who will soon sit in judgment of Trump's most recent impeachment.
The president escaped conviction in his first impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, then controlled by Republicans. His second trial, which will be before a 50-50 Senate with a Democratic vice president to break a tie, may or may not have the same result.
It will unfortunately take place as Biden is beginning his presidency.
The new president may consequently have more difficulty getting his cabinet appointees approved quickly by an otherwise occupied U.S. Senate.
Also, whatever Biden does in these opening days could be overshadowed by Trump's trial.
That's not to say that Biden doesn't have a significant agenda. It will reportedly begin with a 10-day blitz of policy changes, many of which Biden can make by executive order.
He will outline those steps, many undoing Trump policies, in today's inaugural address. They include moving to rejoin the Paris climate accord, ending Trump's restriction on immigration to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries and mandating covid-19 mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel on planes, trains and buses.
The mask-wearing mandate will be just one of many efforts from this new administration to address the continuing coronavirus pandemic, including steps to reopen schools and businesses and expand virus testing.
Last week, Biden outlined a $1.9 trillion virus relief bill, which will of course require congressional approval. So, too, will Biden's plan to provide a path to citizenship for millions of people now in the U.S. illegally.
The Biden administration's plans are impressive and reason enough for the kind of hope that usually accompanies an inauguration.
Circumstances, most notably the need for the security steps forced by the recent insurrection, unfortunately cast a pall over this event.
It was always going to have been a different kind of inauguration, void of crowds of supporters packed shoulder to shoulder to celebrate Biden and Kamala Harris, his history-making running mate, as they assume this awesome power.
Covid-19's deadly presence among us had already forced planners to downsize the event.
The significance of this transfer of power is, however, no less than in past years and is arguably all the more crucial to the well-being of American democracy.