AMAC Exclusive By Shane Harris
After running on a promise to personally “shut down the virus” and unfairly criticizing former President Trump for allegedly not using the federal government aggressively enough in his pandemic response, President Joe Biden is suddenly striking a very different tone. On Wednesday, he announced that there is “no federal solution” to combating the virus, moments before trudging across a soggy White House South Lawn to a helicopter waiting to take him to his Delaware beach home. (Apparently, the holiday weekend began early for Mr. Biden).
Conservative and liberal commentators alike slammed the statement as “admitting defeat.” But the most damaging takedown of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 strategy – or lack thereof – this week came from former President Trump’s Save America PAC, which released a blistering exposé of Biden’s record on the virus just one day after Biden’s comments.
The summary of Biden’s COVID record, which was distributed to Trump’s followers by email and widely shared on social media, pulled no punches from the onset, calling Biden “a failed president who has surrendered to the Virus and broken his number one promise to the American people: to end the pandemic once-and-for-all.” That promise was something that many pundits brought up again this week, pointing to previous statements from Biden and top administration officials. In one tweet from July of 2020, Biden called for a “coordinated national response from the federal government.” The Republican National Committee also released a video montage of Biden promising nearly a dozen times that he would “shut down the virus.” Even Biden Chief of Staff Ronald Klain received some heat for a tweet from December of 2020 where he criticized the Trump administration for empowering states in their response efforts, saying “we have a national government for a reason.”
As the document from the Save America PAC goes on to lay out, however, it was the Trump administration’s strategy of a federally-coordinated and state-executed response (similar to what Joe Biden now seems to be suggesting) that had put the country in such a good position to battle the pandemic when Biden took office – an advantage that Biden has since squandered. “Joe Biden was handed every tool he could’ve asked for,” it reads. “3 vaccines, 5+ lifesaving therapeutics, vast quantities of medical and personal protective equipment, a full array of testing options for COVID… as well as a full year of data, study, and scientific knowledge. Yet despite all of this, Biden has failed so badly that more people died in 2021 than died in all of 2020.”
In particular, the statement highlighted the Biden administration’s failure on a few key issues that the Trump administration prioritized along with vaccines to create a whole-of-government response to the virus. These included therapeutics, which the Biden administration has largely ignored (there are now widespread shortages of monoclonal antibodies, one of the most effective treatments for seriously ill patients); the politicization of the vaccine, which Biden began by “foment[ing] skepticism about the vaccine” during the 2020 campaign; a failure to hold China accountable for its actions in the spread of the virus; and a failure to shut down the border, allowing hundreds of thousands of potentially COVID-positive individuals into the country illegally.
The results, as Trump’s blistering indictment explains, speak for themselves. Schools are once again closing, thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled during the holidays, and the “rules and messages changing at a dizzying pace” are sowing confusion and panic among the public. In addition, the testing system built from the ground up by the Trump administration has been largely neglected by the Biden administration, to the point where there is now a massive testing shortage.
That record contrasts sharply with the facts presented on President Trump’s record on the virus. Although Trump recognized that states and localities were best equipped to implement policies tailored to their populations, he also understood the need for robust coordination and leadership at the federal level. To this end, the Trump administration launched initiatives like Project Airbridge, which “led to the distribution of over a billion pieces of essential medical equipment,” as well as the expedited resupply of America’s strategic national stockpile, the use of the Defense Production Act for the manufacture of equipment needed by hospitals, the creation of “the world’s leading testing system,” and of course Operation Warp Speed, which purchased, tested, manufactured, and delivered multiple vaccines in less than a year, faster than ever before. Such a mobilization of government resources for an efficient and effective response has been noticeably lacking from the Biden administration thus far.
Some voices in the mainstream media desperately tried to rescue Biden from the intense criticism this week, repeating the administration’s line that “no one saw the Omicron variant coming” and trying to explain away Biden’s obvious 180 on his view of how to beat the pandemic. However, such a full-throated defense is perhaps more due to a desire on the part of some in the media to distract from the fact that they relentlessly amplified Biden’s claims that he could somehow “shut down” the virus immediately upon taking office—as if there was something Trump had not tried.
Others on the left have also variously suggested that no one could have succeeded in shutting down the virus, and that, after all, conservatives should be happy that Biden now appears to see the wisdom of Trump’s approach.
On the first point, the evidence suggests that the country was making progress on the virus under President Trump, and that this progress was reversed under President Biden. Moreover, COVID was the core issue of Joe Biden’s campaign – and he has failed to deliver.
The second argument similarly misses an important point: Nothing in Joe Biden’s record thus far suggests that his administration will be any more effective at a Trump-style state-centered approach (and there is still not much evidence to suggest that is what they indeed will try) than they have been so far at an aggressive, top-down federal approach.
But despite openly saying that federal action doesn’t appear to be working and President Trump brutally exposing his administration’s incompetence, Biden, incredibly, is still pushing ahead with federal actions of questionable legality. Or, to be more specific, delegating those decisions to unelected bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci. There has been no indication, for example, that Biden intends to rescind federal vaccine mandates that are undoubtedly part of the attempted “federal solution” that the White House now says is no good. Biden also made headlines recently by announcing that he would require Americans to be vaccinated as a condition for taking a domestic flight “if his medical team advises it.” Just to be clear, this is the same medical team that hasn’t yet been able to come up with a federal solution, and has made serious errors every step of the way. At the same time, Biden earlier this week lifted travel restrictions on eight southern African countries, the region of the world where the Omicron Variant was first discovered.
In short, it appears as if Joe Biden remains lost on COVID-19 – much as he has appeared lost so, so many other times throughout his short tenure. While that may bode well for Republicans hoping to retake control of Congress next November, or for Donald Trump in a potential 2024 comeback bid, in the meantime Americans will be left to beat back a virus that their president promised he would personally save them from, just months before tossing up his hands in exasperation and heading off to his beach house in Delaware.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio.
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