Journalists Notice: Say, Biden's 'New' COVID Plan Looks...Awfully Familiar, Doesn't It?

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Posted: Feb 01, 2021 10:25 AM
Journalists Notice: Say, Biden's 'New' COVID Plan Looks...Awfully Familiar, Doesn't It?

Joe Biden's overall general election strategy was relatively straightforward: (1) Stay out of sight and mind as much as realistically possible in order to make the election an up-or-down referendum on the polarizing incumbent, (2) offer gauzy pledges to unify the country and 'restore its soul' if elected, and (3) promise a more effective federal response to the ongoing pandemic.  There were other components of the campaign, of course, but those were the main pillars.  The approach was successful and Biden was elected president.  Now that he's been installed in office, how are those central promises looking in the early days?  We'll return to 'unity' in a moment, but let's begin with COVID.  After repeatedly telling voters that he had a specific plan to turn things around, Biden has already started managing expectations, acknowledging that there's "nothing we can do" to alter the trajectory of the virus in early 2021.   As for the steps the administration is taking on this front, some journalists at Bloomberg can't shake a nagging sense of deja vu:


The attached article is headlined, "Biden Covid Team Derides Trump Plan While Borrowing Playbook." Ouch:

President Joe Biden and his top advisers have derided the Trump administration’s playbook for distributing coronavirus vaccines, but so far have made only modest changes to the plan that’s meeting their target pace of more than one million shots a day. Biden has said vaccine distribution was in “worse shape than we anticipated.” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said a Trump administration plan “did not really exist.” Adviser Cedric Richmond said they “didn’t leave a plan.” Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice for health secretary, said it was like taking over a plane in a nosedive...But while Biden’s approach to the virus -- frank warnings about the pandemic, mask mandates on federal property -- is a reversal from Trump’s policies, his administration’s distribution of vaccines so far looks little different from that of its predecessor. Before Biden was sworn in, vaccines already were being delivered at a pace to meet his goal of 100 million doses in his first 100 days as president. The Biden administration has said they’ll order new doses, but will do so by exercising options in contracts negotiated by the previous administration, which thought it premature to do so. They say they’ll use the Defense Production Act, which Trump used repeatedly. Rather than a total overhaul, they have otherwise made course corrections and modest shifts.

As we've mentioned previously, they chose to open their tenure with a falsehood so exaggerated that Dr. Anthony Fauci had to set the record straight, contradicting the notion -- repeatedly cultivated by Team Biden -- that the Trump administration had left the COVID vaccine cupboard bare, forcing the incoming crew to start from scratch.  Not so, Fauci said, just look at the huge number if vaccines already being administered every day by January 20.  As the Bloomberg piece notes, the US was already on pace to hit and surpass Biden's oft-stated goal of 100 million vaccine shots within his first 100 days in office.  He inherited a plan that was fulfilling his promise.  He's since upped the goal, but the planned ramp-up is already close to exceeding the requisite pace to hit that new benchmark, too.  Joe Biden did not perform a miracle in his first week-plus in office in order to make this happen.  The wheels were already in motion.  People are getting the jab by the millions, and the data is improving:


The major arrows are pointed in the right direction; deaths, a lagging Coronavirus indicator, will follow.  We're not out of the woods by any stretch, but we may be coming around the bend.  If Biden were genuinely interested in unifying the country, he'd be sharing credit for these achievements with the previous administration that helped make them possible (sure, Trump was hardly known for modeling similar magnanimity, but Biden sold himself as a hard-truth-telling healer).  Another test of Biden's commitment to unity and consensus will be his approach to a fresh offer from a group of Senate Republicans who want to play ball on additional COVID relief, but aren't interested in the president's gargantuan $1.9 trillion proposal:


"They are asking for a meeting with Biden," writes political reporter Jake Sherman. "Clear signal here that if Biden wants a bipartisan plan, he has 10 Rs locked into a framework." Does Biden move swiftly to strike a deal, or does he dig in on his giant ask?  He's meeting with those ten Republicans today.  We'll see where things go.  If Democrats believe they have the votes to use reconciliation to ram through the enormous package (filled with ancillary policies and lefty wish list items) with simple majorities, they can try.  But that wouldn't feel very consensus-driven or unifying, would it?  Did the new president mean what he said, or was it more empty political rhetoric?  Also, if Democrats are confident they have the votes to go it alone on this first piece of major legislation, I'm not sure you'd be seeing missteps and blowback like this:


The Democratic Vice President went on television in West Virginia to promote legislation that West Virginia's Democratic Senator hasn't endorsed -- and the White House didn't even give Manchin a heads up about the pressure campaign in his backyard.  And Manchin clearly understands the amount of power he wields in a 50-50 Senate, so he had zero compunction about taking a shot right back across the Biden administration's bow.  Perhaps if Biden wants to retain any credibility on unity, he could at least start by extending basic courtesies as a means of unifying his own party.  Speaking of unforced errors, I'll leave you with this: