Before we get to Joe Biden, let's be very clear about something: President Trump's boasts about his unique foresight and his administration's 'perfect' Coronavirus response are unserious, inaccurate, revisionist. Even if one is inclined to give the president the benefit of the doubt -- and I think some in the peanut gallery relentlessly criticize him for political reasons -- even a cursory perusal of this Washington Post account and timeline published over the weekend should disabuse any fair-minded reader of the notion that Trump was on top of things from the beginning:
Denial and dysfunction plagued the U.S. government for 70 days as coronavirus spread, with battles over testing, spending, travel limits & a national approach, per interviews with four dozen people involved. A dive w/@yabutaleb7 @gregpmiller @nakashimae https://t.co/MxFXCFe3we— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) April 4, 2020
3) Task force spent early days consumed with travel bans, repatriating Americans, paying scant attention to testing or supplies problems that have become major crisis to US— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) April 4, 2020
Much like many other governments around the world, and like nearly the entire political/media class here at home, the Trump administration was slow to grasp the breadth and severity of this crisis, dithering and downplaying until it was nearly right on top of us. To pretend otherwise is self-serving spin. I believe that after a period of damaging denial, Team Trump made a heel-turn and has been working 'round the clock to mitigate this pandemic. The president's tone and actions, with some unfortunate exceptions, have been noticeably better, winning praise from typically-hostile Democratic governors working closely with Trump's task force. Trump has been listening to experts, making tough but correct calls, and trying to move heaven and earth to help hard-hit hotspots. These improvements do not erase early failures -- which were unquestionably exacerbated by China's deceit -- but they are nevertheless praiseworthy.
Which brings us to Joe Biden. For weeks, he's been reactive, repeatedly and almost comically recommending courses of action that the Trump administration had already pursued or implemented. In the latest example, the Associated Press reports that the former Vice President called on Trump "to appoint a 'supply commander' to 'coordinate critical materials for all 50 states and U.S. territories' in need as they contend with the coronavirus." It's a good idea. So good, in fact, that it happened weeks ago, with a hyper-qualified military expert placed at the helm of this effort. Meanwhile, Biden keeps getting slapped with fact-checks as he distorts and lies about the Trump administration's pandemic response. Then on Friday, Biden's campaign finally stated that he agreed with Trump's China travel restrictions:
Joe Biden's campaign said Friday the former vice president supports President Donald Trump's January 31 decision to ban foreign nationals who had been in China within the previous 14 days from entering the United States. "Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy," Kate Bedingfeld, Biden's deputy campaign manager, told CNN. "Science supported this ban, therefore he did too." The comment comes after weeks of Trump's reelection campaign accused Biden of calling Trump's travel ban xenophobic -- though the former vice president never explicitly said as much. Biden's campaign has said he was not referring to Trump's travel ban, but had not clarified his position on the ban.
Trump's restrictions were pilloried by many critics at the time as pointless and bigoted (denying this is another form of gaslighting). They, in fact, were absolutely necessary, and bought us valuable time (some of which was squandered, especially vis-a-vis the CDC's testing debacle). His subsequent restrictions on travel from Europe were also attacked, even as that continent became the global epicenter of the virus. A prominent voice in the chorus of misplaced negativity, specifically on China, was none other than Joe Biden. The CNN story excerpted above reports that Biden's campaign is trying to claim that the former Vice President's 'xenophobia' comments had nothing to do with Trump's travel restrictions. Ridiculous. Biden played the bigotry card in a speech delivered literally hours after the new policy was announced, then doubled down in a tweet the following day:
We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 1, 2020
The context was beyond obvious, current tortured denials notwithstanding. Back then, Biden blasted Trump's action's (namely, the just-implemented travel restrictions) as 'hysterical fear-mongering' and 'xenophobia.' To act like those critiques were simply generic and not directed at the fresh policies strains credulity. Today, Biden's knock is that Trump was too cavalier about the threat (true in some respects, but that would be the opposite of "hysteria"), while belatedly conceding that the travel ban was science-based and correct. As the CNN piece notes, Biden had failed to "clarify his position" on the ban for months. Bad instincts are a hallmark of Joe Biden's entire career, and this glaring mistake should be politically potent. Team Biden knows it, which is why they're trying to dress this up as something other than what it is. And it's why the presumptive Democratic nominee is now shamelessly criticizing Trump for not imposing the ban sooner:
Biden just criticized the "pace" of the China travel restrictions.@RealDonaldTrump enacted them 1/31. Joe Biden then dragged his feet for two months, refusing to say if they were a good idea until 4/3 for political reasons.— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) April 5, 2020
Biden's "pace" put opposing Trump over public health. pic.twitter.com/U5acv3CV9B
Malarkey. There actually is evidence suggesting that Trump's restrictions were indeed belated and insufficient. But the notion that a stricter, earlier action would have been met with anything but furious condemnation from people like Joe Biden is ludicrous. Also note that Biden delivered his January 31 'xenophobia' comments at a rally in Iowa. If it was so obvious what was developing, as some are now pretending to have been the case ("everybody saw this coming in early January"), why was Biden holding crowded events all the way up until the second week of March? Perhaps because, as mentioned above, most of America's political and media class didn't treat Coronavirus as an urgent crisis until around that time. That's the reality that a lot of people are going to spend a lot of time avoiding in the coming months, as the blame game ratchets up.
I'll leave you with a few thoughts about the Obama/Biden crew's assertions that they'd be handling all of this "much better." First, these are the same people who had years to prepare for the rollout of their signature legislative accomplishment, and face-planted in epic fashion. Second, why did the infinitely-wise soothsayers in the Obama White House ignore these warnings, along with their supposedly knuckle-dragging, anti-science predecessors and successors? "In at least 10 government reports from 2003 to 2015, federal officials predicted the United States would experience a critical lack of ventilators and other lifesaving medical supplies if it faced a viral outbreak like the one currently sweeping the country," CNN reported last week. Barack Obama was president for more than half of the time period in question. And then there's this fact check from USA Today:
After the swine flu epidemic in 2009, a safety-equipment industry association and a federally sponsored task force both recommended that depleted supplies of N95 respirator masks, which filter out airborne particles, be replenished by the stockpile,” the Los Angeles Times reported. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said during a press conference the country’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, including medical gear like N95 masks, is almost depleted...We rate this claim TRUE because it is supported by our research. There is no indication that the Obama administration took significant steps to replenish the supply of N95 masks in the Strategic National Stockpile after it was depleted from repeated crises. Calls for action came from experts at the time concerned for the country’s ability to respond to future serious pandemics. Such recommendations were, for whatever reason, not heeded.
And no, this was not the Tea Party's fault. Bottom line: Donald Trump should not, and will not, get a free pass for efforts to re-write history on Coronavirus. Neither should Joe Biden.