Picking up on a theme that the Trump campaign has been advancing for months, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal noted over the weekend that for all of Joe Biden's complaints about the Trump administration's COVID response, the 'better' course of action the Democratic nominee is recommending actually hews rather closely to what the incumbent's team has already done -- and is currently doing. We've already fact-checked some of the Biden-Harris ticket's claims and comparisons regarding Coronavirus. This editorial adds some additional color and context:
The Democratic nominee is promising a better virus strategy, which would be wonderful if he had one. But the virus plan he’s pushing is little different on the substance than what the Trump Administration is already doing...Mr. Trump’s virus policy in practice has been better than his critics claim, and Mr. Biden isn’t offering better ideas. Start with testing. Mr. Biden promises to “develop and deploy rapid tests with results available immediately.” Great—the Food and Drug Administration in the past week has approved two new rapid tests that can be scaled up quickly. The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention botched the initial testing rollout. And earlier this summer, shortages of chemical reagents and lab equipment led to delays in processing tests amid a surge of infections. But supply-chain hiccups are gradually being worked out. The U.S. is now conducting 700,000 or so tests a day, up from about 400,000 in early June and 100,000 in late March...
Mr. Biden is also calling for “a coordinated, country-wide, future-facing national effort to acquire, produce, and distribute PPE, test kits and machines, lab supplies, and other critical supplies, including by fully utilizing the authorities” under the Defense Production Act. The Administration is already doing nearly all of this. The Pentagon this spring issued $259 million in contracts to 3M, Honeywell and Owens & Minor to produce tens of millions of N95 face masks for medical workers. U.S. companies like GM and New Balance have retrofitted plants to produce ventilators and PPE, and the Administration has used the Defense Production Act to allocate more tests and protective equipment to hot spots. Mr. Biden wants to hire 100,000 federal workers to track down contacts of people who get sick. States are already doing this, though public-health officials say contract tracing is of little use when the virus is widespread in communities.
The Journal's editors also point out how Biden is pledging to fast track the production and distribution of an effective vaccine. Maybe Biden could refer to this idea as "operation warp speed," which is its official name under the Trump administration -- and on which there has been very significant progress. Of course, Team Trump should avoid politicizing the vaccine process because nonsense like this will sow widespread doubts about any splashy announcements that could arrive before election day. Exactly this:
Great, so now even if there is a legit breakthrough, a third of the country won't take the Trump Vaccine, and the other third won't take the Bill Gates Vaccine -- and the rest of us will be stuck rage tweeting. https://t.co/ZfrB4esHeZ— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) August 23, 2020
Plus, there's this potential therapeutic breakthrough green-lit by the administration just yesterday:
The Trump administration on Sunday granted emergency authorization of convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients, despite concerns from some of the nation’s top health officials that data from clinical trials is too weak to support widespread application of the treatment at this time. The Food and Drug Administration, in a letter Sunday, said it was granting emergency authorization because it is reasonable to believe that convalescent plasma may be effective in treating Covid-19 patients, and the known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of such products.
Trump would be wise not to hype this as a miracle cure -- we've seen enough stupid drama over such things -- but it at least represents a hopeful step forward. On the subject of hype, Trump's personal rhetoric and attitudes have created many of his own problems when it comes to his approval rating on handling the virus. The editorial highlights the problem: "Trump’s biggest mistake in the pandemic has been his own shifting rhetorical leadership. He’s moved from public nonchalance to worst-case shutdowns back to overconfidence and in recent weeks more focused concern. He has suggested that triumph over the virus is just around the corner, which defies reality, while minimizing the disease’s severity. Democrats this week hammered his constant self-congratulation and seeming lack of empathy, which have hurt in particular with older voters." Empathy is a Trump weakness and a Biden strength, which is why the latter's campaign is leaning into it.
The piece does flag a few substantive divergences between the Trump and Biden approaches, including what they refer to as the Democrat's "blank check to unions" that would be paid out "even if teachers refuse to work in classrooms." We know that some teachers' unions are exploiting the pandemic to make insane left-wing policy demands, while others are pushing for fewer instructional responsibilities, even in remote learning scenarios. And then there's this: "It seems Mr. Biden’s main policy difference is that he’d impose a national mask mandate. We’re all for wearing masks in public settings, but businesses and states that mandate them have struggled to enforce compliance. The Constitution doesn’t give the federal government the police powers to do so in any case." I'll leave you with this must-read column from the same newspaper, with a key quote highlighted here by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer:
“Former Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said in 2019: “We did every possible thing wrong. Sixty million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time, and it is just purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass-casualty events in American history.” https://t.co/xZDuJT7XL8— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) August 22, 2020