This clip started to go viral a few days ago, but I think it merits highlighting for a few reasons. It's the most aggressive defense of the vaccines that I've seen from Trump in quite some time. He begins by taking (deserved) credit for Operation Warp Speed, which truly was epic and revolutionary in scope and outcome. Record-smashing development of three effective vaccines undoubtedly saved many, many lives. He's right to crow about it, and even chooses to do so on a magnanimous note of shared credit ("we together – all of us – not me, we"). He then appears to caution his supporters against being anti-vax, admonishing them that negativity about the COVID vaccines on the Right has provided an opening for the left to misappropriate something that Trump believes is a major achievement of his administration. Millions of views and counting, on Twitter alone:
'You’re playing right into their hands' when you doubt the vaccine, President Trump says. pic.twitter.com/xJc7JTL0cR— No Spin News (@NoSpinNews) December 20, 2021
"Take credit for it. Take credit for it. What we've done, it's historic. Don't let them take it away. Don't take it away from ourselves. You're playing right into their hands when you [criticize the vaccine]."
Translation: We did this. Don't let them own something that we did. I think this is very effective messaging from Trump. He's occasionally dipped his toe into this sort of thing in the past, but why really lean into it now? And he's certainly leaning in:
He obviously really wants to claim (or reclaim) credit for the success of the vaccines, and I'm grateful that he's doing it. I'm just surprised that he's doing it at a moment when Omicron "breakthrough" cases are ubiquitous. Some people are pointing to these cases as proof that the vaccines don't work, but they do. They are not overly or perfectly effective at preventing cases, but they are absolutely and massively curbing severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths (and Omicron continues to look less virulent, thankfully). These numbers really do speak for themselves:
The COVID vaccine isn't 100% effective, but the data speaks for itself. pic.twitter.com/jaH2sFQFPY— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 18, 2021
Latest CDC data by vaccine status:— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) December 20, 2021
Unvaccinated: 451 cases per 100k
Vaccinated: 134 cases per 100k
Boosted: 48 cases per 100k
Unvaccinated: 6.1 deaths per 100k
Vaccinated: 0.5 deaths per 100k
Boosted: 0.1 deaths per 100k
But again I ask, why now? What made Trump decide to have this fight, at this moment? I think Allahpundit may be onto something:
Where did that come from? Three months ago, Trump told a reporter that he probably wouldn’t get boosted. And in fairness, given his history with COVID, he’d likely be fine if he hadn’t. As someone who had the virus and then got vaccinated, Trump has hybrid immunity, the most effective form one can have. He’d have strong protection whether he got an extra dose or not. But he did. And not only is he willing to admit it, he’s now openly scolding Trumpers who scoff at the vaccine. Did someone show him these numbers from the Commonwealth Fund, maybe? ... “My policy saved a million lives” isn’t something most former presidents — and future candidates — can say with plausibility, but Trump can. I don’t know if we’ve reached the point globally where the vaccines have saved “tens of millions,” as he claims, but if we haven’t yet we’ll get there eventually.
He's referring to an academic model that estimates the vaccines have averted more than one million deaths, and more than ten million hospitalizations, in the US alone. As AP says, how many presidents or world leaders can ever credibly say that their leadership saved that many lives? It's a huge deal, and if Trump were recently presented with those numbers, it would make sense that he'd feel pride and accomplishment – while also sensing a strong political opportunity that is being at least partially squandered by his own tribe's vaccine hesitancy. Hence: We did this, guys. Don't play into their hands by handing them ownership of our success. He wants his supporters to feel like they're part of the achievement, too.
Finally, it's the tail end of of the video above that garnered the most attention in the news media, which ran with headlines like, "Trump booed after admitting he received COVID vaccine booster." If you listen carefully, there is a small smattering of jeers when he answers that yes, he has gotten boosted. Instantly recognizing the optics, he forcefully shuts it down and observes how few people in the hall reacted negatively. He instinctively understood how some in the press would try to play it, and tried to rebut that framing in real-time. Based on the audio, it sounds like he's right. The "booing" was tepid and scattered at worst. With some more concerted effort, Trump could once again turn OWS and the lives it saved into a major applause line, which it should be. Let's hope he sticks to it.