The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Jay Ambrose is an OpEd columnist for Tribune News Service.
President Joe Biden is going to be the biggest deal of a president since FDR, or so seemed his desire in his COVID-19 speech recently, a good thing to do but done poorly. No issue has been bigger than the virus in American lives the past year or so, and it was important for him to address it in his first big-time speech since Inauguration Day. Sadly, his implicit pretense that he was today’s vaccine champion was ungrateful, divisive and phony.
Like it or not, hate him or not, it was President Donald Trump who energized and helped make possible the miracle of producing such a vaccine within a year, something impossible, it was said, seeing as how five years was the record. Some experts with open mouths but closed minds also said Trump was a showoff with little to show. A quickie vaccine, they said, could be a murderous vaccine, more the result of ambitious narcissism than keen-minded science.
And yet Trump, despite his proudly displayed flaws, persisted, establishing a Warp Speed agency headed by someone with a Warp Speed mind, shed of bureaucratic mishmash and working in partnership with extraordinary drug companies. The companies got billions of dollars, guidance if they wanted it, assistance in all kinds of troubles, fewer regulatory hindrances and a government that listened when they talked. Cooperation ruled the day and, sure enough, there were drug doses verified as ready to go before the end of 2020.
Trump counted on announcements of success prior to election day and instead got them after election day, nothing political intended, it was said. He not only had doses on hand as promised prior to the year’s end, but agency staffers had worked out efficient distribution plans with the military, and no, there were not enough doses right off to do as much as Biden wanted. He was still not empty-handed and he worked with an additional Trump-assisted drug company to enable a promise: There would be enough vaccines by May to give everyone shots.
Would it be fair to say that Biden is doing a bad job? To go that far would require a critic bringing up his failure to get all public schools open. It would require Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot repeating how Biden had endangered Texans by letting possibly infected immigrants into the state through askew border policies. Small Texas towns are struggling to cope with the new arrivals, Abbot said in response to Biden’s not liking his policy of letting businesses open up. You think like a Neanderthal, Biden barked in so many words.
He thereby eschewed civility standards he had been promoting, but, more importantly, was against giving the economy a chance through the cessation of lockdowns. It is not just unscientific dummies saying we could also save lives and restore community by such a process, but thoughtful people of varied brands, and here is a more exciting prospect than Biden’s unexciting pledge that, via his methods, friends and families can maybe, just maybe, return to backyard picnics by July 4th.
Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, it should be mentioned, includes plans for a welfare state the likes of which we have never seen when it should have done more to resuscitate the economy, the surest answer to poverty. The bill’s history-making expenditures could be more nearly the start of a new crisis than the end of the current one.
Still, there was something reassuring about Biden’s soft, empathetic tone during his speech, a relief from Trumpian combativeness. Much of the country is looking to him to turn us in new, solid, restorative directions, and the applause has been loud. But long-term achievement will require modest moderation.