A little necessary damage control forced upon him by his running mate’s recent half-gaffe about vaccines.
News: Joe Biden says while Trump is undermining confidence in a COVID vaccine—he WOULD take a vaccine tomorrow if it was available as “we need a vaccine and we need it now.” pic.twitter.com/E9x5QbDYbk
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) September 7, 2020
If the sound’s too low to make out what he said, here’s a transcript. I think the person who tweeted this mistook his point, though. He’s not saying he’d take the vaccine for himself, i.e. get the shot, even if it cost him the election. I think he means he’d produce the vaccine for America if it were within his power to do so even if it cost him the election.
Asked by @BoKnowsNews if he’d take a COVID vaccine before the election, Joe Biden said he would “want to see what the scientists said.”
Biden then added, “If I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it. If it cost me the election, I’d do it.” pic.twitter.com/a0xlniozlM
— Sarah Mucha (@sarahmucha) September 7, 2020
Kamala Harris told CNN a few days ago that she wouldn’t get vaccinated based solely on Trump’s say-so that it was safe to do so. She was making a point about his motives: If there’s any politician in America who’d rush out an unproven vaccine before the election in order to help himself politically, it’s him. “I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about,” she said on Sunday. “I will not take his word for it.” Is she right not to trust him? Well…
Facing one of the most critical moments in its tenure since it was founded over a hundred years ago, officials inside the FDA say the tension is palpable. A number of sources familiar with the internal workings told CNN the responsibility feels immense and the environment is akin to that of a pressure cooker. In the last week alone, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was forced to apologize for an overhyped plasma announcement, subsequently removed a newly installed communications aide and found himself on the receiving end of criticism from the West Wing…
In meetings focused on vaccine development throughout the spring and summer, Trump has consistently pressed officials to speed up their timeline for developing a vaccine, administration officials said, saying the President appeared intent on being able to deliver at least the solid promise of an effective vaccine by the time he faces reelection.
Those efforts have only scaled up as Election Day nears, and Trump has repeatedly complained that some officials at federal health agencies are actively working to stymie his reelection chances by slow-walking announcements that might project forward momentum.
It was pressure from “the top” that allegedly led the CDC recently to downplay testing for potential asymptomatic carriers, a move that makes zero sense medically but lots of sense politically for a president who grumbles constantly about widespread testing pushing up the country’s confirmed case count. Likewise, it seemed an amazing coincidence that the FDA finally authorized convalescent plasma on the eve of the Republican convention, less than 24 hours after Trump complained about a “deep state” at the agency supposedly slow-walking COVID progress to hurt him politically. The medicine *is* being politicized here, rather overtly.
Watch him yesterday scolding Harris for her alleged “anti-vaccine” rhetoric, bearing in mind that Trump himself is a vaccine skeptic of longstanding, to the country’s misfortune. He all but declares that there’s an “October surprise” in the making.
Harris isn’t “anti-vaccine,” she’s just suspicious of how far he might be willing to go to announce an untested vaccine had been approved. “Yes. I trust Dr. Fauci,” she told CNN when asked if Fauci’s recommendation would help convince her about a vaccine. She added that she “would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump.” She’s not alone. Ed mentioned this data in an earlier post but it’s worth noting again:
Coverage of Harris's vaccine answer keeps treating it like a gaffe, but polling has found big support for the "hm, might be fishy if Trump has a vaccine right before the election" take. Swing voters don't think Trump is honest. https://t.co/V8ulB0C2ec pic.twitter.com/hC7HFov13f
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) September 8, 2020
The reason her comments count as a half-gaffe is that the last thing the country needs is further encouragement to distrust authority figures on all things COVID, especially with respect to the vaccine. Instead of warning people not to trust Trump, she should have simply taken him out of the equation. “It doesn’t matter what Trump says or doesn’t say about the quality of the vaccine,” she could have told CNN. “It only matters what medical professionals say. Thousands of scientists will be able to review the data of whichever vaccine candidate emerges from the phase three files. Their verdict should be trusted.” To the extent anyone’s interpreting what she said to CNN as tantamount to “Don’t get the shot if Trump says it’s safe,” that’s bad.
The idea of him foisting some snake-oil vaccine on the country to produce a pre-election poll bounce has always been silly, though, in that newspapers and cable news outlets would be instantly overflowing with experts warning people that the product’s not ready for primetime. That would hurt Trump politically on balance, probably quite a lot. That’s not to say he won’t pressure the FDA to approve something for emergency use prematurely anyway — he’s constantly sabotaging his own best interests — but the Democratic nightmare scenario in which he pushes a bogus vaccine and gets reelected because of it is farcical. The real risk is that he’d pressure the FDA to push something out prematurely, a thousand doctors would howl that the data is inconclusive, and then once a vaccine *does* past muster Americans will be too skeptical to get it. I want to believe that Stephen Hahn and the agency wouldn’t do that, especially after the beating they took among colleagues for approving plasma prematurely, but we’ll see. In all likelihood the last two weeks of the election will be filled with Trump tweeting openly at the FDA to approve something and then accusing them of being chockablock with Democrats trying to engineer a Biden victory when they don’t.