Certainly true. I’ve said before that it’s his biggest achievement as president, although if you want to make the case for the Abraham Accords I’ll hear you out. Anyway, I don’t think Durbin’s just being a swell joe in giving Team Trump a little credit here. There’s a strategy behind it, one which we may see other Democrats duplicate in the next weeks and months. Watch, then read on.
Biden has a problem. He wants to get as many people vaccinated as possible in the shortest time possible. The success of Pfizer’s vaccine and the rosy media coverage around it has made that easier for him if you believe the polls, but he and his advisors know that convincing grassroots Republicans will be a heavy lift once Trump is out of office and no longer stands to benefit politically from the vaccine’s adoption. Anti-vax messaging is already replacing “stop the steal” messaging in some populist media outlets. Whether congressional Republicans adopt blind rejectionism towards Biden remains to be seen but there’s zero question that chunks of the GOP base will. How do you go about convincing those people to get vaccinated?
Ideally, you’d enlist Trump himself as your salesman.
The problem is that Trump’s not going to lend a hand for altruistic “being a good citizen” reasons. No doubt he’s eager to see Biden fail as president in everything he does, eager to highlight every hiccup in vaccine distribution after January 20 on his social media feeds. I’d say the odds are no worse than 50/50 that he turns anti-vaxxer himself out of spite, eventually seizing on some yet-to-unfurl conspiracy theory about how the vaccine was secretly “changed” after Biden took office and the new version is dangerous. The fact that Republican voters want him to be given proper credit for his success in getting the vaccine distributed so quickly isn’t a logical barrier to many of them eventually — or already — switching over to opposing the vaccine.
If you want him to help sell the vaccine, there needs to be something in it for him. You need to appeal to his vanity. Marc Thiessen understands:
Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of modern medicine. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague, former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, told me, “We’ve never really had this level of development work undertaken over such a short period of time with so many successes. This is a singular achievement. I can’t think of any historic proxy.”…
Biden has criticized Trump’s pandemic response failures, so why not give the president credit for this unadulterated success? Because that would mean acknowledging that, for all Trump’s flaws in managing the pandemic, he is also responsible for ending it. And Biden is saving that credit for himself.
Perhaps, given Trump’s terrible behavior, Biden is in no mood to praise the president. But it’s not about Trump; it’s about Biden delivering on his promise to reach out to his opponent’s supporters and bring Americans together. If he truly wants to unite the country, he should give credit where credit is due — and pledge to continue Operation Warp Speed.
Nothing’s going to “bring Americans together” but giving Trump a public reputational stake in the vaccine’s continued adoption and success would be a shrewd way to blunt some of the politically driven opposition to it, including from Trump himself. “There’s a whole fringe of the population that listens to the president very carefully, and therefore he has an important role,” said the head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, to CNN a few days ago. Biden’s team has reportedly considered reaching out to Sean Hannity and Rand Paul to try to bring righties around on the vaccine in lieu of asking Trump, but no contact has been made yet. Trump aides told Politico that Biden “the president-elect is intentionally ignoring Trump’s vaccine accomplishments and merely playing partisan politics. Biden, they said, should vocally give Trump praise for pushing for what they have dubbed the ‘Trump vaccine’ in record-breaking time.”
That’s where Durbin comes in. Maybe the task of praising the president for his vaccine work has been outsourced by Biden to Senate Democrats. Lefties won’t want to see the president-elect saluting Trump for anything COVID-related, especially with stuff like this continuing to dribble out in the media. But it’s so rare for a congressional Democrat to celebrate a Trump achievement that having Durbin and others chatter on the record about the amazing success of Operation Warp Speed might make an impression on him. With any other ex-president, including ones who lost an election to their successor (e.g., Bush 41), this would be a simple matter of picking up the phone and politely requesting their assistance in an effort that’ll benefit Americans. With Trump, there’s more psychological labor involved. How do you get him to participate in the vaccine pep rally? Answer: You make it about him to whatever extent you can.
Speaking of hiccups in the vaccine distribution, this “hiccup” is worth noting — but not (yet) freaking out over:
The first worker, a middle-aged woman who had no history of allergies, had an anaphylactic reaction that began 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau on Tuesday, a hospital official said. She experienced a rash over her face and torso, shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate.
Dr. Lindy Jones, the hospital’s emergency department medical director, said the worker was first given a shot of epinephrine, a standard treatment for severe allergic reactions. Her symptoms subsided but then re-emerged, and she was treated with steroids and an epinephrine drip.
When doctors tried to stop the drip, her symptoms re-emerged yet again, so the woman was moved to the intensive care unit, observed throughout the night, then weaned off the drip early Wednesday morning, Dr. Jones said.
She ended up spending last night in the hospital too as a precaution. Another worker at the same Alaska hospital also had a reaction that was treated with epinephrine, but he recovered within the hour. Those are the only cases I’ve heard of so far this week in which semi-serious reactions to the vaccine developed. They may be pure flukes, one-in-100,000 events or whatever, but the fact that two people at the same hospital had adverse responses requiring medical treatment makes the “fluke” theory harder to swallow. I wonder: Could there have been something environmental in or around the hospital, possibly connected to the specific work they were doing, that might have made them susceptible to side effects from the vaccine?
I assume conspiracy theories are already circulating on Facebook claiming that reactions like this are happening all over the country and are being covered up, but that doesn’t jibe with the extensive trials Pfizer did. “Historically with a vaccine, the terrible (serious adverse events) that we’re always worried about actually present themselves in a matter of weeks,” said one ER doctor to USA Today. “We’re not seeing that type of spike … in the weeks we see people taking the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.” Vaccinations in nursing homes have already begun, by the way, with several thousand West Virginians having received the shot and more than 20,000 Floridians set to receive it this week. No reports of serious adverse reactions in America’s frailest citizens so far.