Report: White House "terrified" that Biden will get COVID

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Well … yes. The thought of any 79-year-old catching the virus is nerve-wracking.

But especially one whose good health is the only thing standing between planet Earth and a Kamala Harris administration.

The “terror” Dems are experiencing isn’t just due to heartfelt concern about Biden’s well-being. Some of it is driven by the expected political ramifications of the public watching a president whose fortitude is already suspect being knocked over by a virus he promised to “shut down.” Few things would signal in a visceral way that the White House has lost control of events generally and the pandemic specifically than Joe Biden being bedridden for a week due to Omicron.

They’re so worried about it, in fact, that it’s reportedly impeded his travel. For any other politician that would be an obstacle in promoting his agenda but for Biden it’s probably a blessing in disguise. He doesn’t do so well in front of microphones, you may have noticed.

Some current and former White House officials foresee a potential political and policy disaster if the president were to contract the virus, even though he is vaccinated and boosted. Covid protocol critics and vaccine skeptics would have a field day with Biden catching Covid and use it to further undermine trust in the administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic. The 79-year-old president would likely take at least a few days to recover—in addition to placing himself in quarantine—which could exacerbate concerns about his age and health…

Biden’s foreign and cross-country travel has also been curtailed, according to sources familiar with the planning. Despite the president’s desire to reorient foreign policy towards Asia, he has yet to visit the region in part because of Covid fears, according to current and former administration officials. His only two international trips — to Europe — came in June and October, when fears of Covid had ebbed in between waves of infections. The logistical challenges grow tremendously when he stays somewhere overnight, as they try to keep him in a Covid-safe bubble in a new environment. A White House official pushed back, telling us that, “We navigate and consider appropriate COVID protocols for all activities. COVID has not prevented travel from happening.”

“I’m going to get out of this place more often. I’m going to go out and talk to the public…I’m going to interface with them,” Biden vowed last week about the coming year. That seems feasible since scientists expect the pandemic waters to calm for awhile after Omicron fades, leaving tons of natural immunity in its wake. Joe Biden will be free to hold as many press availabilities as he likes!

Which means he might be under 30 percent job approval by New Year’s.

By the way, Israel’s vaccine advisory panel just recommended a fourth(!) dose for all adults there. What do we think the odds are that Biden’s already gotten a fourth shot in light of the Israeli data showing it’s safe and at least temporarily helpful against Omicron? Ninety-five percent, maybe?

There’s another reason why Democrats might want Biden to be more visible in 2022. As much of a liability as he is when speaking extemporaneously, they’re desperate to show the public that they want to return to normalcy as much as Republicans do. That’s not true, of course — it ain’t key GOP special interests like teachers unions that are taking a “forever pandemic” approach to COVID — but they need to do what they can to convince voters that electing Democrats this fall won’t mean another two years of mask mandates and school closures. Having Republican governors like Glenn Youngkin and Ron DeSantis go to war publicly with the maximum-precautions cohort is a great boon for the GOP in the midterms. Having Biden out and about and encouraging people to enjoy life post-Omicron might help ease that partisan contrast for Dems.

Around the country, Democratic elected officials who in the pandemic’s early phase shut down cities and states more aggressively than most Republicans did — and saw their popularity soar — are using a different playbook today. Despite the deadly wave fueled by the Omicron variant, Democratic officials are largely skipping mask mandates and are fighting to keep schools open, sometimes in opposition to health care workers and their traditional allies in teachers’ unions…

“You’ll see more Democratic elected officials say that this is our forever now and we can’t live our lives sitting rocking in a corner,” said Brian Stryker, a partner at the polling firm ALG Research, whose work on Virginia’s elections last year indicated that school closures hurt Democrats. “We’ve just got to live with this virus.”…

Kim McGair, a lawyer and a normally staunch Democrat in Portland, Ore., said she felt “utterly betrayed” by her party, which she believes abandoned parents and students. “I will not vote for a Democrat who was silent or complicit on school closures, which is the vast majority of them here,” Ms. McGair said. But she also cannot picture herself casting a ballot for a Republican, a situation she describes as being “politically homeless.”

There’s a lot of that attitude visible in media lately. The Democrat who was probably most closely associated with draconian shutdowns in 2020, Gretchen Whitmer, is currently at 45/52 approval 10 months ahead of having to face voters at the polls. That’s a bad place to be in a national environment that favors Republicans. The party needs Joe Biden out there hammering the message that the era of COVID mandates is over.

Or better yet, what about this guy? If there’s any Democrat who has the brains and the track record to convince Americans that electing candidates from his party won’t ensure restrictions forever, it’s Jared Polis. We’ll see a lot of him on national TV this year, I’d guess.

Exit question: Why doesn’t Biden start preparing the public for the possibility that he’ll get COVID, if only to blunt the expected attacks from Republicans? “Look, folks, the vaccines are doing a great job of keeping people out of the hospital but we should all expect to catch the virus eventually. I’ll probably catch it too! No big deal if you’re vaxxed. The important thing is to protect yourself when you have the chance.”