If he were deliberately trying to convince the public not to trust his own health bureaucrats, I don’t know what he’d do differently than what he’s doing.
Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, was asked today during testimony before the Senate what his timeline was for the vaccine. For emergency use in limited cases, he said, we should have something before the end of the year.
Mass inoculation of the public, though? That’s more of a mid-summer 2021 event. Maybe even later.
Sen. Kennedy: When do you think we'll have a vaccine ready for the public?
CDC Dir. Redfield: Vaccine initially available in Nov.-Dec. but in “very limited supply.” If asking when is it going to be generally available to the American public, you’re looking at late Q2-Q3 2021. pic.twitter.com/AopPUTsd9K
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 16, 2020
Perfectly straightforward answer. And it jibes with Fauci’s timeline, that the country won’t really see true normalcy again until late next year. Experts seem confident that the vaccine will be approved before year’s end, but there’s a journey from approval to manufacture of limited doses to manufacture of mass quantities to actual injection of the vaccine into Americans. That’s what Redfield was talking about.
Repeatedly at this afternoon’s White House press conference, Trump tried to claim that Redfield had somehow misunderstood the very simple question he had been asked, even that he had been “confused” by it. That’s the word a parent might use with a misbehaving child, a sort of polite warning before real discipline is imposed: “Perhaps you didn’t understand what I told you.” Trump wants all his science guys all on the same page insisting that the vaccine will be ready much faster than anyone reasonably expects, whether that’s true or not, because he thinks that’s his ticket to reelection. It’s immaterial whether Redfield is right about when mass inoculation will happen; all that matters is what the suckers in the electorate foolishly believe on November 3. Then, after he’s safely reelected, Trump can turn around in December or whatever and claim that the “deep state” sabotaged the vaccine distribution process and that it actually won’t be ready on a mass scale until the second or third quarter of 2021, just like Redfield said.
President Trump: "I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's incorrect information…when he said it I think he was confused." pic.twitter.com/ysq95yQcMx
— CSPAN (@cspan) September 16, 2020
He’s hyping the timeline transparently for political gain and, by contradicting the head of the CDC, destroying even more of the public’s faith that whatever ends up in that needle can be trusted. Notwithstanding that the eventual vaccine is highly likely to be approved by his own administration, it won’t surprise me in the slightest if Trump ends up losing the election and then takes to encouraging people *not* to get the shot next year. I don’t know what his pretext will be for questioning its effectiveness, but his spitefulness at losing will lead him to that position inevitably. Returning to private life will free him up to indulge his most destructive Joker-ish tendencies. He was an anti-vaxxer before his political survival required him to be pro-vax, remember?
Note at the end of the clip how Scott Atlas, a radiologist who’s now advising Trump on COVID because he tells the president what he wants to hear, doesn’t even really contradict Redfield. We’re expecting to produce 700 million doses by the end of the first quarter, he says. Right — and then there’ll be a rollout and a slog to get millions of people immunized, which will take time. Either way, no one’s contradicting the claim that mass vaccination is very much a 2021 event, not something that’s remotely imaginable in whatever election-driven fantasy timeline Trump is trying to sell.
He also claimed that Redfield told him privately that he had answered “incorrectly” today when he told the Senate that masks might protect people more effectively than a vaccine might. That’s unlikely, but it depends on how effective the vaccine is, as Redfield made clear at the time. A strong pro-mask message coexists uneasily with Trump’s ambivalence towards masks, though, especially on a day when Biden is back to pushing a national mask mandate. So, again, Trump felt obliged to make his CDC chief sound like an imbecile.
“When I called up Robert [Redfield] today, I said to him, ‘what’s with the masks?’ He said, ‘I think I answered that question incorrectly.'” — Trump on the CDC director’s congressional testimony pic.twitter.com/S1FpJRmsVO
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 16, 2020
Redfield’s now in a terrible position. He has two choices. One: Humiliate himself by supporting Trump’s moronic narrative that he got “confused” and misstated the timeline for the vaccine. Two: Resign in protest over Trump’s egregious attempt to exaggerate the timeline for electoral ends. My money’s on door number one. Redfield can justify his decision to abase himself as a public service, in the assurance that whoever replaces him at the CDC — probably some yes-man like Atlas, but even less qualified — would make things even worse. He’s already trying to get right with Trump’s vaccine messaging per these two tweets, although, interestingly, he hasn’t walked back his claim about the timeline yet:
The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds. #COVID19
— Dr. Robert R. Redfield (@CDCDirector) September 16, 2020
I’ll leave you with one other moment from today’s presser, in which Trump tries to fob off his coronavirus record on mismanagement by “blue states.” In reality, notes WaPo’s fact-checker, of the states with the 15 highest death tolls, nearly half are run by Republicans. The Andrew Cuomo disaster in New York is sui generis but Texas now has nearly as many deaths as New Jersey and Florida nearly as many as California. (Population effects cut different ways in those comparisons.) Even so, this is consistent with Trump’s general attitude of pretending like he’s the president of only one half of the country and that the other half is constantly sabotaging somehow.
Praising his own virus response as deaths near 200,000, Trump says, "if you take the blue states out, we're at a level I don't think anybody in the world would be at." pic.twitter.com/ezAU5IJIcQ
— The American Independent (@AmerIndependent) September 16, 2020