"Where's the plan?" World -- and insiders -- losing patience with Biden on vaccines

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Plan? Did the Washington Post forget whose administration this is? Joe Biden has managed the COVID-19 fight in the same manner that he handled immigration — by issuing statements raising expectations, then providing no plan on how to meet his expressed goals. Thus far, Biden’s skated by on the pandemic by following the Trump administration’s playbook while complaining about it publicly.

Now, however, the rest of the world wonders where Biden’s promised assistance is. And for that matter, so do members of his own administration:

“History is going to measure whether we’re up to the task. I believe we are,” Biden said on Jan. 21, unveiling a seven-goal, 200-page plan that he vowed would curb the virus here and abroad while preparing for future pandemics.

But almost four months later, the last of those seven goals — a vow to “restore U.S. leadership globally” detailed in 11 pages of that nascent plan — remains the subject of intense debate within the administration and of growing concern overseas, with officials still wrestling over how to fill in the many blanks in Biden’s plan as cities in India run out of space to cremate their dead.

Global allies want more clarity on how the United States plans to share its resources, know-how — and especially, its growing vaccine stockpile. Advocates say there’s no time to waste, pointing to virus surges crippling India and other countries that collectively reported more than 5 million cases in the past week.

It’s not just other “global allies” who have been left in the dark over Biden’s plans to impress future historians. The Washington Post’s Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager hear from people inside Biden’s administration that they have no idea what Biden plans to do, other than provide some instant reaction to pressure:

Even some administration officials concede that Biden’s recent decision to support the developing world’s petition for a vaccine-patent waiver, which drove a wedge with drug companies that sped hundreds of millions of doses to inoculate America and is unlikely to boost supply this year, shows the risk of dribbling out tactics, rather than setting out a comprehensive strategy to help vaccinate the world.

“Where is the plan?” asked one Department of Health and Human Services official involved in the coronavirus response who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. “The waiver is not a plan.”

The waiver probably made things worse rather than better. Theoretically, allowing other manufacturers to produce generics should spike supply. However, it also removes some quality control from the process and requires more FDA certifications, assuming those manufacturers are in the US. Furthermore, it interrupts a smarter option — having Pfizer and Moderna contract out their manufacturing themselves more broadly, which not only would boost production but create fewer headaches. Instead, Biden has put them at odds with US officials and created a whole new distraction.

But there isn’t much indication that Biden is thinking these issues through. Or thinking strategically at all, officials tell Diamond and Pager:

Several of those officials conceded that the United States does not appear to have an overarching strategy but rather is taking a piecemeal approach.

This is precisely what happened on immigration as well. Biden made speeches and promises, only to be shocked, shocked when people took him seriously. The administration is still blaming the Trump administration for the border surge, but even House Democrats from Texas — Henry Cuellar in particular — points out that Biden’s rhetoric incentivized mass migration for which his administration was woefully unprepared. And Cuellar was a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s policies on the border.

None of this should surprise anyone. Biden spent nearly 50 years in Washington without being responsible for anything. Even his time as Barack Obama’s VP was singularly empty of any real administrative accomplishment. (Remember when Obama put Biden in charge of preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in the ARRA? Good times, good times.) Biden has always been an empty suit, and now he has reached his Peter Principle level.