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Obama's 60th birthday bash: 475 guests amid Biden admin's Delta escalation

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Is this really a good time to have 475 of your closest friends over for a birthday bash — even outdoors on thirty Martha’s Vineyard acres? According to Axios, Barack Obama plans to celebrate his 60th birthday likes it’s 2019. That sets a discordant tone to his former VP’s administration and its sky-is-falling approach to the Delta variant … even if it might come closer to its reality.

But one does have to wonder whether the White House wanted to see this invitation come over the transom at this particular time:

Former President Obama is hosting a 60th birthday bash for himself and hundreds of guests on Martha’s Vineyard this coming weekend amid heightened public health concerns — locally and nationally — about the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Why it matters: The recent breakthrough cases in nearby Provincetown, Massachusetts, after the July Fourth holiday showed the continued risk of spread even between vaccinated people — prompting new masking guidelines from the CDC.

“If you’re talking about a small party like I might have at my house for six or eight people who are all fully vaccinated, I do not believe, at this point, we need to put masks on to be next to each other,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

While discussing generic masking protocols, not the Obama party itself, he added: “But if there were 100 people, and, of course, how are you really going to be sure about people’s vaccination status?”

Speaking of the White House reaction, Joe Biden himself has RSVP’d in the negative:

Guests including two-time Oscar winning actor George Clooney and celebrity talk show host Oprah Winfrey have received invites, according to several reports, while rock band Pearl Jam has reportedly been hired to perform at the event.

Current president Joe Biden will not be among those attending the celebration, however, a White House spokesperson told Axios. The spokesperson said he would otherwise catch up with the Obamas “soon”.

Even if the Obamas can’t grasp the optics, Biden and his team apparently do. How would it look to have the president show up at a party with 475 guests and then turn around and lecture people about mask-wearing and social distancing? Let alone holding large get-togethers in their backyards with actual friends?

Let’s put this in some context. The party will be held outdoors, although one has to wonder how much of it will take place under tents. Outdoor transmission is all but nil, so even having 475 people milling around 30 acres should not present a major risk of a super-spreader event, especially in sunlight. Axios’ source also says that guests will be asked their vaccination status for entry and will be tested before entering the party. That may be more than a bit cumbersome for guest-greeting, but then again, it can’t be any more cumbersome than the Secret Service security protocols that will be in place.

However, that still doesn’t mean that this fits into the current hyperbolic standards being promulgated by the CDC, NIH, and the White House. First, unless all 475 of the guests live on Martha’s Vineyard or nearby, they will all be traveling to get to the Obama compound. It takes a few days for COVID-19 to gestate before being detected by tests. If this Delta variant really is as dangerous for the vaccinated and their close contacts as Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins insists, then this is the kind of event for which their mask mandates are designed.

Given the recent hyperbole, it seems like a very odd time for the Obamas to put on such a bash at all. Yes, he’ll only turn 60 once, but that’s been true of many Americans over the past 17 months whose celebrations and mournings have had to be postponed or canceled altogether. Just a few weeks ago, Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci talked on national television about not being sure that families could get together for July 4th celebrations unless vaccination rates ticked up, and that was before the Delta variant became dominant.

If Americans can’t do backyard barbecues with their neighbors, why should the Obamas hold this kind of bash? Does the Delta variant have a genetic code that turns the virus off when in contact with A-list celebs? Or do these elites grasp that vaccination means life should get back to normal for everyone except the hoi polloi?

I know which way I’m betting. In the meantime, I wish President Obama a happy birthday and good health in the future, as the rest of us fully vaccinated Americans also ignore Fauci, Collins, and the hysterics and get back to a normal life.