It’s not often that you see President Trump get credit for anything positive in the pages of the NY Times but it happened today. The story is about the vaccine development and rollout. It not only offers some praise to the Trump administration, it points out that the Biden administration has been playing games with expectations in an attempt to make their efforts look more significant than they are.
When President Biden pledged last week to amass enough vaccine by late May to inoculate every adult in the United States, the pronouncement was greeted as a triumphant acceleration of a vaccination campaign that seemed to be faltering only weeks earlier…
But the announcement was also a triumph of another kind: public relations. Because Mr. Biden had tamped down expectations early, the quicker timetable for vaccine production conjured an image of a White House running on all cylinders and leaving its predecessor’s effort in the dust.
If you look back over the past three months, the incoming Biden administration started calling the vaccine rollout a failure even before taking office. His initial goal of administering 1 million doses per day was a goal that had already been met before he arrived according to the Washington Post.
In early February, Biden’s team suggested herd immunity might be nine months away. In mid-February, Kamala Harris famously claimed there was no vaccine rollout plan at all when the Biden team entered the White House and that Biden’s team was starting from scratch. This lie got 2 Pinocchios from the Post. Then there was Biden’s own “gaffe” at a CNN town hall when he seemed to say his administration didn’t have a vaccine when it came into office.
And then, miracle of miracles, at the start of March Biden announced it would be able to vaccinate everyone in the country by May. Biden literally went from saying it would take nine months in early February to saying it would take four months only three weeks later. This has been one big dog and pony show in an attempt to claim more credit than they are due.
Mr. Biden benefited hugely from the waves of vaccine production that the Trump administration had set in motion. As both Pfizer and Moderna found their manufacturing footing, they were able to double and triple the outputs from their factories.
Mr. Biden had been in office less than a month when Moderna announced that it could deliver 200 million doses by the end of May, a month earlier than scheduled, simply because it had become faster at production. Pfizer was able to shave off even more time, moving up the timetable to deliver its 200 million doses by a full two months, partly because of newfound efficiencies and partly because it was given credit for six doses per vial instead of five…
“They criticize what we did, but they are using our playbook every step of the way,” said Paul Mango, the Trump administration’s deputy chief of staff for health policy and a senior official in the crash vaccine development effort then known as Operation Warp Speed. He said Mr. Trump’s team oversaw the construction or expansion of nearly two dozen plants involved in vaccine production and invoked the Defense Production Act 18 times to ensure those factories had sufficient supplies.
The Biden team is “maintaining a very nice trajectory,” Mr. Mango said. “But don’t criticize us to make yourselves look better.”
To be fair, the Times points out that the Biden administration has done a few things that it does deserve credit for. It used the Defense Production Act to force one of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine bottlers to move to 24/7 operation to prevent it from falling behind. And it helped broker a deal between J & J and Merck, though the Times points out that deal won’t make much of a difference in the near term. “The main benefit of the partnership will come later in the year, when Merck will have retooled a huge plant with the capacity to produce as many as 100 million doses of vaccine a month, they said.”
The point here isn’t that the Biden administration hasn’t done anything praise-worthy. The point is that the bulk of the good news we’re hearing from them now, such as the jumps in production from Moderna and Pfizer, would have happened anyway, no matter who was in office. The J & J vaccine would have won approval anyway and it’s production would have been ramping up anyway. The Trump administration drove the ball 70 yards down the field in record time and now team Biden wants 100% of the credit for scoring a touch down.
This is not is a triumph of the Biden administration against all odds. That’s just snake-oil for all the former resistance Democrats who refuse to give President Trump any credit, even when he clearly deserves it. The NY Times deserves credit for pointing out that the Biden team’s delusions of grandeur aren’t founded in reality.