One sentence of faint praise in almost a year does not an olive branch make, and yet in a rare display of grace, President Joe Biden acknowledged the role of President Donald Trump in the battle against the coronavirus. While outlining his COVID Winter Plan, Biden said, “Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine.” That factoid may not be news to those whose media diet does not solely consist of CNN, but for the belabored 46th president, the admission could have been more a bid for support rather than a big thaw in cross-party relations.
With the last major polls placing Biden an average of 15 points underwater, what is a president to do but align himself with the figure many of his detractors most admire? Whether or not the voting public will buy it is another matter entirely.
Too Little Too Late?
Speaking to Fox News soon after Biden’s statement, Trump responded, “I’m very appreciative of that — I was surprised to hear it … I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy.”
And the former president is likely correct. Many folks will be happy that 45 is getting some long-overdue recognition. After all, it was Trump who organized Operation Warp Speed that led to the production of not one but three vaccines in record time. It was also Trump who moved at lightning speed to shut down borders with nations that had a high number of COVID infections – a move he was pilloried for by the Fourth Estate and one that was emulated by Joe Biden with little fanfare.
Biden made a promise to deliver one million shots per day. An easy promise to keep when that figure was fast approaching under his predecessor. According to CNN, back on January 23, 2021 – just three days into the Biden administration:
“1 million new shots were reported in the previous 24-hour period, according to changes in CDC data from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. That was only the second time a one-day increase rose above 1 million. The number of administered doses reported this week also was 22% higher than last week.”
So more than a million shots per day had already been delivered on at least one occasion before Biden entered the Oval Office, and the U.S. was averaging over 800,000 vaccines on a daily basis. What then to make of Joe Biden’s Big Promise? It seems that the new president was hoping to make political hay from Trump’s achievements. And The Donald has never been one to take slights lightly.
Don’t Expect a Return, Joe
President Biden has used celebrity endorsements like regular folks use paper towels. From doing interviews with rapper Cardi B almost a year ago, to a recent cringe-inducing Tik Tok gag with Disney band The Jonas Brothers, the president has sought to squeeze every last drop of credibility from any famous face he can convince to come along.
But after ten months of deriding the former president, refusing even to say his name on some occasions, an olive branch bow – as poll after poll delivers damaging news – is not going to cut the mustard. His own party will see him as weak for not sticking to the only significant campaign platform he has: No more Trump. And those who do not support Biden will see this as an insulting gesture that fails to recognize Trump’s significant contributions to fighting the pandemic.
Nice try, Joe. But no one’s buying it.
One wonders whether this olive branch was a slip by the current president or an intentional outreach to Trump and the previous administration in seeking that ever-elusive unity Biden touted so often on the campaign trail and in his inaugural speech. But as they say, it takes two to tango and it is significant that Trump took the praise with grace and thanks. Or as Greek statesman and orator Demosthenes may have put it, “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”
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