More mournful than hopeful. More soporific than energizing. President Biden, in his first prime-time address from the White House, indeed in his first 50 days in the White House, resembled nothing so much as a less youthful Jimmy Carter.
Biden’s wan and listless tone matched the content of his Thursday night address. Biden oversold the danger of the pandemic, undercredited his predecessor, overpraised his own “accomplishments,” and vastly underestimated the public’s sense of how close we are, and must be, to enjoying nearly normal lives.
Of course, this pandemic and the lockdowns have been difficult for all of us. For a not-inconsiderable minority, they have been tragic. Biden, though, couldn’t leave stark facts alone. Instead, he absurdly said we have faced not just “one of the toughest and darkest periods in this nation’s history,” but actually “the darkest we’ve ever known.” The hyperbole is insulting. The Civil War was far darker. World War I followed by the Great Influenza was far worse, especially considering how much smaller the total population was then. The Great Depression followed by World War II provided challenges exponentially more daunting than this nation faced in the past 12 months.
The president also continued his administration’s classless practice of acting as if it inherited a bare cupboard. “Two months ago,” he said, “this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or anywhere near all of the American public.”
Well, of course not. Two months before Biden’s speech was just one month after the Food and Drug Administration first issued even “emergency use” approval for any vaccine — a vaccine developed in nearly miraculous time, spurred on by the Operation Warp Speed catalyzed and overseen by former Vice President Mike Pence’s task force. To have even a single vaccine by Inauguration Day was a scientific and administrative wonder. Instead, when Biden took office, the prior week’s average of daily vaccines administered was 966,000, and on Inauguration Day itself, nearly 1.5 million people received shots.
Biden claimed credit for so vastly exceeding his earlier stated goal of providing 100 million shots in 100 days, but that always was a pathetically low target. The vaccination rate today is precisely where it already was heading on the day he took office. Biden inherited a robust vaccination program and, at most, can claim to have kept facilitating what already was strongly in motion.
Setting low bars for himself seems to be the Biden way.
Throughout the address, Biden made it sound as if the virus is not just a large challenge but a catastrophe of near-biblical proportions. The woe-is-us notes were extravagantly extended, all played in minor keys. Likewise, the hope he offered was watery gruel.
“If we do our part, if we do this together, by July the Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to gather in your backyard … and have a cookout,” he said.
What’s next? Telling us that if we rely on the wisdom of the all-beneficent central planners, we might be able to stop and talk to neighbors as we walk our dogs?
Consider us underwhelmed by July Fourth cookout promise.
Actually, not even slightly whelmed. Weather permitting, there is no reason this very weekend most of us can’t gather with families and friends for an outdoor cookout. Sure, we shouldn’t gather in large numbers or close quarters with strangers — but families and friends, with appropriate precautions, in the open air? Probably half the country has been doing that for at least a month already.
Like most modern “progressives,” Biden seems to think we can do nothing without permission, direction, and assistance from the central government.
“Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function,” he said, “which is protecting the American people. No function more important. We need to remember the government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s us. All of us. We, the people.”
This is woolly-headed collectivism at its most annoying. We in the United States put faith in better things than government. We are a free people, a people willing to promote the public good but perfectly capable of doing so without playing “Mother, May I?” with government commissars at every step.
Yes, Biden is right that wearing masks at indoor public places and getting vaccinated are both important steps to keep the virus from mutating into worse forms. He could have explained those things in about four sentences.
The rest of his speech was a melancholy mess. A brave and free people deserve far better from their president.