After months of yelling about how important at-home testing kits are, Joe Biden forgot to buy them. Oops!
In his address on Tuesday, the president told Americans, “We also need to do better with at-home testing. So, I’m announcing today: the federal government will purchase one half billion — that’s not million; billion with a ‘B’ — additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January.”
But according to the New York Times, the half billion with a “B” tests are some ways out: “Mr. Biden’s administration has not yet signed a contract to buy the tests, and the website to order them will not be up until January.”
The president’s potential successor Pete Buttigieg once wisely said that there are two kinds of Christmas shoppers. “There’s the ones who have all their list completed by Halloween, and then there’s people like me who show up at the mall on Christmas Eve.” I think it is safe to say that Joe Biden is in the latter camp.
In an interview this week with ABC’s David Muir, Biden huffed, “But the answer is, yeah, I wish I had thought about ordering a half a billion [tests] two months ago, before Covid hit here.”
But given the latest story from Vanity Fair, Biden’s wistful response might not cut it. On Thursday the magazine broke the news about an October 22 Zoom call between Biden officials and Covid-19 testing experts. The headline reads, “The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays.” According to Katherine Eban, the proposal would have enabled the US “to finally do what many other countries had already done: put rapid at-home Covid-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission.”
So why did the White House, full of the best and brightest Ivy Leaguers in DC, reject this plan? One Psaki-in-waiting told VF, “We did not have capacity to manufacture over-the-counter tests at that scale.”
However, even if that is true, the gist of the article is harder to spin. Dr. Steven Phillips, from the Covid Collaborative, told Vanity Fair that the Biden administration lacked, “the imagination to have an Operation Warp Speed-level program for testing.”
The two administrations have approached the pandemic very differently. Former President Trump aggressively pushed back on the notion that a vaccine would take years to develop. Biden, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to push back on anyone and instead takes marching orders from Dr. Fauci and his handlers. Trump held Covid-19 press briefings constantly and used the bully pulpit to give updates to the American people and put pressure on slow-acting government bureaucracies. Biden waits five days to give a teleprompter address about at-home tests that he hasn’t even purchased yet. To put it simply, Trump was playing offense during the pandemic, whereas Biden seems content playing a very sleepy defense.
Now Omicron cases are surging in the United States and many drug stores are sold out of rapid tests. Biden’s failure to deliver on at-home testing might not be so painfully obvious had he not talked such a big game about the issue for months.
Last December, Biden gave a blistering speech in which he criticized the Trump administration for falling far behind on testing. “We need to scale up testing so anyone who needs one can get a test. After ten months of the pandemic we still don’t have enough testing, it’s a travesty. “ Months later, the president unveiled a six-pronged plan to tackle the travesty. Yet we are now almost a full year since Joe’s remarks on scaling up the testing response. None of his prongs have done the trick.
No one is more surprised at how badly the president has dropped the testing ball than Joe Biden himself. In his interview with David Muir, Biden laughed off the idea that his administration could have prepared more for the recent surge in cases.“No one saw it coming. Who in the world saw it coming?”
The answer of course is everyone saw it coming…except for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Dr. Fauci recently told Jake Tapper, “When you have so much replication going on in the community, if you give a virus enough opportunity to replicate, you know it’s going to ultimately mutate. And sometimes those mutations wind up being a new variant. That’s exactly what happened with Delta and certainly that’s what happened with Omicron.” Perhaps Dr. Jill could have explained to her hubby that viruses mutate and spike in the winter. Maybe then Joe wouldn’t have been so blindsided by this recent wave.
Like canceling student loan debt and building back better, at-home testing is just another broken promise that is going to disappoint Biden’s base. The people who are going to be the most panicked about the lack of tests are the same people Joe needs on his side. I doubt the unvaccinated who, as the president told us, are “looking at a winter of severe illness and death” are as concerned about the at-home testing kits as the fully vaccinated and boosted Americans.
Joe might have bungled this key issue, but that doesn’t mean the president isn’t delivering Christmas cheer to his supporters. The commander-in-chief has been spending his time creating cringeworthy TikToks with the Jonas Brothers and Bill Nye the Science Guy. It would seem the ex-BuzzFeed staffers-turned-White House officials are determined to make their boss go as viral as Omicron. And they say this administration lacks imagination!