So, it’s vaccine news you want is it? Well, the administration is happy to deliver.
Wednesday morning brought a flurry of headlines around a COVID shot, as officials sought to clarify and otherwise accentuate claims Donald Trump made during an ABC town hall event.
“If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals”, Trump said, comparing “Operation Warp Speed” to an imaginary scenario where Barack Obama was faced with COVID-19. “And we’re within weeks of getting it. Could be three weeks, four weeks”, Trump added.
It goes without saying that everyone wants a safe and effective vaccine to be approved as soon as absolutely possible. But Trump’s remarks served to heighten fears that the administration is pressuring regulators to accelerate the timetable for the sole purpose of inoculating the president against charges that he mishandled an epidemic which, as of Wednesday, had killed more than 196,000 Americans.
During an interview with Bloomberg, Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, echoed what some believe is misplaced optimism around the timeline.
All Americans, he suggested, may be able to get a vaccine “by the end of first quarter 2021”.
I think it’s fair to say that virtually no one agrees with that — not big pharma, not most experts, and not Trump’s top health officials.
CDC director Robert Redfield, for example, told the Senate Wednesday that “late second quarter, third quarter 2021” could be a realistic target for public vaccination. Anthony Fauci, on the other hand, said that while it’s possible to vaccinate the public by the end of April, the “more likely” timeline for access is mid-2021, or even the end of next year.
Amusingly, even Mango wasn’t prepared to commit to Trump’s “three weeks, four weeks” projection for approval. “I would say it’s possible”, he remarked, before conceding that “it’s more likely it happens in November or December”.
I suppose I don’t have to say this, but it is abundantly clear (and by that I mean it would be giggle-inducing under less macabre circumstances) that Trump is hell-bent on getting a shot cleared by election day.
Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine that he’ll accept any other outcome from the FDA, which is already the subject of intense scrutiny following last month’s controversial plasma treatment announcement which came just days after the president suggested the agency has been infiltrated by “deep state” operatives.
Again, it would be funny (hilarious) if this weren’t a life or death situation.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi wants nothing to do with a watered down stimulus package cobbled together by bipartisan moderates. “We did come down”, she told MSNBC Wednesday, reminding the public that the price tag on her final offer to Steve Mnuchin was more than $1 trillion less than the funding allocated under the Heroes Act, passed by the House in May.
“We can only go so far”, she added.
Despite what you might be inclined to believe based on some of the rhetoric from The White House, Mnuchin and Mark Meadows never offered much in the way of a compromise. $1 trillion is not half of $3.4 trillion (the headline number on the Heroes Act). The “targeted” bill Mitch McConnell floated last week was just $500 billion.
As ever, I wish the facts were not what they are, but being facts, they are inescapable. You might well believe that $3.4 trillion is “too much”. And you might be right. But the GOP is tacitly asking the public to accept the notion that $1 trillion is half of $3.4 trillion. When that didn’t work, McConnell tried $500 billion.
The sheer silliness is impossible to fathom until you remember we’re talking about Washington D.C., at which point it makes complete sense. The latest data from Gallup shows just 21% of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. The number was 18% in July.
It’s possible (and I’m just spitballing here) that the main reason Americans aren’t enamored with the “way” Congress is doing its job, is that Congress isn’t actually doing that job. As a reminder, their job is to legislate. And they aren’t doing that. Some of them (in this case, mostly members of the GOP) aren’t even trying.
And yet, Kayleigh McEnany had the audacity to call Pelosi “fundamentally unserious” on Wednesday.
With any apologies that are
n’t due, all of the above pretty clearly suggests that while some folks are, indeed, “fundamentally unserious” inside the Beltway, McEnany is pointing the finger in the wrong direction.