Credit Trump for covid downturn. Plus: Trump's still in the building. Manchin's the last dinosaur.

By Gary Abernathy

Let’s thank Trump for covid taking a dramatic downturn

If I heard it once I heard it a hundred times last year: “After the election is over, covid will start to disappear.” The cynical comment was aimed at the media’s reporting on covid-19, constantly tracking the case, hospitalization and death rates, and almost always tying them negatively to President Trump and his administration’s policies on the coronavirus.

Joe Biden has been president for about a month, and here are the recent headlines on covid:

“Healthcare workers take breath of relief as COVID cases wane” – Columbus Dispatch.

“COVID-19 cases are dropping fast. Why?” – The Atlantic.

“Four reasons coronavirus cases are dropping in the United States” – Washington Post.

“Nursing homes, once hotspots, far outpace U.S. in Covid declines” – New York Times.

The headlines are accurate, and everyone should be happy that covid appears to be waning sooner than predicted. But there is still bad news and many unknowns that could be highlighted; you can find them in isolated stories, but not in the overall tone of reporting.

Similarly, even last September and October, there was plenty of good news that could have been highlighted about covid, particularly in how vaccines were on the horizon because the Trump administration cleared the way for them under Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” program. There were stories on that, to be sure, but they were far outnumbered by reporting blaming Trump for deaths from covid. (To be clear again, there’s a big difference in covid directly causing fatalities versus people dying “with covid,” but the media seldom delves into that distinction.)

Most recent stories on all the good news credit the vaccines as a significant factor in slowing the spread of covid. It sure wasn’t President Biden who was responsible for vaccines being developed much faster than at any time in history. That all happened last year, through making sure money was provided, along with the ability to gain FDA approval with shortcuts and other ways of greasing the track that were demanded by Trump. Remember when nearly everyone said it was impossible to develop a vaccine this quickly?

But it happened, and it happened because of Trump and his administration’s work with several vaccine makers. As detailed in this update from the federal Health and Human Services agency in May 2020 discussing an agreement between HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and, this case, vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca, “Under this public-private partnership, BARDA can provide up to $1.2 billion to support, in parallel, advanced clinical studies, vaccine manufacturing technology transfer, process development, scaled-up manufacturing, and other development activities. Emergency use authorization or licensure of this vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be required to make the vaccine available. Early milestones enable BARDA and AstraZeneca to determine how the program progresses forward.”

No one can argue that covid wasn’t weaponized by many of his dedicated opponents as a political issue to help defeat Trump. Fine – all’s fair in love, war and politics. But let’s give him credit where it’s due, and it’s due on the miraculous warp speed development of covid vaccines.

Trump hasn’t left the building, as Sunday will show

Speaking of Donald Trump, he’s the big deal this weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando. Trump is scheduled to speak Sunday.

CPAC is not an official branch of the Republican National Committee, but it might as well be. Trump’s appearance as what amounts to the keynote speaker is an interesting choice. It’s my contention that the future of the GOP for the next decade is Trumpism without Trump. I think even most of Trump’s base will come to that conclusion as the next two or three years go by. But for now, for most Republicans, Trump is still Elvis, and he hasn’t left the building.

Joe Manchin, the last important conservative Democrat

My Washington Post article this week focuses on Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who often breaks with his party on energy and culture issues. I knew Manchin during my years working in Republican politics in West Virginia. Some excerpts from my column:

At 73, Manchin is four years behind his original career trajectory. In 1996, after establishing himself as a rising star during 14 years in the state legislature, Manchin suffered a setback when he lost the Democratic primary for governor to state Sen. Charlotte Pritt. Manchin was so incensed that he campaigned for Pritt’s opponent, helping Republican Cecil Underwood regain the office…

…During his most recent campaign, Manchin offered perhaps the best insight available into his psyche when he grew annoyed at a reporter’s question. “I don’t give a s---, you understand?” Manchin snapped. “I just don’t give a s---. Don’t care if I get elected, don’t care if I get defeated, how about that? . . . Elections do not bother me or scare me. I’m going to continue to do the same thing I’ve always done, extremely independent.”…

…And that may be what defines him. As it did Ronald Reagan, the Democratic Party has in important ways left Manchin, too. But it takes a certain stubborn independence to stay true to blue as a sea of red rolls in. Manchin will forever carry the torch, the last old school West “By God” Virginia Democrat, to the bitter end.

Read the whole column here. (Subscription may be required.)

Sign up and share this newsletter

Please sign up to receive this newsletter directly into your inbox Monday through Friday (except holidays or other occasional interruptions), or, if you are already a subscriber and reading this by email, share with a friend using the convenient button below. Thank you!