At Sunday’s press briefing, Trump blasted Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris for suggesting Trump would politicize the vaccine process. The former vice president and the senator from California each had said scientists should be trusted over Trump on any vaccine announcement made before the election.
We’re gonna have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about.
In so doing, Trump explicitly tied the vaccine to his reelection schedule. Yet, remarkably, the question of whether Trump is politicizing this process is still being treated as one that’s up for debate, even though he shouted the corrupt part out loud, as he so often does, only this time with a bullhorn.
Indeed, some media coverage is already both-sidesing away the full import of Trump’s extraordinary claim. On “CBS This Morning,” an anchor said this:
Democratic nominee Joe Biden claims President Trump uses politics instead of science to guide the federal government’s response. The president, meanwhile, says his opponent is questioning vaccine research.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the vaccine has become a campaign “flashpoint,” noting the skepticism expressed by Biden and Harris, while reporting that Trump “accused” Biden of “disparaging” for “political purposes” the possibility of a vaccine this year. Politico called all this a “blame game.”
In this rendering, simply because Trump charged that Biden and Harris are the ones politicizing the process, that puts this whole matter into a laundering machine of sorts, spitting out a result in which the two sides are equivalently maneuvering for political advantage.
This formulation will be ubiquitous: Trump says Biden and Harris are politicizing the vaccine process and that their claims about an eventual vaccine can’t be trusted. Meanwhile, Biden and Harris say Trump is politicizing the process and that his claims about a vaccine can’t be trusted. This is now a political “flashpoint,” which automatically puts such opposing claims on the same plane.
So let’s get a few things straight: Only one side actually is treating this matter in a way that aligns with what scientists are saying. It’s Biden and Harris. And this includes scientists involved in Trump’s own vaccine effort.
Trump’s own scientists fear a corrupt process
As the New York Times reported, “experts inside and outside the government” fear the White House will “push the Food and Drug Administration to overlook insufficient data and give at least limited emergency approval to a vaccine” before Election Day. One member of an advisory panel of experts working with the FDA told the Times that those insiders are right to fear this.
Meanwhile, numerous experts have predicted the vaccine won’t be ready on Trump’s whim. And even pharmaceutical companies are confirming the true nature of Trump’s intentions: Nine of them just released a pledge not to put forth a vaccine until it is thoroughly vetted, pointedly noting that this was needed to “help ensure public confidence” in the process. The very reason this had to happen at all is because Trump is corrupting that process.
One reporter who got this right is CNN’s Jim Acosta. He noted that Trump himself had tied the vaccine’s release to Election Day, and added that numerous public health experts both inside and outside the administration “have all said consistently that the vaccine will not be available until the end of the year or the beginning of next year.”
In other words, the Democrats’ skepticism of Trump’s intentions toward the process aligns with what numerous stakeholders directly involved in it have themselves told us about what’s really happening. Assertions of grounds for this skepticism should not be reduced to just more tactical maneuvering for political advantage in a tit-for-tat.
One question is why Trump was so explicit in confirming all this: After all, you’d think being this open about his political timetable would undercut his own efforts, since if Trump goes through with this scheme, many Americans will now understand why he rushed it through and won’t trust the announcement. Why do this at all?
One possible answer is that Trump is sending a signal to supporters worried about him still trailing Biden even after the conventions: Don’t worry, I’ve got this. I’ve got a big, Houdini-like trick planned! Set your channels accordingly! Meanwhile, Trump can simply claim Biden and Harris are the ones politicizing the process while counting on the media’s both-sidesing instincts to soften the blow of this for swing voters.
Indeed, it’s plausible Trump won’t even end up going through with this at all if and when the vaccine isn’t actually ready in time. Having telegraphed his intentions, he will then claim the “deep state” is still holding things up.
But whatever is to be, there’s just no earthly reason for the question of whether Trump is trying to corrupt the vaccine process to be treated as an open one. He just told us so, in his own words.