“For four years, all that’s been in the news is Trump. The next four years, I want to make sure all the news is the American people. I’m tired of talking about Trump,” Biden said, depriving the ex-President of the attention he craves.
That particular moment emphasized Biden’s chosen position in the center of American politics where he won the election. His unwillingness to seek public revenge against his just-impeached predecessor, or to join other prominent Democrats in vociferously condemning the Republican senators who voted to acquit former President Donald Trump over the US Capitol insurrection, may disappoint more radical members of his own party. But with his restraint, Biden practiced what he has preached: an effort to bring a fractured nation together and to ensure that political disagreements don’t become “uncivil wars.”
In these two answers, the President took care of the politics of his prime time appearance in which he needed to show compassion for a country demoralized by a year-long battle against the virus and to lead it out of Trump’s dark shadow.
“What’s going to happen is it’s going to continue to increase as we move along. We will have reached 400 million doses by the end of May and 600 million by the end of July,” Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Milwaukee.
Questions Biden cannot answer
Biden seemed to take pains not to over promise on the question of when children can return to in-person learning. He hoped kindergarten through eighth grade pupils could go back to five days a week, and that this could happen by the end of his 100 days in office in April. But he couldn’t say when older students, who are more susceptible to spreading Covid-19, would get the same treatment. He did advocate for pushing teachers to the front of the line for vaccinations, in an effort to get schools open more quickly, amid criticism from Republicans that he is unwilling to upset teachers unions, a powerful Democratic constituency.
Biden’s caution could be the positioning of a politician who is setting low targets he thinks he can outperform. It is appropriate given the capricious nature of a virus that is mutating in a way that makes it more infectious and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
“I don’t want to over promise anything here,” the President said, contrasting sharply with his predecessor’s predictions that church pews would be full by Easter 2020 and that the virus would magically disappear.
The President was disingenuous when he blamed poor reporting and a “miscommunication” on the perception that his team saw children in school buildings for one day a week as a mark of success. The comment came from his White House last week and was later walked back.
Still, Biden’s missteps paled in the comparison to the hurricane of lies, false statements, bitter political attacks and self-aggrandizement that regularly dominated Trump’s appearances in rally speeches and town hall events on conservative media.
And despite his characteristic stumbling over some precise figures, the President came across as far more engaged and well briefed on all aspects of the pandemic than senior officials in the Trump administration.
‘You’re going to be fine’
With his self-deprecating asides, easy interaction with the audience and folksy recycling of his parents’ “God love you” wisdom, Biden displayed the capacity to emotionally connect with individuals and a sense of humanity that enabled him to cross over some partisan divides in his election win.
This shone through his encounter with Jessica Salas, a Milwaukee graphic designer who told him that her children often ask whether they will get Covid-19 and die.
“Kids don’t get Covid very often. It’s unusual for that to happen,” Biden told Salas and her daughter, Layla, displaying a keen sense of the isolation of kids who can’t go to school and go out and play with their friends.
“Don’t be scared, honey. Don’t be scared. You’re going to be fine, and we’re going to make sure mommy’s fine, too,” Biden told the little girl.
It was the conversation that millions of Americans have had with their children over the last 11 months, and reflected Biden’s capacity as a grandfather to speak to children on their level and the emotional depth of a man who has known deep personal pain and tragedy in his own life.
“And that was really, really awesome. Afterwards she was like, ‘Mommy, he told us everything’s gonna be OK.’ Which, obviously, wasn’t his exact words, but the fact that she felt his sentiment meant a lot,” Salas said.
In one meandering answer in which he meditated on the racial awakening sparked by the killing of Minnesota man George Floyd at the hands of police last year, the President declared, “We have a chance now, a chance now, to make significant change in racial disparities.” However, it was difficult to clearly pinpoint a clear set of policies in what even he admitted were long-winded remarks.
“I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you. And it’s where I find myself extremely self-conscious,” he said, encapsulating a performance characterized by presidential humility that he sees as the antidote to a scary and polarized time in American history.
CNN – CNN INTERNATIONAL