US President- elect Donald Trump stands with his children Ivanka and Donald Jr., during Trump's press conference at Trump Tower in New York on January 11,...
TIMOTHY A. CLARY

On curing cancer, the Trumps aren’t exactly on the same page

Updated

Donald Trump Jr. thought it’d be a good idea to warm up a crowd in Orlando this week, shortly before his father officially kicked off his presidential re-election bid, and as part of his pitch, Trump Jr. took a curious shot at former Vice President Joe Biden.

“What was the good one last week? Remember? Joe Biden comes out, ‘Well, if you elect me president, I’m going to cure cancer.’ Wow, why the hell didn’t you do that over the last 50 years, Joe?”

It was at the exact same event that Donald Trump Sr. made a related claim:

“We will push onward with new medical frontiers. We will come up with the cures to many, many problems; to many, many diseases – including cancer and others.”

So when Biden shares his ambitious goal of curing cancer, it’s worthy of mockery, and when Trump does the same thing, it’s fine?

By any reasonable standard, Trump Jr.’s derision was a rather cheap shot. Even putting aside the fact that his father later made a related vow, advances in medical research offer the promise of new treatments and cures, and to suggest one former senator was responsible for speeding up scientific progress is foolish.

For another, Biden’s interest in the issue was intensified by the loss of his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Complicating matters a bit, it’s also worth noting for context that the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to NIH medical research would’ve adversely affected the fight to find a cure for cancer, making the president’s rhetoric in Orlando that much more difficult to believe.

But what I find especially interesting is the fact that Trump Sr. picked this up as an issue in the first place.

As the Washington Post noted yesterday, in Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address, the Democratic president specifically asked Biden “to lead a new national effort on eradicating cancer, known as the ‘Cancer Moonshot.’”

After the 2016 election, Biden remained focused on the issue, hosting meetings with doctors and researchers at facilities across the country, as part of what he called the Biden Cancer Initiative. When the former vice president talked up the issue on the campaign trail last week, it was part of a years-long effort.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump Jr. peddled some dumb rhetoric, but his father’s vow to cure cancer in a second term was just as notable – because he appeared to be borrowing a page from Biden’s script.

It’s a bit like Trump’s projection habit, but in reverse: he not only likes to apply his faults to others, he also likes to apply others’ worthy priorities to his agenda.