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As Biden prepares to govern, Trump puts on a cringe-worthy show

According to Trump, US coronavirus infections are "close to 15 percent," which he considers "terrific." Biden's message was ... different.
Image: Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden announces nominees and appointees to serve on his health and coronavirus response teams during a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 8, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The fact that the two events were happening at roughly the same time made the differences even more stark. In Delaware, President-elect Joe Biden hosted a public event, introducing his health care team, and alerting the public to the difficult challenges ahead in dealing with a deadly pandemic.

The incoming president discussed implementing the largest vaccination program ever, the importance of mitigation efforts such as mask-wearing, and Biden's ambitious plans on school re-openings.

About a hundred miles to the southwest, Donald Trump hosted a related event, billed by the White House as a "vaccine summit," which was ... different. The New York Times summarized:

Rarely has there been a single hour on a single day that saw such discordant messages emanating from Washington in a time of national crisis. In the middle of a transition of power that has already proved more unsettling than any in more than a century, the departing and incoming presidents on Tuesday offered the American people vastly divergent assessments of the state of their union.

The outgoing president spoke to a predictably supportive White House audience, where he proceeded to take an unearned victory lap and sign an executive order that even members of his own team can't explain.

Trump also pretended he won an election he lost, talked up the possibility of the Supreme Court helping him keep power illegitimately, peddled discredited election conspiracy theories, and urged GOP legislators to show "courage" and nullify election results he doesn't like. The Republican also made the case that in-person White House holiday parties, in defiance of CDC guidelines, are acceptable because "they're Christmas parties."

Put perhaps most importantly, the outgoing president declared at the event, "[Y]ou do have an immunity. You develop immunity over a period of time, and I hear we're close to 15 percent. I'm hearing that, and that is terrific. That's a very powerful vaccine in itself. And just tremendous progress has been made."

By all appearances, Trump was once again referring to a spectacularly dangerous pandemic strategy known as "herd immunity," in which officials allow the virus to spread and infect much of the population. As far as the Republican is concerned, he's "heard" that the United States is "close to 15 percent," which he considers "terrific."

As the president really ought to be able to understand by now, none of this made sense. Right off the bat, there are more than 15 million confirmed cases in the United States, but that doesn't mean that 15 percent of the population has tested positive. He didn't elaborate on how he arrived at these figures.

But that's really just the start. Trump sees widespread infections as being the equivalent of a "vaccine," but the science to back that up does not exist. The outgoing president also thinks it's "terrific" that a growing number of Americans are getting infected, seemingly indifferent to the fact that death tolls are climbing to staggering heights and many of the nation's hospitals have been pushed to the breaking point.

It's a problem that Trump, even now, sees value in "herd immunity." It's just as significant a problem that he hasn't fully come to terms with what "herd immunity" is.

Postscript: Pfizer and Moderna, the two major pharmaceutical companies moving forward with COVID-19 vaccines, did not attend the so-called "vaccine summit," despite being invited. They apparently didn't miss anything of value.

Officials from Biden's transition team, meanwhile, were not invited at all. Asked why not, the outgoing president once again suggested he'd remain in power next year, election results be damned.