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Sarah Huckabee Sanders' foolish approach to the COVID blame game

The good news is, Sarah Huckabee Sanders touted "the benefits of getting vaccinated." The bad news is, she's nevertheless playing the blame game badly.


Arkansas is currently struggling more than most states with a COVID crisis, fueled in large part by the state's low vaccination rate. Arkansas' public-health system is, not surprisingly, facing a severe strain, as hospitalization numbers climb rapidly.

It was against this backdrop that Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- the former White House press secretary who's now a leading Republican gubernatorial candidate -- wrote an op-ed for the state's largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The good news is, the Republican very carefully pointed readers in the right direction.

After making the case that people shouldn't be inconvenienced by pandemic restrictions -- Sanders denounced closings, mandates, and bans on large gatherings -- she eventually touted what she called the "Trump vaccine" and highlighted "the benefits of getting vaccinated."

That's the good news. Indeed, the more unvaccinated Arkansans are persuaded by her piece, and roll up their sleeves for the shot, the better it will be for everyone.

But Sarah Huckabee Sanders is still Sarah Huckabee Sanders. From her op-ed:

[N]o one did more to undercut public confidence in the vaccine than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden doubted that the vaccine would be "real," while Harris said in a nationally-televised debate that she would not take any vaccine the Trump administration had a hand in creating.

Ah, yes. After the far-right message machine helped persuade far too many Republicans not to get vaccinated, we're left with a GOP gubernatorial candidate who's eager to shift the blame to the president and the vice president who've made every possible effort to get Americans vaccinated.

To the extent that reality still has meaning, what Biden and Harris said before the election is that they'd gladly embrace the vaccine once its approved by scientists and relevant public-health officials and agencies. They weren't willing to simply take Donald Trump's word for it, which made sense given the failed former president's habit of uncontrollable lying and repeated failures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

But I'm also struck by the leap in logic. To follow Sanders' reasoning, Biden and Harris were skeptical of Trump's credibility last fall, which in turned undermined conservative Arkansans' confidence in vaccines several months later.

Huh? If Sanders were right, and the Democratic president and vice president "undercut public confidence in the vaccine," we'd see lower vaccination rates in blue states and progressive communities. But the opposite is true: the evidence suggests it's the far-right that's least likely to get the shots.

But Sanders' argument continued down the same strange path:

We all know what happened after the first vaccines were announced on Nov. 9, right after the presidential election. Scientists quickly began to praise the results of Operation Warp Speed, but by then the damage was already done. Because of what they heard from politicians and TV "experts," many Americans were scared the vaccines were not safe.

In other words, Sanders would have us believe that conservatives might've been more willing to get vaccinated if only they hadn't been persuaded by Biden, Harris, and other leading figures who didn't actually say what Sanders claims they said.

Ed Kilgore's conclusion rang true: "...I have never seen anyone on the left or center who can match the cynical contempt Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears to have for her own home-state base. She thinks they can be retroactively convinced to forget the massive hostility of Trump supporters for anti-COVID-19 public health measures -- including vaccines, public or private vaccine mandates, and the imaginary 'vaccine passports' -- and embrace the Trump vaccine on grounds that they were unknowingly bamboozled by 'the left' to stay unvaccinated."

The cynicism is breathtaking.