When Joe Biden's presidential campaign announced earlier this week that the candidate would deliver a speech on the coronavirus, his team did not yet know that Donald Trump would deliver an Oval Office address on the same subject the night before.
But as it turned out, the timing proved useful in creating a contrast. While the Republican president's speech was a mess, the Democratic former vice president delivered remarks outlining an actual plan. Vox published a good summary:
Biden's plan takes a two-pronged approach to the coronavirus outbreak. First, he promises "a decisive public health response" focused on free testing, improved access to treatment, the development of a vaccine and treatments, and increased health care capacity. Second, he calls for "a decisive economic response" that prioritizes paid sick leave for anyone hit by the outbreak, as well as aid to hard-hit families and state and local governments.
The policy blueprint features a lengthy list of related provisions -- it spans nearly 7,000 words -- and even includes a "health crisis food initiative" to provide relief for children who rely on free or discounted meals at schools that are now closed.
It also, incidentally, calls for the restoration of the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense -- which Trump inexplicably disbanded in 2018 for no particular reason.
Biden's plan is the kind of document one would expect from a group of experienced experts, which makes sense since the Delaware Democrat has assembled a capable team to help craft his policy agenda.
But given that Biden is a candidate, and this is an election year, the point wasn't exactly to tell Americans what the former vice president would do in 2021. Indeed, 10 months from now, the situation with the coronavirus will be dramatically different. Rather, the point was to demonstrate Biden's capacity for effective leadership and shine a light on what an effective plan looks like.
Or put another way, Biden and his team created a striking contrast. On Wednesday night, Americans heard from a president who struggled to deliver a misguided speech riddled with errors, and on Thursday afternoon Americans heard from the candidate who hopes to replace him, who presented the kind of policy blueprint the public should've seen the night before.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin wrote yesterday that Biden "demonstrated what a president should sound like and do in the midst of a pandemic. He was calm, forceful and direct. He had a detailed plan to offer. And most of all, he showed compassion for those afflicted — something President Trump seems incapable of doing -- and made clear we are all in this together."
The headline on her piece read, "Joe Biden already sounds as if he's the president."