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Revisiting Mike Pence's unfortunate Memorial Day prediction

Pence said the crisis would be "behind us" by Memorial Day weekend. His failed prediction is emblematic of a larger problem.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 9, 2020.Alex Wong / Getty Images

As the number of American fatalities from the coronavirus pandemic approaches 100,000, the heartbreaking tally stands in contrast with Donald Trump's repeated predictions that the total would never reach this point. Similarly, conservative economist Kevin Hassett created a "cubic fit" model, embraced by many in the White House, which projected that the daily fatalities from COVID-19 would drop to zero by last week.

Tragically, the predictions from the president and his team were wrong. So, too, was Vice President Mike Pence, who offered a bold forecast in late April.

"I truly do believe that if we all continue to do that kind of social distancing and other guidance broadly from federal and state officials, that we're going to put this coronavirus in the past," Pence said on Geraldo Rivera's radio show Friday. "I believe by early June we're going to see our nation largely past this epidemic.... I think honestly, if you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us," he added.

Even at the time, this was a difficult assessment to take seriously. Finding a credible public-health expert who believed the crisis would be "behind us" by this point was effectively impossible, and yet, the vice president -- the official ostensibly leading the official White House coronavirus task force before its demise -- took this message to a national broadcast audience anyway.

Now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and the crisis is obviously not "behind us," we now know that the public-health authorities were right and the Indiana Republican was not.

The goal here is not to point and laugh at Pence for peddling misguided happy talk. Rather, what I think matters is that Team Trump keeps taking unrealistic predictions to the public with little chance of success.

And yet, the White House is undeterred, telling Americans that a vaccine will be available this year; the economy is poised for an immediate rebound; and there's no reason to be concerned about a second wave.

What the public needs is accurate and reliable information from credible officials Americans can count on. What the public has is ... something very different.