In his first primetime address to the nation, President Biden on Thursday night presented an optimistic case that the worst of the Covid pandemic might soon be over. Hours after signing his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan into law, Biden marked the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic by mourning the losses the nation has suffered and outlining the path to brighter days ahead.
Some takeaways from the speech:
Hope for a return to normalcy: Biden said that the nation was on track to meet his administration’s goal of 100 million shots in arms by his 60th day in office and that he was directing all states, tribes and territories to make sure that all U.S. adults would be eligible for Covid vaccination by May 1. He held out hope that, if Americans got vaccinated and did not ease up prematurely on masking and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus, small July 4th gatherings with family or friends could be possible. "After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not only mark our Independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus," he said.
Biden paired that optimism with a heavy dose of caution, though. “Just as we were emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules,” he said. “This is not the time to let up.” The White House made clear Friday that Biden wasn’t promising a return to “total normalcy” by summertime — so maybe think about the July 4th goal sort of in the way Bill Pullman’s president character put it in the movie “Independence Day”: As a declaration that, "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!”
We, not me: Biden didn’t mention former President Donald Trump by name, but he criticized the early response to the pandemic, saying that the initial spread of the virus was met with silence and long denials “that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness." And he drew stark contrasts with Trump in other ways, saying that the path out of the pandemic was to “tell the truth” and “follow the scientists and the science.”
He also urged Americans to put their trust in government. “We need to remember the government isn't some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it's us. All of us. We, the people,” he said, later adding, “I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that's not hyperbole. I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity. And to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well.”
That call to collective action was another dramatic difference from Trump, as The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes: “Instead of a president saying, ‘I alone can fix it,’ Biden said he can only succeed with the help of others.”
The stimulus sales pitch will come later: “A day after the passage of the most far-reaching domestic piece of legislation in decades, Biden spent only the last few minutes in touting his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan,” Jeff Greenfield writes at Politico. “The selling of his Rescue Plan is expected to begin any time, but Biden clearly decided it could wait a day or two.”