The big difference between Biden and Trump’s experiences with Covid


In conversations with Democratic agents, staffers and activists, a common complaint I hear from them about their own party is that they don’t know how to take a good victory lap.

That willingness to continually tout success—real or imagined—is one of the few things I’ve heard opposition figures praise Donald Trump for during his four years in the White House. Some (okay, most) of the things Trump routinely takes credit for are absurd. He didn’t “rebuild” the entire US military. He did not single-handedly save the American economy. He didn’t build a wall along the entire US-Mexico border. And he certainly didn’t force China to pay tariffs on imports into the United States (because tariffs are taxes paid by American businesses and consumers).

But Trump definitely knew how to spin his own horn, often in the most entertaining way possible. Like the way he triumphantly returned to the White House after surviving a severe case of Covid (using monoclonal antibodies then unavailable to the general public).

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Your correspondent was (like most of you I suspect) working from home that October evening, but from my apartment balcony I could see Marine One en route from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the South Lawn of the White House. The rest of what happened that night I saw on television.

The clinically obese president emerged from his iconic white-topped helicopter, gasped and puffed up a flight of stairs to the Truman balcony, ripped off his mask, and saluted theatrically as the Marines at the wheel took their helicopter back to base. He then shot a bizarre video urging Americans not to let the coronavirus (which had already killed more than 200,000 by then) “dominate” them.

Compared to his predecessor, President Joe Biden’s return to office after a Covid diagnosis was lacking in drama. There was no helicopter, no dramatic images, no images of a victorious hero returning from battle.

Instead, Biden — the oldest-ever first-term president — ended a five-day isolation period on Wednesday with a brisk walk from the White House residence to the iconic Kennedy Rose Garden. Accompanied by a recording of the US Marine Corps “President’s Own” band playing “Hail to the Chief,” he walked to a stage set up in the short time after the announcement of his second consecutive negative test.

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While he compared his rapid recovery from Covid with Trump’s brush to death (according to his own aides) two years earlier, it was not to attack his former (and perhaps future) adversary. Nor was it to urge Americans to ignore the virus that has claimed the lives of more than a million of its compatriots to date. Instead, Biden’s nine-minute speech to the nation focused on one central message: the slow and steady work of his administration has created an environment in which the virus that rocked the global economy (and, to a large extent, the Trump presidency overthrew) no longer has the power to leave American streets or bring the normal pace of life to a halt.

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Biden pointed out that widely available vaccines (and boosters), coupled with widespread testing and readily available treatments, have made Covid-19 an annoyance (for most people) that can be managed with a timely trip to a local drugstore in America. . There, a friendly neighborhood pharmacist can dispense the exact same antiviral that Biden was prescribed, if someone happens to test positive for one of the millions of free Covid home test kits his administration has handed out.

“You don’t have to be a president to have these tools used in your defense. In fact, the same booster shots, the same home test, the same treatment I received are available to you,” he said.

After the long testing lines, waiting lists for antibody treatments and vaccine scarcity, it was a great round of victory — even if it lacked the drama of its predecessor.