How is the first hundred days of a presidency like Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s is a Hallmark concoction; the first hundred days is a news concoction -- a reason for papers, magazines, broadcasters, narrowcasters, social media and anti-social media to ramp up entire sections of their papers and fill the screen with graphics and analyses that have catchy titles like “Biden His Time -- 100 Days.”
It’s arbitrary, particularly since, to quote then Vice President Joe Biden whispering in President Barack Obama’s ear as he signed health care reform into law, a “big f***ing deal” has taken place in half that time. At 50-ish days, the Biden team has successfully passed through Congress a nearly $2 trillion pandemic rescue plan called, cleverly enough, the American Rescue Plan, with almost no Republican support.
Expect a nonstop victory lap. In fact, it has already started. The legislation became law a day early when the legal scutwork went faster than expected, so President Biden signed it right away. “We want to move as fast as possible,” said chief of staff Ron Klain.
Then it was on to the nationwide TV speech in prime time. Was it gloating when he promised to have enough vaccine available for every arm in America by May 1? Not IN everybody’s arm, that will take a lot of time. But still, by July 4 we should be on our way, said the president, to “not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.” The keyword here is “begin.”
That was not to say that they skipped the White House celebration with every Democrat in the world present. That may be a slight exaggeration, but the way it laid out, after the bill was signed, it got not one, not two, but three televised news hits. That was not counting the Sunday talk shows and, the following week, a bunch of as many photogenic events across the country as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris can cram in before people get tired of hearing about COVID relief.
Lost in all this is the fact that the key vaccines to all this had been developed under a remarkable “Operation Warp Speed,” which was approved and pushed by the administration of President Donald Trump. He may have foolishly bungled the response, but Warp Speed was a Donald Trump production.
Still, Republicans are busy changing the subject, talking about anything but the highly popular pandemic package.
But a politician’s work is never done, and soon it will be on to the next issue, where the two sides will work on a mammoth infrastructure package. Or the one side, if bipartisanship turns out to be impossible there too. Whichever, the Biden people have been around the track a few times, so they know to take advantage of momentum. And they also know how to stick it to their opponents, reminding them that it was the tumultuous Trump administration, particularly its leader, that was singularly responsible for the half-million-plus COVID deaths in the United States. Many, if not most, of them could have been prevented by decisive action early on. Instead, we got ignorant bumbling over the warnings of experts, personified by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who, if he was that kind of person, could say, “I told you so.”
That’s why the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic was so somber in this country. Trump’s response was to shut down U.S. cooperation with WHO’s efforts.
Still, we in media latch on to the political cliches, like a hundred days and 50 days and, one more, a president’s “honeymoon.” That one may be valid, considering how the honeymoon with Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, lasted about one day, if that, when he picked his first fight over inauguration crowd size.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.