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

Biden used drugs and diagnostic tools that are all available to the public, while Trump chose a treatment not offered to everyday Americans at the time. Trump had a ‘brush with death’, while Biden isolated with mild symptoms at home. And their victory laps looked very different, too

<p>Biden speaks in the rose garden after testing negative for Covid following a period of isolation with the disease </p>

Biden speaks in the rose garden after testing negative for Covid following a period of isolation with the disease

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

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

But Trump definitely knew how to toot his own horn, often in the most entertaining way possible. Like the way he triumphantly returned to the White House after surviving (with the aid of monoclonal antibodies not then available to the general public) a severe case of Covid.

Your correspondent was (like most of you, I suspect) working from home that October evening, but from the balcony of my apartment I was able to see Marine One on its transit from Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre to the White House’s South Lawn. The rest of what transpired that night I saw on television.

The clinically obese president emerged from his iconic white-topped helicopter, huffed and puffed up a flight of stairs to the Truman Balcony, ripped off his mask and theatrically saluted as the Marine aviators at the controls took their chopper back to base. He then recorded a bizarre video urging Americans not to let the coronavirus (that had killed more than 200,000 by then) “dominate” them.

Compared with his predecessor, President Joe Biden’s return to the office after a Covid diagnosis lacked stagecraft. There was no helicopter, no dramatic visuals, no imagery of a conquering 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 “President’s Own” US Marine Corps band playing “Hail to the Chief,” he strode up to a podium that had been set up in the short time following the announcement of his second consecutive negative test.

While he did compare his quick recovery from Covid to Trump’s brush with death (according to his own aides) two years prior, it wasn’t to attack his former (and perhaps future) opponent. Nor was it to urge Americans to ignore the virus that has, as of today, claimed the lives of more than a million of his countrymen. Instead, Biden’s nine-minute address to the nation concerned one central message: His administration’s slow and steady work has created an environment in which virus that upended the world’s economy (and to a large extent brought down Trump’s presidency) no longer has the power to leave American streets deserted or bring the normal pace of life to a grinding halt.

Biden pointed out that widely available vaccines (and boosters), combined with widespread testing and easily obtainable treatments, have turned Covid-19 into an annoyance (for most people) that can be managed with a timely trip to any American’s local drug store. There, a friendly neighborhood pharmacist can dispense the exact same antiviral Biden was prescribed, if one happens to test positive on one of the millions of free at-home Covid test kits his administration has distributed.

“You don’t need to be a president to get these tools used for your defense. In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got is available to you,” he said.

After the long testing lines, wait lists for antibody treatments, and vaccine scarcity, it was one hell of a victory lap — even if it lacked the drama of his predecessor.

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