Joe Biden brings compassion, centrism and a big-time vaccine promise at CNN town hall

His words of encouragement for sophomore Lila Salas appeared Tuesday night on CNN Wisconsin while also trying to pull the nation out of its divided state after the impeachment trial of his predecessor, whom he called an ex-boyfriend.

For the past four years, only Trump has been in the news. In the next four years, I want to make sure all the news reaches the American people. I’m tired of talking about Trump, Biden said, depriving the former president of the attention he desires.

It was this moment that underscored Biden’s place at the center of American politics, where he won the election. His reluctance to publicly retaliate against his newly provoked predecessor or to join other prominent Democrats in loudly condemning the Republican senators who voted to exonerate former President Donald Trump over the uprising in the U.S. Capitol could frustrate more radical members of his own party. But with restraint, Biden put into practice what he preached: trying to unite a divided nation and ensure that political disagreements do not degenerate into uncivil wars.

In both responses, the president worried about the politics of his glory days, when he had to show compassion for a country demoralized by a multi-year battle with the virus and bring it out of Trump’s shadow.

The president also expressed hope – with a specific promise against which he will be measured – that 600 million doses of the vaccine will be available by the end of July.

What will happen is that it will continue to evolve as we move forward. We will reach 400 million doses by the end of May and 600 million by the end of July, Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Milwaukee.

Questions Biden Can’t Answer

But on some crucial questions that Americans desperately want answered – such as how long the pandemic will last, when everyone will be able to be vaccinated and when all children will return to school – Biden could not offer certainty.

His prediction that life could return to mostly normal by Christmas could be a frightening reminder to many Americans who crave a return to freedom with spring and summer that there is still a long way to go.

Biden was careful not to over-promise when it came to determining when the kids could get back to frontline teaching. He hopes to reduce the number of students from kindergarten through grade 8 to five days a week, which could happen by the end of his 100-day term in April. But he could not say when older students, who are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19, would receive the same treatment. He has lobbied for teacher vaccination so schools can open sooner, despite criticism from Republicans who don’t want to anger the teachers unions, a powerful Democratic constituency.

Perhaps Biden’s caution lies in the attitude of a politician who sets himself unambitious goals that he thinks he can surpass. This is justified given the erratic nature of the virus, which mutates to make it more contagious and potentially more resistant to vaccines.

I don’t want to make any promises here, the president said, in stark contrast to the predictions of his predecessor, who predicted that the pews would be full by Easter 2020 and that the virus would magically disappear.

The President was dishonest when he blamed poor reporting and the misunderstanding that his team saw the children in the school buildings one day a week as signs of success. The comment came from the White House last week and was subsequently returned.

Mr. Biden also falsely stated that no vaccine was available when he took office – a confusing statement considering that he received both doses of the vaccine from Pfizer/BionNTech before taking office. Private companies and scientists developed limited doses in an impressive initiative sponsored by the Trump administration, but the former White House did a poor job of initial awareness raising, greatly complicating Biden’s own plans. But when Biden was elected on the 20th…. January came into office, he was taking about 1 million doses a day.

Still, Biden’s missteps pale in comparison to the hurricane of lies, misrepresentation, bitter political attacks and self-deprecation that has regularly dominated Trump’s speeches at rallies and town hall events in the conservative media.

And despite his characteristic interjections of some specific figures, the president appeared to be far more interested and informed about all aspects of the pandemic than senior officials in the Trump administration.

You can do it.

Through his self-deprecating humor, his easy communication with the public and his folkloric retelling of his parents’ wisdom God Loves You, Biden demonstrated an ability to connect emotionally with people and a sense of humanity that allowed him to overcome some partisan divisions in his electoral victory.

This was reflected in her meeting with Jessica Salas, a graphic designer from Milwaukee, who told her that her children often asked her if they would get Covid-19 and die.

Children don’t often get Covid. That’s unusual, Biden told Salas and his daughter, Lila. He has shown a strong sense of isolation for children who do not attend school and cannot go outside to play with their friends.

Don’t be afraid, my dear. Don’t be afraid. You’ll be fine, and we’ll make sure Mommy is fine too, Biden told the little girl.

It’s a conversation millions of Americans have had with their children over the past 11 months, and it reflects Biden’s ability as a grandfather to talk to children on their level and the emotional depth of a man who has experienced deep personal pain and tragedy in his life.

The president also addressed other issues, including immigration, during the 60-plus minute meeting. He promised a reasonable route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, who, he said, should be treated with dignity.

In a tortuous response in which he looked back at the racial awakening following the killing of Minnesota man George Floyd by police last year, the president said We now have the opportunity to make a decisive difference in racial inequality. However, it is difficult to establish a clear policy in what he admits is a long ordeal.

In more thoughtful moments, Biden also revealed that all but one living president has called him since he moved into the White House last month. He didn’t reveal any private conversations, but his sly smile at Cooper left no doubt about the lack of communication with Trump.

The president also said he never came to the White House residence before taking the oath of office, and said he was uncomfortable accepting help from White House employees who serve the First Family.

I was raised with the idea that you don’t need anyone to serve you. And at this point I feel extremely confident, he said, summing up a vision of presidential humility that he sees as an antidote to a terrible and polarizing period in American history.

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