Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor and Republican campaign adviser, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
(CNN)President Joe Biden’s speech Thursday night contained a long section about “the truth,” and he said the truth is that the only way to get our lives back to normal is to “beat the virus.” If he believes that, why did so little of the Covid relief bill he signed today go toward doing just that?
The merits of this bill are more than debatable, as less than 10% of the $1.9 trillion plan is spent on direct Covid spending and just 1% is for vaccine distribution.
While it was sold as a Covid relief package, it is hard to see how bailing out the City of San Francisco to the tune of $600 million, spending $100 million at the US Environmental Protection Agency to “address health outcome disparities from pollution and the Covid-19 pandemic,” or another $20 million for “to ensure the survival and continuing vitality of Native American languages during and after the public health emergency…with respect 15 to the COVID-19 pandemic” is worth further mortgaging our children and grandchildren’s future with all this new debt.
Biden closed by again talking about “the truth” as he prepares to hit the road to sell a piece of legislation that has already passed and been signed into law. We’ve been inundated with polling that claims the American Rescue Plan is overwhelmingly popular, so why go to such lengths to sell it now?
Because the word is out — the bill has little to do with Covid relief. A $1,400 check is not going to lift anyone out of poverty, despite slobbering to the contrary. The cold political truth is that the economy is already improving without the bill, but Biden wants to connect that improvement with legislation that will have little to do with our recovery.
But you know what will? Vaccinations. Biden laughably stated that people said his initial goal of vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days (or one million per day) was “over the top.” To the contrary, when Biden made that promise (before he took office) the Trump administration was already nearly hitting that target! According to FactCheck.org: “By January 20, the day of Biden’s inauguration a day that saw nearly 1.5 million vaccines administered — the seven-day average was about 966,000.”
So, Biden made a promise that was already being fulfilled under Trump. People weren’t overwhelmed by his promise. In fact, when he made it, Bloomberg reported that it “underwhelms.”
Biden and his political team do this all the time — making promises that are, if you scratch the surface, ridiculously easy to fulfill. In his speech Thursday, Biden said he would order all states and territories to open up vaccines to all American adults by May 1. Does anyone really think we won’t be there long before that anyway?
Biden might as well be in the White House backyard dunking on a 7-foot goal.
The parts of the speech where Biden excelled were in his empathetic statements about the suffering of the American people during the pandemic. His campaign was heavy on empathy, and he’s following through on it. By fulfilling a president’s role as Healer-in-Chief, Biden doesn’t have to mention his predecessor to continue to remind Americans why they turned Trump out last November.