Like a wedding without a bride or groom, Donald Trump held a vaccine summit Tuesday absent any representatives of the two companies producing vaccines on the brink of FDA approval with astonishing 90-percent-plus efficacy rates.
The president used the summit, which he failed to invite the vaccine makers to before announcing it, to boast about how many Americans have been infected: “I hear we’re close to 15 percent. I’m hearing that, and that’s terrific.”
That’s infected, not recovered. No wonder the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna declined to attend, without so much as giving an excuse. Maybe they had to wash their hair. But Trump didn’t use their regrets to call the whole thing off, but instead drew more attention to a blunder that will haunt the country. When Trump had the chance to buy up Pfizer’s vaccine supply, we learned this week, he passed. Why? Because CEO Albert Bouria bruised his tender feelings by not joining Operation Warp Speed last spring.
It wasn’t personal and Bouria didn’t make a big deal of it but slights fester inside Trump for months. By July, Trump had turned a grudge into a federal case and he answered Pfizer’s rejection of him with a rejection of the vaccine, turning down an option to buy 100 million doses with no money up front, according to former FDA chief and Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottleib.
Mr. Art of the Deal didn’t realize he had no bargaining power when there was one supplier and many customers. Canada, for instance, ordered enough from Pfizer for every man, woman and child north of the border. Even as Trump was holding his rump summit, another customer, Boris Johnson, was pulling out the stops to celebrate “V-Day.” The first needle into the arm of 90-year old Maggie Kendall in North London was beamed round the world.
We’ve come to the point in the Trump administration when Big Pharma is behaving more responsibly than the president, who’s not advanced much past the days when the virus was a hoax, anyone (read no one) could get a test, and he knew more than the doctors—who were dazzled by all he knew. Now he’s scrambling to claim credit while he can still draw cameras to record it.
In his final days, Trump seems determined to leave America worse than he found it. He’s not working much—when did he?—but along with his sham summit and drawing up a pardons list and checking it twice, he’s squeezing in as many superspreader events as he can to showcase the “f*cking holiday decorations” Melania resents having to bother with.
Last Friday produced the first known victim of the jolly-holly festivities with Jenna Ellis testing positive, number 55 with Trump as vector. Ellis is second chair to Rudy Giuliani, whose positive test Sunday forced the whole Arizona legislature into quarantine. When both recover, as the friends and family of Trump getting concierge medical care usually do, the two so-called lawyers can resume their Groundhog Day sequel in which every 24 hours Trump loses the 2020 election again.
Despite all that losing, Trump’s not tired of losing yet as he called the Pennsylvania Speaker of the House asking him to overturn the election results there. Trumpist Sen. Ron Johnson held a hearing showcasing an anti-vaxxer doctor who suggested bleach in our toilets would do the trick. Trump got Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton to file a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate “unlawful election results” in four states that Sen. Ted Cruz offered to argue hours before the Court denied injunctive relief to the president in another case.
The 232 Republicans in Congress so unwilling to acknowledge the election result—routine inaugural planning is stalled—should look at how dangerous things are getting with armed protesters, like the group that gathered outside the home of Michigan’s secretary of state yelling “stop the steal” while she was decorating the Christmas tree with her 4-year old son. That’s weeks after a militia that took Trump’s advice to “liberate Michigan” from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was busted by the feds for planning to kidnap her. Republicans in Georgia who certified Biden’s win there are now facing death threats. Christopher Krebs, the top cybersecurity official Trump appointed only to fire after Krebs said that there was no evidence the election was compromised, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Trump campaign and Trump lawyer Joseph DiGenova, who’d said Krebs should be shot at dawn for treason.
Trump’s shoddy vaccine summit just happened to be on the same afternoon as Biden’s announcement of his health-care team, one without a radiologist or hawker of hydroxychloroquine among them, but thankfully with the appointment of Dr. Anthony Fauci to his eighth tour of duty.
Both events came on Safe Harbor Day, when the election results are signed, sealed, and delivered which means that barring an insurrection, we can soon put Trump behind us—or not. TV made Trump and it can keep him going. He’s now planning a counter-inauguration. Given that Biden is boring and Trump is not and the only thing broadcast executives care about is good TV, we could have a split-screen day: Biden arrives by Amtrak to be sworn in before a very small, socially distanced audience. Trump leaves, if he does, on Marine One still at his disposal.
Could he buzz the Capitol? He’d be thrilled that the lie he told insistently at the start of an administration plagued by them will finally be true. His crowd in 2017, thanks to a pandemic he let rage out of control, will be bigger. The only person who’ll see that as something to celebrate will be him.