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If there’s ‘no federal solution’ to COVID, will Biden end the vaccine mandate?

Julia Nikhinson

After striking out twice in years past, Joe Biden became president on his third time at bat pretty much for two reasons: A majority of voters didn’t like the way Donald Trump was handling the coronavirus — and a majority of voters didn’t like Donald Trump. 

Candidate Biden told us that he would “shut down the virus.” He told us, “Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America.” 

Americans had had enough of the toxic virus and they had had enough of Trump’s toxic personality — and so, a man who spent almost every day of his adult life in politics, leaving us with no memorable ideas, philosophies or even accomplishments, waltzed into the White House. 

My dear mother was right when she told me many years ago that in this country, anybody — Anybody! — can grow up to be president. Joe Biden is proof of that.

And on a video call  with governors this week, President Biden told them, and all of us, that regarding the virus, “There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level.”

Thanks for the 411, Mr. President, which conveniently comes after you blamed your opponent for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, after you got elected, and after you realized that things aren’t going the way you told us they would.

But who knows if Joe Biden actually has come to terms with an inconvenient reality: that the virus isn’t going anywhere, that it’s here to stay. Politician that he is, maybe he figured why not shift responsibility for a “solution” from himself onto 50 governors. Or maybe, he simply wandered off message and said the first thing that popped into his head. 

Can you imagine the reaction from Trump’s many liberal critics — including those in the news media who often act as the Democratic Party’s public relations wing — if he had said, “There is no federal solution”?  Can you imagine Jim Acosta’s outrage over at CNN? There’s a good chance Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her “squad,” along with the editorial board of the New York Times, would have demanded that Trump be impeached, for the third time. 

Still, I think Joe Biden has been treated too harshly by his detractors. After all, it sometimes doesn’t appear that he’s really running the show. One astute observer of this president once wrote, “He’s sitting in the backseat eating a cookie while somebody else is driving the car.” Okay, I’m that “astute observer.” It’s not my fault that someone else didn’t come up with such a witty observation, is it?

But let’s get back on the main road. If Biden thinks “There’s no federal solution,” why did his administration issue mandates for tens of millions workers to be vaccinated or tested on a regular basis? The mandate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers companies in the private sector with 100 or more employees. Does it occur to our president that there’s no way to reconcile his support of the OSHA mandate with his apparent belief that there’s no federal solution to this virus?   

Next week the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over whether the federal government has the authority to issue such a broad mandate that involves workers in the private sector. Lower courts have split on the question. 

But if Joe Biden really believes what he told the governors this week about “no federal solution,” maybe he should save everyone a lot of time and inform the Supreme Court that he’s telling OSHA to withdraw his administration’s vaccine mandate. It would be a smart political move since there’s a good chance the court will tell the Biden administration that its mandate is way too broad, that the federal government can’t demand such obedience from private employers and their workers, and would issue a ruling against him. Does Biden really want yet another setback in his first year in office?

As I say, who knows if the president really meant what he said. It’s hard to say if he was announcing a shift in policy or merely wandered off the highway into a rhetorical ditch. 

Let’s hope Biden has seen the light. Let’s hope that he finally understands that Donald Trump was incapable of “shutting down the virus” and so is he. Maybe, now that he’s safely in office, he’ll come to realize that the virus has more clout than any politician — even one who made unrealistic promises simply to get elected.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags #coronavirus Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Biden policy COVID-19 vaccine mandate Donald Trump Jim Acosta Joe Biden

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