Who deserves credit? Biden leans into pandemic politics

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President Joe Biden holds his face mask as he speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – In President Joe Biden's war against the coronavirus, former President Donald Trump hardly exists.

The Democratic president ignored Trump in his first prime-time address to the nation, aside from a brief indirect jab. It was the same when Biden kicked off a national tour in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to promote the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Now, as his administration is on the cusp of delivering on his promise of administering 100 million doses of vaccine in his first 100 days, Biden is in no rush to share the credit.

The truth is that both Biden and Trump deserve some credit, though Biden stands to benefit from being in power during the nation’s emergence from the pandemic. In the president's telling, the United States’ surging vaccination rate, economic recovery and the hope slowly spreading across the nation belong to him and his party alone.

On Thursday afternoon, Biden took an early victory lap on reaching the vaccination milestone more than a month before he promised, saying the 100 millionth dose would be administered Friday — his 59th day in office.

“One headline simply put it: ‘It won’t be easy.' Well it wasn't,” Biden said, taking credit for putting the federal government on a “war footing” after he took office.

The president’s approach represents a determination to shape how voters — and history — will remember the story of America's comeback from the worst health and economic crises in generations. In the short term, the debate will help decide whether Democrats will continue to control Congress after next year's midterm elections. And in the longer term, each president's legacy is at stake.

For now, the fight is framed by conflicting realities.

On the Democratic side, Biden and his allies see a nation still desperate for government intervention. They point to more than 9 million jobs still lost, thousands of Americans still dying of the coronavirus every week, and state and local leaders in both parties seeking help.