It’s not my habit to talk about Christmas miracles. I’m Jewish. But Christmas week, I actually think I witnessed one: Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden talked about each other warmly and positively.
MSNBC reported on the recent remarks from Biden:
“Let me be clear: Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” the president said. “And thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a rollout that made America among the world leaders in getting shots in arms.”
Perhaps nothing tickles the former president quite like flattery, and so he responded in-kind on Fox News:
“I’m very appreciative of that — I was surprised to hear it,” Trump told Fox News. “I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy. ... “I think he did something very good,” Trump said. “You know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot.”
But Trump’s change in rhetoric has taken such a refreshing turn of late, one has to wonder if he was visited by three ghosts this Christmas.
The former president sat down with conservative firebrand and famously anti-vaccine host, Candace Owens, for The Daily Wire. And Trump did something also remarkable: He stayed on message the whole time.
Owens asked the former president about vaccine mandates, throwing a reference in about “Big Pharma” into her question. Trump responded, “One of the greatest achievements. We did it in less than nine months.”
Owens tried to interrupt him, steering the question back to mandates. Trump was having none of it.
“I stand, forget about the mandates, people have to have their freedom. But at the same time, the vaccine is one of the greatest achievements of mankind. We would have had a 1917 — remember the Spanish flu? Killed perhaps 100 million people. It actually ended the First World War; a lot of people don’t know that. Because the soldiers got so sick, it was a terrible thing. There were no vaccines, there weren’t anything. I came up with a vaccine — three vaccines — all are very, very good. Came up with three of them in less than nine months. It was supposed to take five to 12 years.”
Skeptically, Owens remarked that more people had died under Biden’s administration, despite more people taking the vaccine. And once again, Trump was not to be led astray.
“Oh, no. The vaccine worked. But some people aren’t taking it. The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones who don’t take the vaccine. It’s still their choice. And if you take the vaccine, you’re protected. Look, the results of the vaccine are very good. And if you do get it, it’s a very minor form. People aren’t dying when they take the vaccine.”
American public health officials and leaders have tried everything under the sun to stop this pandemic: masking toddlers in daycare, passing indoor mask mandates for supermarkets and libraries, vaccine passports and expanding testing. But there’s really only one reliable mitigation effort that works time and again: vaccination.
Sure, we aren’t going to vaccinate COVID-19 out of existence, but it’s clear that with these shots, we’re going to be able to keep most people healthy enough if they’re infected to recover at home instead of needing supportive care in hospitals.
The former president’s outspoken support for vaccination and the cooling of tensions between Trump and Biden are important for national public health. President Biden is hopefully recognizing that his rhetoric about an “unvaccinated winter of death” is far less convincing to Republican voters than anything the former president could say about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
Wittingly or not, both Biden and Trump were central to making that happen.
Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for the Deseret News and an editor at Ricochet.com.