President Donald Trump’s refusal to coordinate with President-elect Joe Biden on the critical Covid-19 vaccine is bringing a staggering possibility into clearer view: that an outgoing US commander in chief is actively working to sabotage his successor.
Trump’s denial of his election defeat, his lies about nonexistent mass coordinated voter fraud and his strangling of the rituals of transferring power between administrations are not just democracy-damaging aberrations.
Given the current national emergency, they threaten to cause practical fallout that could damage Biden’s incoming White House not just in a political sense. There are increasing concerns that Trump’s obstruction will slow and complicate the delivery of the vaccine that brings the tantalizing prospect of a return to normal life amid stunning news from trials showing doses are effective in stopping more than 90% of coronavirus infections.
The distribution operation will be a massively complex and historic public vaccination effort targeting hundreds of millions of Americans — many millions of whom have resisted following basic safety protocols like wearing masks because Trump has encouraged them not to. The inoculation campaign will require a high level of public trust and will involve sharp ethical debates among officials about who should get the vaccine first. The entire program could be damaged if it is politicized. But unless something changes, the Biden team may face the task of tackling those issues afresh, in a frantic catch-up operation.