The Corner

Politics & Policy

Why Isn’t Biden to Blame for the Rapid-Testing Debacle?

A woman receives a COVID-19 test from a technician at a mobile testing van in New York, August 27, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Michael and Phil both touched on Joe Biden’s preposterous contention that a winter surge of Covid-19 was some unforeseen event. Experts have been warning about a winter surge for months. We had just experienced the Delta variant. Only in August, the White House was cynically attacking Ron DeSantis during that state’s summer surge.

So why aren’t there more rapid tests available? These tests aren’t predicated on any new or potentially dangerous scientific innovation. There are manufacturers all over the world willing and able to produce them in massive quantities. The Democrats’ $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan allocated $48 billion to testing earlier this year.

Biden now contends that he can’t “shut down the virus,” even though as a presidential candidate he promised he would “shut down the virus,” “beat this virus,” and so on. That’s fine. The notion that Biden or Donald Trump has the power to stop a pandemic is nonsensical partisanship. But . . . when Biden claimed Trump’s “catastrophic failures of governance have led to tens of thousands of needless deaths,” he could only point to one tangible policy failure, and that was the lack of available testing. “The administration’s failure on testing is colossal and it’s a failure of planning, leadership, and execution,” Biden claimed in March 2020. In “Joe Biden’s Plan to Beat Covid-19,” the president says it was “failure to test swiftly and broadly led to the failure to get the virus under control.”

Yet nothing has changed since then. The government keeps getting in the way. The FDA, as is so often the case, is still dragging its feet on life-saving progress, and Biden has done nothing to ease the bottleneck. ProPublica, for instance, reports this week that an MIT scientist had invented an affordable at-home test back in March 2020 and secured a factory to produce them. She still can’t get past FDA’s review process.

None of this is new. Early on, even as the incompetent CDC was knowingly sending out its tainted tests, the FDA was still banning imported tests over alleged quality-control issues. Private companies were deterred from creating their own tests by onerous bureaucratic impediments.

We now have vaccines. We now know a lot more about therapeutics and treatments. We’ve now had experiences with multiple variants. And we knew that testing, no panacea, was going to be important. And the FDA, unlike virtually everything else Biden concerns himself with these days, is actually under the purview of the president. So why doesn’t Biden deserve the blame he so eagerly heaped on his predecessor?

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