THORNTON: In A National Crisis, Biden Should Put Country Above Campaign

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A phone call between President Donald Trump and his likely 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, is reported to be in the works to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. The only question is, why did it take Biden so long to put his country before politics?

That’s what John McCain did in 2008. As the Republican presidential nominee, McCain stopped campaigning for president in September of that year as the economic system neared a collapse. He returned to Washington and appeared with his opponent and Senate colleague, Barack Obama, at a White House meeting convened by then-President Bush to discuss a proposed bailout package for the troubled financial industry.

“Now is a time to come together — Democrats and Republicans — in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people,” McCain and Obama said in a joint statement.

While McCain and Obama jointly called for bipartisan cooperation in the face of a worrisome financial shock, Biden has instead been spreading panic and trying to score cheap political points.

Biden’s first instinct was to go on the attack, when it should have been to calm a nervous nation. In a USA Today opinion piece on January 27, before the virus had barely reached our shores, Biden said, “The possibility of a pandemic is a challenge Donald Trump is unqualified to handle as president.”

Since then, Biden has sparred with the Trump administration over every element of its response, from who to put in charge of the response team to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the number of testing kits available.

When Trump decided early on to impose travel restrictions to and from China, the source of the outbreak, Biden criticized Trump for his “record of hysteria and xenophobia.” What Biden blithely referred to as “fearmongering” was actually a reasonable precaution that gave the government valuable time to prepare.

Biden wrongly claimed that Trump “hasn’t allowed his scientists to speak” about the coronavirus, but as fact checkers pointed out, the government’s infectious disease specialists have merely been told to clear their media interviews through the White House task force and have made numerous public appearances to discuss the virus.

Now that Trump is working on yet another stimulus package to stop the economy from edging into recession, is it too much to hope that Biden could muffle his criticism of the president as Trump tries to steer us through the present crisis?

At the very least, it would be nice if Biden would live up to the words he spoke at McCain’s 2018 funeral.

In that emotional eulogy, Biden lamented the passing of the day when Democrats and Republicans were friendly with one another, as he and McCain had been back in the eighties and nineties.

“What happened was, at those times, it was always appropriate to challenge another Senator’s judgment, but never appropriate to challenge their motive. When you challenge their motive, it’s impossible to get to go,” Biden said. “If I say you are doing this because you are being paid off or you are doing it because you are not a good Christian or this, that, or the other thing, it’s impossible to reach consensus.”

Biden concluded, “All we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives, not the substance of their argument.”

Mr. Vice President, rabid partisanship and bad faith have destroyed our politics, and the way you have responded to date to the growing public health challenge suggests you are more interested in putting your selfish political ambitions above the needs of the country.

Chandler Thornton is the chairman of the College Republican National Committee. Follow him on Twitter @chandlerUSA.