White House chief of staff Ron Klain has egg on his face.
After President Joe Biden said Monday that solving the current COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant is a problem for states to handle — as opposed to the federal government — a message that Klain blared in June 2020 came back to haunt the Biden administration.
What did Biden say?
While speaking with the National Governors Association on Monday, Biden punted responsibility for managing the response to the Omicron variant.
"Look, there is no federal solution. This gets solved at a state level," Biden said. The admission, of course, directly contradicts his promise to "shut down the virus." The buck now stops with governors, apparently.
What did Klain's message promise?
Klain promised in June 2020 that if Biden won election, he would use the full force of the federal government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Klain specifically denounced an "Articles of Confederation" approach, referring to a decentralized government in which state governments address the pandemic with their own unique strategies.
"I've been saying since March that we can't beat COVID with an 'Articles of Confederation' response. We have a national government for a reason," Klain tweeted. "If Donald Trump won't use it to beat this killer disease, I know someone who will, starting on 1/20/21."
Klain's message — which came during the height of the presidential campaigning season — was meant to contrast Biden's leadership vision with the response of then-President Donald Trump.
At the time, federalism was a prominent issue.
Trump, for example, claimed he held authority to reopen state governments that had been shut down by governors, which legal experts disputed. Trump also indicated that states were responsible for testing, purchasing critical medical supplies, and issuing and rescinding restrictions. Trump was criticized for not enacting a more forceful federal response.
However, the Trump administration also reiterated the central vision for federal government response to disasters: federally guided, state-managed, and locally implemented.
Vice President Kamala Harris perhaps foreshadowed Biden's eyebrow-raising admission.
About a week before Christmas, Harris admitted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the Biden administration did not anticipate waves of new COVID infections and therefore did not make necessary calculations for how to respond to spikes of infection.
"We didn't see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not — upon whose advice and direction we have relied — didn't see Delta coming," Harris said. "We didn't see Omicron coming. And that's the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants."
The White House later clarified Harris' comments in an attempt to do damage control.