Now that Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, he faces challenges domestically and globally on many fronts. That part is obvious.
What is also obvious is what Biden should be singularly focused on during his first 100 days in office and probably longer. Though Biden spoke emphatically of the importance of national unity in his inauguration speech, his number one priority has to be to get as many COVID-19 vaccination shots into as many American arms as quickly and as safely as possible.
There isn’t even a close second.
Biden inherits an America in the rages of a pandemic that is only getting worse. But this is also the moment when stopping the virus has never been more in our control. It was something of a miracle that more than one vaccine could be made and approved within a year of the first case in the United States. But the logistical rollout since has not gone so well.
There are many layers of blame to go around as to why the rollout is much slower than Trump administration officials promised. But that can be in the past.
Within the first few hours as president, Biden will sign 17 executive orders relating to climate change, immigration, and even mandating Americans wear masks in federal buildings. Biden, no doubt, is probably concerned with the US Senate getting his cabinet confirmed so they can start on their jobs. But the one thing that will help Biden the most politically is to help America move past COVID-19, put kids back in school, restaurants back in business, and improve the economy.
It is not as though Biden doesn’t get this. He has a plan to administer 100 million doses of the vaccine in the first hundred days. That is a good, ambitious start and may be very hard to pull off. But if the administration can pull it off then he is demonstrating what appears to be a clear goal of the incoming Biden administration: showing that government can be competent.
Biden isn’t filling his administration with stars from cable news, but veterans of previous administrations. If these are the experts who can be relied upon, then this is the time to prove it.
One thing about presidential power, as we have discovered during the last few presidencies: few things are in the president’s sole control except most foreign policy. So as Biden looks at the first few days of his presidency, he may see that Democrats have only the slimmest majorities on Capitol Hill, but the vaccine distribution is one thing that is as nonpartisan as it gets, and he can have direct leadership on it right out of the gate.
It is critical not only because hundreds of millions of Americans want the vaccine to return life back to normal, while protecting their own health and being able to pay rent, but what Biden does on the vaccine sets the tone for his entire presidency.