It’s never a particularly good sign when a politician is “clarifying” a comment.
In the parlance of public relations, a “clarification” doesn’t actually clarify something. It’s basically a nice, managed way of retracting a statement. It’s like Bill Clinton “clarifying” his relationship with Monica Lewinsky or the Nixon White House “clarifying” its shifting Watergate stories. Alternatively, it’s a way of wallpapering over a mistake or a gaffe so glaring that it overwhelms any attempt to explain it away.
That’s been particularly true with President Joe Biden, whose gaffes have come fast and furious since the moment he announced he was running for the presidency. (Back then, however, the media wasn’t fond of covering them. We’ve been on Biden’s worrying gaffes since the beginning of his campaign, and we’ll continue to point out how he’s unfit for office. You can help us by subscribing.)
This time, however, it wasn’t the president gaffing, but Vice President Kamala Harris.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Harris claimed — despite a multitude of new COVID-19 variants since the disease first appeared, and the possibility of variants being discussed since the earliest days of the virus — that the White House simply didn’t see the delta or omicron variants coming down the pike.
“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 told the paper in an interview published on Friday.
“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.”
Yep, “as it turns out.” It’s like the administration that yells the word “Science!” at the top of its lungs — as if it constitutes an insuperable two-syllable argument for liberal policy positions — was wholly unfamiliar with the actual science behind omicron.
It also has all the hallmarks of a thoroughly unfortunate Biden administration gaffe, like the president’s infamous remark that the collapse in Afghanistan “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
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Harris added that while she understood Americans want to go back to their daily lives and “one of the concerns that I have is the undiagnosed and untreated trauma at various degrees that everyone has experienced” due to lockdowns, she said, “I don’t think that in any regard anyone can claim victory when, you know, there are 800,000 people who are dead because of this virus.”
There were plenty of people questioning Harris’ understanding of COVID on social media after the interview was published:
Wait, what? Infectious disease experts have said for well over a year that covid would become endemic with many new variants…Biden admin in the dark about the obvious 🤡🌎 https://t.co/8qkcpvSTD3
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) December 18, 2021
Omicron… Taliban.. inflation.. whichever. https://t.co/V22YDhBo2p
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) December 18, 2021
She is either ignorant or lying.
— Why? (@KingHailthe) December 18, 2021
— Irka (@IrkaLive) December 18, 2021
The adults are back in charge https://t.co/Qclta7unFh
— OhMyStradivarius (@LarryFinesHair) December 18, 2021
Time for clarification!
“The Vice President’s comments referred to the exact kind of mutation,” one of Harris’ advisers said in a statement, according to Fox News. “The administration knew mutations were possible, it [is] the reason we ordered extra tests, extra gear and extra PPE.”
“It is the reason the President, Vice President and our entire administration warned early and often that the best way to get on the other side of the pandemic is to get vaccinated,” the White House added. “We were and continue to be prepared.”
“I believe she was referring to the fact that the extraordinary number of mutations and amino acid substitutions, particularly with omicron, no one had expected it that much,” Fauci said.
“But we were well prepared and expected that we were going to see variants. There’s no doubt about that. But I believe that the vice president was referring to the fact, if you look at the number of mutations in omicron, it’s unprecedented. There are about 50 of them, 30 of them in the spike protein, and about 10 to 12 of them on the receptor-binding domain. We’ve never seen anything like that before. So in that context, she was correct.”
This is the most charitable possible reading of the context in which they were made, however, and arguably slips over into the realm of impossibly charitable.
It’s putting words into her mouth that weren’t there when she gave the interview to the Times. (The phrase “amino acid substitutions,” for instance, never made it into the piece, nor did “receptor-binding domain,” oddly enough.)
It’s easy enough to say now — for Fauci, anyway — but it’s not what Harris said in the interview. And, rest assured, if that context had been there, the Los Angeles Times wasn’t going to withhold it to make Kamala Harris look bad.
If the vice president wanted to clarify this, the time to do it was when she was talking to the interviewer. She owns this bizarre statement now — and it’s going to make people think twice about the readiness of the person who’s second-in-line behind the gaffer-in-chief.