As Republican resistance complicates national vaccination effort, McConnell keeps pitching it; pundit calls Massie a demagogue

Reps. Thomas Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene called June 15 for the firing of Dr. Anthony Fauci. (Photo by Jim Watson, Agence France-Press/Getty Images)

As The Washington Post ran a column with a headline saying “Republicans are preventing America from reaching Biden’s vaccination goal,” and citing a Kentucky congressman as part of the problem, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell continued advocating coronavirus vaccination as he toured the state.
“I know there is some skepticism out there, but let me put it this way: It may not guarantee you don’t get it, but it almost guarantees you don’t die from it, if you get it,” McConnell told a crowd at Murray.
Three months ago, in a similar pitch in Lexington, McConnell said he “saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine. I’m a Republican man, and I want to say to everyone, you need to take this vaccine.” He made no such reference Tuesday.
The partisan picture of vaccination was explored in the Post by Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot, a former Republican, who cited a Post-ABC News poll that found 86 percent of Democrats and 45% of Republicans have had at least one shot, and “47% of Republicans say they likely won’t get vaccinated, compared with only 6% of Democrats.”
The emergence of the Delta variant of the virus, twice as contagious as the original and now the dominant form in the U.S., has public-health experts concerned about outbreaks among unvaccinated people, but 57% of Republicans in the poll said officials are exaggerating the variant’s risk, “compared with only 12% of Democrats,” Boot notes. “These Republicans have fallen victim to a virulent strain of misinformation circulating in the right-wing echo chamber.”
He identified several voices in that chamber, including U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of the Fourth District, who tweeted July 3: “I’ve been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the Covid vaccine is mandated. I introduced H.R. 3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against Covid-19.”
Boot writes, “Numerous veterans pointed out that military members can’t simply ‘quit’ — that would be going AWOL — and that they already receive numerous mandatory vaccinations. These despicable demagogues don’t come out and simply say vaccines are dangerous. Rather, like many conspiracy mongers, they imply it by asking loaded questions. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), for example, recently sent letters to the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna ‘seeking answers about adverse reactions to the covid-19 vaccine.’ His demand for ‘answers’ was then reported by Fox ‘News,’ which has become a super-spreader of vaccine disinformation.”
Out of the national spotlight, McConnell has stuck to much the same script for months, making a vaccine pitch part of his presentations around Kentucky. At Murray, it took a minute and 45 seconds of a 22-minute presentation. After noting how Congress propped up the economy during the pandemic, he said the ultimate solution was a vaccine, and went on:
“I’m a bit of a student of vaccines, having been a polio victim when I was a kid. I’ve read a lot about that particular disease and how long it took to actually conquer: 70 years. Seventy years to get two vaccines that finally stopped it. Your amazing country, as the result of an extraordinary pharmaceutical industry, and $50 billion we put into something called Operation Warp Speed, came up with not one, not two, but three highly effective vaccines in under a year. A modern medical miracle, by any objective standard.
“That, obviously, is the only way to finally finish this thing off, and I might say, again getting back to a football analogy, we’re in the red zone on vaccines, but we’re not quite in the end zone yet. And I want to say again, there’s no good reason not to get vaccinated. We need to finish the job.
“And I know there is some skepticism out there, but let me put it this way: It may not guarantee you don’t get it, but it almost guarantees you don’t die from it, if you get it. And so I hope we’ll continue to emphasize the importance of finishing the job on vaccination, to get this into the end zone, once and for all.”
On other topics, McConnell said the latest relief bill passed only with Democratic votes was “wildly out of proportion to where the country is now. . . . I didn’t vote for it, but you’re gonna get a lot more money,” $4 billion, including $700 million to 800 million for local governments in the state: “Spend it wisely, because hopefully this windfall doesn’t come along again.”
He said the spending has made the national debt the size of the economy, the first time that has happened since World War II, and “We’re not in World War II,” but the total $7 trillion that Democrats want to spend would equal the federal spending on that war. “That’s why the era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over,” with the possible exception of an infrastructure bill, he said: “If credibly paid for, there’s a way forward.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a bigger difference of opinion on doing what’s good for the country,” he said, but added that this Congress has passed seven major bills with bipartisan votes.
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