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Three priorities for Biden: pandemic, unity, economic plan

By
Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist
President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families watch fireworks and drones spelling out Biden during victory celebration in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their families watch fireworks and drones spelling out "Biden" during victory celebration in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

November 11, established to memorialize the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, is an appropriate date to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory marking the end of another form of war.

Of course, assuming office on Jan. 20 means that Donald Trump's lawsuits and litigation to reverse the election results fail and the Electoral College confirms Biden as president. Hopefully, this legal process will end soon.

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The president-elect, no doubt, is besieged with recommendations and ideas of what to do. Three priorities are obvious: the pandemic, healing the nation and putting in place an economic recovery plan. About COVID-19, any plans and strategies are very much hostage to what the Trump team did and did not accomplish

Biden has no control over when a vaccine may become available for widespread use. However, his administration will be responsible for production, distribution and outreach to persuade sufficient numbers of Americans to take the vaccine to assure its effectiveness in containing and preventing the spread of COVID-19. This is both an unprecedented and supremely monumental task as at least 330 million doses are needed to start. If mishandled, this can ruin his presidency.

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The Pentagon is managing Operation Warp Speed to develop and distribute the vaccine. Warp Speed's head, Army Gen. Gus Perna, says this could cost $25 billion. Production and distribution are crucial, especially when shipped at -94 degrees F. Both are dependent on the private sector for delivery and on a brand new software program to monitor in real time to whom who, what and where vaccines are being administered. How Warp Speed works is the new president's responsibility.

Given the urgency with which Warp Speed was established, major problems are inevitable. The only means to minimize and anticipate delays and malfunctions is with rigorous oversight, monitoring and rapid reaction teams to anticipate these and other shortcomings that will arise. Biden's own task force on coronavirus is a good first step. So far, it lacks expertise in these vital production and distribution areas. Scientific competence is not sufficient to ensure success in this massive vaccination program. Appointing Jeff Bezos of Amazon or Fred Smith of FedEx would resolve the most obvious deficiencies.

The Biden plan must stress testing, contract tracing, wearing of masks and social distancing and the stocking of medical equipment. And it must have an international component for a simple reason: The virus does not recognize national boundaries. A global solution is vital.

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About governing as an American and not a Democrat or Republican, actions speak louder than words. Biden needs a competent and experienced Cabinet, in which diversity should be important but not the overriding selection factor. Appointing at least one Republican to an important post is essential.

Suggested by entrepreneur Anthony Scaramucci, the president-elect should consider making Sen. Mitt Romney Secretary of State. Democrats who are seeking these plum jobs and see no reason to award the opposition will be infuriated. But Romney, a former governor and presidential candidate, is highly qualified and has the virtue of being a rare anti-Trump Republican. This would prove Biden's bipartisan commitment and surely cement support in the Senate of Mitch McConnell critical to approving needed legislation, no matter which party controls the Senate.

If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Biden can outflank the far left wing in the House by working with McConnell. If Democrats win in Georgia in January and gain control of the Senate, then Biden would not want to lose the filibuster rule to ensure Republican support for legislation that likewise could neuter the more extremist progressive wing of the Democratic party.

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Last, Biden must generate an economic renaissance by providing funds for healthcare, clean and renewable energy, infrastructure and technological incubators through a national investment bank. A private-public partnership capitalized to about $2 trillion to $3 trillion through long-term bonds paying 2% over prime, guaranteed by the government and repaid from user fees and tolls, should be established. History offers one reason a fund will work: The biggest economic boom in American history followed the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic. This can repeat.

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Given the president-elect's meaningful promises for an inclusive government, Biden is on the right track. Beginning with legal challenges to the election raised by the incumbent, to the COVID-19 pandemic that will worsen, to the economic crisis, the 46th president's challenges are daunting. On Veteran's Day, let us hope that Nov. 11 marks the end of one massive war with promise for the future.

Harlan Ullman is a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council and author of the upcoming book, "The Fifth Horseman and MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Endanger, Infect and Engulf Us and the World."

U.S. Election 2020

Balloons and signs fill the fence between Black Lives Matter Plaza and Lafayette Park near the White House on Monday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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