As the Delta variant of the coronavirus is reportedly surging in certain areas, former President Barack Obama and his handlers have been busy planning and prepping for a 60th birthday bash that could see as many as 700 people in attendance.
Along with a “COVID coordinator,” such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney are said to be among those who will be on hand for the outdoor soirée, all of this despite the fact that Martha’s Vineyard – where the gala will take place – has recently issued a “mask advisory,” suggesting they’re trying to ward off a possible outbreak:
The party comes just days after health officials on the tiny island issued a mask advisory even for vaccinated people while in indoor public spaces because of rising cases of the highly contagious Delta variant, The Vineyard Gazette noted.
Martha’s Vineyard is also close to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where a spread among vaccinated people over July 4th prompted controversial new mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not surprisingly, the debate has already started as to whether Obama, who has done his part to encourage people to follow CDC guidelines and to get the vaccine, is setting the right example with this event considering the concerns about the spread of the Delta variant and the size of his gathering, which – if you read between the lines – the CDC discourages.
During today’s press briefing, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy and White House press secretary Jen Psaki sparred over the issue, with him asking her a couple of times if Obama was sending the wrong message to everyone else by holding such a large party even though the Delta variant is spreading. She, in turn, repeatedly spouted off talking points on the subject, but Doocy ultimately pinned her into a corner by noting Obama’s actions (and, via extension, the Biden administration’s failure to criticize it) were effectively undermining the White House’s/CDC’s message by telling people hey, go ahead and have your big get together despite cases rising in certain parts of the country.
Doocy also asked about Obama throwing a massive birthday party and whether he's "setting the right example of how dangerous Covid is," which led Psaki to defend it because "Obama has been a huge advocate of individuals being vaccinated," there will be testing, and it's outside pic.twitter.com/jGb11keCW7
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) August 2, 2021
This is pretty simple to dissect. Biden, various health officials and advisers in his administration and Congressional Democrats alike have all urged people to take extra precautionary measures in light of the Delta variant, which can be spread not just by unvaccinated people but by vaccinated people as well, although the latter scenario is said to be rare.
One would think part of those precautionary measures would be for individuals to limit even outdoor events to a small number of people – and surely nothing close to the range of 700. As my colleague Nick Arama also pointed out, if this was a Republican gathering of this magnitude, all of the Usual Suspects would be doing a whole lot of handwringing and COVID shaming on the matter, with the mainstream media joining in on the pile on.
But because it’s Obama – who is Biden’s and Psaki’s former boss to boot – we get, in a nutshell, the “they’re handling it appropriately” pablum from this administration, with the clear insinuation being that it’s time to move on from the discussion.
Except it’s not.
While I (and most of Obama’s critics, I suspect) take no issue with him throwing a bash this size, what I do take issue with is the continued inconsistent (and hypocritical) messaging coming out of this White House on the subject. Either we need to be more careful at this time including limiting how many people we invite to our homes – even for outdoor gatherings – or not.
If it’s okay for a privileged Democrat like Barack Obama to have a bunch of people surrounding him for his birthday party as the Delta variant spreads, why isn’t it okay for anyone else to do so?