(CNN)Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has not been tested for Covid-19.
That’s the big news we got over the weekend when Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield sat down for an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. Here’s the relevant exchange:Stephanopoulos: Let me ask a separate question on Covid. On July 28, Joe Biden said he hadn’t been tested for the coronavirus. But this week your campaign refused to — on two occasions to answer the question of whether or not he had been tested.So, can you clarify, has Joe Biden been tested for Covid? Has he had the virus?Read MoreBedingfield: He has not had the virus. We have put in place really strict protocols, as I think all of your journalists who attended our convention in Delaware this week saw. We put in place incredibly strict protocols to ensure that everybody involved who is around Vice President Biden, who’s around Senator Harris, is undergoing the appropriate testing. The vice president has not had the virus and –Stephanopoulos: Has he been tested?Bedingfield: He has not — he has not been tested. However, we have put the strictest protocols in place and — and moving forward should he need to be tested, he certainly would be. But he has not been tested yet.OK, so a couple of questions here:1) How does Bedingfield know that Biden has not as Covid? Many cases are asymptomatic. And you wouldn’t be able to tell either way unless he took a test.2) Why hasn’t Biden, a 77-year-old man who is now the Democratic nominee for president, taken a test out of an abundance of caution?3) Why were other people — including reporters — who attended convention events at the Westin Hotel in Wilmington tested for Covid-19 three straight days, while the former vice president hasn’t been tested a single time? As Thomas Kaplan, a reporter at The New York Times, put it on Twitter after finding out Biden had not been tested: “What this means: Biden did not follow the health and safety protocols that others were required to follow to enter the convention venue in Wilmington.”The answer, I suspect, to all of these questions would be a lot like this part of what Bedingfield told Stephanopoulos: “We put in place incredibly strict protocols to ensure that everybody involved who is around Vice President Biden, who’s around Senator Harris, is undergoing the appropriate testing.”Which sounds a lot like what the White House said in the early stages of the pandemic in the United States when asked whether President Donald Trump had been tested. Asked in mid-March about being tested, Trump said this: “I don’t think it’s a big deal, I would do it, I don’t feel any reason — I feel extremely good,” said Trump, adding he had “no symptoms, no anything.” Which is, of course, totally beside the point! We know that asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happens. So, whether Trump was feeling any symptoms doesn’t make any difference.The same holds true for Biden. We have seen — time and again — that while strict mask-wearing and social-distancing protocols are effective in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, they don’t fully protect against transmission. No matter what protocols are in place, the virus has shown a way of infiltrating even the most buttoned-up spaces. So, in short, there is simply no way of knowing a person does not have the virus unless that person is tested for the virus — and it comes back negative. Which is what makes this back-and-forth between a reporter and a Biden aide (as reported by Buzzfeed’s Ruby Cramer) on Thursday night all the more disheartening:”Mr. Biden, have you been tested for Covid 19?” a reporter tried shouting to Biden after he and Jill watched the fireworks on Thursday night.”Are you kidding me?” a Biden aide shot back.Now. None of this is to suggest Biden has Covid-19. It’s extremely, extremely, extremely likely he doesn’t.
THE POINT — NOW ON YOUTUBE!
In each episode of his weekly YouTube show, Chris Cillizza will delve a little deeper into the surreal world of politics. Click to subscribe!
But Biden is not the average person — where there is no need to over-task the patchwork testing when someone isn’t showing symptoms. (Nota bene: I had my own personal experience with the testing nightmare in this country over the weekend.) He is 1 of 2 people in the country — sorry Kanye! — who could be president. He is also, like Trump, a septuagenarian, and, therefore, at higher risk for a negative outcome if he did contract the virus.Plus, there’s symbolic import here, too. If our leaders are looked to for right behavior (and they are) then why wouldn’t Biden simply take a test, come out and declare, “It wasn’t that bad!” Or something like it?Remember, too, that Biden’s entire campaign is premised on the idea of restoring the moral leadership, common decency and shared humanity that he argues Trump has crushed. What better way to do that than lead by example in terms of testing?The decision not to test Biden is both baffling and short-sighted. And the annoyance — at least by one aide — at a reporter for asking why Biden hadn’t been tested is, well, positively Trumpian.