QAnon-inspired Republicans are ratcheting up their assault every day on COVID vaccines, defying common sense and reason even if it kills many of their own followers as collateral damage.
But the insanity has another friendly-fire victim: Donald Trump.
It's easy to forget, but developing a vaccine overnight was supposed to be Trump's escape hatch from the COVID-19 crisis he had exacerbated from the outset with his denial and lies dating back at least to January 2020. Now it's a fitting footnote that his crazed followers are mounting irrational attacks on what was supposed to be "his" vaccine.
Trump was frozen in the winter of 2020 by having neither the character nor competence to rise to the occasion and mount a national campaign to head off the worst effects of the virus. But as far back as March 2 -- at a time Trump had to realize the gravity of the virus, but he was keeping it secret -- he still was groping for a political magic bullet in the vaccine.
Trump staged a public discussion that day with pharmaceutical companies and members of his task force -- one of those awkward public discussions Trump liked to host until he became known as Dr. Clorox. As CNN reported, Trump fixated on an impossible timeline.
"I don't know what the time will be. I've heard very quick numbers, that of months. And I've heard pretty much a year would be an outside number. So I think that's not a bad range. But if you're talking about three to four months in a couple of cases, a year in other cases."
Dr. Anthony Fauci immediately pushed back: ""Let me make sure you get the ... information. A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that's deployable."
Arms folded, Trump persisted.
"So you're talking over the next few months, you could have a vaccine?" Trump would ask Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, a biotechnology company. "Correct, (for) phase two (testing)," Bancel answered.
But that didn't deter Trump from slipping this one in later: "One executive was talking about two months."
It indeed was just under two months later -- on April 29 -- that Trump unveiled Operation Warp Speed with a goal of having millions of vaccines available by year's end. That was widely panned by health experts and the media -- who it turns out were overly conservative in projecting a timeline of 12-to-18 months -- but Republicans were largely silent.
There was little anti-vaxx outcry from the Right, especially not during the GOP convention, when Trump proclaimed, "We will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner!"
Trump would persist in the following month, shamelessly linking the vaccine timeline to "a very special day" -- the November 3 election -- and even alluding to it as an October surprise. And as amazing as it seems today, Trump was making an electoral issue of his push for a vaccine, as reported by Bloomberg:
"Biden and Harris, Trump said, 'should immediately apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric that they are talking right now, talking about endangering lives. It undermines science, and what happens is all of the sudden you'll have this incredible vaccine and because of that fake rhetoric, it's a political rhetoric ... that's all that is.'"
Biden's response: "I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don't trust Donald Trump," Biden said, "and at this moment, the American people can't, either."
As to Trump, it was never more apparent than the vaccine was more about saving his election than saving lives when he exploded with rage over Pfizer's announcement shortly after the election that its vaccine had more than 90 percent efficacy.
Trump still had his Twitter account, and he doth protest too much:
"As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn't have the courage to do it before. Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!" Trump wrote. "The @US_FDA and the Democrats didn't want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election, so instead it came out five days later — As I've said all along!"
Ah, the nostalgia. Trump was, of course, lying: He was trying to horn in on the accomplishments of Pfizer -- which had turned down federal funding and wasn't part of Operation Warp Speed -- but it's still stunning today to think that even after the election, Republicans were trying to claim the vaccine as their own.
Just two weeks later in November, Fox commentator Geraldo Rivera wanted to name the vaccine after Trump:
"I wish we could honor him that way because he is definitely the prime architect of Operation Warp Speed and but for him, we'd still be waiting into the grim winter for these miraculous medical breakthroughs," Rivera said.
"With the world so divided and everybody telling him he's got to give up and it's time to leave and time to transition and all the rest of it, why not name the vaccine 'The Trump?'
"Make it like, 'Have you got your Trump yet?' It would be a nice gesture to him, and years from now it would become kind of a generic name. Have you got your Trump yet? I got my Trump; I'm fine."
There was little or no pushback at the time from Republican anti-vaxxers. But now, with the nation on the precipice of a renewed pandemic thanks in large part to vaccination fear, misinformation and denial, leading lunatics of the GOP have decided "the Trump" is nothing more than a Biden plot to end freedom in America.
They have spread lies and fear over Biden's mere suggestion that trusted individuals go door-to-door to urge people to get vaccines. It's a far cry from what their cult leader was saying about Biden's own alleged vaccine hesitancy just nine months earlier.
From CNN: "Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted that Biden had "deployed his Needle Nazis" to her district, while Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan implied that Biden's proposed community outreach was merely a precursor for more government oversight, tweeting, "The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you're vaccinated. What's next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?"
It seems the Republicans have forgotten all about Operation Warp Speed, and the twice-impeached former guy who proudly called it his own.
Now, it's just time for Operation Warped.