Biden’s early approach to virus: Underpromise, overdeliver

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A portrait of former President Abraham Lincoln President hangs in the State Dining Room of the White House as Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – It's a proven political strategy: Underpromise and overdeliver.

President Joe Biden, in his first three days in office, has painted a bleak picture of the country's immediate future, warning Americans that it will take months, not weeks, to reorient a nation facing a historic convergence of crises.

The dire language is meant as a call to action, but it's also a deliberate effort to temper expectations. In addition, it is an explicit rejection of President Donald Trump’s tack of talking down the coronavirus pandemic and its economic toll.

Chris Lu, a longtime Obama administration official, said the grim tone is aimed at “restoring trust in government” that eroded during the Trump administration.

“If you’re trying to get people to believe in this whole system of vaccinations, and if you want people to take seriously mask mandates, your leaders have to level with the American people,” he said.

Biden said Thursday that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better” and offered “the brutal truth” that it will take eight months before a majority of Americans will be vaccinated.

On Friday, he declared outright: “There’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

It's all part of Biden's pledge that his administration will "always be honest and transparent with you, about both the good news and the bad.”