In the past week, the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they were lifting all COVID-19 restrictions, paving the way for life to finally start getting back to normal.
President Joe Biden, however, was not pleased with this turn of events.
When he was asked about the governors’ decision during a meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Biden said it was “a big mistake” and “Neanderthal thinking.”
“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference,” the president said. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way with which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your masks, forget it. It still matters.”
NEW: President Biden calls Texas and Mississippi decisions to end mask mandates “a big mistake” and criticizes what he views as “Neanderthal thinking” after CDC warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants on Monday. pic.twitter.com/Mmdln3gNG6
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 3, 2021
Mississipi Gov. Tate Reeves responded with a tweet that said, “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”
President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is “neanderthal thinking.”
Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 3, 2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also fired back, expressing his displeasure in a Fox News interview.
“First, it obviously is not the type of thing that a president should be saying,” Abbott said on “Fox & Friends.” “But, second, he kind of said it on the worst day he could have, because the same day he said that in Texas, the Biden administration was releasing illegal immigrants into our communities who had COVID.”
— Brian Kilmeade (@kilmeade) March 4, 2021
For years, Biden has been prone to gaffes and slip-ups in both formal and informal situations. Typically, one of his staffers will try to explain away the comment or simply admit to an error.
Not this time.
During White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s media briefing Thursday, a reporter asked her, “Does the president have any second thoughts about the language that he used yesterday? And how does comparing someone to a ‘Neanderthal’ help convince them to change course and get on board with your public health message?”
“The behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear. The behavior of,” Psaki said — as if that’s any better.
She went on to say that Biden’s exclamation was “a reflection of his frustration and exasperation, which I think many American people have, that for almost a year now, people across the country have sacrificed and, many times, they haven’t had the information they need from the federal government.”
“They haven’t had access to a greater understanding of what the public health guidelines should look like,” Psaki said. “And those include many, many people in Mississippi, in Texas, in Ohio, Florida, and every state across the country.”
The implication is that Americans are helpless without specific guidance from the federal government.
The result of this alleged dearth of information, according to Psaki, is the “Neanderthal behavior” of governors who allow Americans to make their own choices on how to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Evidently, the Biden administration does believe you need a handler, as Reeves suggested.
The bottom line is that referring to “Neanderthal behavior” is not at all distinct from “Neanderthal thinking.”
Biden and Psaki can claim that they are referring to policies rather than people all they want, but their fundamental argument is that the longing for normal life free from government-imposed coronavirus restrictions is equivalent to acting like a Neanderthal.
I’m not sure what they mean by that, but I’m sure that it isn’t anything good.
Regardless, it seems that the Biden administration believes that we are young children who need strict rules from our benevolent government in order to survive in this big, scary world.
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