Admittedly, Mr. Trump did more than almost anyone to politicize the pandemic and downplay its dangers. His call to vaccination at CPAC was less a public service announcement than a boast, as he sought to remind the crowd that it was on his watch that the vaccines were developed lickety-split. “Some say it’s the greatest thing to happen in hundreds of years,” he proclaimed. Fine. The Covid vaccine development was quite the marvel. In the past, vaccine development usually took at least four or five years. Early in the pandemic, talk of getting something approved for emergency use inside of a year seemed absurdly optimistic.
Does Mr. Trump deserve all the accolades for this medical miracle? Of course not. But if he wants to claim a piece of the credit in exchange for getting these new vaccines into the arms of his vaccine-skeptical supporters, that seems like a reasonable deal.
More helpful still, the day after Mr. Trump’s CPAC speech, The Times broke the news that Mr. Trump and his wife had quietly gotten vaccinated in January. So the couple — both of whom had Covid-19 back in the fall and so probably already had some level of natural immunity — have firsthand credibility on this issue.
The former president could lead a major, multipronged public-service campaign: ads, interviews and, certainly, rallies. (The conservative Washington Examiner is pitching the “rally tour” idea, too.) There is nothing Donald Trump loves, and likely misses, more than arenas full of sweaty, screaming worshipers. As a vaccine ambassador, he could jet from Florida to North Dakota to Arizona, turning out throngs who would cheer him, buy a MAGA hat or two and, oh yes, get a jab before heading home — getting a Trump-branded bandage slapped on their injection sites.
If inclined, Mr. Trump could invite fellow celebrities to tag along. Kanye, maybe. Or, for a more explicitly conservative appeal, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock, Jon Voight, Gary Busey, Scott Baio, Sean Hannity. … It would mean sharing a sliver of the limelight. But no matter whom Mr. Trump appeared with, he’d always be the biggest star on the stage. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario. Mr. Trump gets his ego stroked while coaxing his most devoted followers to take the vaccination plunge.
Some critics will most likely object to allowing Mr. Trump to remake his image in this fashion. But public health emergencies occasionally require unpleasant measures.
As for getting Mr. Trump on board, someone just needs to make the case that this is a mission so worthy it could finally score him that Nobel Prize.