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Editorial: Biden's denial is not crisis management

It is unsettling at a time of national crisis that America's president is either detached from reality or intentionally misleading the people to avoid dealing with problems he hasn't been able to solve.

President Joe Biden's performance during a CBS News interview over the weekend was a remarkable display of delusion.

Interviewer Scott Pelley, who traveled with Biden to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last week, asked the president: "Is the pandemic over?"

Without offering any data or scientific support, Biden blurted, "The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s ... but the pandemic is over.”

Then, noting the scarcity of protective masks on the floor of Huntington Place, Biden added, “Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.” 

The comments stunned health experts, who noted the United States is still posting roughly 400 COVID deaths a day and new variants continue to emerge.

In one impulsive remark, Biden blew away all credibility for his claim that pandemic policy is based on science. As one scientist noted, what's over is not the pandemic, but the administration's will to deal with it. 

In the same interview, Biden was asked about the inflation rate, which remained at a near-yearlong high of 8.3% in August, roughly the same as July. He described inflation as being up "just an inch. Hardly at all."

Inflation is not flat because the annual rate didn't increase month-to-month. Inflation is measured by year-over-year growth, and 8.3% is a big number, particularly since the cost of groceries and other essentials persisted at a much higher rate. To suggest, as the president did, that his administration is getting inflation under control is misleading and reckless.

The stock market certainly didn't see the August report as encouraging. The Dow dropped more than 1,200 points after its release. The only effort underway to tame inflation is the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes, which carry a real risk of recession.

Biden's downplaying of the seriousness of rising prices shakes confidence in his administration's ability and willingness to respond.

The denialism trend didn't stop with the president. Vice President Kamala Harris told NBC's Face the Nation, "The border is secure."

That is a mind-boggling distortion. Migrant encounters at the southwest border are at a 21-year high, hitting nearly 200,000 in July, while the expulsion rate has plummeted.  

Both local and federal law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed by the influx, and border communities cannot handle the surge in illegal crossings. Harris, Biden's border czar, would know the situation is not under control if she would actually visit the border.

Denial is not a crisis management strategy. It's a desperate attempt to convince Americans the misery of crushing price hikes, the fear of COVID and the frustration with a broken border are not real. They know better.