- - Monday, March 23, 2020

Change that happens day by day is to be expected. The world shifting on its axis practically overnight is not. Just as Joe Biden has apparently hit paydirt on his third try for the top of the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket, the nation he hopes to lead looks like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” The coronavirus that is putting American lives in peril is also shredding the trendy notion that borders are losing their relevance, which the candidate has adopted in his winning cause. The requirements of presidential leadership have recalibrated, and progressive policies that sacrifice national security for gauzy globalism are now trash.

With last week’s withdrawal from the contest of the invisible Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “reassessment” of his failing campaign, Mr. Biden has found himself the de facto winner of the lengthy clash of Democratic candidates. Outlasting dozens of opponents is a tribute to his perseverance and, with apologies to English essayist Samuel Johnson, “a triumph of hope over experience” for Democrats who balked at making him their champion in the past.

As U.S. infections and deaths flash upward like numbers on a gas pump, the former vice president has posted a “Biden Plan to Combat Coronavirus.” It boldly declares: “Biden believes we must spend whatever it takes, without delay, to meet public health needs and deal with the mounting economic consequences. He knows how to get relief out the door to families, as well as resources to state and local officials to deal with the challenges they are facing.”

It’s a worthy message for ominous times, to be sure. Among its almost 7,000 words, though, there is nothing to indicate that were Mr. Biden to be in President Trump’s shoes, he would have acted any more expeditiously to close the barn door, as it were, before the horse got out. In choosing a president, Americans expect their leaders to safeguard their well-being by working proactively to halt threats, including contagion.

Mr. Biden’s globalist views are reflected in his in-depth blueprint for solving the nation’s faulty immigration system. It might have seemed proper prior to the unwelcome arrival of the virus, but its emphasis is on treating the entry of immigrants unbidden as American as mom and apple pie. Protecting the rights of existing Americans, not so much.

In particular, the 6,700-word Biden plan for immigration calls for ending President Trump’s repurposing of Pentagon funds to build portions of a barrier on the southern border. And it calls for reversal of the Trump public charge rule, which requires aliens wishing to apply for legal status to show they have not received public benefits. (Importantly, the public charge rule has been waived for aliens seeking medical treatment for the coronavirus, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.)

Granted, Mr. Biden’s platform could not have accounted for the advent of pandemic. In televised appearances, though, the candidate disregards the new, jarring reality of a nation in which survival depends on careful management of contact with others. During a recent one-on-one debate with Mr. Sanders, he vowed “no one will be deported at all” during his first 100 days in office and, after that, only felons would face deportation.

Meanwhile, Americans are immersed in a crash course in security that stresses the importance of barriers. Those could mean physical ones, like hazmat suits and masks that protect us from germs. And it is also a time for personal barriers, like steering clear of others by maintaining “social distancing.”

Mr. Trump’s instincts are “America First” and here is a case where they should be embraced. Alas, this has only happened haphazardly; he belatedly imposed only limited restrictions on travel between China and the U.S., and Europe and the U.S., allowing, for instance, Americans to pass back and forth no questions asked. On the plus side of the ledger, the president has finally closed the northern and southern borders to nonessential traffic. Only tough police-state quarantines anathema to a free people might have proved more effective in checking the virus’ infiltration.

American-style globalism is the sort that deploys medical expertise in times of pestilence, like the rise of Ebola and Zika. Mr. Biden’s kind is a careless approach to border security that could leave citizens vulnerable to harm.

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