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STORY BY CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE

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Published on March 12, 2021 11:27 PM

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7 takeaways from Joe Biden's prime-time Covid-19 speech
(CNN)President Joe Biden marked a year since the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country with his first prime-time address -- a speech in which he mixed hard numbers on vaccine distribution with appeals to unity and a deep-seated belief in the power of America to overcome any challenge.

My takeaways from Biden's speech, which ran just over 20 minutes, are below. They're in no other order than the order that I jotted them down while watching the speech. 1. Donald Trump dug the hole: Biden didn't mention his predecessor by name, but especially in the early moments of his speech, it was very clear that the current President lays much of the blame for the country's struggles with the coronavirus pandemic at the feet of the last President. "A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked, denials for days, weeks, then months," Biden said at one point. "That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress and more loneliness." At another point, Biden pulled out his mask and expressed amazement that it had been turned into some sort of political statement. 2. The return of empathy: Biden made a single gesture in the speech that demonstrated the empathy he operates with vis a vis the lives lost to this pandemic. He pulled a card out of his jacket pocket -- which he said he keeps with him wherever he goes -- and read off the exact, up-to-date number of Americans who have died from the coronavirus. (That number is more than 527,000.) Yes, of course, Biden did that for dramatic effect. But it worked. And it drove home the idea that this is a leader who keeps those who have died from the pandemic close to his heart -- literally. It also provided a not-so-subtle contrast with Trump's overt politicization of the virus and those who succumbed to it.

3. At war with the virus: In the language he chose -- and the comparisons he made -- Biden clearly wanted to make Americans understand that we are at war with Covid-19. He said the country was on "war footing." He noted that Covid-19 had now killed more Americans than World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. Even in quoting "Farewell to Arms" -- "many are strong in the broken places" -- Biden was invoking Ernest Hemingway's novel about World War I. The message was clear: This isn't an enemy like the United States is used to battling. But it is an enemy nonetheless, and the need for sacrifice and unity is as great as it was when America was fighting the Axis powers.