Jeez Louise, is even the coronavirus partisan? Of course it is, Jason L. Riley notes in the WSJ. “Making political hay of health scares is a commonplace activity that’s also unfailingly bipartisan.”
Democrats complained that President George W. Bush was too slow in responding to the West Nile virus and SARS outbreaks that occurred in his first term, and talking points to that effect became part of John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.
Republicans returned the favor in the run-up to the 2014 mid-term elections, when President Obama was trying to keep West Africa’s Ebola epidemic from crossing the Atlantic. Mr. Obama tapped Ron Klain, a former vice-presidential aide, to coordinate the response, and Republicans reacted by calling Mr. Klain a political hack with no medical background. Which is precisely how Democrats responded last week to President Trump appointing Vice President Mike Pence to be the point man on coronavirus.
President Trump is going to be knocked by his political opponents and his media buddies regardless of how he proceeds. Overreact and he’ll be accused of creating a panic. Underreact and you’ll not believe how contemptuously lackadaisical he is.
“And since this president is not someone who lets criticism go,” Mr. Riley continues, “count on him doing his level best to punch back at every opportunity.”
The best thing Mr. Trump could do for the country right now is find a way to calm fears without being overly dismissive of the threat posed by a virus that medical doctors and human immune systems have never encountered before.
And he needs to be wary of overpromising how soon it will all be under control. Schools are closing, conferences are being canceled, spring-break travel is on hold, and testing for the virus is only now ramping up. More economic disruption is coming, and the administration’s focus should be on preparing people to absorb the shocks.
Hope that Mr. Trump’s efforts to protect public health will be based on the vast amounts of information and expertise at a president’s disposal, and not on what he’s watching on CNN.
Democratic candidates clearly want government to play a much larger role in U.S. medical care going forward. Donald Trump should press them to explain how public health would be better served under such a system during future pandemics, which are inevitable.
On Twitter, for example, Bernie Sanders said he would make any coronavirus vaccine available for free.
The Debate We Should Be Having
Someone might ask the Vermont senator how price controls would affect the development of new medicines going forward. Nor is cost a real factor in why people shy away from other available vaccines, as he suggested.
If coronavirus is going to be politicized, this is the debate we should be having. But don’t hold your breath.
Can Donald Trump view this as an opportunity to be the adult in the room? If he can, offers Mr. Riley, he might “pleasantly surprise a whole bunch of voters in swing states and help himself in November by seizing it.”