At least politically, there was no good response to the pandemic

Watching all of the medical news relating to the novel coronavirus as well as the analysis of it in the media, it’s rapidly becoming clear that this was going to wind up being a no-win situation for the White House.

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We can start with the MSM coverage that Donald Trump has received in terms of his response. The common theme we’re seeing this month is that Trump failed to act soon enough, leading to more deaths and illnesses than we might have otherwise experienced. Of course, most of this criticism is coming from the same media talking heads and Democrats who initially called Trump’s travel ban on China and other potential sources of infection a racist, xenophobic exercise. There are hilarious supercuts out there of people at CNN, MSNBC and op-ed writers all talking about how the flu was worse than the Coronavirus. You get the idea.

So no matter when the President began taking action, it was either going to be too soon and for the wrong reasons or too late, demonstrating a short-sighted lack of leadership. And most in the press have now demonstrated that they are perfectly capable of coming down with amnesia and forgetting how they downplayed the danger of the virus themselves well into February.

The graver and more important outcome we’re waiting to see is how effective our response is. This will be measured by both the final death toll and the cumulative damage to our economy. And no matter which way it plays out, the blame game won’t be going anywhere. I was reminded of this over the weekend by this tweet from Dinesh D’Souza.

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I cannot even begin to describe the public backlash that will occur if #Corinavirus kills fewer Americans this year than the flu. For starters, the medical establishment will look like even bigger fools than the #ClimateChange establishment.”

You might want to bookmark that tweet because D’Souza may wind up being prescient, even if things don’t play out the way he suggests.

How this whole, tragic saga ends in terms of the damage caused by the disease itself can basically be boiled down to two ends of a sliding scale. In one extreme scenario, the flattened curve takes forever before finally dropping to insignificant numbers and the virus continues to grind on, taking lives until the death toll reaches the hundreds of thousands if not (God forbid) the millions. On top of that, we’ll have been forced to wait so long that we’ll be staring straight into the eyes of a massive recession if not another great depression.

If that grim scenario plays out, Donald Trump will be blamed for not acting soon enough, not taking it seriously enough or any number of other accusations. He’ll be worse than Hitler.

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At the other end of the scale, we have the scenario where the travel bans, social distancing and all the rest of it actually gets the virus under control in a reasonable amount of time, perhaps by early summer. The death toll, while still tragic, comes in below 50 or 60 thousand, essentially at the level of a particularly bad flu season. Well, then that’s at least some positive news, right? (Not “good,” of course, and not for the families and friends of those 60,000, but better than the previous scenario, surely.)

But that’s not how it will play out in the media. As Dinesh suggests above, the recriminations over how we collapsed the economy and violated everyone’s civil rights over something that turned out to be “not much worse than the flu” will come at a fast and furious pace. Of course, that’s a flawed response for two reasons. We’ll never know how bad it would have been if we didn’t take those actions. But since it won’t have actually happened, that won’t matter to the critics.

This scenario is reminiscent of the Y2K bug in the late 90s. I happened to be working as a subcontractor for IBM at the time. That was one of the companies that were working non-stop to upgrade computers and other electronic systems around the country and the world to make them Year 2000 compliant. The action going on behind the scenes was a virtual beehive of activity. But when the morning of New Years Day rolled around and the world hadn’t ended, everyone started calling the entire thing a hoax. “See? There was nothing to worry about. Why did we waste all of that money?”

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But the Y2K bug was very real. Systems operating on the old configurations would have shut down when the clock struck midnight. It was only a massive effort taking place largely behind the scenes that avoided that scenario. So with that in mind, it’s very easy to imagine far too many people looking at a lower death toll from COVID-19 and reacting the same way. And many of them will be quick to go back to accusing Donald Trump of overreacting, being a racist and destroying the economy over “no big thing.”

I’d love to be wrong about this, but it’s starting to look like the inevitable endgame, no matter how this plays out. And we’re still going to be burying one heck of a lot of bodies.

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David Strom 10:00 AM | April 16, 2024
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