The Obama-Biden virus response

Is it reasonable to blame a single politician for the spread of a highly infectious virus, especially in a free country with 50 states and 330 million people? Joe Biden is lucky that wasn’t the standard a decade ago.

If the Democratic convention produced one theme it’s that Donald Trump is personally at fault for every coronavirus death. The message is that crazy, that blunt. Kamala Harris: “Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives.” Barack Obama: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead.”

Democrats even claim Mr. Biden saved lives in 2014. Michelle Obama: “Our leaders had worked hand in hand with scientists to help prevent an Ebola outbreak from becoming a global pandemic.” Ms. Harris last week: “Remember that pandemic? Barack Obama and Joe Biden did their job. Only two people died in the United States.”

Ebola is a terrifying disease, but outbreaks tend to happen only in very poor nations, and if caught early the virus is difficult to transmit outside hospitals. Anthony Fauci said in 2014 that a U.S. outbreak was “very, very, very unlikely.” Mr. Obama told Americans to chill out: “Ebola is actually a difficult disease to catch. It’s not transmitted through the air like the flu.”

The Ebola example is designed to divert attention from a more relevant comparison: the H1N1 swine-flu outbreak of 2009-10. Democrats don’t like to talk about H1N1, because it didn’t go well. If it had been as deadly as Covid-19, the toll would have been catastrophic. The history is a powerful reminder that governments can’t stop a virus—although they can make epidemics worse.

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