Editorial: Science will beat the virus and the politicians

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

The best thing on television right now, actually, is a commercial. It is the one created by the drug manufacturer Pfizer, and its theme is “Science will win.”

“At a time when things are most uncertain,” the commercial begins, “we turn to the most certain thing there is: science.”

It is a beautiful statement that should inspire hope. There is every reason to believe that the greatest scientists in the world — many of them based in America — will find a vaccine for COVID-19. A new generation of the world will experience a Victory Day, our own V-Day, a Vaccine Day.

But at the moment, where science is not winning much is in public discourse. You get the feeling that President Donald Trump fast forwards through the commercials — and much else.

To discuss and analyze his recent musings related to disinfectants, their consumption and whether such statements were sarcastic, brainstorming or just plain idiotic is a waste of time for people who live in such important times. It is mind-boggling that important people have felt it necessary to spend time reminding people to not drink bleach.

Not as idiotic but still troubling is the emerging debate on whether we should be angry at the Chinese government. Many Republicans seem to say yes, due to the country’s deception regarding the seriousness of the virus. Many Democrats seems to say no, citing that to do so is merely letting the president off the hook for his virus preparation failures.

Full stop. Remember where you are. You live in America, and rarely are you ever forced to limit your anger. Often, that is a bad thing. But today, it may be OK. You have full permission, and reason, to be angry at both China and Trump.

China’s government was a bad actor before the pandemic, a bad actor during the pandemic, and will be a bad actor after the pandemic. It is a Communist government intent on dominating the world’s economy, and has no qualms in being ruthless in its quest. A positive development from these painful times would be if Americans of both political stripes united in their disdain for the practices and policies of the Chinese government.

But China’s failures are no excuse for Trump’s failures. Most of the defenses for Trump conveniently forget to mention that U.S. intelligence services were issuing classified warnings in January and February about the coronavirus, including warnings that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.

So, when Trump says that he was deceived by China on the seriousness of the virus, the reality is Trump chose to trust China over his own intelligence services. Terrible, terrible judgment.

Defenders of Trump, including the president himself, most often point to his Feb. 2 “travel ban” from China. It is noteworthy that the president’s best defense of his pandemic preparations is a program that was such a failure.

Wuhan, China, the birthplace of the virus, is more than 7,500 miles away from the U.S. Capitol. Yet, based on reported figures, America has more cases of COVID-19 than any place on the planet. The ban did not work.

But, perhaps you say, the ban — which certainly did not ban all Chinese travel — helped. More Americans would have died had the ban not been in place. To avoid useless arguments, point conceded. But at best, we are arguing about whether the president deserves an F or a D-minus.

If you doubt that, let’s go back to the scientists. Ask any serious epidemiologist which option, if they could only pick one, they would prefer: 1. A China travel ban with no U.S. strategy for national testing, or 2. A U.S. strategy for national testing with no China travel ban.

The answer would be No. 2 in a landslide. The fact that we only got No. 1 is a failure. Science ultimately will fix it.

That’s our saving grace. Science will win. It is so powerful that it can overcome bad government, bad judgment and bad leadership.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.