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Thursday, May 28, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump’s prospects for 2020 are better than one might think, despite being deluged with troubles that Job himself might not have endured. Yet, miraculously, he’s still very much in the game. Consider:

A recent poll conducted for CNN found Joe Biden losing in each of 15 battleground states, with Mr. Trump again winning Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A major reason: Voters prefer Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden when it comes to running the economy.


In that special election in California’s 25th Congressional District, the GOP’s Mike Garcia, a son of a Mexican immigrant and a former Navy fighter pilot, handed the Republican Party its first pickup of a Democratic seat in the state since 1998, with the president making a highly publicized appearance on Mr. Garcia’s behalf. Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s much ballyhooed endorsement of Mr. Garcia’s challenger fell flat.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: Las Vegas odds-makers had the president a slight favorite over the former vice president even before the major rise in the stock market and signs that a vaccine may come sooner rather than later.

And while the president is being hammered by the media for pressing states to return to a semblance of normality, the majority of governors feel compelled to say they have plans for normality too, perhaps with an eye on Mr. Garcia’s win in California. A consideration in that contest, notes the Cook political report, was a “thin patience for lockdowns.” 

The president is viewed by that CNN survey as slightly underwater on the coronavirus issue, with the media flogging him for his supposed failure to respond quickly and take the advice of his health care experts. 

It’s hard to believe that any president would have acted sooner, with China telling us that the disease did not transfer easily from one human to another, with the WHO insisting it was unlikely to spread beyond China’s borders and with our our own top infectious disease experts taking Dr. Anthony Fauci’s view that the risk to America was “minuscule.”

The first known case in the United States of COVID-19 was discovered in a young man who had returned to Washington State on Jan. 15 from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the disease. U.S. health officials were not overly concerned, believing the virus was confined largely to the Wuhan area and that there was “no evidence” that it would leap China’s national boundaries.

Yet just seven days after the virus had been confirmed on Jan. 21, the president and his advisers quickly assembled a team of distinguished infectious disease experts to serve on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Though the WHO wouldn’t label the virus a global threat until the 30th, the president declared a public health emergency a day later, blocking entry into the United States of most non-U.S. citizens arriving from China. 

The China travel ban was the first of dozens of crucial actions taken by the White House, including airport screenings, quarantining, mitigating, distancing, etc., all approved by the task force’s world-class epidemiologists and virologists whom the president had selected. Furthermore, these steps have kept the American death rate per confirmed coronavirus cases lower than numerous Western European democracies, including Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The mammoth falsehood that the president had been whimsically rejecting the advice of his health care experts was put to rest by Dr. Fauci himself at the April 13 White House briefing. When Drs. Deborah Birx and Fauci urged the travel ban on China, Dr. Fauci stressed that the president said “yes” to their request. He said “yes” when both endorsed a European travel ban. And he gave a “yes” to a travel ban on the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The first and only time that Drs. Birx and Fauci formally made a recommendation for “strong mitigation,” Dr. Fauci added, the president went for strong mitigation. When the president called for a partial reopening of the country in 15 days, he agreed to the 30-day delay that they said was crucial to its success. Indeed, the author cannot find notable divisions between the task force and the president on policy until after the official reopening of the states in May. And even those have been exaggerated.

Early on the president was endlessly mocked for his view that COVID-19 would not be a major problem for the United States. But he was hardly going rogue, as the media pretends. His optimism was derived from the task force’s scholars on infectious disease, including Drs. Robert Redfield and Fauci, who, in turn, had been misinformed by China and the WHO. Dr. Redfield told reporters the disease was a China problem, but that “the risk to the American public is low,” repeating that comforting thought several times.

Dr. Fauci ended his remarks this way: “I underscore what Bob said: We still have a low risk to the American public. … ” On multiple other occasions Dr. Fauci minimized the risk, telling USA Today on Feb. 17 that “the real and present danger” was the seasonal flu, while the coronavirus danger is “just minuscule.” 

The media’s determination to convince voters that the president’s decisions were irrational is hardly surprising. But what is remarkable is that a president gut-punched by a pandemic, major job losses and an unforgiving media still finds he has a good shot at winning a second term.

• Allan H. Ryskind, a former editor and owner of Human Events, is the author of “Hollywood Traitors” (Regnery, 2015).


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