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Scapegoating Trump for US Covid mess

The Left can’t have it both ways

5 December 2020

9:00 AM

5 December 2020

9:00 AM

The US presidential election was more a referendum on Donald Trump than a contest between him and Joe Biden. Trump’s unshakeable supporters looked past his many well-known character flaws to actions and results and voted for him in significantly increased numbers from 2016. The equally fanatic base of haters could not see past his flaws and were determined to oust him.

The virulence of this divide was felt with particular intensity with respect to Trump’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. The conventional wisdom among the elites is Trump was criminally irresponsible, anti-scientific and reaped the whirlwind for his callous ignorance. Cameron Stewart in the Australian reflected the MSM assessment: ‘Trump’s early denials, his refusal to warn the population, his advocacy of witch-doctor remedies, his abdication of federal leadership and his scorning of mask-wearing have contributed greatly to the number of American dead. As a result, he is a one-term president’.

Set aside the fact that Trump’s record votes were second only to Biden’s and also the anomaly of an incumbent being defeated despite getting millions more votes than the first time. Trump didn’t help himself by picking public fights with the head of the CDC, nor by responding to the predictable question on coronavirus in the first presidential debate by shouting down and over both the moderator and Biden. Instead he could have made the following points.

The lockdownistas effectively asked us to jettison decades of scientific consensus on pandemic management as summarised in the state-of-existing scholarship report from the World Health Organisation in October 2019. In the rush to copy China’s draconian measures, countries ditched their existing pandemic response plans based on proportionality and cost-benefit analyses. Not for nothing did the British Medical Journal rage against the politicisation and suppression of science in an editorial on 13 November. Observational data this year mostly reinforce the overall conclusion that the virus infection curve bears little relationship to timing and strictness of lockdown measures. Rather, as Alex Berenson put it, ‘virus gonna virus’. But lockdowns do cause significant health, mental health, social, economic and civil liberties harm.

If lockdowns were a pharmaceutical intervention, they’d be rejected by regulators on two grounds, say Drs Nield, Dobmeyer and Cook. Firstly, lockdown efficacy and effectiveness cannot be demonstrated without alternative placebo-controlled trials. Secondly, the side-effects are substantially harmful to younger people who derive little benefit. It’s tantamount to recommending a guillotine to cure a headache, as Sean Walsh puts it. Public support for lockdowns rests on wildly inflated perceptions, fuelled by fear campaigns.

The key initial balance that any responsible leader must strike is between negligent complacency that underplays the dangers and doesn’t take the necessary precautionary measures and excessive alarmism that creates mass panic. Bob Woodward’s ‘bombshell’ revelation in Rage that Trump admitted Covid was deadly in February, but in March chose to play it down to avoid a panic among Americans, seems a responsible decision rather than a criminal dereliction of duty, as Amber Athey argued in The Spectator.

If you accept the so-called ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’ of Neil Ferguson’s mid-March modelling that the US would suffer 2.2 million deaths without mitigation measures and the national outcome is the result chiefly of federal government actions, then surely Trump deserves credit for keeping the death toll to one-tenth the feared scale? Critics can’t have it both ways.

In fact they’ve had it both ways also in blaming all the corona catastrophes across the US on Trump while absolving state leaderships of any responsibility. If the primary cause of Covid-19 mortality is federal policy then the mortality rate should be broadly uniform. Instead there’s wide disparity. Six of the ten worst states, including New Jersey with 1,915 and New York with 1,765 deaths per million, have Democratic governors. The praise for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling is as perverse as for Daniel Andrews in Victoria.

In the few weeks since the election, the narrative has shifted in Trump’s favour on four other points. Increasingly, mandatory universal masking is being shown to be an empty virtue-signalling gesture at best, as when Wisconsin told its state employees to wear a mask when on a Zoom call from home all alone. At worst, improper use and constant fiddling with cloth masks can cause harm and it’s a symbol of submissiveness to state authority. The Danish mask study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on 18 November reconfirmed the existing state of scientific knowledge before 2020, as attested to by both the WHO and the CDC itself in the US. In his video The Covid Cult, Tom Woods plays pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. In one country and state after another, infection curves go up and down in repeating cycles with no obvious correlation with or without universal masking mandates. He challenges viewers to pick the dates for the mask mandates along the curves, to emphasise their ineffectiveness as a non-pharmaceutical intervention.

Second, school closures are clearly contrary to science and cause great harm for zero health gain for children or even the teachers. The BBC reported (28 August) on a large UK study that not one otherwise healthy under-19 child had died of Covid-19. The Guardian reported (20 October) worries from government scientific advisers that school closures would leave children ‘scarred for life’. The story is similar in the US, said the NY Times (22 October) and its columnist Nicholas Kristof (18 November).

Third, evidence is mounting on significant existing T-cell immunity. The Guardian (3 November), BBC (11th), and New York Times (17th) have all finally deigned to acknowledge this reality.

Finally, most of America’s MSM owes Trump an apology for the mockery and ridicule heaped on him for claims of vaccine development at warp speed, as noted by Joseph Curl in Just the News. But don’t hold your breath.

That said, I’d wait to take the jab. It’s been rushed through too rapidly. Indemnifying the companies against potential harms is disquieting. Efforts to censor and even criminalise any questioning of vaccine safety is alarming. Citizens of many countries would concur with Polish author Monika Wisniewska: ‘The vaccine should be tested on politicians first. If they survive, the vaccine is safe. If they don’t, the country is safe’.

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