From Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with electricity to Steve Jobs’s creation of the iPhone, American inventors have fashioned brave new worlds, then wiped clean the boundaries of those ages, before imagining new ones in a blink of the eye — whether it was American visionaries flying across the windy shores of Kitty Hawk or Air Force pilots learning how to guide their spaceships onto the surface of the moon.
Immigrants traveling to our shores have also been pivotal in shaping American exceptionalism, inventing the telephone, the television and the Internet technology that now defines our daily existence. It was also an immigrant from Germany who visited FDR’s White House and pushed the wartime president to launch the Manhattan Project. In so doing, Albert Einstein helped America and its allies win the Second World War.
Our country’s pioneering spirit has also extended to medicine, whether through the creation of lifesaving vaccines, the development of blood transfusions or miraculous breakthroughs in the field of organ transplants. In one survey after another, America’s doctors are viewed as the best in the world, and our universities remain unrivaled. Since 1950, approximately half of all Nobel Prizes awarded in the science fields have been given to Americans.
With the United States possessing such dominance in the fields of science, medicine and technology, how can that same country, with just 4.3 percent of the world’s population, be responsible for almost 30 percent of the coronavirus deaths reported across the globe?
Trump conspiracy theorists would like to blame the “deep state” or hapless bureaucrats for being asleep at the switch when the pandemic hit. But the record shows it was President Trump himself who repeatedly ignored all signs of the gathering storm.
After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, on the last day of 2019 and immediately began to develop reports for the Department of Health and Human Services. Within weeks, Trump’s White House had received similar warnings from the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the intelligence community, HHS, the Food and Drug Administration and those staffers who put together the president’s daily intel briefings. By the end of January, trade adviser Peter Navarro had seen enough to warn of a coming pandemic that could kill 500,000 Americans, but Trump was dismissing the disease as “one person coming in from China.” How could two people see the same warnings and come up with such dramatically different conclusions?
Another month would pass after Navarro’s grim warning, and Trump would still be assuring Americans that the pandemic would magically go away. As late as March, Trump declared that he was not worried about the pandemic and his defenders on some cable news hosts were telling their viewers that the threat from covid-19 was nothing more than the latest “hoax” to bring down their hero.
By April, the president of the same country that is home to MIT, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Caltech, the University of Chicago and Yale, along with so many others, publicly asked White House doctors to look into whether injecting disinfectants into the bodies of sick patients could cure them from the virus.
The most damning element of Trump’s deadly response may well be his stubborn refusal to marshal the resources of the U.S. government, in the face of a once-in-a-century challenge, to create a Manhattan Project for our time. Instead, the befuddled former reality-TV host chooses to spend his time spinning wild conspiracy theories and continuing his sad obsession with former president Barack Obama.
The U.S. death toll is now rising toward 100,000 lost souls, but the only thing exceptional about this American president’s management of this crisis has been his gross negligence that has allowed so many people to die in a country that remains home to the best and brightest innovators the world has ever known.