Noteworthy accomplishments in office – or even saving one’s country from ruin – do not clinch the next election. Sir Winston Churchill, leader of Great Britain’s Conservative Party who inspired and led Great Britain through her darkest hour, was put out of office by the UK’s Labor Party in July 1945 – one year after V–E Day.
Many Americans cited President Trump’s handing of COVID–19 as their reason for voting for Mr. Biden. But before we pass judgment on Donald Trump, let’s take a look at where the United States stood at vaccine development and production in 2005 under the administration of George W. Bush. When GWB assumed office, America’s vaccine–development industry was a disorganized mess. "We cannot handle the threats we face today with a broken flu vaccine system," said then–Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D–NY). Our national system for fighting pandemics was in need of serious repair.
Addressing the National Institutes of Health, President Bush noted, “There is no pandemic flu in our country, or in the world, at this time, but if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare and ... many lives could be needlessly lost.” Public–health experts warned that it was only a matter of time before a super–flu developed with the potential to spread around the globe and kill millions of people.
Instead of sitting on his hands, President Bush set into motion a three–point plan, comprising:
(1) An international partnership whose 88–member nations pledged to share information and provide virus samples to the World Health Organization
(2) A $6 billion program to purchase vaccines and antiviral drugs and streamline the development and distribution of new vaccines. (In 2005, vaccines were still produced using a 1950s technique that involved inoculating fertilized hens’ eggs with the target virus, forcing the government to help maintain – wait for it – huge flocks of chickens.) The president set a goal of making enough vaccine to inoculate every American.
(3) Creating a national stockpile of 81 million courses of the antiviral medicines Tamiflu and Relenza, or about four times what previously had been deemed sufficient.
President Bush had the vision and ability to work with private industry to create the modern framework for fighting pandemics such as we are dealing with today. Unfortunately, his wise “path forward” has been largely forgotten.
Fast–forward to 2020, and we are in the grip of a pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen since 1918. Serious people can debate the fine points of President Trump’s handling of the situation, but the success of his Operation Warp Speed in developing, and eventually distributing, a safe and proven vaccine for COVID 19 is becoming more evident with each passing day. President Trump wisely built upon President Bush’s farseeing model for pandemic preparedness. Politics aside, let’s honor Sir Winston and others like him, by giving credit where it’s due.