Biodefense, Breitbart.com, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, Coronavirus, ebola, FDA, Glenn Reynolds, Infectious Diseases, John Bolton, Legal Insurrection, Leslie Eastman, Nancy Pelosi, National Biodefense Strategy, National Security Council, NSC, Pandemic Response Team, Richard Goldberg, Ronald Bailey, Ronna McDaniel, Tim Morrison
The Left asserts that President Trump dismissed and dismantled the nation’s Pandemic Response Team. That’s bullshit. So is the claim that the CDC was defunded. The news media and certain pundits have helped to feed this narrative. Or, as Glenn Reynolds calls those pundits, “Democrat operatives with bylines”.
First of all, the team in question was not at the CDC, a fact that hasn’t always been clear from the commentary on this issue. It was a team of White House overseers at the National Security Council’s “Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense”. What happened was this: the senior director of that team resigned after John Bolton was appointed to head the NSC. Bolton might have wanted him out, but what we know is the director resigned. Subsequently, that team was folded into another directorate as part of an long-overdue consolidation. Health experts from the team remain on the NSC staff today. Yet Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—and many others since—had the temerity to charge that Trump had fired “the entire Whilte House pandemic team”. Well, at least he didn’t imply that it was the CDC.
Tim Morrison wrote the following in the Washington Post yesterday:
“Because I led the very directorate assigned that mission, the counterproliferation and biodefense office, for a year and then handed it off to another official who still holds the post, I know the charge is specious. …
When I joined the National Security Council staff in 2018, I inherited a strong and skilled staff in the counterproliferation and biodefense directorate. This team of national experts together drafted the National Biodefense Strategy of 2018 and an accompanying national security presidential memorandum to implement it; an executive order to modernize influenza vaccines; and coordinated the United States’ response to the Ebola epidemic in Congo, which was ultimately defeated in 2020.”
This assessment at Brietbart.com quotes former senior NSC official Richard Goldberg:
“Weird. A year later I was inside the NSC working with talented global health/biodefense professionals who coordinated an incredibly effective response to Ebola. They’re still there. Working hard. On #Covid_19.”
It’s true that Bolton sought to eliminate red tape, duplication, and bureaucracy within the NSC, and that was wholly justified. According to Morrison, the NSC staff quadrupled from the 1990s through the second Obama term. Pandemics are supposed to be the CDC’s purview, but the proliferation of administrative layers is what happens as government grows uncontrollably. Leslie Eastman at Legal Insurrection questions whether the U.S. needs a permanent “Pandemic Response Team” in the White House. She quotes GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel:
“JAN 7: CDC established a coronavirus incident management system, two days before China announced the outbreak. … Pelosi began Week 3 of withholding her sham impeachment articles.
JAN 21: The CDC activated its emergency operations center to provide ongoing support to confront coronavirus. …What were Congressional Democrats focused on? Writing their opening arguments for their bogus impeachment trial.”
Well, bully for the CDC. As for “defunding the CDC”, the facts are this: the proposed budget submitted to Congress by the Trump Administration in February, but never passed, did indeed include cuts to the CDC’s budget, which has grown over the years as it expanded its mission from fighting infectious diseases to matters like obesity, racism, and questions of social justice. The cuts proposed by Trump, however, were primarily to state grants. Actually, the proposal called for increased CDC staffing, and it funded all programs related to infectious diseases. But no matter, because that proposal is unlikely to become part of any appropriations bill that would pass Congress.
True to form, the Left plays politics in the middle of a national crisis. When the Trump Administration told airlines that it was considering banning flights from China in late January, it was called racist. Now, of course, he hasn’t done enough. A huge irony, however, is that Trump’s biggest mistake was in trusting the FDA and the CDC’s authority to develop and regulate testing for the coronavirus. They botched it. In a classic case of over-regulation, they prohibited hospitals and labs from conducting tests developed privately or by academic researchers, insisting that everyone wait for the “approved” test to be distributed. Then, the test they released in early February was flawed, costing additional weeks before testing was available.