Donald Trump has repeatedly told us that China is to blame for the COVID-19 outbreak currently plaguing America. And in Trump’s view, this wasn’t an accident on the part of the Chinese government, but rather caused by design, as he declared in his Fourth of July speech, in which he said that “China’s secrecy, deceptions, and cover-up allowed” the coronavirus to spread to the United States. Trump then vowed: “China must be held fully accountable.”
Trump’s assertion that Chinese government wrongdoing is to blame for COVID-19 is not new. On May 29, Trump said in a speech in the Rose Garden, “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” as he noted the loss of life and economic impact caused by the virus.
And even more stunning, earlier in May, Trump laid out the gravity of China’s failure to stop the virus in these staggering terms: “This is really the worst attack we've ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor,” he said, adding, “This is worse than the World Trade Center.”
And just this past Friday, Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, appearing on MSNBC with anchor Ali Velshi, ratcheted up Trump’s message, saying, “I want everybody right here today, as the day before America’s Independence Day, to understand where this virus started—with the Chinese Communist Party.” He added, “They spawned the virus. They hid the virus.” Navarro then stunningly added, the Chinese government “sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationalists over here to seed and spread the virus."
Please do not dismiss these comments by Navarro as some bonkers, off-the-cuff remark. Despite the media coverage they garnered, no one in Trump administration has walked these remarks back. In fact, it appears these words were planned and strategic, given Trump’s speech the next day on July 4, where—in prepared remarks, remember—he accused China’s government of “secrecy, deceptions, and cover-up.” And on Monday, Trump continued with this messaging, tweeting, “China has caused great damage to the United States and the rest of the World!”
Here’s the thing: After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, the United States responded militarily to the attack on our nation. So why hasn’t Trump responded in any way to, as he put it, “the worst attack we've ever had” on our nation?! It’s either that Trump is lying that China intentionally caused the virus to strike our nation—or he’s too much of a coward to retaliate against China.
In fact, worse than not retaliating against China, on June 22 Trump shot down reports that his partial trade deal he reached with China was ending, with the tweet, “The China Trade Deal is fully intact.” What? We are still in a trade deal with the nation that Trump has stated intentionally released a virus designed to kill thousands of Americans?! This would be like after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, FDR had not only failed to retaliate but had declared that our “Japan Trade Deal is fully intact.”
The closest thing to retaliation we’ve seen against China is the Trump administration threatening to ban TikTok! I’m serious. On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo said the administration is “looking at” banning Chinese-made social media apps like “TikTok.” But this ban is not in response to the COVID-19 attack, as Trump has dubbed it, but because there are national security issues poised by the presence of these apps on American phones.
When Trump ordered the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January, he justified this action by saying that it was because Soleimani had killed “hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.” Well, per Trump, China is responsible for the death of thousands and thousands of Americans. In fact, currently with the U.S. death toll at over 130,000, that means more Americans have died due to this virus since February than when you combine all the Americans killed in the Korean war (36,574), the Vietnam war (58,220), the Iraq (4,432) and Afghanistan (2,445) wars—which together total 101, 671.
Now, to be clear, I’m not a neocon. I’m not beating the drums for war. What we need though are answers. We need the media to pepper Trump with questions, such as if what he and his officials says is true and China did intentionally unleash this virus to kill Americans, resulting in “the worst attack we've ever had,” why no response but a few tweets?! Why no economic sanctions against China? Why are we still seeking a trade deal?! Why no going to the United Nations to seeking condemnation on the world stage? And why not even a threat of military actions?
Some will say this is Trump simply playing politics and seeking to shift blame to China for his own failings in handling the virus. Others may say Trump’s real game is to browbeat China into a better trade deal before Election Day so Trump can take a victory lap in the closing weeks of the campaign. Still others say Trump just flails from one day to the next, saying whatever pops into his head at a given moment. Those are all sound theories.
But this isn’t a reality show. This isn’t a game. There are over 130, 000 American families mourning the loss of a loved one. A beloved mother, a brother, a grandfather—this virus has taken all of them and more. A childhood friend of mine was killed by this virus.
If China—as Trump claims—intentionally unleashed this weapon of war on our nation, we need to know why Trump he has impotently failed to respond after this attack that was far worse than 9/11. And conversely if Trump is lying—as I suspect—then this is not just a typical Trump lie, but one of his most vile. It’s a despicable insult to all the families who have lost loved ones to the virus. In either case, Trump has failed our nation—again.