Desperate politicians, like bad magicians losing the audience, dig into their bag of tricks for something bigger. In the process, they lose credibility. Bernie Sanders, trying to outmaneuver a rising Joe Biden, just dug into his bag – and produced a whopper.
Blowing hard on public fears about coronavirus, Sanders seems intent on creating wholesale panic. From this, one imagines he seeks to benefit. This week, he announced deaths from coronavirus may be on “scale of a major war.”
He did not stop there. As former Vice President Biden blithely blames President Trump for China’s coronavirus, minimizing that communist nation’s failure to tell the truth, contain or control the virus, Sanders quadrupled down on Trump.
Said Sanders: “Nobody knows what the number of fatalities may end up being or the number of people who may get ill …,” adding America must “face the truth … the number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the armed forces experienced in World War II.” Really?
In this curious corona-centric, anti-Trump season, surprises are a daily occurrence and credibility in short supply, but this statement was a whopper. To compare the coronavirus in America to casualties sustained in World War II is nothing less than “theater of the absurd,” Monty Python entering the real world.
Let’s get facts on paper. First, as of this writing, 71 Americans have died, that is it. Less than 3,000 have tested “positive” for coronavirus – in a population of 327 million. Of those who have died, 23 or more were over 80, likely with underlying vulnerabilities. At 78 – and Mr. Biden at 77 – one understands Mr. Sander’s fears. Still, projecting those fears on a nation is neither rational nor responsible.
Comparing current coronavirus infections, deaths, and projected infections and mortality rates – whether in the US, China, or anywhere else – to casualties in World War II is utterly irresponsible, knowingly pushing false data.
Yes, Biden is wrong to make the virus Trump’s fault; Trump was as prepared – with longstanding CDC protocols in place – as any president. But Sanders’ bashing Trump with nonsensical statements of this kind is indefensible.
As often happens these days, leaders forget that history is rock-solid, recorded, and can be consulted for reference. That is true for the history of socialism, history of viral epidemics, and history of war. History serves to inform, guide, and correct misstatements – and misplacements of our time in context of others.
To be arrestingly direct, let us get the World War II numbers down on paper. These numbers are incontrovertible, except at the margins – based on assumptions concerning those missing in action, most of whom died under the circumstances making identification impossible.
Objectively, World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history. Up to 85 million people perished in that six-year conflict, according to scholars. Pulitzer-prize winning author of “The Liberation Trilogy,” Rick Atkinson – a brilliant researcher, writer, and truth-teller – reported an average of 27,000 people per day died over those six years.
The number of American military deaths in World War II exceeded 407,000 – not counting civilians serving in the military. More than 670,000 American service members were wounded. The total number of US military casualties in World War II – or those “experienced by the Armed Forces” – exceeded one million.
For a presidential candidate to imagine – then spread fear and blame – for a million dead Americans, or even half a million or a quarter of a million, as a result of a new-but-mild virus that killed fewer than 100 so far is utterly irresponsible.
Sanders’ statement is also morally reprehensible – on several levels. First, to count this health scare as a war – by reference to number afflicted, duration, or some other health measure – is to misunderstand war. No Commander-in-Chief should be so ignorant. War and health are fundamentally different.
Second, to recklessly misstate current and projected dead – by a factor of 20,000, imaging that 50 dead from coronavirus means 1,000,000 shortly – is more than nonsensical. It is pure scare-tactic. It reveals either a disconnection from reality or the disingenuous desire to spread panic among the American people.
Just as a reading of Biden’s repeated cognitive failures leads one to conclude he is intellectually sloppy or mentally slipping, an honest read of the Sanders claptrap is that he is intellectually off or purposefully pushing panic. That he is doing so to hurt President Trump does not excuse the offense but compounds it.
In any event, Sanders’ assessment bears no relationship to current case numbers, infection, or mortality rates. It bears no relationship to CDC, NIH, or other expert guidance, projections for infection and mortality, or state-by-state infection rates.
In fact, by comparison to the latest case reports from China, the infection rate appears to be cresting and headed down. With better medicine, detection, testing, and treatment in the US, rates of transmission and mortality should peak in weeks – at worse months – ahead, then head down, not uncontrollably upward.
The further we advance into this political season, the more Democrat politics and politicians seem to long for bad news and practice “theater of the absurd.” To be clear: The world is not ending, panic is not advisable, and overstatements by desperate politicians are no better than fumbling, failed tricks by bad magicians. Coronavirus is not World War II.