The Trump administration has tried to enlist foreign allies in pressure campaign against China over coronavirus response, according to CNN.
Some foolish "grand strategists" in the Trump administration have obviously hit upon one of the dumbest election strategies yet. In the midst of the worst pandemic in history, and a rather disjointed administration effort to deal with it (resulting in the deaths of almost 80,000 Americans from COVID-19), the 2020 election campaign of President Trump is now based on "China bashing," namely accusing China of being responsible for the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. and demanding "reparations." On his own "bully pulpit" at the State Department, Pompeo has been obsessed with this strategy, again and again reiterating the long-debunked theory that COVID-19 was manufactured at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Even the present administration medical experts have rejected this outlandish theory, although Pompeo has convinced some of his colleagues at Homeland Security to keep the rumor alive, I suppose, until November.
A desperate President Trump seems to be seriously toying with the idea, in spite of the fact that such a policy would probably lead to torpedoing his trade agreement with China and could lead to a more serious conflict between these two nuclear powers. But in addition to the utter absurdity of the China "blame game," it is highly unlikely that this will convince the American people that they need four more years of Donald Trump. Without a doubt, the coronavirus will be THE issue of the presidential campaign. Democrats will hammer on it and it certainly looks as if the epidemic will still be very much with us in November, perhaps even a second round. The Trump administration, which absolutely determined not to follow the successful model that China has shown us in overcoming the virus, failed miserably in developing an effective strategy.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, "You can't feel all of the people all of the time," in other words, "You can't feel MOST of the people all of the time" since an electoral victory requires a majority of votes. But such a blatant "passing the buck" as this China strategy represents will not fool most of the people. President Trump won the election by winning independent and the "sometimes-Democratic" voters by his appeal to rebuilding America. And they aren't going to be satisfied with putting the onus on China for a million Americans becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The onus will be on the President. His only chance to save his presidency is to chart out a pathway for bringing the American economy out of this devastating epidemic. To do that, he has to abandon the usual Republican "grab-bag" and go Rooseveltian. He must lay out a concrete infrastructure program that now has to include more hospitals and a greater network of medical assistance. His plan will also have to be carried out with all due consideration to the need for protection from a repeat of the epidemic while opening the economy. That will include social distancing and producing more tests, and testing widely in order to determine where the virus has spread, and yes, wearing masks.
None of this will be easy, nor is it foreordained to be successful. But it seems to be the only option available to the President if he is thinking rationally. Because moving in the direction of blaming China for the epidemic will not only NOT fool the electorate, but will discredit the administration in the eyes of the world, who already see it as a cheap election ploy. It will also seriously undermine the long-term relationship with China – and given the other areas of political conflict in the U.S.-China relationship, it could lead to actual conflict. The President would be well advised to leave these misbegotten advisers in limbo and follow the instincts that brought him to Washington in the first place.
William Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief of the U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review.