By Nate Odenkirk | Staff Writer
For much of 2014, America was consumed with the Ebola epidemic as it ravaged cities and rural counties with reckless abandon. Caught off guard, the Obama Administration was like a deer in the headlights. Barack Obama and Joe Biden had only the pandemic response coordination team, a slew of experts, a clearly thought out playbook, months of time, and billions of dollars to fight the outbreak overseas. In April, one American had succumbed to the virus. When the chaos finally came to an end, the death toll would fully double, to two.
As Vice President, Joe Biden’s failure to contain Ebola’s death and destruction leaves a black stain on his legacy—and with barely a hundred days before the 2020 election, the botched response to Ebola is understandably being compared to the Trump Administration’s swift and comprehensive actions in the face of COVID-19. What did Donald Trump figure out that eluded Barack Obama and Joe Biden?
On March 2, 2014, Joe Biden called for an emergency meeting in the Situation Room of the White House with his pandemic response team, ostensibly to coordinate a plan for Ebola, by then only a blip on the map in West Africa. When the experts asked Biden to voice his favorite conspiracy theories on the epidemic, the Vice President said he didn’t have any. The experts were shocked—if you don’t have a conspiracy to run by us, why even have the meeting in the first place? one official present at the meeting recalls thinking. Even worse, Biden neglected to come up with exceptionally racist nicknames for the virus based solely on cultural stereotypes of the pandemics origin. “He didn’t even have a ‘brainstorm list’ of bigoted slurs he could throw around. How can we contain a disease if we don’t mock it?” said the official.
To demonstrate how extraordinary this oversight was, the Trump Administration followed recommendations from the scientific community to a T. Working overtime, the list proliferated to well over a hundred distasteful epithets (far more than was necessary), eventually settling on the widely praised “kung flu.” What’s more, Donald Trump himself came up with the nicknames, clearly understanding the gravity and seriousness of the issue. No such relief ever came from Biden’s team.
Biden neglected to come up with exceptionally racist nicknames for the virus based solely on cultural stereotypes of the pandemics origin.
The inept handling of the Ebola crisis, embodied in the March 2nd meeting, led to a staggering death toll and frenzied media storm. “Two Dead from Ebola Virus” blared a scathing headline on page 3A in The New York Times, next to a recipe for cold zucchini soup. By focusing only on preventing the pandemic, instead of letting it run its course and working from there, the Obama Administration opened itself up to a torrent of criticism that remain as valid today as ever.
The crisis, thankfully, has passed. But imagine a new virus spreading in the Biden presidency. How many would needlessly die? Four? Five? Seven? If Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20th, 2021, we may be in for a pandemic that will make Ebola feel like a minor footnote in our history. ♦