Coronoavirus: Americans demand answers as angry blame game begins

Coronoavirus: Americans demand answers as angry blame game begins, by Cameron Stewart.

The toll from the virus would be jaw-dropping even if the US were not the richest and most powerful country in the world, boasting some of the best scientists, medical experts and facilities. …

But there is also growing anger as people ask how a country such as the US could have been hit so hard by this pandemic, which is on course to result in more Americans dying than in the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Was it China’s fault, they ask, for hiding from the US the extent of the initial breakout in Wuhan in early January and for playing down the contagious qualities of the virus? Did US health experts and agencies such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) get it wrong, underestimating the gravity of the threat until it was too late? Was it a failure of planning and preparation for a pandemic in a country that has cut funding for such research over many years? Or was it a failure of leadership from the White House down to local mayors? …

Each of these factors almost certainly will be examined exhaustively once the pandemic is over, with House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff preparing to put together a bi­partisan commission to examine what went wrong. …

Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi has effectively accused Trump of having blood on his hands for his early denials about the severity of the virus, saying this led to delays in procuring and sending vital medical equipment and supplies to potential hotspots. “The President’s denial at the beginning was deadly,” she said. “As the President fiddles, people are dying.”

Republicans counter that China’s deception is to blame for any early misreading of the danger posed by the coronavirus. They say that since the middle of last month, Trump has responded to the pandemic as well as any president could reasonably be expected to handle such a unique event. But the heavy focus on Trump’s role has led many to ignore the broader systemic failings and ­bureaucratic inertia that also contributed to the slow US response to the pandemic. …

Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly more concerned about public health than damage to the economy. In a meeting with a Republican ally in the Oval ­Office recently, Trump said his re-election campaign no longer mattered because his election would now depend on his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

His presumptive Democratic rival, Joe Biden, says Trump’s handling of the crisis has been “behind the curve” and Trump has failed to be truthful about it.

The postmortem blame games have begun in the US.