The front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, insists that President Trump has mismanaged the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak. Yet the former vice president’s hastily assembled “Public Health Advisory Committee” is made up of scary ideologues whose opinions on public health will comfort few voters during a pandemic. They include a “medical ethicist” who advocates health-care rationing to seniors, a “disaster preparedness expert” who shamelessly whitewashed erstwhile president Obama’s bumbling response to the H1N1 pandemic, an Obama administration retread with no health-care credentials at all, and a “global health expert” who makes wild projections without reliable statistical data.
The highest-profile committee member is none other than our old friend Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a proud proponent of medical rationing, who has long advocated denying health care to the elderly. In 2009, for example, he co-authored an article in the Lancet that promotes allocation of health-care resources according to the age of the patient. Emanuel and his co-authors recommend a health-care rationing system that would prioritize “people who have not yet lived a complete life.” In other words, provide care to the young and deny it to seniors. The article goes on thus: “Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination.” Good luck selling that to Gramps while he’s cleaning his shotgun.
Ironically, considering that he is now advising Joe Biden, Emanuel has also written that elderly patients suffering from cognitive decline should be denied care. In an essay for the bioethics journal Hastings Center Report, he suggested that health rationing should prioritize only productive seniors. As to how the system should separate the sheep from the goats, he wrote, “An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.” As to how vaccines should be allocated in a global epidemic, he penned a 2014 Atlantic essay stating that seniors shouldn’t receive them: “Certainly if there were to be a flu pandemic, a younger person who has yet to live a complete life ought to get the vaccine or any antiviral drugs.”
“Dr. Zeke” may seem the scariest member of Biden’s “Public Health Advisory Committee,” but that is primarily because he is the best known of its members. Another member is Dr. Irwin Redlener, founder and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Redlener is an environmental alarmist who believes the “climate crisis” is increasing the frequency and magnitude of all manner of disasters, including pandemics. Viewing coronavirus from that extremist perspective, it isn’t surprising to find him making the rounds of broadcast and cable “news” venues spreading conspiracy theories about the Trump administration. He recently made the following claim on NPR:
I’m afraid there’s been a tremendous amount of interference in what would normally happen in a public health crisis, interference by the administration.… And by the way, now our public health officials and experts are under a, you know, keep-silent order … And given the fact that the administration has been, let’s say, less than forthcoming on so many levels with information generally and information about this coronavirus, this is really a very dangerous situation where we can’t let the experts guide what’s happening and so on.
This kind of nonsense is more frequently associated with Twitter than with a serious public health adviser who should be providing fact-based advice to a man who could, at least theoretically, be elected president. First, the AP debunked the interference charge three weeks ago: “The public health system has a playbook to follow for pandemic preparation regardless of who’s president or whether specific instructions are coming from the White House.” Second, if public health officials are under a gag order, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH’s infectious disease chief, didn’t get the memo. He was all over the Sunday morning news shows and participated in a Sunday press briefing that is a must-watch for anyone interested in facts.
Interestingly, during the H1N1 pandemic that was so badly bungled in 2009, Redlener devoted much of his commentary to making implausible excuses for the Obama administration. Never mind that the former president dawdled from early July 2009, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared H1N1 a pandemic, to late October before announcing a national emergency (Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency two days after WHO dubbed it a pandemic). Redlener told Reuters that the dilatory response was caused by budget cuts made before Obama took office: “Coping with the widespread economic distress by cutting programs and readiness has really left the country vulnerable.”
In addition to Redlener and Emanuel, Joe Biden’s public health brain trust includes Lisa Monaco, an Obama administration official with precisely zero public health credentials other than her inept management of the Ebola scare in 2014. It isn’t clear why Obama thought she would be a good Ebola coordinator, but it was too much even for the all-too-compliant media that so often overlooked the former president’s blunders. The Washington Post phrased it thus: “Even before Ebola reached our shores, trust in Obama’s stewardship of the country was plummeting.… From the start, the president has treated Ebola like a public relations crisis rather than a health crisis.” ABC responded to her appointment as follows:
The woman coordinating the Obama administration’s response to the nation’s first Ebola scare in history has no background in public health or managing an outbreak. Lisa Monaco, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, is a lawyer with a background in federal law enforcement, criminal prosecution and crisis response. She was formerly assistant attorney general for national security and spent years working inside the FBI. For several years she served as counsel and chief of staff to then-director Robert Mueller.
Yes. You read that right. Monaco was Robert Mueller’s counsel and chief of staff. The good news is that, evidently by serendipity, Biden included a couple of people who are reasonably familiar with public health. Dr. Rebecca Katz is a Professor and Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. She seems uncomfortable enough in this YouTube event with Adam Schiff that she might be relatively normal. Her projections on the spread of the disease in the U.S. seem pretty exaggerated, but she is a Democrat, after all. Another silver lining is Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He’s Beltway establishment to the bone but pretty trustworthy.
In the end, Biden’s “Public Health Advisory Committee” is just window dressing for a coronavirus plan that will, thank goodness, never go into effect. The chances that Biden can beat Trump are quite low, Democratic fantasies notwithstanding. The voters will not, in addition to exposure to coronavirus, be subjected to the tender mercies of Ezekiel Emanuel, Irwin Redlener, or Lisa Monaco. President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force — combined with the end of flu season — will almost certainly have COVID-19 under control in the U.S. long before Election Day. By the way, Trump has tested negative for coronavirus. When is Joe getting his test done?