Trump’s Manhattan Project for COVID-19: Operation Warp Speed
Paul Kengor
by
President Trump discussion Operation Warp Speed (YouTube screenshot)

On December 6, 1941 — ironically, the day before Pearl Harbor — President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Engineering District to begin a bold research endeavor, seeking to do something that had never been done: develop an atomic bomb. In short order, Gen. Leslie Groves was placed in charge of the project, with Dr. Robert Oppenheimer his lead scientist.

The Manhattan Project successfully developed the atomic bomb, which, in turn, ended World War II. The bomb was employed not to stop the Germans, who had already surrendered, but to vanquish a merciless enemy that wouldn’t surrender: imperial Japan.

Now, in 2020, President Donald Trump has launched an effective Manhattan Project to stop COVID-19. It’s called Operation Warp Speed, an all-out effort to develop a vaccine to vanquish a merciless enemy. The analogy fits because the battle against this virus is a war. We’ve lost more Americans in a few weeks from COVID-19 than we lost in over a decade in Vietnam.

Our commander in chief is marshaling and enlisting America’s best to wage a counteroffensive. According to one senior administration official, when President Trump was asked what he wanted to pour into the effort, he responded, “No limit. Whatever you can humanly do.” Trump asserted, “We’re going to fast-track it like you’ve never seen before, if we come up with a vaccine.”

It all reminds me of the response to Ronald Reagan’s announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was immediately ridiculed.  

Trumps knows that a vaccine 18 months from now is too late. Too many people are dying right now. Operation Warp Speed aims to produce hundreds of millions of doses of viable vaccine by the end of the year, which is not unrealistic, as many promising projects are in the works in the United States and around the world. The goal: 100 million doses available by November, 200 million by December, and 300 million by January.

The president’s medical advisers are wholly supportive. Of course, who wouldn’t be? Trump’s action is proactive, aggressive, impressive, and should be greeted with gratitude.

And yet, the immediate pushback by the liberal media has been outrageous.

Trump Seeks Push to Speed Vaccine, Despite Safety Concerns,” warns the New York Times. As if safety concerns aren’t being considered. Really, New York Times?

The awful MSNBC asserts, “Vaccine expert: ‘Using terms like ‘Operation Warp Speed,’ that doesn’t help us.” Hmm. How about “Operation Take Your Damned Deadly Time”? Or “Operation Twiddle Your Thumbs”?

The Washington Post was a little more creative in its dissent, cherry-picking an example from 1976 with this laugher of a headline: “The last time the government sought a ‘warp speed’ vaccine, it was a fiasco.”

The Post seized upon President Gerald Ford’s push for a swine flu vaccine. Memo to the Post: Swine flu’s fatality rate is 0.2 percent. Current estimates on the fatality rate of COVID-19 in the United States are near 6 percent and over 10 percent in seven Western European countries. That’s why Donald Trump — and normal people whose thinking isn’t poisoned by political bias — is calling for this mass-scale effort. This isn’t swine flu, dude.

A second memo to the Post: Your hero FDR, led by his aide Basil O’Connor, poured everything into a warp-speed vaccine effort by Dr. Jonas Salk. That effort eradicated polio. It wasn’t a fiasco. It was a great triumph.

But of course, FDR was a Democrat.

Other liberal media sources (CNN, among others) criticized Trump’s “blank check” mentality. These big-government progressives suddenly sound like small-government libertarians worried about public spending. They evoke LBJ’s Gulf of Tonkin resolution — a dangerous stream of blank checks flowing into a wasteful effort that undermines human lives.

Personally, I’d like to see these journalists take a pledge that if and when vaccines are developed from this effort, they’ll stick to the liberal faith and not stick out their arm for inoculation. After all, such a vaccine would be more than tainted; it would be a wretched TRUMP VACCINE. Like treatment with HCQ (hydroxychloroquine), they should refuse it under any circumstances. Stick to the faith, dear progressive.

It all reminds me of the response to Ronald Reagan’s announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was immediately ridiculed. If SDI had been announced by a Democrat, liberals would have hailed it as a visionary breakthrough for humanity. Had a John F. Kennedy announced SDI, liberal actors at the Grammys would have sported little yellow “Support SDI” pins. When a Democrat like a Kennedy announces an ambition to go to the moon, liberals never deride the dream as fantasy; no, here’s a visionary’s visionary. All aboard!

Speaking of a Kennedy, the morning after Reagan’s groundbreaking SDI speech, Ted Kennedy on the Senate floor lampooned Reagan’s “reckless Star Wars schemes.” The arrogant, ignorant Kennedy couldn’t recognize a silver bullet against Soviet communism dropped before his very eyes. The entirety of the Democrat media followed suit, blasting Reagan’s “Star Wars.” How shocking it was: Reagan had proposed something that anti-nuke liberals ought to have celebrated. Their caricature was a huge propaganda boost to Yuri Andropov, who portrayed SDI as offensive rather than defensive. Reagan objected to this “image of destruction” conjured up by Kennedy and pals. “I’m talking about a weapon, non-nuclear [that] only destroys other weapons, doesn’t kill people,” Reagan protested. “SDI isn’t about war, it’s about peace.” He complained that the term “Star Wars” was “never mine” but the media’s, “and now they saddle me with it.”

Precisely. But the problem for liberals wasn’t really Reagan’s idea, but that Reagan was a Republican. Ideologically and thus emotionally (liberalism is driven by emotion), they couldn’t bring themselves to support it.

That brings us to Trump’s Manhattan Project for COVID-19. If Andrew Cuomo had proposed Operation Warp Speed, the left-wing media mafia would be hailing his genius. Another visionary’s visionary — another Jack Kennedy, by golly! If the president proposing this was Barack Obama, the ideological charlatans in Oslo would be chiseling out a second Nobel Peace Prize.

But here, too, the problem for liberals isn’t really Trump’s idea, but that the idea is Trump’s. He cannot be granted credit. His effort must be scoffed at.

Which also signals what will happen if Trump’s grandiose hopes pan out, particularly before the election. Watch: If Trump’s giant research bid directly aids the creation of a vaccine, liberals will be hell-bent on denying him credit. Watch for the slick “investigative” piece by the New York Times artfully explaining (with selective details) why Vaccine A or B had nothing to do with bloviating Donald Trump’s reckless gambit. The remainder of the partisan media will invoke the report like holy writ. Trump’s crusade for a vaccine will be framed as a colossal waste of cash that could’ve gone to education or Planned Parenthood, a gross seizure of executive power that was utterly unnecessary.

But enough on the lousy media.

What’s really important here is the noble cause that Donald Trump is pursuing. Even conflicted journalists know in their hearts that Trump wants what we all want, namely, to quote CNN: “The undertaking can make for a daunting timeline, but vaccines are seen as the holy grail. If the U.S. population can be successfully vaccinated for the coronavirus, that would make it easier for the country to fully reopen.”

Of course. And likewise, we know the risk of rushing vaccines. Donald Trump’s medical advisers know that. The FDA knows. The CDC knows.

“We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective,” cautions Dr. Anthony Fauci. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place. Remember, go back in time, I was saying in January and February that it would be a year to 18 months (to develop a vaccine), so January is a year, so it isn’t that much from what I had originally said.”

Precisely. I wrote here weeks ago about the potential vaccine that University of Pittsburgh researchers believe they had practically right out of the gate. This timeline is very feasible.

President Trump’s call for a Manhattan Project–like crash effort to defeat this malicious enemy is to be cheered. If his name were Cuomo or Obama, liberals would be shouting, “Warp-speed ahead!” To resist this effort because it’s Trump’s effort is, well, warped. In fact, to borrow another quip from this pandemic, it’s a little sick.

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., and senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values. Dr. Kengor is author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
o
Sign Up to receive Our Latest Updates! Register

Be a Free Market Loving Patriot. Subscribe Today!