Byron York: Where’s the Democratic anger over COVID origins?
After President Joe Biden’s recent overseas meetings, the United States and G-7 countries agreed to support further investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a summit communique, the nations called for a “timely, transparent, expert-led and science-based WHO-convened” investigation.
That’s an obvious problem. The U.S. and G-7 are going to rely on the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the virus after the WHO released an investigation earlier this year that Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “highly deficient” and others call a complete travesty? “Is that it?” asked The Wall Street Journal editorial page. “The world’s leaders want the same WHO that failed in its first COVID-19 origin study to do another one — this time with … feeling?”
So there’s no reason to expect success. But here is a bigger question: Where is the Biden administration’s passion, its intensity, its anger in pursuing the origins of COVID?
In 2016, Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. There is no evidence the Russians ever touched any ballot, and there is no evidence their hacking and social media operations ever influenced any American’s vote. And yet the U.S. political, justice and media worlds became consumed for years with investigating Russia’s actions. There were investigations in the House and Senate. A special counsel investigation supervised by the Justice Department indicted a number of Russians. There was sometimes-hysterical media coverage that ran virtually 24/7 for three years. Russia did not succeed in influencing the election, but it succeeded spectacularly in setting off U.S. investigations.
Now, 600,000 Americans have died in a pandemic that began under suspicious circumstances in China and about which the Chinese government is stonewalling all meaningful investigation. 600,000 dead — that is a lot bigger than a few Russian Facebook ads in Wisconsin. And yet leading figures in the Biden administration and the Democratic Party seem to have far less zeal about pursuing the origins of a disease that killed 600,000 Americans than they had in investigating what Russia did in the 2016 election.
It doesn’t make sense. Everyone involved, scientist and non-scientist, agrees it is important to know the real origins of COVID. The Americans who want more investigation are not accusing China of deliberating loosing the virus on the world, but they do think there is persuasive evidence that the virus escaped into the human population as a result of an accidental leak during research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And they know that China has hidden the facts from the very beginning.
For months, many Democrats agreed with the international health establishment that there was nothing to the lab leak theory. Some in the media ridiculed or even suppressed the views of those who thought the lab leak hypothesis was worth investigating. Now, after they have been forced to concede that a lab leak is at least a real possibility, they are doing the minimum to look into it. Under pressure from Republicans, President Biden has directed the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” in a 90-day review of an earlier, inconclusive look at COVID’s origins.
Some Republicans want much more. GOP Sen. Tom Cotton has been a leader in calling for a deeper investigation of China’s actions. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Republican lawmakers will start a probe on their own, even though as the minority party they have no power to compel cooperation. And some
House Republicans are calling for sanctions against top Chinese health officials in the way that the U.S. sanctioned individual Russians over 2016 election interference.
But where is the big, screaming, wall-to-wall effort to find out what happened? It’s nowhere to be found. Which leads to the question: Why are the people who couldn’t get enough investigations of the 2016 Russia affair so relatively incurious about investigating the origins of a disease that has had vastly more consequential effects?
The answer, unfortunately, is Donald Trump. In 2017, there was agreement between Democrats and Republicans that Russia’s interference effort needed to be investigated. There was bipartisan action on Capitol Hill. But then the investigate-Russia effort morphed into the get-Trump effort. And the investigations mushroomed. If the Russian interference investigations had been solely investigations into Russian interference, they would have been concluded with relative unanimity between the parties and a low-to-moderate amount of press attention. But Trump Derangement Syndrome set in, and the political and media worlds went RussiaRussiaRussia, only to fail in their goal of finding Trump-Russia “collusion.”
Now there is a topic of enormous global importance — in addition to 600,000 Americans, COVID has killed more than 3 million people worldwide. And the Biden administration is kinda, sorta pursuing an investigation. Does anyone doubt that it should be doing much, much more?
This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/byron-yorks-daily-memo-wheres-the-democratic-angry-about-covid-origins
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.