A lot of things about the coronavirus are out of our control -- but how we approach China isn't one of them. And in a country where consensus is as rare as hand sanitizer, the outrage over the outbreak might be the single greatest exception. While Democrats in Washington keep their fingers pointed at President Trump, they're about the only ones, polling shows. Most Americans know exactly who's at fault -- and who should pay.
"It's as much of a consensus issue as you can get in today's divided world," the Harris Poll's Mark Penn explained. Americans don't trust China. Period. It doesn't matter what party they're from, they blame the government for the spread of the pandemic and want the U.S. to start playing hardball on trade and every other issue. They agree with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): our response has got to "sting." And it's got to sting enough to force them to change.
This is a crisis, after all, that never had to happen. Had China warned the world even a week sooner, the AP reported, we could have cut the world's infections by two-thirds. That's tens of thousands of real lives -- moms and dads, grandparents, and children who will never come home again because officials in Beijing didn't want to admit their mistake. "I think they were trying to put it out. Stop it. Not be embarrassed by it," Graham said on "Washington Watch." "This would be the third pandemic [they're responsible for]." All they had to be was honest, he pointed out, and we "wouldn't have 70,000 dead Americans and 30 million people out of work."
So what now? "Make sure China cooperates," Graham insisted. "We should sanction the heck out of [them] until they agree to allow the world into China to figure out what happened..." His own bill, introduced last week, is about as hard-hitting as it gets. "No visa travel, no students coming in to study, no access to American banks... until they cooperate with investigators... and they close those wet markets..."
As I see it, this is a three-pronged strategy: probe, prevent, pay. Probe to find out what happened -- get the facts. And then prevent, because America cannot sustain these types of outbreaks. Finally, make them pay. Because if someone's willfully negligent, they're liable. And that goes to the heart of two other Republican bills from Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who both think Americans should be able to sue the regime for damage to their families. We can also cancel some of our debt to China. "Or," Lindsey went on, "the president could do a pandemic tariff on Chinese products, driving up the cost of doing business [there] as punishment for what they've done."
Republicans have plenty of ideas. Democrats, on the other hand, seem stuck on one: blaming Trump. "Where's the Democratic Party? Where's Joe Biden?" Lindsey asked. We're talking about "the crime of the century," as Gordon Chang put it. But instead of looking at the real villain here, China, whose actions are responsible for literally tens of thousands of lives here in the United States, liberals want to snipe at the president. "They want to investigate Trump, but they don't want to investigate China," Graham fumed. "The Democratic Party is becoming apologists for China... because the truth would make Trump right about China," Graham insisted. And they can't stand that.
The Left has spent four years trying to tarnish Trump with something. They couldn't do it with Russia. They couldn't do it with the impeachment effort. And his leadership in this crisis, a challenge of global proportions, has been stellar. "I believe if we'd let it run its course, you'd have a couple of million people dead right now... He put life ahead of his economic success." President Trump has made three months of tough choices. It's time for Democrats to make just one: to step up and work with Republicans so this never happens again. If they refuse, know this -- it won't be just China in the doghouse.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.