Of all the complaints about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, griping about accurately noting its origin is easily the dumbest. The offensensitivity over the use of “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus” has skyrocketed lately, to the point where people are accused of racism for using a standard identification for epidemiological events. They didn’t call it the “Spanish flu” for decades after the 1918 pandemic because of racism, and “Wuhan” or “China” in this instance is even more accurate than “Spanish flu.” Does anyone remember the West Nile virus, or that MERS stood for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome?
One reporter asked Donald Trump to address complaints over attaching a “stigma” to China by his use of the term at today’s presser. Trump fired back that China’s attempts to push a conspiracy theory about the US military as a source for the flu is the stigma that he intends to answer by this use:
Let’s also not forget that the government of China is a large part of the problem that we face today. “We are in this crisis,” Jim Geraghty wrote at National Review yesterday, “because of the decisions of the Chinese government.” Identifying them as the problem isn’t racist, it’s realistic:
As a country, we’ve got our hands full right now. But while we’re sitting in various forms of self-quarantine, we — and a lot of other people around the world — will have a lot of time to read about the Chinese government destroying samples and suppressing information about the coronavirus in December… And the Chinese government’s attempt to silence doctors warning others about the disease. …
And the Chinese authorities spending January “denying it could spread between humans — something doctors had known was happening since late December — and went ahead with a Chinese Lunar New Year banquet involving tens of thousands of families in Wuhan.” Doctors say that in Wuhan, people who had no connection to that Hua’nan market were among the first showing the symptoms — suggesting that from the beginning, Chinese authorities should have understood that human-to-human transmission was already happening. …
Even today, prominent Chinese citizens who criticize the government’s response suddenly disappear. The Chinese government is much more effective at stopping the spread of information about the coronavirus than stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Pardon me, the “Wuhan virus.”
Andrew McCarthy argued earlier today in The Hill that Trump not only had a common sense reason for designating the virus as Wuhan or Chinese flu, but also a legal reason. Federal authority to deal with the virus extends in part from its duty to defend the nation’s borders, and that means clarity is necessary when shutting down travel:
Amid the truly weighty concerns attendant to the COVID-19 pandemic, the silly season, of course, broke out in Washington: A debate over whether the infectious disease in question should be referred to as the “Wuhan coronavirus” or whether doing so is, as the anti-Trump left and its media megaphone allege, emblematic of racism.
The manufactured controversy is as transparently political as it is ill-conceived. The question of the pathogen’s source is being framed to imply Trumpist xenophobia. To the contrary, it is a relevant consideration in the federal government’s legal authority to respond.
Early this year, as the outbreak became manifest in China and began its relentless march through Southeast Asia and into Europe, the American press itself alluded incessantly to the Wuhan coronavirus. The sudden case of talking-head amnesia over this is being greeted in conservative media by hilarious video montages featuring the same scolds, who now decry the term, matter-of-factly invoking it back then.
Here’s one that McCarthy links:
Liberal media pundits want you to think referring to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan” or “Chinese” virus is racist.
Here’s just a few of the times the liberal media did just that. pic.twitter.com/ss3kV5smSP
— MRCTV.org (@mrctv) March 12, 2020
So, when is the invocation of emergency powers permissible? Congress has vested the president with this authority when a threat to the security and public health of any part of the United States is sufficiently grave to warrant a federal response. In our constitutional system, there are certain situations and categories of activity that automatically trigger federal authority. Most prominent among these are foreign relations, foreign incursions, border security, and matters related to foreign commerce, as well as commerce between the states — which, obviously, may be impacted by foreign commerce.
Consequently, the origination of the virus in China and its transcontinental spread across the globe are highly relevant. They rationalize the president’s authority to address the emergency with Washington’s awesome resources. …
Not only did history and common sense justify the administration (among others) in noting the origin of the Wuhan coronavirus. Doing so was a legal necessity if the imperative of federal support for beleaguered state governments was to be fulfilled.
This would be a silly exercise in political correctness at any time. When Americans are being instructed, if not ordered, to shelter in place for weeks on end, it’s an active insult to our intelligence and offensive on its face. The rest of us are having to put on our big-boy and big-girl pants and inflict economic damage on ourselves. Anyone offended by the term Wuhan Flu, WuFlu, or Chinese virus needs to go soak their head, preferably in distilled water.
Addendum: I’d say that government officials should refrain from making joking references to a “Kung flu,” however — not because it’s offensive, but because it sounds unserious and undermines credibility.