the national interest

Never Forget the Hypothetical Victims of Biden’s Swine Flu Disaster

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump has used the final days of the campaign to go on offense on the coronavirus, by reminding the country that Joe Biden also presided over the disastrous mismanagement of a pandemic. “And frankly, he ran the H1N1 swine flu and it was a total disaster,” Trump said at the debate. “Far less lethal, but it was a total disaster. Had that had this kind of numbers, 700,000 people would be dead right now, but it was a far less lethal disease.”

After having paused a respectable period of time to memorialize the hypothetical 700,000 dead Americans who perished from Biden’s incompetence, Trump returned to the issue Friday:

The swine flu debacle has long been a taboo subject in American politics, perhaps because it left such a deep and traumatic scar on our society. But one of the oddities of Trump’s political career is that any time we learn of a bad thing he did, it turns out his opponent did the same bad thing. So it is with the catastrophic H1N1 swine flu.

As one of the 99.996 percent of Americans lucky enough to survive that awful pandemic, I must carry on the memory and remind future generations of the horror we endured. For those modern Americans who know only the comfort and ease of life under COVID-19, which Trump shut down easily by being the 39th country to mostly ban travel from China, it is difficult to grasp the terrors of the swine flu. Families were ruined, businesses destroyed, pigs … shunned? I think? (Check with somebody who was living a more agrarian/Gentile lifestyle before quoting me on that one.)

It is true that Biden’s pandemic did not result in as many deaths per se. Nor did you see the devastation reflected in cold, heartless economic statistics. And President Trump is not eliding that point. He carefully notes it in a caveat every time he brings it up: “Far less lethal, but it was a total disaster … far less lethal than Covid 19, was one of the weakest and worst in the history of fighting epidemics and pandemics.” Other than the absence of mass death and devastation, it was far worse. (This reminds me of another view of mine I will explain sometime, that the invasion of Grenada was a far bigger calamity than Vietnam, mortality-adjusted.) The actual dead from the H1N1 pandemic, 12,469, may be be equivalent to a couple bad weeks of COVID-19, but to suggest this means it was less terrible is far too literal.

The president’s critics tend to get hung up on the lethality, as if this excuses Biden. The point is, if H1N1 had been as lethal as COVID-19, then Biden’s decision to respond as if the disease wasn’t lethal would have been lethal. And that is truly unforgivable.

Never Forget the Hypothetical Victims of Biden’s H1N1 Fiasco