Who Will Own the Lockdowns?

Who Will Own the Lockdowns?
To call attention to the education emergency wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to and raise awareness of the need for governments to keep schools open, UNICEF unveiled “Pandemic Classroom”—a model classroom made up of 168 empty desks, each seat representing one million children living in countries where schools have been almost entirely closed since the onset of lockdowns, at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City, on March 3, 2021. (Chris Farber/UNICEF via Getty Images)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

It is hard to find anyone in government today who is willing to take responsibility for worldwide lockdowns that copied the CCP’s failed method of virus control.

Anthony Fauci claims that he never had anything to do with them, following two years of taking credit for them.
Last week, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in response to a question: “You know, many of those lockdowns predated me at the CDC .... So I don’t necessarily want to revisit the question of lockdowns that predated me.”
And before Jen Psaki left her post, she set the stage by specifically blaming the Trump administration for lockdown policy. “We’ve not been pushing lockdowns,” she said. “Most of the lockdowns happened under the previous president.”

And consider the number of early decision-makers and lockdown champions who are long gone: Deborah Birx of the COVID task force, Donald G. McNeil (“go Medieval”) of the New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Jared Kushner and his fancy college buds Nat Turner and Adam Boehler who pushed Trump so hard from within the White House, and many more.

Vice President Mike Pence worked his entire last year in office to provide protection and encouragement to Birx and her lockdown policies but he too has stopped addressing the issue. People like the UK’s Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust and Birx have written books taking credit for lockdowns but mark my words: it’s only a matter of time before they too claim to have been misunderstood.

Others in the lockdown camp seem to have nearly disappeared: Richard Hatchett of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Carter Mecher of the Veterans Administration, and even modeling guru Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College. None of them are willing to hold the lockdown bag. Bill Gates himself sounds ambivalent about the whole issue, and even the vaccines he has stopped defending.

On Twitter, the defenders of lockdowns have dwindled only to a precious few. And even unelected New York governor Kathy Hochul has condemned school closures: “When the decisions were made to have all the kids go home and learn remotely. Wow. Wow, what a mistake that was.”

Only two and a half years ago, lockdowns for a virus were imposed the world over. It was the most extreme public-health policy in human history, and the most globalized and speedy explosion in totalitarian state power ever experienced.

Only a few nations resisted: Sweden, Belarus, Nicaragua, and Tanzania. Those were the countries to be in during 2020. Who could have predicted that? I venture that no one could have known that these would be the only holdouts.

Meanwhile, the virus came anyway, became endemic, and the entire experience unleashed political and economic chaos in the United States and all over the world. We are nowhere near having seen the end of this. Excess deaths in 2021 and 2022 are extremely high and easily traced to the collateral damage of lockdowns, though we now need to add vaccine injury and death to the list too.

In all, it’s been a global calamity without precedent. One might suppose it would be easier to pin the blame on someone. The trouble is that they are all in hiding or carefully repudiating the policy without apologizing for it.

This leaves Trump himself who has unwisely and repeatedly taken credit for the policy, saying that his shutdown order “saved millions of lives.” In the rallies leading to the 2020 election that cost the Republicans not only the White House but also the House and Senate, he kept upping the number of lives that the lockdowns saved. His bragging went over like a lead balloon.

This claim can only trace to his lifelong penchant for refusing to admit error. It’s tragic in this case because he was deeply skeptical about lockdowns at the outset and later became a major advocate for reopening. It was too little, too late. His Democratic successor went even further with mandatory masking and vaccination.

Still, the history here cannot be erased. It was Trump who made the decision to shut down that ultimately crushed the economy he wanted to build, empowered the swamp he wanted to drain, and swept him out of office due to mass mail-in ballots that disease panic permissioned into existence.

In this 1990s, this tactic was called triangulation. The idea here is that a politician is never more successful than when he is doing the opposite of what his base might expect. That way he confounds his enemies because they suddenly find themselves in the implausible position of praising actions by someone they despise. Meanwhile, the trusting base goes along out of personal loyalty.

A few examples. It was anti-communist hero Richard Nixon who first reached out to China to establish better political and economic ties. He was only able to achieve this because he had the street credibility to avoid the criticism that he was selling out to the Chi-coms.

Similarly, it was Cold War hawk Ronald Reagan who first broached a huge nuclear disarmament deal with the Soviet Union. He was able to do this precisely because no one could ever accuse him of being soft on communism.

Another example was Bill Clinton who pushed through a serious reform of the American welfare state, moving policy from a pure giveaway to a system of aid for those seeking a more productive life. No Republican president would have been able to achieve this. Democrats went along out of party loyalty.

Triangulation under the Trump administration, however, took a very sinister turn. Betrayed by advisors on all sides, lied to and manipulated, it was under Trump’s rule that the United States experimented with full lockdowns.

At the press conference of March 16, 2020, the Trump administration handed out printed copies of the order containing the immortal words: “bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms, and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”

In the chaos of those days, it seems simply incredible that no one in the White House thought there might be a legal problem associated with such a wildly tyrannical demand. It shut schools and churches, and the CDC immediately recommended that states and localities even limit how many people can gather in private homes.

And guess what? The press absolutely loved it! Even Trump commented on the strangeness of it all. “I think a lot of the media actually has been very fair,” he said that day. “I think people are pulling together on this. I really think the media has been very fair.”

One might suppose that some alarm bells would have gone off in his head at the moment that he was being triangulated into destroying everything he sought to create. But it was even worse than that. From March 2020 onward, Trump effectively lost control not only of policy but also of personnel. My long interview with NIH advisor Dr. Paul Alexander paints a terrifying picture of a country taken over by the administrative state even as the elected branches of government were reduced to rubber-stamping policies or muttering complaints in silence.

This background is essential to understanding the FBI’s raid on Trump’s private home. It appears to be a dispute over which papers were and were not classified. In the course of the raid, however, the FBI took passports plus content that is covered by attorney-client privilege. Both are still sacrosanct in our system. This is theft by government but it has important symbolic value. It’s about who is in charge: former elected leaders like presidents or the administrative state machinery that drove Trump from the White House?

The actual insurrection that should get our attention occurred in March 2020. That was the period in which Trump was tricked into triangulating in a way that doomed the presidency and put the country into a tailspin of economic and political crisis. He is now tagged as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong, even though he was betrayed by advisors at every turn and, very likely, in his heart of hearts, knows that the lockdowns under his watch were the single greatest disaster of his presidency and long career.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.