Last week, President Biden ordered the nation’s flag to be flown at half-staff to honor the memory of one million Americans killed by the virus since it first came to America from China in early 2020. Biden noted in his statement, “One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a Nation forever changed because of this pandemic…As a Nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember.”
This was a welcome tribute to those Americans and their families as our nation reaches this grim milestone, likely later this week. One million deaths from the virus represents more deaths than the U.S. servicemen who perished during the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War, combined. It is more deaths than the combined populations of Washington, D.C., and Anchorage, Alaska.
Yet, as we honor the enormous number of Americans who lost their lives to the virus, the big question remains: what is Biden doing to hold China accountable for unleashing the pandemic on the world, likely after developing it in a bioweapons lab run by the country’s communist leadership, and for continuing to cover it up to this day?
The answer is: not much. One year ago, Biden was pushed into reviewing China’s role in foisting the virus on the world after a number of independent news reports cited strong circumstantial evidence on that very question. Reversing his earlier position that he would leave the origins of the pandemic up to the World Health Organization to investigate, Biden set up a 90-day review by the U.S. intelligence community that in the end drew no conclusions on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s role in developing and spreading the virus, despite widespread open-source reporting underscoring just that.
National Review’s Andrew McCarthy summed up the case succinctly on that question, saying the CCP’s culpability is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” He wrote, “Unless and until China comes forward with convincing evidence that the lab-leak theory is wrong, the position of the United States and the world must be that China is culpable. We should stop spouting the untenable and irresponsible drivel that, because the case is ‘circumstantial,’ the truth may never be known. We know plenty.”
Since the completion of his review in late August, Biden has moved on to other matters -- including his disastrous pullout of Afghanistan and his unsuccessful diplomacy aimed at dissuading Russia’s Putin from invading Ukraine -- and he has barely mentioned the role of the CCP in developing and spreading the virus that now, close to nine months later, has killed a million of our fellow citizens. Even worse, he has done nothing to hold China accountable for its actions, and has not even indicated a plan for doing so.
In the absence of Biden’s drift on the question of accountability, to their great credit, Republicans in the House and Senate have laid out clear plans to do just that. Last June, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy unveiled an eight-point plan to hold China’s leaders accountable that proposed greater sanctions against Chinese leaders, waiving sovereign immunity to allow U.S. families to sue the Chinese government for damages from the virus, and preventing China from hosting the 2022 Olympics. Stronger actions have been proposed in some quarters that would involve potentially an entire reset of the world’s relations with the Middle Kingdom.
Biden’s failure to even discuss holding China accountable for the virus should surprise no one, as he has shown himself to oppose accountability across the board in less than two years in office. This includes on the world stage, where he has announced no sweeping actions against China’s leaders in other areas, such as flooding our country with fentanyl, the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, or on Iran’s leaders, where Biden downplays their state sponsorship of terrorism and instead scrambles to get us back into the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. Even worse is Biden’s refusal to hold his own senior team accountable for its epic fails on critical policy matters including the botched pullout of Afghanistan, our open southern border, inflation at 40-year highs, and reversing oil and natural gas independence achieved under his predecessor. Whatever your view of Biden, there is no question he gets an F on accountability.
Biden was right this past week to honor the one million Americans killed by the virus since early 2020. Flying our nation’s flag at half-staff represents an important tribute to their lives and a reminder of the pain we suffer from losing so many of our loved ones over the last twenty-eight months. But it’s not enough. China’s role in developing and spreading the pandemic that took those million Americans from us demands accountability, and given Biden’s record to date, there is slim chance we will see him take steps in that direction.
John Ullyot served as deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs and National Security Council spokesman, 2019-21.