You wouldn’t know it from Joe Biden’s statement, but his order to the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” efforts to find out whether Covid-19 originated in a Chinese lab is quite the comedown.
Nowhere mentioned is that the State Department already had such an investigation going when Mr. Biden entered office, but his team killed it. They killed it for the same reason they’ve made so many other bad decisions: If Donald Trump was for it, they are against it, and if Mr. Trump was against it, they are for it.
How far this is from the piety Mr. Biden offered up when he announced his science team in January. “I have always said that the Biden-Harris administration, we’re . . . going to lead with science and truth.”
Mr. Biden has made many such statements (“we are letting science speak again”), but they have little to do with science. They are meant as continued digs at Mr. Trump. All are offered with a confidence, apparently fully justified, that a largely pliant press will run with them, no hard questions asked, unless you count asking the president about the flavor of his ice cream.
Another way to put it is that the Biden administration cannot take a scientific approach to Covid-19 because it is too invested in politically convenient Covid-19 narratives. So we have sad spectacles such as White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeatedly refusing to give her boss’s predecessor even an ounce of credit for Operation Warp Speed, which spurred the development of Covid-19 vaccines in record time.
President Biden followed the same script in his March 11 address to the nation, dinging Mr. Trump for causing more Covid-19 deaths without once mentioning the vaccines. Likewise the $1.9 trillion in relief was justified as necessary to jump-start a post-Covid economy when the evidence points to an economy already beginning to recover nicely on its own.
Now we have the embarrassing about-face on China. For more than a year the dominant narrative, again in the name of “science,” has dismissed as a conspiracy theory any claim Covid-19 might have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Journal reported last week that three of the Chinese lab’s workers were hospitalized in November 2019—before China’s first officially reported case—with symptoms that might be Covid-19. This is now leading some to concede there might be something to the lab story after all.
But as an editorial on these pages noted, “the suspicious facts have been apparent from the start.” Begin with this: Only a few miles from the Huanan seafood market, said to be Ground Zero for the Covid-19 pandemic, China operates a virology lab that conducts research on bats and coronaviruses and has ties to the military. On a phone call, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says “all intelligence I have seen points to the lab.”
Surely the most reasonable approach would be to investigate the lab until it can be safely ruled out. But China has refused to cooperate, denying investigators proper access and information. By now Beijing likely has destroyed any incriminating evidence it can. At the same time, when Australia called for a full and honest reckoning at the World Health Organization, China responded with economic warfare, targeting Australian imports. Its Foreign Ministry has now responded to the renewed U.S. investigation by reviving a pet conspiracy theory of its own: that Covid-19 originated at a lab at Maryland’s Fort Detrick.
Why has Team Biden been so slow to call China on its bad behavior? Again the answer has nothing to do with science.
For one thing, the administration is heavily invested in another narrative—namely, that the wave of nasty beatings of Asian-Americans in recent months is all because Mr. Trump called Covid-19 the “Wuhan Flu” or “Kung Flu.” Ms. Psaki put the Biden imprimatur on this view when she said from the White House podium that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is behind the “elevated threats” to Asian-Americans.
Worse, taking the Wuhan lab theory seriously would mean admitting the possibility that Mr. Trump might have been right, at least on this one thing, after all. With even the Delphic adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci now saying he cannot be 100% certain the virus came about naturally, the old line becomes harder to square with the accumulating evidence. Meanwhile, the intelligence investigation Mr. Biden has relaunched will only set up further clashes and contradictions with China, given that Beijing will continue to refuse cooperation, as well as with the discredited WHO, which the Biden administration has rejoined because . . . well . . . Mr. Trump took us out of it.
In 2020, the politics of Covid-19 helped propel Candidate Biden from the safe space of his Wilmington, Del., basement into the Oval Office. But for President Biden in 2021, the cure may yet turn out worse than the disease.
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