Hold on, America. “Phase four” is coming.
After the searing partisanship which briefly engulfed the $2 trillion, “phase three” rescue package, Congress will need a bill on which almost all Republicans and Democrats can agree, a bill in which center-right to center-left Americans can embrace. The extremes need not be courted; the center must be rebuilt.
Phase one was a mere $8.3 billion measure on vaccine research and development.
Phase three — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) rescue package still wending through Congress — blew the doors off the normally staid Senate. The rhetorical explosions in the “world’s greatest deliberative body” came after Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) injected partisan politics into a relief bill’s speedy march toward urgently needed passage. The Democrats’ attempts to notch other victories on issues irrelevant to the virus, such as diversity on corporate boards, were quickly exposed.
But the country still needs a phase four because it needs to respond to the purveyor of the plague: The Chinese Communist Party, or the CCP.
Nature produced covid-19, just as it had in 1918 with the flu pandemic, and subsequently with H1N1, Ebola, SARS and MERS. We all know that the novel coronavirus began in China’s Wuhan province. Did Chinese authorities alert the world to the nature of the problem? No. The CCP didn’t bother even after it realized it had an epidemic on its hands. The CCP covered up, kept experts away and tossed out journalists. And the world is now paying a catastrophic price.
Phase four must deal with a regime that is nearly equal to the United States in economic strength, and superior in stealth and ruthlessness. A multi-faceted approach is necessary. “This strange new reality has forced our nation into something like a wartime footing,” said McConnell. “A fight has arrived on our shores. We did not seek it. We did not want it. But now, we are going to win it.”
The immediate fight is the virus. The larger, long-term battle is with a regime that allowed the virus to leave its shores.
This does not mean war. It means vigilance and deterrence. Phase four must begin with strong civil rights protections for Asian Americans, including Justice Department task forces, and assistance to state attorneys general investigating and prosecuting violence or threats of violence. Even one act of bigotry against a fellow citizen is unacceptable and punishments must be harsh and specific. We cannot repeat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s great crime of World War II or allow even a diluted version of it in 2020. Crush it in its crib.
Second, Congress must fund the strategic weapons acquisitions that will deter Beijing on every front and in every theater. Deterrence is expensive. Chinese President Xi Jinping must be amazed that, in a vast $2 trillion expenditure, the United States spent nothing in its defense against the CCP’s malevolence. (The CCP even tried to blame the U.S. military for the virus.)
Third, pharmaceutical manufacturing now depends on Chinese factories. That must change quickly. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) have offered a bill outlining the steps needed to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back within the United States, ending the dependency on the Chinese supply chain for crucial drugs and their ingredients.
Finally, our intelligence agencies needs a vast infusion of cash, as do our state and local governments. The former need the money to play offense against the relentless Chinese cyberattacks; the latter need the money to harden our infrastructure, especially voting systems, against far more competent hackers than the Russians proved to be. Trust me when I say that if the federal Office of Personnel Management could be breached by the Chinese, our state and local governments are even more vulnerable.
Phase four should be about the common defense against the culprit behind this catastrophe.