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“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire,” Bush said at the time. “If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”
In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush was reading an advance copy of a book about the Spanish Influenza pandemic.
In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advance reading copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. He couldn’t put it down.
When he returned to Washington, he called his top homeland security adviser into the Oval Office and gave her the galley of historian John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza,” which told the chilling tale of the mysterious plague that “would kill more people than the outbreak of any other disease in human history.”
“You’ve got to read this,” Fran Townsend remembers the president telling her. “He said, ‘Look, this happens every 100 years. We need a national strategy.'”
“Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.” — anonymous police officer
There are many Americans, including the political class, who have the attention span of a gnat. They are easily distracted by bright shiny objects. Such as solar panels, hyperloop trains that will deposit you in an orchard near Fresno, wind turbines, and plastic grocery bags. How many of the political elite have actually slogged around in an orchard outside of Fresno?
In a November 2005 speech at the National Institutes of Health, Bush laid out proposals in granular detail — describing with stunning prescience how a pandemic in the United States would unfold. Among those in the audience was Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leader of the current crisis response, who was then and still is now the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Bush set out to spend $7 billion building out his plan. His cabinet secretaries urged their staffs to take preparations seriously. The government launched a website, www.pandemicflu.gov, that is still in use today. But as time passed, it became increasingly difficult to justify the continued funding, staffing and attention, Bossert said.
“You need to have annual budget commitment. You need to have institutions that can survive any one administration. And you need to have leadership experience,” Bossert said. “All three of those can be effected by our wonderful and unique form of government in which you transfer power every four years.”
Bush declined, through a spokesman, to comment on the unfolding crisis or discuss the current response. But his remarks from 15 years ago still resonate.
“If we wait for a pandemic to appear,” he warned, “it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”
Today arrived in January 2020. Discipline and commitment disappeared years ago.Published in