AG Barr: Microbes Are the Real Threat, Not Climate Change

 

Attorney General Barr gave a substantial interview to Laura Ingraham on Thursday, April 8, 2020, and Fox News posted the portion of the interview that addressed the legal aspects of the government response to the Chinese Wuhan coronavirus. The politically hot portion, where Barr discussed the Durham investigation, is not posted publicly, requiring you to access the Fox website with a cable provider subscription. However, I was far more interested in the public segment, both for some reassurance about reestablishing our liberty and for the attorney general’s remarks about China and this virus. One remark struck a chord with my thinking about lessons learned from this shocking episode in our nation’s history.

I felt for a long time, as much as people talk about global warming, that the real threats to human beings are microbes, and being able to control disease. And that starts with controlling your border.

—AG Barr, April 8, 2020

There once was a federal agency whose whole business was precisely this, controlling microbes at the border. It was one of our oldest agencies, sadly it has long since been subordinated to other bureaucracies, its powers and mission fragmented across agencies and blurred. That agency is one of our uniformed services, armed not with guns and ammunition but with medical tools and supplies.

The history of the United States Public Health Service shows us how this agency lost focus:

For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters as an essential component of the largest public health program in the world.

Until the advent of therapeutic drugs and vaccines, inspection and quarantine were understood as vital to our nation’s security. Since most serious infectious diseases can now be prevented or treated, we lost that understanding. Naturally, a useful group of medical professionals would be tasked out to all manner of other priorities.

Perhaps it is time to reorganize and refocus on emerging microbial threats. I suggest making the CDC support the USPHS, as the Defense Intelligence Agency supports the Department of Defense. Take the USPHS out from under HHS and put them under the Department of Homeland Security, while also making the four-star admiral a member of the Joint Chiefs, tying together planning, resourcing, and training in response to biological threats, both natural and human-caused. It makes little sense to have a Surgeon General, usually the public face of the organization, but then make that position two levels subordinate to the admiral whose formal title is that of a civilian political appointee, the Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH).

Clearly, from the bureaucracies and President Trump’s actions, the current formal organizational charts were not adequate. Look at the staff working group, the task force, he had to assemble on the fly. Look at the obvious need for the very highest level of logistics expertise, imported, loaned, from the Department of Defense both in the form of Rear Adm. John P. Polowczyk. We should capture these lessons and really learn from them so that we will be better prepared and will never again face such a destructive response to a bad bug.

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  1. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Microbes, huh? So, that’s the new word for Democrats.

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Microbes are no more a threat than people are a threat.  (There’s always a few bad ‘uns, but mostly they’re fine.)  

    • #2
  3. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Clifford A. Brown:

    I felt for a long time, as much as people talk about global warming, that the real threats to human beings are microbes, and being able to control disease. And that starts with controlling your border.

    —AG Barr, April 8, 2020

     

    Clifford, that is a perspective worth focusing on and publicizing widely. When we’re doing the postmortem on the epidemic of 2020, as we’re trying to figure out who first failed to do what and when, a fair analysis* should include the point that Mr. Barr raised: those calling for control of our borders and our immigration process were, perhaps unwittingly, advocating for precisely the controls that would allow us to prevent or limit this kind of catastrophe in its earliest moments.

    * I don’t expect that there will be a fair analysis.

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Microbes are no more a threat than people are a threat. (There’s always a few bad ‘uns, but mostly they’re fine.)

    True enough. No microbes, no effective digestion. It is the few bad ‘uns on which we need to refocus our government agencies.

    • #4
  5. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    I love this man.

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Microbes are no more a threat than people are a threat. (There’s always a few bad ‘uns, but mostly they’re fine.)

    True enough. No microbes, no effective digestion. It is the few bad ‘uns on which we need to refocus our government agencies.

    I’ll have to think harder about the proposed changes.

    Not that the government ought to be organized the same way, but the university where I worked has a history of reorganizing and renaming its microbiology department in response to changing needs over the years.  When I started working there it was called Microbiology and Public Health, but is now Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. (And there was a long sequence of other changes before that.) One of our department’s professors (and my boss for a while) came on board as a Microbial Ecologist in the early 70s, at a time when even in the university people only thought of microbes in terms of public health. He likes to tell stories about some of the reactions he got when he first met the MPHC chair and some other faculty members, who weren’t quite sure what to make of him or his sub-discipline, to put it very gently.  One thing that can be said about the microbe people, though, in our department as well as in the larger university, is that they often served as “glue” to bring other disciplines together, as their expertise was needed by other disciplines that wouldn’t ordinarily work together, but did have a connection through microbial ecology (in our case).

    • #6
  7. MichaelKennedy Inactive
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    Speaking of Barr and threats, his talk to the Governor’s Association is interesting.

    https://www.state.gov/u-s-states-and-the-china-competition/?fbclid=IwAR2u4DfWT4EKcMIhdDxSexhxFw9w4wJ-k5evymo8FHeOps1yh2U9OzisfGw

    China has a list of the 50 Governors and they are graded according to how friendly they are to China.

    I was being invited to the U.S.-China Governors’ Collaboration Summit.

    It was an event co-hosted by the National Governors Association and something called the Chinese People’s Association For Friendship and Foreign Countries. Sounds pretty harmless.

    What the invitation did not say is that the group – the group I just mentioned – is the public face of the Chinese Communist Party’s official foreign influence agency, the United Front Work Department.

    Now, I was lucky. I was familiar with that organization from my time as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    But it got me thinking.

    How many of you made the link between that group and Chinese Communist Party officials?

    What if you made a new friend while you were at that event?

    What if your new friend asked you for introductions to other politically connected and powerful people?

    What if your new friend offered to invest big money in your state, perhaps in your pension, in industries sensitive to our national security?

    These aren’t hypotheticals. These scenarios are all too true, and they impact American foreign policy significantly.

    Indeed, last year, a Chinese Government-backed think tank in Beijing produced a report that assessed all 50 of America’s governors on their attitudes towards China. They labeled each of you “friendly,” “hardline,” or “ambiguous.”

    What do you want to bet that he and Trump have that list ?

    • #7
  8. Bill Gates Will Inject You Now Coolidge
    Bill Gates Will Inject You Now
    @Pseudodionysius

    Enjoy your “Sanitary Dictatorship” and national identity cards. 

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Bill Gates Will Inject You Now (View Comment):

    Enjoy your “Sanitary Dictatorship” and national identity cards.

    Except that is precisely what AG Barr and President Trump stand against.

    • #9
  10. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bill Gates Will Inject You Now (View Comment):

    Enjoy your “Sanitary Dictatorship” and national identity cards.

    Except that is precisely what AG Barr and President Trump stand against.

    Exactly.

    I grow weary of the tone of preemptive surrender.

    • #10