We have the Roman historian Tacitus to thank for the aphorism that has come down to us through many revisions as, “Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.” While no clear-eyed retrospective of history will ever be able to excuse Donald Trump for his failure overseeing America’s role in the coronavirus pandemic, neither will it give him an ounce of credit for the coming vaccine. The credit is owed to Berlin, not Washington. Donald Trump and his much-vaunted, endlessly self-promoted “Operation Warp Speed” played no part.
That hasn’t stopped Trump from trying to seize credit, of course. Taking credit for the hard work of others is what he does. He began his pirate ship administration by trying to take credit for the economy he was handed by President Obama, an economy of such robust strength that it took him nearly four long years to ruin it. But history is not going to let him take credit for this vaccine. History is now being written by the winners again, and the winners are going to tell the truth.
And the truth is Pfizer didn’t receive a single penny of funding from Operation Warp Speed for the development, clinical trial and manufacture of the vaccine. Rather, its partner, BioNTech SE, has received all the money exclusively from the German government.
We ought to all give Pfizer and BioNTech and Germany the standings ovation they deserve. Meanwhile Donald Trump has never met praise for someone else that he didn’t become green with jealousy and rage over. He doesn’t just want some of the credit, he wants it all. And he can’t have it. Like I said, the winners have got this narrative, and we’re gonna tell it like it is.
The only thing America has done was to buy itself a privileged place in the queue back in July, if and when any vaccine was developed. The Trump administration agreed to pay almost $2 billion for 100 million doses, with an option to acquire as many as 500 million more, once clearance comes from the FDA for emergency use authorization.
No story about Trump trying to steal the credit for a vaccine he played no part in would be complete without a little world class incompetence mixed in. Donald Trump Jr had this to tweet about Pfizer’s vaccine revelation: “The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”
In other words, we learned of the vaccine five days after the election, so it couldn’t help Trump steal credit for it early enough to help him con the American people into re-electing him. But an administration that was behind the vaccine all along should have known the vaccine was coming well ahead of the election, right? Once again, the Keystone Cops administration is out of step with itself.
Nevertheless, the vaccine promises to be the miracle we were hoping for. It is also a miracle for which Donald Trump deserves not an ounce of credit. Not only is he responsible for a staggering quarter of a million American deaths from coronavirus, a grim statistic we only just passed since last I wrote to you, brothers and sisters, but he’s also directly responsible for the politicisation of the wearing of masks.
With a vaccine coming, no doubt people are going to see that as further proof that masks are unnecessary and as somehow “exonerating” Trump. Nothing can be further from the truth. We must remain hyper-vigilant. Coronavirus can still kill people by the hundreds of thousands between now and when the vaccine becomes available. The vaccine is a highly effective prophylactic, not a cure.
There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this has been another one. Wash your hands, maintain safe social distancing, wear a mask, and, as ever, ladies and, gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.