When quitting is the new normal, is Uncle Sam still reliable?
Ehizuelen Michael M. O.
The White House in Washington, D.C., the U.S., May 29, 2020. /Xinhua

The White House in Washington, D.C., the U.S., May 29, 2020. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Ehizuelen Michael M. O. is Executive Director of Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University. The article reflects the author's opinion and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Understanding the relationships and links between cause and effect helps us to predict the consequences of our actions. However, this is what President Donald Trump failed to realize on Friday, May 29, 2020 in his 10-minute speech when he took no responsibility for the deaths of over 100,000 Americans from the virus, rather blaming everyone else – the World Health Organization (WHO), the media and China.

As his administration's response to the pandemic has come under greater scrutiny, with testing problems and lack of coordination in deploying necessary supplies, Trump in his 10-minute address said he was going to terminate the United States' relationship with the WHO. Furthermore, he accused China by saying China had "instigated a worldwide pandemic," and similar criticism has been aimed toward the WHO's relationship with China. But he forgets that his own shortcomings as a leader are contributing to harm and further separating the American people at home and among worldwide partners.

Though it is not clear whether Trump can simply pull the United States out of the WHO without congressional approval, nevertheless, the move - which is consistent with Trump's track record of pulling out the United States from various worldwide organizations and treaties based on his so-called "America First" approach – carries significant consequences in the United States and around the world and leaves the United States isolated in the global arena during a worldwide public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump was showering praise on the WHO and China's responses in the early days of the epidemic, but he suddenly changed his tone when things turned sour in America. In Trump's remarks on Friday, he claimed that China had pressured the WHO to "mislead the world" about the virus without providing any evidence.

Photo taken on May 29, 2020 shows a live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking at a press conference at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. /Xinhua

Photo taken on May 29, 2020 shows a live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking at a press conference at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States. /Xinhua

It is worth noting that the accusation simply could not be further from the truth - the WHO has tried its best to help countries around the world to manage this unprecedented crisis. The organization issued its first alarm on January 4, just five days after the local health department of Wuhan – at the time a city few non-Chinese had even heard of – announced a cluster of 27 cases of an unusual pneumonia. It followed up with a detailed report the following day. This offered the possibility of diagnosing suspected cases quickly. In addition, the WHO publicized it as a guideline for diagnostic detection.

The leaders of several nations adopted it, but not President Trump, who, in America First-style, demanded a test produced by American scientists. It was only on February 29 that the Food and Drug Administration allowed laboratories and hospitals in the United States to conduct their own COVID-19 tests to speed up the process. That was four weeks after the WHO started distributing its effective test worldwide.

Instead of distracting from his own utter failure, Trump should really look at his own reactions to the pandemic and see how unbelievably irresponsible and disastrous his policies have been. Before the situation started to seriously escalate in America, on February 24 he tweeted that the coronavirus was very much under control in the United States rather than heeding the WHO warning and put the right preventive measures in place.

On March 13, Trump declared a national emergency pledging to dramatically accelerate coronavirus testing. Actually, little happened and the nation began to shut down. After one month, very few of Trump's promises had materialized, while the coronavirus had spread across the United States dramatically and deaths had started to rise.

When Trump was asked about the shortage of testing kits and isolation centers in the United States, which has left the American people lagging far behind other nations such as China in dealing with the spread of coronavirus, what did he say? "My administration does not take responsibility at all."

He had the chance to cooperate with China to combat the virus but he was locked into his policy of "Making America Great Again." On March 6 he even blocked an offer from the Jack Ma Foundation to send 500,000 testing kits and one million masks to the United States to be distributed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The WHO might not be a perfect organization but this is not what Trump's criticisms are really about. Lambasting the organization is really about deflecting, which for Trump is the strategy to take as the re-election campaign comes closer. This move, however, will deal an even bigger blow to America's reliability and credibility as the world sees the president is willing to, for his own political survival, take a move that will endanger not only America itself but also the world in the midst of a serious health crisis.

It is worth noting that the pandemic has highlighted our vulnerability and made it clear that we need one another. That is why accusations are not the way out but more than ever before we must try to be coordinated and united to defeat this common enemy because we are not powerless when we are in one accord. 

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