“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” -- President John F. Kennedy
Under a blazing hot sun at Rice University on Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy stunned the world by announcing that the United States would send men to the moon and return them safely before the end of the decade--the 1960s.
Staggering. Shocking. Because America had launched its first satellite a mere four years before-- January 31, 1958. The satellite was a only 6.6 inches across and weighed just 31 pounds. Nothing like the 33-ton command and service modules that seven years later a massive Atlas rocket hurled toward the moon. Besides, the Soviet Union (Russia for you Millennials) already was the leader in the "space race." Kennedy believed that getting to the moon first was a national security issue--an "America First" policy that many today would deride.
Skepticism ran high. Couldn't be done. Kennedy was "showboating." Just like Trump's promise of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine arriving a lot faster than the years normally required for new vaccines to be tested for safety and effectiveness
Trump of course blundered with his braggadocio and overly optimistic predictions of the vaccine's creation, distribution and use. Sadly, he didn't have Kennedy's gift for eloquence and rhetoric. And unlike Kennedy, Trump was hated.
But if former President Obama or president-elect Joe Biden had scored the record-shattering vaccine results, they would have been beatified. Instead, no monuments will be built to honor Trump's scientific legacy. Universities won't name their science labs after him. He'll receive no honorary degrees.
And yet, and yet, Trump deserves the accolades. He led--yes, led--the historic scientific achieve, creating the public-private partnership that pulled off this miracle. It happened in his administration. His pressure and expectations prodded and challenged the scientists and health industry and regulators.
I'll say it: Trump saved lives. Uncounted lives. Sure, someone else occupying the Oval Office might have done the same. But it wasn't someone else; it was Trump.
Even as the first inoculations of the new vaccine were administered today, you could hear the braying from Democratic donkeys that Trump didn't do it; that he deserved no credit. And here comes Biden, promising to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his office, as if no one was getting them. Amazingly, this person is criticizing Trump for not doing it faster.
Operation War Speed has become a dirty phrase, as if it were just a transparently clumsy PR attempt to cover Trump's allegedly inept handling of the virus. Others argue that Trump had nothing to do with the new Pfizer-BioNTechew vaccine, because the joint private sector operation had accepted "no government money." That's not quite true; the administration promised Pfizer it would buy 100 million doses if the vaccine proved successful, which it has beyond all expectations and most other vaccines.
The break-neck speed reminds me of how the United States geared up for World War II, producing, for example, Liberty cargo ships between 1941 and 1945--an average of three ships every two days. I suppose you could say that President Franklin Roosevelt shouldn't have gotten credit for that unprecedented accomplishment, that the shipyards that built them should be honored. Just like Trump shouldn't get credit for the vaccine.
But Roosevelt did and if the Trump haters had a shred of honesty, they'd give Trump the same kind of credit. But you know they won't.