John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Give me liberty or give me coronavirus!

Posted on March 31, 2020
When Patrick Henry was governor of Virginia, smallpox was the devastating disease that afflicted America.

The British military had gained immunity in the Old World and was accused of spreading the disease in the colonies to subdue the pesky rebellion.

George Washington had to be convinced that inoculating his troops against smallpox was the only way to stop the disease and stop the Redcoats. Washington, in turn, had to convince Gov. Henry to overturn the state’s prohibition against inoculation, which at the time was seen as a risky strategy.

It’s easy to be for liberty when you aren’t confronting a deadly disease. It’s less easy when everybody is panicking, and nobody knows what the right cure or the right course of action is.

President Trump is getting nervous that the cure for coronavirus is worse than the disease.

He is right to be nervous, especially when the cure limits liberty and economic growth at the same time.

We know where the media, the experts, the Twitter mob, and right now, the latest polls, stand on this question.

I know this is a tough virus. I know it is dangerous, especially for the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions, and first responders of all stripes.

And I know we need effective action.

Social distancing to flatten the curve makes sense in the short term.

But that can only be a short-term fix.

We also need to unleash the power of the private sector to come to the aid of the public at large.

It is great to see both large corporations and small businesses volunteer to build more ventilators and sew masks.

Let’s hope that they can make them quick enough to save lives and give the American people some peace of mind that doctors and nurses will have the right equipment to both protect themselves and take care of their patients.

America was not built so its government can forcefully restrain its citizens to shelter in place, no matter what the disease might be, for as long as a few governors deem it to be so, without any due process and without any input from citizens.

And we have faced far deadlier diseases over the last hundred years than COVID-19 and somehow were able to survive with the Constitution intact.

Nor was America built so it can gain its inspiration on how to handle an epidemic from the Chinese. China’s government is not a model to be duplicated.

This isn’t a choice between saving lives and saving the stock market.

The stock market will come back in due time, no matter what we do.

But the actions we take today can have a long-term impact on the future of liberty in the country. A future that I fear has already been immunocompromised.

The president has extended for 30 more days the social distancing guidelines that he initially put in place to slow the pace of the virus.

Even if he hadn’t done so, the reality on the ground would have made it impossible for local officials to allow things to return to normal.

Nobody is ready for things to return to normal. Our hospitals are too crowded, our citizens are too scared, and we don’t have enough data to figure out what the right path forward should be.

But we need to lean forward in the direction of giving liberty back to the American people and unleashing the private sector to come up with new therapies and hopefully a vaccine that will work.

We have seen pandemics before but never has a pandemic shut down the global economy as quickly as this one. We should all pause to think about the long-term implications of this global action, what it means to the whole concept of liberty and how an instinct for personal safety can overwhelm the uniquely American desire for personal freedom.

It took courage for George Washington to embrace a controversial strategy to inoculate his troops, but it was that courageous decision that saved American liberty.

The question today is: Will we still have that liberty after the pandemic has passed?

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