A few weeks ago, Surgeon General Jerome Adams suggested that South Korea's successes in combating the coronavirus could not be easily duplicated in the United States.
"We are not an authoritarian nation, so we have to be careful when we say, 'Let's do what China did. Let's do what South Korea did,'" Adams said during an interview on "Fox & Friends," lumping South Korea's democratic republic together with China's unelected communist government.
Yesterday, Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), didn't go quite as far, though she said something similar.
"If you look at these other countries -- if you look at China and South Korea -- they have very different approaches. We're a free country. We're giving recommendations to the American people and hoping that they're going to adhere to those."
In fairness, Verma didn't explicitly make the case that South Korea isn't a free country, but in context, she seemed to echo Jerome Adams in tying China's and Seoul's responses together.
It's probably worth pausing to note an important detail: South Korea is a free country. It holds free and fair elections. It has a large, dynamic, free-market economy.
South Korea didn't succeed in its efforts to combat the pandemic because it's authoritarian; it succeeded because it launched an effective, coordinated early response, relying on robust testing, contact tracing, an efficient national health care system, and public cooperation.
There's ample room for conversation about the differences between the United States and South Korea -- we're vastly larger, both in population and square miles -- the degree to which that creates challenges in responding to a crisis like this one.
But for anyone to suggest free countries face inherent obstacles to an effective response is wrong.