1. No, they're just as smart and have an amazing amount of new knowledge and technology for studying the virus. The problem is that science has been so vilified in the past twenty some years.
In my opinion it really comes down to a significant number of people disagreeing with evolution. In order to argue against it there has been a movement to discredit science used there, and that attitude has carried to other areas as well.
2. Communicability/asymptomatic spread. You can argue about the mortality rate, but the communicability of this virus is one of the worst we've seen short of measles. Several of the viruses you mention (Ebola, MERS, AIDS) have fluid transmission or very close contact of caregivers necessary for transmission. That makes it a lot easier to avoid once it's detected. (And if you have Ebola or another Hemmorhagic Fever you know it) Also all of those, excepting HIV initially, tend to be symptomatic before someone is contagious. This bug is not only transmissible before symptoms, but some people don't show any symptoms but are still capable of spreading it. This is the part that is the worst thing about this virus.
3. Overconfidence. Not only from the president, but I think at a lot of levels as even Dr. Fauci wasn't panicked about it by the end of February. The belief was it was under control and we didn't need to do anything. I think since we got lucky with SARS, MERS, and H1N1 here in the US we believed we were safe. Nothing new about that - same thing happened to us in 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
Also I don't think it helped that it may have remained undetected longer than it should have. China has always hidden information that makes it look bad, so their cover up until the doctors began whistleblowing slowed down the response. I don't believe anything was caused by their government other than denying problems for too long. I'm genuinely curious about future studies on when/where it actually arrived here. I'm leery of putting too much faith in this first generation of serology tests though. Only two have even filled out FDA paperwork last I knew, and the other 148 in the market haven't even done that. Initial studies on those testing kits are showing the wild west approach and many false positives and false negatives. (20 percent from some)