Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Team Player, Absolutely

It's helpful to put down your pro-Fauci flag (blue for Democrats, who support him) or anti-Fauci flag (red representing "Republican" or Soviet-era Russia, in which Vladimir Putin flourished). Once that is done, it becomes clear that this is a head fake by the President.

Sunday's 60 Minutes included a revealing interview of the infectious disease expert by a doctor on assignment to 60 Minutes. One segment inadvertently threw much light on the claim Fauci "sometimes (is) not a team player." From the CBS News website:

Earlier this month, the Trump campaign released a television ad. It features what appears to be a glowing remark from Dr. Fauci on President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci in campaign ad: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Stunning.

Fauci says his words were taken out of context. But this week the ad continued to run in key battleground states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate. And here I am, they're sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the task force that, "God, we were knocking ourselves out seven days a week. I don't think we could have possibly have done any more than that."

Dr. Jon LaPook: Did the steam start to come out of your ears?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: No, it did, quite frankly. I got really ticked off.

Dr. Fauci has become the most visible doctor in America, yet he says his ability to communicate with the public is not always under his control.

Dr. Jon LaPook: During this pandemic, has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.

The day after Fauci asserted that he would not endorse a presidential candidate, the President slammed him as someone who has "been here for 500 years" and

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said. "Fauci’s a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how" to respond to the pandemic.

"If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths," Trump continued, adding seconds later, "If we listened to him, we’d have 700-800,000 deaths right now."

Donald Trump, despite strategically erring by emphasizing in this campaign Covid-19 rather than street violence, is generally tactically savvy.  "Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him," the President says and insults him by tweet(s).  Fauci is in the federal government, de facto reassurance to independent-minded voters that the Administration is on the right path to ending the pandemic.

In July, Trump had told Sean Hannity that Fauci "is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes." And a White House official listed the scientist's comments from months earlier with the statement “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”

The next day, Dan Scavino, White House social media director, deputy chief of staff for communications, and author of many of the President's tweets, posted on Facebook a cartoon ridiculing Fauci with public health warnings such as “Indefinite lockdown!”, “Schools stay closed this fall!” and “Shut up and obey!”  The eyes poked again, with little response.

Now Trump has ramped up the pressure for the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and coronavirus task force member to keep his criticism to a minimum. The President's campaign releases an ad taking out of context a comment made by Fauci. The latter responds in the manner of "you mustn't do that, or else."  And the ad rolls on.

Then Trump implies Fauci is an "idiot" whose advice would have caused hundreds of thousands of death.  And Fauci rolls on.

The pandemic is by far the most important issue of the campaign and the motivating factor for the droves of elderly voters who have shifted from Trump 2016 to Biden 2020.  Dr. Fauci is trusted by most Americans for the expertise he possesses and concern he has demonstrated over the pandemic.

Yet, facing the most important election of our lifetimes with democracy and the rule of law on the line, Dr. Fauci boldly declares himself neutral. There will be no endorsement. There will not be a resignation accompanied by a statement that the President has not taken the pandemic seriously, listened to experts within his own government, nor taken steps necessary to protect the American people. There will be no resignation (nor dismissal) at all. Fauci, it turns out, is very much a team player, country be damned.

The President has Anthony Fauci right where he wants him. Donald Trump ought to be blamed for exploiting this respected expert for all he's worth politically while ignoring his scientific advice. But it takes two people to get it done- one to do the manipulating, the other to be willfully manipulated.


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