I have fantasized what an alien species, passing by in a spaceship and monitoring our world, would think right now of the leader of the world’s foremost superpower in the middle of a global pandemic, attacking and invalidating that country’s foremost epidemiologist? What kind of possible sense could that make, an advanced race would wonder. Ask Donald Trump, because he’s the one who not only stopped consulting with Dr. Fauci, while COVID-19 cases skyrocket and ERs are overwhelmed, he’s effectively muzzling him, too, by canceling his public appearances. Washington Post:
Fauci no longer briefs Trump and is “never in the Oval [Office] anymore,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Fauci last spoke to the president during the first week of June, according to a person with knowledge of Trump’s calendar. […]
A White House official released a statement saying that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” and included a lengthy list of the scientist’s comments from early in the outbreak. Those included his early doubt that people with no symptoms could play a significant role in spreading the virus — a notion based on earlier outbreaks that the novel coronavirus would turn on its head. They also point to public reassurances Fauci made in late February, around the time of the first U.S. case of community transmission, that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.”
Fauci has admitted that his hands were tied with respect to advice on mask wearing and that he wanted to keep masks going to front line workers. In all fairness, a commodity for which the present administration is not known, if the pandemic had been prepared for last November when Trump first obtained intelligence reports about it, Fauci wouldn’t have been put in the quandary in which he found himself. And while Trump may think that Fauci’s only purpose should be to function as a mouthpiece favorable to Donald Trump, cutting off Fauci’s appearances is a disservice first and foremost to the public.
White House communications officials, who must approve television appearances related to the coronavirus, responded by allowing Fauci spots this week on PBS NewsHour, a CNN town hall with Sanjay Gupta and NBC’s “Meet the Press” during the prime Sunday morning slot, according to one person familiar with the situation.
Then Fauci joined a Facebook Live event on Tuesday with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), disputing Trump’s assertions that a lower death rate showed the country’s progress against the pandemic. Fauci called it “a false narrative” and warned, “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”
Fauci did not end up making any of the scheduled appearances. The White House canceled them after his Tuesday remarks, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate behind-the-scenes conversations.
Fauci telling the truth, not to mention being in an event with Doug Jones, an enemy of Trump’s merely by virtue of the fact that he’s a Democrat, doesn’t work in Trump’s myopic, tiny, polarized view of life.
Now why is Trump doing all this, you may ask? Simple. If Trump can discount whatever Fauci said at the beginning of this health crisis as “wrong” then Trump has a possibility, he thinks, of discounting what Fauci is saying right now, today, about the spike in coronavirus cases. Trump wants you to view Fauci’s current urgency with skepticism — but it’s not working, Greg Sargent writes in his opinion piece in the Washington Post:
Even the effort to cast doubt on the substantive accuracy and judgment behind Fauci’s statements boomerangs on Trump. For instance, the document circulated to reporters highlights a Feb. 29 statement from Fauci that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”
But the document left out Fauci’s subsequent comment in that interview that “this could change” if we “start to see community spread,” requiring far more action, and that the coronavirus could become “a major outbreak.” That’s exactly what did happen, and it’s precisely what Trump denied for so long.
Discrediting Fauci is apparently in line with Trump’s fantasy wish, twice repeated, that the “coronavirus will just disappear.” Maybe Trump has a genie and his fourth wish was that coronavirus would disappear, but since Trump’s got Alzheimer’s he forgot about the first three? Because coloring Fauci wrong is simply a bad idea, in fact, one of Trump’s worst and that’s saying something. Sargent continues,
…the New York Times offers a remarkable glimpse into what’s driving this new offensive:
Mr. Trump has long been dismissive of Dr. Fauci in private, according to White House officials, taking note of the amount of time he spent on television and of when the doctor contradicted him during press briefings.
The attentive reader will note that this expressly concedes that Fauci’s conduct is being evaluated mainly through the prism of how it reflects on Trump. Fauci is spending too much time on TV and contradicted Trump about the virus.
But Fauci did this to inform the public about the pandemic in a way that Trump himself would not. The very fact that this cannot be seen as an independent good itself underscores Trump’s megalomaniacal preoccupation with his own image — and with manipulating public perceptions — at a time when large numbers are again getting sickened and dying at alarming rates.
Meanwhile, the Times also reports that White House officials leaked the old Fauci quotes to undermine the idea that the administration should follow his advice, with one official claiming that Trump’s opponents have “given outsize value to Dr. Fauci’s voice.”
Yet again, the only discernible prism employed here is how Fauci’s conduct reflects on Trump. Yes, there is a vast gap in how Fauci and Trump have publicly treated the coronavirus: Fauci has seen it as a far more serious matter, and has relied far more heavily on science and empiricism in doing so.
And there of course, you have it. Fauci is dealing with the real world dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis and to Trump it’s a public relations issue and its only importance is whether or not the optics of it are helping him get reelected. Trump doesn’t care if 135,000 are dead, or if that number quintuples. It is not a matter of importance to him. Getting reelected is.
So the key battle of Trump world with respect to the pandemic is not Health v. Illness or Life v. Death, it’s Sociopath v. Scientist, with the sociopath smearing the scientist, and so far it looks like the smears are bouncing off. And the sociopath looks even more stupid than he did a few days ago. But expect more of the same between now and November 3. Make no mistake. This is the template for what you are going to see. Trump is running for his life, full out. He has to win reelection, it’s the only way he can avoid his date with destiny in the form of SDNY and other jurisdictions investigating his criminal activity. So Trump is going to lash out at all of his enemies, real or imagined, because he is the Counter Punch President. Too bad he’s shadow boxing with himself and is the only knock out punch he’s going to land is on his own head.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.