More than four months after abruptly saying goodbye to the daily life we once knew, Americans still live in a surreal and virus-induced dystopia. Summer, essentially, has been canceled: no big family weddings, no trips abroad, no open public beaches and pools, no baseball. Tens of millions remain out of work while small businesses close up shop, permanently altering the landscape of big cities and small towns across the country. Mini Gestapo populated by once-friendly neighbors police face coverings and six feet of separation.
Power-grabbing, attention-addicted governors hog local news cameras each day under the guise of “Coronavirus Update!” to riff about their keen abilities to fight a virus or spew invective at Donald Trump or issue another decree to inflict further misery upon their willing subjects.
As school children and their parents anxiously check email boxes for any update about the fall semester and working parents with small children are scrambling to develop backup plans for online learning, Democrats are pushing hard to keep kids and teachers at home—at least until Election Day.
One person, however, seems to be basking in the chaos and confusion: Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. After toiling in relative obscurity at that position for more than 35 years, Fauci is earning the sort of rock star treatment that legitimate rock stars dream about—or at least pay big bucks to an A-list publicist to produce.
But Fauci, thanks to U.S. taxpayers, is getting a free ride on the media’s nonstop publicity train. This week, Fauci graces the cover of InStyle, a fashion magazine that has yet to feature one of the most stylish First Ladies of all time, Melania Trump.
Seated poolside at his D.C.-area home, Fauci, 79, dons a pair of dark shades—needed, presumably, to shield him from the glare of the spotlight he craves. The good doctor, as the headline for the puff piece describes him, and his wife were interviewed by their friend, CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell. It’s standard Beltway fare—a mix of mutual admiration, deep reflections about their power over the little people, and cheeky personal anecdotes about how many languages they speak and how many books they read while the world burns.
Despite a number of serious missteps, Fauci remains unrepentant. In fact, Fauci claims the catastrophic lockdown he advised the president to support in late March didn’t go far enough.
“If you look at the European countries, they shut down about 90 to 95 percent of the country,” Fauci explains. “Whereas when we shut down, the calculation is that we shut down about 50 percent.” Where he gets that figure, no one knows, but shooting from the hip is a Fauci specialty. And he argues again for a “pause” in states moving forward with reopening.
Asked about his changing advice on face masks, Fauci deftly spins his pivot to make himself look courageous, not clueless. He told O’Donnell that he doesn’t “regret anything I said then because, in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct.” Fauci insists that he warned people back in March not to use masks in order to preserve a sparse supply for health care workers.
But that simply is not true. During a March 8 interview on “60 Minutes,” Fauci’s main argument against masks wasn’t based on PPE shortages but because face coverings offer a false sense of security without doing anything to stop the virus’ spread.
“Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better,” he said, “but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And often there are unintended consequences because people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”
Fauci, at the time, was correct about the uselessness of masks. Nothing has changed over the past few months except irrational demands by busybodies, both in public and private, to “wear a mask!” There is no science to support the effectiveness of masks related to the spread of COVID-19, let alone the usefulness of homemade coverings made out of cheap dyed cloth to advertise a sports team, as Fauci did in a recent congressional hearing.
(The good doctor told Georgetown students during a video conference this week—he’s really making the rounds—that he opposes a controlled study to determine whether masks specifically halted the spread of coronavirus versus other general viruses. “I would not want to do a randomized controlled study because that would mean having people not wear masks and see if they do better,” Fauci said. Science!)
In a one-on-one interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, Fauci continued to push the panic porn on face masks. The guidance has “evolved,” Fauci explained, “as we get more data.” Now, Fauci demands, everyone should wear face coverings at all times, even outside, because he stated, without evidence, that asymptomatic people can spread the disease by simply breathing freely outside.
There’s no getting around the fact that the Trump White House created this media monster. Early on, Fauci appeared to be a reasoned voice of expertise, refusing to fuel the hysteria that surrounded the pandemic. In fact, in January, he assured Americans not to be overly panicked about coronavirus; in February, he wrote a paper that concluded coronavirus was no more deadly than a severe flu.
So what changed?
The spotlight is a hard thing to surrender, especially in the twilight of one’s career. Sticking with the legitimate science while refusing to play the media’s game of gotcha against Donald Trump doesn’t exactly get one invited on “The Daily Show” or played by Brad Pitt on “Saturday Night Live” or considered a heartthrob by The Atlantic. In the process, unfortunately, the country is nearly unrecognizable from what it was just four months ago. Meanwhile Fauci continues to show no compassion for those whose lives have been irreversibly upended.
Fauci’s ego trip, as Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) admonished in a hearing last month, is a “fatal conceit,” and one for which every American is paying a price. Peter Navarro, Trump’s no-nonsense trade advisor, penned a blistering op-ed that detailed Fauci’s missteps and mistakes including resistance to the president’s China travel ban and unscientific opposition to hydroxychloroquine. (The column, although correct on every score, nonetheless earned a “fact-checking” flag from USA Today.)
Some of us argued for the sidelining of both Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx after they presented the untested doomsday models to the president in late March, compelling him to encourage another month of stay-at-home orders which led to an unprecedented economic crash among other disastrous consequences. It would have caused another fury, but the country arguably would be better off right now without their changing goalposts and contradictory counsel.
It appears as though the White House finally is socially distancing from Fauci, which will only elevate his hero worship status in the media. Fine. President Trump has a large hole out of which he must dig now, one that Fauci helped plow, and he has serious work to do to put this virus in perspective and salvage the economy before it costs him the election.
Let Fauci pontificate on cable news and pose for glossy photo shoots—Donald Trump has a country to rescue.