Imagine my surprise when Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH and head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, showed up in a Trump campaign commercial. The ad touts Trump’s leadership in responding to the campaign, tells viewers, “we’ll get through this,” and advises us not to be afraid.
Despite and perhaps because of Trump’s leadership, I remain afraid of the virus. My fear prompts me to continue to follow CDC guidelines and, for my own sake and that of others, to tune out pretty much every word about the pandemic that the President utters.
Call me naïve, but I think Fauci’s advice may be more valuable than Trump’s, even if detractors, including Peter Navarro of the White House staff and the White House itself, are able to identify instances where Fauci’s projections have not proven accurate. The doctor never claimed to be clairvoyant, especially when compared to Trump. Remember when Trump set the goal of reopening the country by Easter?
I have no doubt that sometime in 2021 President Biden will award Dr. Fauci a second Presidential Medal of Freedom to complement the one he received in 2008. For all Fauci has done, he deserves it. Not only has he emerged as a calm, trusted voice on the virus, he has done so despite repeated interference from the Trump administration.
Fauci, despite his 79 years, is a tough customer. President Trump has used and abused him repeatedly. One suspects that when he first learned of the Trump commercial, he was not surprised. Another day, another insult. Or another piece of misinformation to correct.
Diplomatically, Fauci disavowed the ad. He avoided an open argument with Trump, most likely, to avoid being fired. Fauci responded:
“In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed, nor do I now endorse any political candidates. The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of Federal public health officials.”
Let us hope Fauci’s approach works. I suspect it will. Fauci was shown to be trusted as an accurate source of information about the virus by 68 percent of respondents in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in September. He is sufficiently trusted by the public that dismissing him so close to election day would further diminish Trump’s already bad poll numbers. With signs of a second wave of the pandemic and cold weather coming, we need him more than ever. Without him, could we total more than 500,000 deaths in another six months?
It will surprise nobody that, despite Fauci’s statement, the Trump campaign is continuing to run the ad. Don’t forget, Trump is President (for a little over the next three months at least), and Fauci is only a doctor with expertise in the existential threat known as COVID-19.
In the last ten months, Dr. Fauci has had multiple opportunities to acclimate to Trump’s abuse. In May, Dan Scavino, Deputy Chief of Staff to Trump for Communications, posted a cartoon on Facebook depicting Fauci as a faucet flushing the US economy down the drain. In July, the President himself retweeted a post alleging a conspiracy “by Fauci & the Democrats to perpetuate Covid deaths to hurt Trump.”
In August, the President was tweeting again. This time, after Dr. Fauci testified to a House of Representatives subcommittee that US coronavirus cases were greater than those of European countries because only part of the US economy was shut down. Trump’s tweet screamed “WRONG!” and added, “We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases.” Is there anyone you know who wants to shut down coronavirus testing?
Last week I was walking my goldendoodle, Lucca, on Oxford’s strand. It was a beautiful day. As I walked down the road, I noticed a sign that made my day. It read “Thank You Dr. Fauci” and depicted a heart.
I echo that sentiment. Thank you, Dr. Fauci. Thank you for your courage, leadership, and perseverance during this difficult time.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.