A few weeks back I wrote an article essentially holding the executive branch in contempt for a response to the pandemic that can only be characterized as weak and lame. I will say that the response has definitely improved in the few weeks since then, but the Trump administration never fails to flaunt its shortcomings or attempt to shift blame off of itself. Indeed, one might say that this pandemic would be less certain, nasty and probably deadlier were it not for the continued advice and leadership of Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom I should mention is a world-class leader in infectious diseases. And should also mention as someone who has come under fire from President Trump and his supporters for what I can only parse as his loyalty towards science rather than the president.
The Trump administration is not exactly known for being a voice of scientific reason — in fact, it is really quite the opposite, especially when it comes to climate change — but many decisions concerning science are delegated out of the president’s hands into departments like the NIH, CDC and FDA which are headed by capable scientists like Dr. Fauci, who is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The president ultimately has the final say in matters that concern those departments, but you would never find them micro-managing them. This level of separation gives me solace; I would not want a president pretending to be a scientific expert trying to insert themselves into medical processes, procedures and policy — especially when there is a health crisis.
But many on the political right do not share this sentiment. Many feel President Trump is a “lone wolf” who is single-handedly fighting back the “Washington Elites” and restoring America to an indeterminate time before that was better. In his supporters’ eyes, the president has supernatural-esque abilities to run the entire executive branch alone, and thus is an expert in all areas of policy. Their main fight is with those “elites” who realize the president cannot do everything alone, and can (and often does) make mistakes or disastrous policy.
The president, his supporters, trolls online and foreign influencers have done their best to sow discord and suspicion of U.S. political institutions and intellectual leaders who may challenge him. Many subscribe to a theory that the “Deep State” — a group of insider government officials — has been doing its best to derail the Trump presidency for their own “elitist” gains; it is analogous to the “swamp” the president often rallies on about. Dr. Fauci has been the subject of this scorn because he is unafraid to contradict the president when he either downplays the virus, the severity, potential death toll or in what to call the virus.
Dr. Fauci having been the director of the NIAID since the 1980s, an advisor to every president since Ronald Regan and the leader in combating the HIV/AIDS crisis could be labeled as a career bureaucrat/science advisor; the exact person that the political right has become so vile to. Although I would apply this label to Dr. Fauci, I would not say that he has anything other than the best interests of people’s health in mind when he makes decisions. What he cares about, I find, is the science and making people better. But this commitment to science and not any party or president has led him to openly disagree with a president under which he serves.
The three main things Dr. Fauci has done that I think have caused him to earn him this vitriol are his open disagreements with the president’s assessment of the virus (i.e. his loyalty to science rather than the president), an email he sent seven years ago commending Hillary Clinton’s endurance during the Benghazi hearings and his scoff/face palm duo he did when the president called the State Department the “Deep State Department.”
By watching any of the daily briefings the president and Coronavirus Taskforce give, you can see how often Dr. Fauci has to clarify, qualify, quantize, put to fact, refute and expand on facts and misinformation that come from the public, president and the various health departments. While Trump downplayed and continues today to downplay the severity of the disease for months trying to stay as rosy as possible, Dr. Fauci has become the straight-talking realist on what the virus is. This friction with Trump and his supporters, worsened by the reveal of Dr. Fauci having praised Trump’s practical archenemy and Hillary Clinton’s performance during her Benghazi hearings in 2013, has caused a loss of faith in the doctor.
To top it all off, at one press briefing, Trump made a remark calling the State Department the “Deep State Department” which caused an understandable scoff, chuckle and facepalm from Dr. Fauci. To understand why this is of any importance at all, imagine that you’ve bought into the conspiracy theory that states it is you and your president against the world; you and President Trump versus the “Deep State.” Then, a person who you are already weary of because their loyalties are not, like yours, vested in the president scoffs at the name of conspiracy you believe in. Wouldn’t that make you turn against them? No matter the fact that they’re a preeminent world leader in infectious diseases and there is a crisis, nor that they’ve dutifully served under presidents of every party, nor that they have spoken clearly and as best they can about the situation at hand.
This may sound outrageous to some, but I will not be taking medical advice from President Trump, nor will I listen to him for medical advice or protocol, treatment options, or potential vaccines or medications. I do not trust him ordinarily for the regular day-to-day handling of government nor knowledge of his constitutional role as chief executive. He is a reality TV star and a con man, as reported by people he was once close with; needless to say, medicine is not his expertise. Dr. Fauci on the other hand is an expert, one with a proven record of truthfulness and commitment to keeping people safe. I do not buy into Trump’s “Deep State” conspiracy, and I definitely do not buy Dr. Fauci being a part of it even if it did exist. Perhaps when an expert contradicts the president, it’s not born of a plot to undermine him, perhaps their loyalty lies with the health and safety of Americans.