Mano a mano: Trump takes on Fauci

April 13, 2020 • 11:00 am

Good god! Can’t Trump keep anybody good as an advisor? It seems that virtually everyone in the Cabinet is a temporary appointee, and I can’t count the number of people who have gone through the revolving door of this administration. And forget about anybody competent, because they will almost immediately come into conflict with Trump’s ego, narcissism, and irrationality. They’re history.

Cue Dr. Anthony Fauci, a respected medical researcher, immunologist, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and medical advisor to six U.S. Presidents. When it comes to advice about the pandemic, the American public trusts Fauci far more than Trump. As you know, Fauci recently admitted that had action been taken by the Administration earlier, the pandemic in America would have been less serious, and (the zinger for Trump) and fewer people would have died. He’s also refused to get on board with Trump’s vaunted “impending opening of America.” Fauci himself took a while to find his feet, but in the last month or so has been a steadying and valuable influence on Americans.

But you can’t criticize Trump, even implicitly, and stay in his good graces. And so we get this new article in the Washington Post (click on screenshot):


Now it’s not clear that Trump will get rid of Fauci—that would be a SERIOUS mistake—but he’s mad because of this stuff (excerpt from the Post):

[A #FireFauci initiative launched by  Republican Congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine] followed an interview with National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief on CNN’s “State of the Union,” in which Fauci said a stronger early response by the administration to the outbreak “could have saved lives,” but also characterized the decision to implement social distancing guidelines as “complicated.

“Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor,” Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “It’s very complicated.”

Fauci also confirmed a New York Times story saying that he and other experts had wanted to begin social and physical distancing measures as early as February.

Trump has often in the past shown his anger with critics within his own administration by retweeting the negative or taunting comments of others, sometimes marginal others like Lorraine, rather than saying anything himself. It allows him to cry “fake news” when the media interprets the retweeted material as reflecting his views.

Fauci, known for his candor but also his diplomacy, has implicitly and explicitly taken issue with Trump on several occasions. Trump demonstrated his apparently increasing irritation last week when he stepped in to stop Fauci from answering a question about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug the president has been touting for treatment of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Fauci has also been skeptical of Trump’s rush to set a date for lightening up on mitigation efforts to get the economy moving as the 2020 election approaches.

All this is prudent, and I’d much rather that Fauci give the pandemic briefings than Trump, who makes a show of unhinged narcissism on each such occasion. Nevertheless, Republicans have begun to call for Fauci’s ouster, and Trump is expressing his assent by retweeting what they say.

We’re seeing another tantrum by the nation’s biggest baby. As the Post also reports:

In an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also said the U.S. would “be in a much better position” if the Trump administration had acted more quickly. That interview inspired Trump to blast the right-leaning news network and Wallace personally, calling him a “Mike Wallace wannabe,” a reference to Chris Wallace’s father, the legendary investigative broadcaster who died in 2012.

Here you go: the Big Baby acting with no gravitas, as usual:

Finally, here are excerpts from Jake Tapper’s CNN interview with Fauci yesterday. If this isn’t an implicit condemnation of the administration by a nonpartisan man who’s helped the country for decades, I don’t know what is (my emphasis):

TAPPER: The New York Times reported yesterday that you and other top officials wanted to recommend social and physical distancing guidelines to President Trump as far back as the third week of February, but the administration didn’t announce such guidelines to the American public until March 16, almost a month later. Why?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes, it’s not. But we — it is what it is. We are where we are right now.

TAPPER: Do you think lives could have been saved if social distancing, physical distancing, stay-at-home measures had started third week of February, instead of mid-March?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, again, it’s the what would have, what could have. It’s — it’s very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that.

But what goes into those kinds of decisions is — is complicated. But you’re right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different.

I don’t want Trump to fire Fauci; nobody who cares about the well-being of this country should. But if Trump does, I’d hope that that boneheaded move would seal his doom in November. But I’ve hoped that before, and even bet on it. Yet there’s still a big residuum of Americans that apparently like having a lunatic as their President.

54 thoughts on “Mano a mano: Trump takes on Fauci

    1. I’ve been waiting for someone, either a reporter or one of is co-presenters on stage, to go postal on Trump at some point. For example, say Fauci can see that he’s likely going to get fired soon. At the next one of Trump’s press conference, when Trump says something particularly ridiculous, Fauci should go out in a blaze of glory and just say what he probably has been holding in for months. He could probably script it. What would Trump do? Perhaps assault him? Call him “Little Tony”? It would make for some must-see TV.

      1. I watch all of the shows because I have been waiting for reporters to trigger Trump. It’s so easy, it’s laid at their feet. But they go right to the edge and then back off. And I just keep waiting and waiting for Trump to go berserk. Or rather, more berserk.

        1. Yes but I’m sure they stop short because they worry they’ll be ejected from the room temporarily or permanently. Though I suspect Trump doesn’t do this often because he knows that it make him look bad.

  1. If 45 fires Fauci, I hope Fauci will continue to speak to the public about health issues, and what we should be doing instead of what Dr. 45 says we should be doing. He is the ONLY one I trust. I do not trust Birx at all, my perception is she is a political appointee, and will speak when told, what told, and if told.

    1. I think Birx has been OK but she seems a lot more reticent to take on Trump. If Fauci gets fired, it won’t hurt his career personally (he’s 79 after all and somebody somewhere would give him work) but it would be terrible for the country since he is somebody who the public in general trusts. I wouldn’t put money on Fauci staying though. It would be stupid to get rid of him and this administration excels at stupid.

    2. Birx has strong connections to Democratic politics. Her husband was a part of Bill Clinton’s administration. However she has clear expertise that should be useful. I wonder more if she’s just trying to walk a delicate line of enough flattery not to get fired.

      Agree with your comments re Fauci speaking out (and with Kermit’s friend’s too)

      1. I think it likely that Fauci, and perhaps Birx too, feel a sense of obligation to the country during this time of crisis in which their expertise is relevant. It may be that the only reason they have been so diplomatic of Trump is because they feel if they don’t stay in the trenches to do what they can that the government response to this crisis will really go to shit. But, how much can they take?

        When it comes down to it no matter how careful they may be competent and knowledgeable people like Fauci are doomed before long once they come to the attention of Trump. Reality, responsibility and decency are anathema to Trump and he does not tolerate those traits in his subordinates.

  2. I watched all of that unfold on Twitter last night and saw the comments that said Trump wanted Fauci out . . . but couldn’t (or didn’t) want to believe it. After all, this pandemic is the opportunity for Trump to actually, for real, make himself famous for doing right things and to make history and yet he is squandering it. For a person like him, a person who wants us all to respect and admire him, why would he do this? I’m also amazed that he continues to shock and horrify me. I should be used to it be now, right? I just can’t figure out how low he can go.

    1. The only reason Trump wouldn’t fire Fauci is if he thought it would hurt himself more than it would help. Trump probably won’t fire Fauci now as too many people respect Fauci. Trump’s pandemic briefing ratings would take too much of a hit, except with Fox News and OAN of course. My guess is that Trump simply makes Fauci stand farther back and gives him even less air-time.

    2. Why would he do this?

      Simple. When it comes down to a choice between money and lives, for Republicans, money always wins. But, you cant kill off two million people without someone noticing. So, against his instincts, tRump opted, in the short ter,. to save lives. But now, he’s wanting to get back to making money. Soon.

      L

  3. I hope Trump fires Fauci then Fauci should give daily briefings on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS and have it reported daily in the NY Times, WAPO and the other 100 respected daily news organizations like Reuters, AP, etc.

    Guess whose daily ratings would be higher?

    1. Trump claims that he can fire anyone, but it’s unclear to me what “Fire Fauci” actually means. He could certainly remove him from the advisory team, but I believe that Fauci reports to Francis Collins. Collins has been very supportive of Fauci, but has remained pretty much in the background re Fauci v Trump. Hopefully Collins will become quite vocal if Trump dismissed Fauci – as should all of us who accept science and reject the dangerous idiot in the White House and his despicable enablers.

      1. And since Collins says he’s a born-again Christian, that cuts the ground from under that part of the Trump base that would turn on him next.

        1. There’s some truth to that, but I know folks in Trump’s evangelical base that simply write off Collins as not being a “real” Christian because he does not accept a young earth and actually supports “evilution”.

  4. The Democrats really need to emphasize this in their campaign and push the idea that you aren’t safe with Trump as the president.

    1. It’s been reported that governors, healthcare advisers, and tech CEOs have gotten together to come up with their own plan for “reopening” the country. The Dems should join them, try to lure Fauci away from Trump, and hold their own daily pandemic briefings. The Feds may have to run the economic support part of the recovery but they have almost completely abdicated the health part. Dems and friends should just take it all the way with Biden as the front man, giving very short speeches and handing things off to experts.

      1. I live in New Mexico, and our governor is Michelle Lujan Geisham. She has been holding regular pandemic briefings and seems to have a plan for everything. She’s doing what a president should be doing. Of course she’s a Democrat.

  5. I think it would be really cool, if Fauci gets fired, for Joe Biden to grab him up for his campaign. Let Fauci have daily press conferences, sponsored by the Biden campaign. Let him advise Joe Biden, and have Biden express his support for science and saving lives and common sense.

    People are tuning in to tRump’s press briefings hoping to get some information. If there is no more information worth having, perhaps his ratings would fall off.

    L

    1. Trouble with Fauci going to the Biden campaign is that, according to a colleague’s sister who works @ NIH, Fauci’s a Republican.

      1. It seems more likely to me, if Fauci gets fired, he would work with the two coastal alliances of states for opening up the country after the pandemic. He might also appear on CNN, MSNBC, etc. more often. Even though he’s a Republican, I doubt he’s a Trumper. He certainly hasn’t lavished any praise on Trump while having daily opportunities to do so.

  6. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb would make an outstanding replacement. Still, the roiling, unstable Trump administration needs to find an anchor and burrow down. Very difficult with the mercurial Trump.

  7. I just finished reading an article saying that the views of tRump’s coronavirus briefings fall along partisan lines. (Wow, what a surprise!)

    It’s really too bad we couldn’t have an experiment where progressives act as the control group and tRumpers reopen the economy. If we could do that, we could then see the different results of each strategy.

    Oh, well.

    L

  8. I do agree with Fauci’s obvious attitude in this interview of not focusing on fixing blame, instead focusing on fixing the problems. There’s too much making politics of everything on both sides, and the divisiveness interferes with getting things done…and it doesn’t seem to tend to change anyone’s mind about a political opponent or ally. Chimpanzees howling and baring their teeth, gorillas slapping their chests, howler monkeys howling…none of these could be clearer examples of basic primate territoriality and dominance displays than what we see in politics and traditional and social media. It’s terribly disheartening.

  9. The wingnuts are having a field day with sharing their ugly (probably Russian troll fueled) Fauci memes. How is it possible that we are simultaneously both the smartest species ever and the dumbest species ever.

    1. Yeah, I read that this weekend the fire Fauci trend started at 3am. I don’t think there are a lot of Trump supporters trending stuff on twitter in the wee hours of the morning. But in St. Petersburg it’s the middle of the day. Then the idiots among us keep it trending; conned by Russia and conned by their “president”.

    1. “tRump-osculation is the only important qualification for high level offices in this administration”

      Did you see the members of the Council to Re-open America according Fox News? Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Mnuchin, … a pannel full of high-level trumpistanites. What could go wrong under the guidance of such luminaries?

  10. In another health-related note, this appeared in today’s FDALaw blog: http://www.fdalawblog.net/2020/04/new-fda-policy-significantly-limits-serological-testing.
    Serological (antibody) testing is what is going to tell us all how many people have some sort of immunity to COVID-19, and give us a sense of the risk we encounter when social distancing is lifted. Why can this administration not get its act together? – perhaps because the orange menace is hiding behind armored glass, the Secret Service, and rapid COVID-19 tests for everyone who comes near him, while the public is left to wonder whether the next person they encounter is a carrier.

    1. Always something to worry about, right? On the related front of using antibody tests to identify people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 comes the point that just b/c one has recovered from it, and has antibodies against the virus, that does not mean they are now immune to the virus even in the short term. There are bacterial and viral infections that also end in a high titer of antibodies that do little to confer even short term immunity.

      1. Not only that, but just because someone has antibodies, and assuming they can’t get reinfected, there is no reason to believe they can’t be carriers and still pass it on to others.

        1. Except by transferring a contaminated item from one person to another, a person who “can’t get reinfected” can’t also be a carrier. I think you meant someone with only partial immunity can be a carrier. Partially immune people mount an immune response sufficient to keep the symptoms to a minimum, but they can still shed active virus.

          However, most people with partial immunity are also able to limit the growth of the virus within them, thus though they carry the virus they usually cannot pass it on. That’s why the annual flu vaccination campaigns work as well as they do; you don’t need complete immunity in all individuals, just enough overall immunity in the herd.

          Still, you’re right, the presence of antibodies only means you’ve been exposed to the virus, not that you’re free of the infection.

      2. Yes, that’s all true, but the presence of antibodies means for almost all that they have at least some immunity. Like the flu, the virus will change and so will that immunity. But it is not a worthless test.

      3. Indeed. I’m not suggesting that serological testing is the be-all and end-all of immunity, merely commenting that it is generally seen to be useful and yet here is the administration urging it on the one hand and hampering it on the other.

  11. If Trump goes ahead with his stupid idea of opening the country up first of the month I would think Fauci would quit anyway. And of course he cannot open the thing up anyway, only his followers in republican country would follow. The important areas of California and New York will do what they want and to hell with Trump. Trump did not close and he cannot open. He is the head moron. Without proper testing ability, which the fed does not have, it would be nuts to just go back to work.

    Just look at Germany compared to the U.K. There is smart and there is stupid. Trump fits the later.

  12. Trump ignored the warnings because a) he needs to be seen as being in control by never deferring to experts, b) he always puts money (jobs, stock market) above all else including saving lives. In fact, I would not be surprised if he was willing to write off a certain number of lives before taking action.

    P.S. Now that Ivanka is on his Re-open American council maybe she can miraculously create another 15 million jobs.

    1. It’s been reported that Trump talked about allowing the virus to “wash over” the population; Boris Johnson thought that was a good idea too and look what happened in the UK. Trump doesn’t see others as living beings…not a good trait for a world leader.

  13. Ah, but of what importance can the Fauci-Trump kerfuffle be compared to “What Authority Dresses Like Now”?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/fashion/fauci-birx-cuomo-style-influencers.html?searchResultPosition=1

    There is an online petition for People Magazine to select Fauci as its next “Sexiest Man Alive”; there are Instagram accounts preoccupied with Birx’s scarves; GQ “meditates” on Cuomo’s “executive crisis uniform”; and there is hypothesizing about Cuomo having a nipple piercing. (And an obligatory TDS dig at Trump for his “blowzy power suiting.”)

    It’s the Times scintillating insight that their clothing choices “offer a direct line into our collective subconscious.”

  14. I don’t think the President has authority to fire a head of one of the NIH Institutes. He can, of course, remove Dr. Fauci as advisor and replace him by Rudy Giuliani, Allen Weisselberg (CFO of the Trump organization) or an astrologer, if he so wishes.

      1. With Kushner because he’s got a lot of time on his hands after solving the issues in the Middle East.

  15. Trump says he likes Fauci and does not intend to fire him; and Fauci diplomatically backtracks on his interview:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-14/coronavirus-update-new-york-death-toll,-testing-shortage/12145550#Fauci

    “Mr Trump said he liked Dr Fauci and did not intend to fire him”

    “Mr Trump said he and Dr Fauci had been on the same page “from the beginning” about the virus”

    “Referring to his CNN interview, Dr Fauci said he was answering a hypothetical question and said that Mr Trump had listened to him when he recommended mitigation efforts that included strict social-distancing measures”

    1. If memory serves, there is a common sequence of events with Trump. First, there’s a hint that he’s not happy with someone and thinking about firing them. Retweeting #FireFauci is a great example of that. It makes the statement but is plausibly deniable (as much as any Trump denial is plausible). Second, there’s the forced “apology” and/or backtracking by the potential firee. Fauci did his in yesterday’s pandemic briefing. This is never enough for Trump but it takes a week of the press and public talking about Trump and the person in question, and the idea of firing simmering in his small brain, to bring him to actually firing him. As soon as Fauci is forced to disagree with Trump, probably on when we can safely “re-open the country”, Fauci will no longer appear in these pandemic briefings and will effectively be fired as far as Trump is concerned. Since Fauci would still be invited to speak on TV as the CDC’s top infectious disease specialist, Trump will probably try to force him out of his CDC job as well.

  16. Can’t keep anybody good as an advisor? They go when their advice isn’t what he wants to hear. And the inability to take unwelcome or unexpected facts in stride tells us everything we need to know about Trump’s character. Absolutely not the person you want next to you, or heaven forbid, in charge, during a crisis.

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