A Reliable Leader During the COVID-19 Crisis
by Roland Flamini
“In 2003, we had SARS, and then we had little blips on the radar screen… monekypox. Sooner or later, and likely in my lifetime the next big one is going to come. We’re much more ready than we were, but the way emerging and re-emerging diseases occur you will almost never be totally ready.” Immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci made this prediction 16 years ago, in an interview at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The long time director of the Bethesda- based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases got part of it right. The “next big one” hit in 2020, striking millions of victims, with no regard of rank, color, creed, or nationality. But he was wrong in thinking the world – and the United States – would be ready. It was, on the contrary, totally, tragically, unprepared.
Fauci is now at the center of the Trump administration’s delayed, frenetic effort to stop COVID- 19 from wiping out thousands more Americans and bringing the world’s largest economy to its knees. Appointing him to head the administration’s Coronavirus Task Force is one of the few things President Trump has done right. Fauci’s regular appearances are the star turn of The Trump White House Follies – the daily briefing dominated by the Waffler-in-Chief.
Fauci is the specialist advising anxious Americans how to defend themselves against the coronavirus pandemic, and delivering progress reports on how the offensive is going. His other, more delicate role in the briefings is to debunk some of Trump’s more off-the-wall claims, without openly confronting the president.
Given Trump’s well known, foot stamping, petulance at not getting his own way, this surprising aspect of their relationship is closely watched by Trump sycophants and critics. The New York Times recently reported that Fauci “has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus – and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin.
For example, Fauci has resisted pressure to commit himself to a date when the social distancing measures can he lifted, and has stuck to the argument that tests are needed before hydroxychloroquine can be declared an efficacious treatment for COVID-19.
But Trump’s Follies need Fauci to lend credibility to the only conduit the president has to his constituency during the shutdown that makes his big rallies impossible.
Fauci, who has been dealing with presidents since he assumed his current role in 1980, shrugs off questions about his relationship with Trump, saying, somewhat disingenuously, “Even though we disagree on some things, he listens. He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”
Those who call Anthony Fauci a media star for his role in the coronavirus crisis, have obviously forgotten that, in the gay community, he is already a saint. Fauci was a key force in fighting the HIV virus from the start, and a major contributor to the treatments that brought it under control.
He has for years said that his ambition is to find a vaccine that would eradicate it from the human body altogether. He is now working on a similar challenge for the coronavirus.