Alan Zendell, July 15, 2020
President Trump’s decision to undermine and discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci is as disgusting as it was predictable. After a lifetime as an immoral, dishonest businessman whose mentors were criminals and sleazy lawyers like Roy Cohn, Trump is singularly unequipped to deal with someone whose stock in trade is science, facts, and integrity.
Fauci in front of a microphone with an international audience of millions desperate for truth is one of Trump’s worst nightmares. Unlike Trump, Fauci doesn’t live for praise and adulation. Secure in his legacy, he is immune to bullying, lies, and distortions.
The only way Trump can counter Fauci’s brand of truth is by appealing to his ignorant cult of believers, and recent polling shows that group shrinking steadily. Only a quarter of Americans surveyed believe Trump over the scientists and physicians who are battling not only the worst pandemic in a century, but an unscrupulous political machine motivated by greed and lust for power.
Some of Trump’s most influential supporters are distancing themselves as the reality of his willingness to let COVID-19 deaths spiral out of control becomes impossible to ignore. Senator Lindsey Graham called out Trump’s treatment of Dr. Fauci: “I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Fauci … any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive.” And virtually the entire medical research community erupted negatively to White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro’s Op-ed in today USA Today attacking Fauci’s record and credibility.
The blowback was so intense, the White House said: “The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.” When the whiplash carnage continued, Trump appeared on camera to claim he has a wonderful relationship with Fauci. He even called his chief pandemic scientist “Anthony.” I imagine Trump thought that was supposed to sound friendly, but it was just an egomaniac’s way of diminishing someone he fears.
When asked about the personal attacks on him, Dr. Fauci said they were bizarre, and he didn’t know what to make of them. As always, he was calm, reasoned, and softly eloquent.
There is currently a nationwide letter writing campaign underway, ordinary people writing to Anthony Fauci to thank him for not wavering from the truth under pressure. I spoke to his public affairs office, which acknowledged that they expect to be inundated with mail. If you want to lend your voice, the address is:
Dr. Anthony Fauci c/o
NIH/NIAID Office of Communications
5601 Fishers Lane / MSC 9806
Bethesda, MD 20892-9806.
The White House’s attack on Dr. Fauci pulled the curtain back on how ineffective Trump’s bluster has become. A lifetime of lies and distortions, of public support of baseless conspiracy theories must eventually come home to roost. Sowing divisiveness and discord only works when people’s lives and livelihoods are not directly threatened by them, and there is so much chaos, the average person tunes it out.
But this is different. With the latest projections of COVID deaths approaching 250,000 by year’s end, people are afraid to visit vulnerable family members and equally afraid of sending their children back to school. That sounds bleak for Trump’s re-election, but fear not, he thinks he’s found a way around those damning numbers.
As COVID-19 data worsen, wouldn’t it be great if he could censor them and only report what is favorable to him? That’s why he announced last night that from now on, hospitals and state health departments will no longer report COVID data to the CDC, but will now report only to Trump’s people in the Department of Health and Human Services, the perfect scenario for Trump’s brand of corruption.
Until yesterday, the CDC published all the data it received on publicly accessible websites. Doctors, hospitals, researchers, the media, you, and I could all see it whenever we wanted to. DHHS has already stopped posting data on public sites. Anyone who wants to see or use it now must request it in writing and justify why they need it. Trump’s people can censor, delay, or just ignore any requests they don’t like. They could also change the data.
I speak from thirty-five years of first-hand experience at DHHS. The agency has been politically corrupt since the Nixon administration, but never more so than it is under Trump. If you don’t believe he would order troublesome data withheld or censored, recall what he did with the whistleblower complaint on Ukraine. A critical document which by federal law must be made available to Congress was hidden on a Top Secret server where only a handful of people could see it.
Can Trump get away with that with respect to COVID data? The answer is yes and no. Over the long run, he’d be caught out by audits or people like state health directors who notice that the data for their states made available by DHHS didn’t match what they submitted. But if the objective were to influence the election which is 110 days away, given Trump’s skills at hiding, delaying, and obfuscating, he could probably get away with altering the data until after election, especially if Congress recesses on August 1st as planned.
Should we be concerned? Unless the Republican Senate realizes they’re playing with deadly fire that will burn them in the end, damn right we should.