Trump will probably fire Dr. Anthony Fauci if a Fox News host regurgitates tidbits of this Science Magazine interview. (Specifically, he’ll send Pence or another minion to fire Fauci because Trump is a coward and even the “you’re fired” tagline from his fake businessman reality TV show was a lie.) Excerpts:
Q: The first question everyone has is how are you?
A: Well, I’m sort of exhausted. But other than that, I’m good. I mean, I’m not, to my knowledge, coronavirus infected. To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired. [Laughs.]
Q: How are you managing to not get fired?
A: Well, that’s pretty interesting because to his [President Trump’s] credit, 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.
Q: You’ve been in press conferences where things are happening that you disagree with, is that fair to say?
A: Well, I don’t disagree in the substance. It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.
Q: You’re standing there saying nobody should gather with more than 10 people and there are almost 10 people with you on the stage. And there are certainly more than 10 journalists in the audience.
A: I know that. I’m trying my best. I cannot do the impossible.
Q: What about the travel restrictions? President Trump keeps saying that the travel ban for China, which began 2 February, had a big impact [on slowing the spread of the virus to the United States] and that he wishes China would have told us three to four months earlier and that they were “very secretive.” [China did not immediately reveal the discovery of a new coronavirus in late December, but by 10 January, Chinese researchers made the sequence of the virus public.] It just doesn’t comport with facts.
A: I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?
Q: Most everyone thinks that you’re doing a remarkable job, but you’re standing there as the representative of truth and facts but things are being said that aren’t true and aren’t factual.
A: The way it happened is that after he made that statement [suggesting China could have revealed the discovery of a new coronavirus three to four months earlier], I told the appropriate people, it doesn’t comport, because two or three months earlier would have been September. The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that. But I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.
Q: You have not said China virus. [Trump frequently calls the cause of the spreading illness, known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a “China virus” or a “Chinese virus.”]
Q: And you never will, will you?
Q: What happens before each press conference? What do you do as a group?
A: We’re in the task force. We sit down for an hour and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda. And then we proceed from there to an ante room right in front of the Oval Office to talk about what are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we’re going to want to emphasize? Then we go in to see the president, we present [our consensus] to him and somebody writes a speech. Then he gets up and ad libs on his speech. And then we’re up there to try and answer questions.
Q: At Friday’s press conference, you put your hands over your face when President Trump referred to the “deep State Department,” [a popular conspiracy theory]. It’s even become an internet meme. Have you been criticized for what you did?
A: No comment.
Q: Big Picture. We’ve had all this pandemic preparedness. Why did this fail? What went wrong?
A: I think we’ll have to wait until it is over and we look back before we can answer that. It’s almost like the fog of war. After the war is over, you then look back and say, wow, this plan, as great as it was, didn’t quite work once they started throwing hand grenades at us. It really is similar to that. Obviously, testing [for the new coronavirus] is one clear issue that needs to be relooked at. Why were we not able to mobilize on a broader scale? But I don’t think we can do that right now. I think it’s premature. We really need to look forward.
Q: Right now, why do we have a travel ban on visitors from China when there are few cases in China other than imported cases? What’s the logic?
A: I’m sorry. I was just looking at two text messages, one from a governor and one from the White House. I gotta get off.
Fauci is everything Trump is not: intelligent, successful, committed and widely respected. He has devoted 50 years of his career to protecting the public’s health.
Now, at age 79, instead of growing tomatoes and playing with his grandchildren, Fauci is walking a tightrope over boiling pools of lava, trying to appease a lying narcissist POTUS just enough to avoid being sacked while retaining broad credibility with the public. As long as Fauci is there, a toady-dominated task force contains at least one member of the reality-based community.
It’s difficult to imagine the present arrangement continuing for long. As the economy swirls around the drain (along with his reelection chances) and his emoluments resort scams stay idled, Trump will increasingly listen to people on Fox News who tell him what he wants to hear:
I suspect that Trump all-caps tweet is a livetweet of Fox from tonight (though obviously @MattGertz would know for sure). Host Steve Hilton used similar language. (No way that Trump read that Medium piece) pic.twitter.com/VS0I29Xgqx
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) March 23, 2020
It’s already happening, as Whitehouse notes above:
Watching a tide of pestilence sweep the globe and endanger our lives and livelihoods would be surreal and horrifying under any circumstance. That it’s occurring after the dumbest and meanest of our fellow citizens put their moron bully king in office makes it doubly so.
But the thought of that screechy, incompetent crybaby running the show without Dr. Fauci’s voice on the team is utterly terrifying. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Regardless, I expect Trump will move to end the lock-downs and business closures and resume normal operations before it’s safe to do so, most likely at the end of the initial 15 days.* If watching the three-year Trump presidency fail-parade has taught us anything, it’s that Trump is a short-term thinker and that securing his own benefit is the ultimate goal of any action he takes.
Trump started taking the pandemic seriously last week because downplaying it became untenable from a PR standpoint. He’ll stop taking it seriously because the economic costs to his scam empire and reelection hopes will become too steep to bear.
GOP governors will ride the Trump train straight to hell, taking their hapless passengers (myself included) along for the ride. Blue state governors will try to mitigate the damage in the areas they control. So, if you had “the GOP is literally a death cult” on your bingo card, congratulations!
*According to Reuters, Trump issued the “15 days to stop the spread” guidelines on March 16, so if I’m right, the quarantine measures would end on…April Fools’ Day. How fitting!