It is conceivable that the United States might have had a worse government health care official in charge of informing and advising the citizenry than Anthony Fauci, longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the past 13 months as the nation struggled to come to grips with COVID-19. But it is hard to imagine.
The coronavirus has taken many tolls, in lives, in economic devastation due to shutdowns and, perhaps most egregiously, in the ability of Americans to trust our government on basic matters of science and medicine.
To be sure, under the current deeply partisan/ideological divide, with a Democratic Party that deliberately undermined the previous president’s policies at every step in his term, leading up to a historically divisive election, as well as a mainstream media that sees itself as enforcers for the Democrats, that might have happened anyway. Arguably Fauci was a comforting figure to those Americans who held President Trump in contempt. Considering that one of the two solved the problem by mustering the private sector to create vaccines via Operation Warp Speed, while the other ad-libbed a narrative about it, that is ironic.
Over the past year, Dr. Fauci has personally discredited the parts of government that are meant to be apolitical. He has done this through his bizarrely ego-driven need to be front and center, constantly; his willingness to undercut President Trump, seemingly for the sake of attention; and his ever-changing instructions and assertions about what the “facts” are. This became clear early on, with his flippant directions to ignore masks, then to wear masks, then to wear double or triple masks — but, hey, if you feel the need to use Tinder to hook up with a stranger – go ahead. Cue the grin.
Worse still, he insisted on drastic measures that may or may not have lessened the spread of the virus, but which surely had extremely high costs to the population in terms of learning and income forgone. Mental health – suicides trebled, physical health – average Covid weight gain 29 lbs! Not to mention all of the cities, businesses and institutions destroyed as our treasury is emptied. Those decisions, which other scientists have long argued were not necessary to safeguard the vulnerable, were choices that should have been made with equal consideration for economic and other real-life matters.
Now it turns out that even the basic six-foot “social distancing” requirement that became religious ritual in the lines at stores, hospitals and anywhere open, was arbitrary, according to former FDA Director Scott Gottlieb, who this week wrote that it was a costly measure, and really just a guess about what worked. The timing explains how it can be rescinded now that the greater harms of keeping kids out of school are obvious. Or competing costs – virus transmission v. kids home for a year — could have been weighted better before decisions were made.
It is a travesty that Dr. Fauci came to embody “science,” in the Covid narrative. He is a career bureaucrat. While possessed of an M.D. degree, he functioned, for most of his 40+ years at the NIH, as a grant administrator.
When Dr. Fauci straight up admitted to lying to the American people last December, about what it would require to create herd immunity, for precisely no reason other than that he thinks we are stupid and incapable of absorbing the truth, the incoming Biden administration should have thanked him for his service and asked for his resignation. It is astonishing that they didn’t do that.
Watching Dr. Fauci and his media acolytes, Americans have rightly learned that, in the hands of government, there is no such thing as “science” that is not politicized. The devastating cost is that there are significant numbers of Americans who are unwilling to get one of the vaccines, because they do not trust what we’ve been told about its safety and efficacy.
Given the way Fauci has conducted his public education campaign, that is a rational, if not necessarily accurate conclusion.
Lisa Schiffren is a writer and editor in New York City. She has been a GOP speechwriter, among other things.