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What this country needs now is Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
He is a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. You often see him on TV, standing behind President Donald Trump.
Sometimes you see or hear him correcting President Trump.
For example, when Trump told the country we should be back open for business on Easter, April 12, Fauci, in turn, said it’s impossible to give an exact date.
In my view, Fauci, 79, is the right man in the right place at the right time.
He is a prominent scientist who knows his stuff and has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
He has worked with six presidents, Democrats and Republicans.
But this is Donald Trump, and I’m worried.
I fear Fauci will correct the president one too many times and Trump will resort to his worst instincts. I’m afraid the president will be childish and churlish and dismiss Fauci from the task force.
Or maybe fire him.
It’s important that Fauci be there, that he have the latitude to politely and respectfully correct the president because the president is often wrong.
He’s been wrong so often that the NPR station in Seattle has stopped broadcasting the president’s press conferences because there is so much “misinformation.”
Fauci has had to refute Trump’s ongoing contradictions and unproven medical claims.
I should note here that the coordinator of the task force is another respected physician — Dr. Deborah Birx, who in 2014 was appointed by President Obama as the United States Global AIDS coordinator.
Both CNN and The Guardian have called her a global health “legend,” while the New York Times described Birx as “tough and disciplined” and busy “running what amounts to a coronavirus war room from the vice president’s office.”
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Fox News characterized Birx as a “world-renowned medical expert.”
Birx served two decades in the U.S. Army as a physician.
Clearly, I do not want to see Birx removed, either.
But for whatever reason, it seems that the job of correcting the president has fallen to Fauci. That’s why I’m worried about him.
Already, he is taking some heat.
Earlier this week, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs told viewers that Trump was “exactly right” about unproven drug treatments for the coronavirus, and Fauci was “wrong.”
Faith in Fauci, not the president
It would be OK with me if Trump simply got mad at Fauci and made fun of him. The president likes to make fun of people.
Fauci is, after all, rather short.
I believe Fauci could take it. I’m guessing he would gladly endure it for the good of the nation.
But if Trump removes Fauci, a lot of Americans, including me, will lose faith in the federal government’s efforts to combat the disease. I don’t want to lose faith.
We need strong, smart federal intervention to cut down on the number of deaths and get through this. We need accurate information going to the American people. This is serious business.
I have faith in Fauci, not in the president.
I am more concerned about Fauci maintaining a voice on the task force than I was about whether Trump would be convicted during his impeachment trial.
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Here’s a bit of information about Fauci.
He was born in Brooklyn, the son of Italian immigrants.
He took the job as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on the condition that he be able to continue his research as chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation, as well as seeing patients.
Imagine that. One of the nation’s top researchers still sees patients.
Soon after Fauci took the job, the AIDS epidemic swept the nation.
Fauci came under attack from AIDS advocates, due to the government’s inadequate response. AIDS was seen by some as a “gay disease,” and some Americans didn’t care about gays.
Activists were particularly enraged that the multi-year process of clinical trials for experimental drugs was keeping promising drugs from patients who would certainly die without a treatment breakthrough.
One of Fauci’s harshest critics was New York City playwright and activist Larry Kramer, who wrote “The Normal Heart,” which caused quite a stir when staged by Missouri State in the fall of 1989.
Kramer thought the government was withholding experimental drugs from patients who could not survive the waiting period.
As a columnist, I have been called many things. I have one “fan” who seems to think my greatest failure was being born in what she considers a great cesspool — Chicago.
But I’ve never been called a murderer. I would imagine that was a harsh criticism for Fauci to take.
But he did not pout. He did not attack or mock his critics.
Instead, he traveled the country to reach out to AIDS advocates, including Kramer.
Fauci could not get President Ronald Reagan to increase funding for AIDS research. But he built a relationship with Reagan’s vice president — George H.W. Bush, who was more responsive.
Bush, the elder, was asked during a 1988 presidential debate with Democrat Michael Dukakis to name a modern-day hero who can inspire Americans.
Bush said this: “I think of Dr. Fauci. Probably never heard of him. … He’s a very fine research (sic) top doctor at the National Institutes of Health, working hard doing something about research on this disease of AIDS.”
That’s the man we need right now. I hope the president knows that.
These are the views of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been at the paper eight years, and over his career has covered everything from courts and cops to features and fitness. He can be reached at 417-836-1253, email@example.com, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave./, Springfield, MO 65806.
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