I think Rich Lowry is mostly right about Dr. Anthony Fauci in this column for Politco. Lowry says:
[Fauci] is neither the dastardly bureaucratic mastermind imposing his will on the country that his detractors on the right make him out to be nor the philosopher-king in waiting that his boosters on the left inflate him into. He’s simply an epidemiologist, one who brings considerable expertise and experience to the table, but at the end of the day, his focus is inevitably and rightly quite narrow.
And, of course, he is not an infallible epidemiologist.
It’s foolish to criticize Fauci for focusing on the health aspects of this pandemic above all other considerations. As Lowry explains:
This is like saying the Commerce secretary is too consumed with finding business opportunities for American companies or the head of the Joint Special Operations Command has an unhealthy obsession with killing terrorists. What else are they supposed to do?
As a breed, epidemiologists tend to be focused on the worst case. They don’t want to be wrong and contribute to some deadly pathogen getting loose when their entire job is to keep that from happening. So they are naturally cautious. This, too, is as it should be. You probably don’t want a risk-taking epidemiologist anymore than you want a highly creative, envelope-pushing accountant.
For all these reasons, you wouldn’t choose an epidemiologist to run your country, either. And Fauci isn’t.
President Trump is running the country. If federal guidance has tilted too far in favor of trying to minimize health risks from the virus, and not far enough in favor of trying to sustain the economy, that’s Trump’s fault, not Fauci’s.
But critics of federal policy tend to be Trump supporters, and Trump’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus is probably the most important policy of his presidency. Fauci provides a way for conservatives to blame someone other than Trump for that policy. Lowry puts it this way:
Since populist critics of the shutdowns don’t want to criticize Trump, let alone say they think he blew one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, they focus their ire on the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases rather than the president of the United States.
It’s true that Fauci’s stature, reinforced by the media, put Trump in a difficult position. Although the president runs the country, he would have taken a substantial political risk had he not followed the doctor’s recommendations.
Nonetheless, it was Fauci’s job to provide Trump with his honest opinion about the most effective way to curb the pandemic. It was Trump’s job to gather advice from other relevant experts, especially economists and to make the call, taking all advice into account.
My guess is that Trump’s calculus was similar to Fauci’s. He simply didn’t want to see hundreds of thousands of Americans die from the coronavirus and believed he could prevent this from happening with social distancing and shutdown measures.
With all that said, this interview of Fauci by Chris Cuomo, raises a good question. Fauci told Cuomo that he has a “moral obligation” to warn that a premature opening of the economy could lead to a rebound in COVID cases.
Okay. But a reader suggests that Fauci also had a moral obligation to advise Chris Cuomo’s brother, the governor of New York, to rescind his executive order that required nursing homes to accept Wuhan coronavirus patients (assuming Fauci knew about the order).
The interview revealed a close relationship between Fauci and the Cuomos that extends back 35 years. Indeed, Chris Cuomo thanked Fauci for calling him every day while he was suffering from the virus. (The fact that Cuomo violated social distancing policy while he was infected went unmentioned in the interview.)
Pursuant to his moral obligations, Fauci could have called Gov. Cuomo regarding his deadly order on nursing homes. Such a call might have saved many lives. As far as we know, there was no such call. Why not?