All it takes is a good man acquiescing to thugs in power

Dr Anthony Fauci did a quick interview. I’ve been wondering why he continues to stand up there, fronting for a mob of science-denying incompetents. He doesn’t answer that question.

Q. You stood nearby while President Trump was in the Rose Garden shaking hands with people. You’re a doctor. You must have had a reaction like, Sir, please don’t do that.

A: Yes, I say that to the task force. I say that to the staff. We should not be doing that. Not only that–we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences. To his credit, the Vice President [Mike Pence] is really pushing for physical separation of the task force [during meetings]. He keeps people out of the room–as soon as the room gets like more than 10 people or so, it’s ‘Out, everybody else out, go to a different room.’ So with regard to the task force, the Vice President is really a bear in making sure that we don’t crowd 30 people into the Situation Room, which is always crowded. So he’s definitely adhering to that. The situation on stage [for the press briefings] is a bit more problematic. I keep saying, is there any way we can get a virtual press conference. Thus far, no. But when you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1,2,3,4 times, and then it happens. So I’m going to keep pushing.

That’s a lot of words attempting to justify why the White House gets to ignore their guidelines, especially since these press conferences are useless exercises in the leadership spreading misinformation — they could stop doing them altogether, send out an electronic press release, and lie to the people just as effectively.

You used the wrong word, Dr Fauci. You’re not “pushing”, you’re enabling.

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.

Funny. I’d like Fauci, and the entire scientific community, to stand boldly for scientific integrity and loudly reject the nonsense coming out of the president. I had no idea that was 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?

SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. That’s your job. Not standing with an idiot president.

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.

You see, this is why I can’t be expected to ever hold a political position. I would jump in front of the microphone and push him down, and declare his statements incorrect. I’d be fired immediately afterwards, but I’m so tired of the mealy-mouthed apologists standing there timidly, pretending disinformation deserves respect. The occasional eyeroll on camera is not sufficient to merit praise.

In case you haven’t figure it out yet, I have not been at all impressed with Fauci’s performance. The only remarkable job he has done is to play the threadbare merkin dressing up the flaccid performance of the liar in chief.


  1. says

    “by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that.”

    The toddler in chief strikes again. Sounds like Fauci is tired of being the grown-up in the room.

  2. numerobis says

    Say Fauci quits. Is the US better off?

    The WHO, Red Cross, MSF and others long ago worked out that you have to work with complete fucking morons in power in order to save lives. That’s what Fauci is trying to do.

  3. raven says

    In case you haven’t figure it out yet, I have not been at all impressed with Fauci’s performance.

    Fauci is a competent medical scientist and one of the few adults left in the room.
    He is in the usual Trump Regime extreme danger position of standing out for being honest and competent.
    Those usually get fired and sooner rather than later.

    He is doing the best he can in a highly dysfunctional administration.

  4. wzrd1 says

    @PZ, let’s have it your way. Fauci is gone, nobody corrects the god-king, Emperor Trump’s bullshit, so the common flu and COVID-19 are equal and the same, not only will old antimalarial drugs work against the bacteria that causes COVID-19, but so will Trump brand mustard.
    No corrections are permitted, for the god-king is always right. No science is allowed, as the god-king is always right and better at science than mere mortal scientists.
    Virii and bacteria are equal, so are fungi and spiders, all hail hair fuhrer! The virus has a Chinese passport, which the god-king saw with his atomic force microscope eyes!

    So, science is dead, sycophants are ruling everything and my eldest has to obey the god-king’s instruction to wash her paper PPE and reuse it.
    Since our Constitution doesn’t allow underlings and workers to gun down, push aside and replace our President and now god-king, Emperor Trump when he is speaking TrumpTruths to the world. Would you have wanted a junior secretary to have pushed George Washington aside when he was inspecting the troops before they quelled the Whiskey Rebellion? FDR pushed aside during his Day of Infamy speech, because a word was misspelled?

    Sorry, but I prefer to have the bullshit promptly dispatched to the midden while it’s still steaming, rather than hours later in disjointed fashion. But, we can let Jared do it instead, just to keep you happy.

    And so Maui sings again, “Hey, it’s OK, it’s OK, we’re dead soon”…

  5. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Are we better off with one good man acquiescing to the thugs in power or having no good men in the picture at all? It’s a very difficult question. If you insist on always speaking unvarnished truth to power, often you lose access to power.

    On the plus side, if you survive, you have the advantage of saying, “I told you so.”
    On the down side, “Even if you survive, you are a voice in the wilderness, a Cassandra, incapable of affecting events.”

    The history of good men and autocrats is not encouraging. How far down the road can you walk with an evil man until you are doing evil yourself?

  6. raven says

    The one organization really missing in action is the CDC.
    They were once well know as experts in the field of viral diseases.
    This ancient history is all of 3 years old.
    CDC does after all, stand for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Tom Frieden, former CDC Director March 22, 2020

    “The CDC is the nation’s leading protection agency,” Frieden continued. “Fighting this without CDC central to the response has never been done with an infectious disease threat in the U.S. before and it’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back.”

    Tom Frieden is the former head of the CDC. The organization that should be leading this fight against Covid-19 has dropped the ball big time and is still missing in action. This makes no sense.
    Or maybe it does.

    patheos. com/ blogs/ dispatches/ 2018/05/16/trumps-new-cdc-director-thinks-aids-is-gods-punishment from Ed Brayton’s blog at Patheos

    In the 1980s Redfield worked closely with W. Shepherd Smith, Jr. and his Christian organization, Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, or ASAP. The group maintained that AIDS was “God’s judgment” against homosexuals, spread in an America weakened by single-parent households and loss of family values.

    Redfield wrote the introduction to a 1990 book, “Christians in the Age of AIDS,” co-written by Smith, in which he denounced distribution of sterile needles to drug users and condoms to sexually active adults, and described anti-discrimination programs as the efforts of “false prophets.”

    The current head of the CDC Robert Redfield is a far right fundie xian who appears to be brain dead.
    He was completely wrong about the basics of HIV/AIDS at the time when that was a huge problem in both the USA and worldwide.

    In this current Covid-19 pandemic, the US CDC has been more or less useless.

  7. JoeBuddha says

    I’m beyond disgusted with these people. From now on, the term for me is not “maga-heads” but “magats”.

  8. xohjoh2n says

    I would jump in front of the microphone and push him down, and declare his statements incorrect. I’d be fired immediately afterwards

    No, if you jump up and push down the POTUS, you are likely to be shot immediately.

  9. christoph says

    Dr. Fauci is doing the best with what he has-I think it takes a lot of courage for him to stay on and deal with Trump’s egotistical idiocy. He reminds me of the people who allegedly worked with the Nazis in Germany in order to thwart them. Richard Strauss comes to mind, among others.

  10. Artor says

    Fauci should understand by now that this administration will not follow his best recommendations. Not if he repeats them 4 times, or 100 times. Yes, he should take the mike and tell Trump to fuck off with his ignorant bullshit, then go rogue and tell the public directly how to deal with this. He cannot accomplish anything useful as part of this administration.

  11. says

    Traditionally the way to deal with Trump is to do the best you can, take notes, and monetize a “tell all” book when you leave. We’re all getting inoculated to Trump, though, so a “tell all” could reveal that Trump is a cannibal and everyone would shrug.

  12. stroppy says

    It’s a nearly impossible position for Fauci. He seems to be doing a slightly better job of threading the needle than other adults, who have since fallen by the wayside for trying to protect the institution of the presidency.

    He has a lot on his plate and understandably, I think, his focus is on the immediate crisis, not fixing the besmirched executive office, or our irreparable president, or the profoundly ridiculous assholes who support him. One good thing, Fauci is respected and has a prominent platform others have lacked where he can, without creating distractions, do end runs around the president. And I’d also like to think that the work of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is too boring for Trump to try and micromanage behind the scenes (apparently he has decided that he doesn’t want to be a “shipping clerk”) but I guess we’ll see.

  13. Ridana says

    After that interview (assuming someone tells the Coronaprez about it), I expect Fauci to be getting his severance tweet by Friday at the latest.

  14. Snidely W says

    Then he did another interview on Fox with Mark Levin. I only caught the end of it where he provided a balm for the magats when Levin asked him to respond to critics who say that Trump is not following the science, and Fauci’s response covered only their private interactions, to paraphrase: Trump has never challenged him on the science of coronavirus. Nothing about Trump’s constant public lies. Levin looked very satisfied with Fauci’s answer.
    [scroll through the list of videos]

  15. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Funny how everyone thinks that they can be the adult in the room with Trump…until they can’t.

  16. billseymour says

    Too many comments I agree with to quote individually.

    I’m reasonably happy with Fauci in his position since the alternative is probably somebody like Dr. Oz.

  17. oliversarmy says

    This is juvenile political analysis that I would expect from Jerry Coyne, not you PZ.

  18. guido says

    Like others, I see Fauci as having to choose between being in a position within the current power structure that enables him to do some good, versus being on the outside and not able to do as much. BTW, I just noticed that a man in Arizona and his wife took chloroquine phosphate (apparently trusting DJT’s “wisdom”) as a miracle prophylactic measure and the man died. His wife is in critical condition.

  19. microraptor says

    Short of slipping the president a few sleeping pills and stashing him in a closet before the press conference, I’m really not sure what Dr Fauci could actually do.

  20. John Morales says

    microraptor, I think that tacit acknowledgement of the malfeasance counts as something.

  21. flange says

    I can’t think of a more weasily, evasive statement than Fauci’s, “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,” This, from an actual, fact-weilding expert.
    But even if Fauci were to fall on his own sword, It probably wouldn’t save us from the idiot and his idiot hordes.

  22. TGAP Dad says

    Re: Michigan republicans…
    While I am not a fan of actually causing harm to people, I am also a fan of not preventing them from harming themselves.
    * The churchgoing population skews toward the older demographic, who overwhelmingly support Tiny Hands.
    * White Evangelicals support tiny Hands at about 80-90%. Let them congregate as often and closely as possible.
    * Nature has a way of culling the destructive members of a species out, so let nature take its course.
    * Treat all devout churchgoers as infected until proven otherwise

  23. jrkrideau says

    [China did not immediately reveal the discovery of a new coronavirus in late December,

    China notified WHO of a “novel” coronavirus on 31 Dec 2019. It was not clearly identified til 07 Jan 2020. Sheese, why help support Trump’s lies?

  24. grovergardner says

    PZ, I’ve been a fan of your blog your blog for many years now, and I’ve often disagreed with you, but I’m afraid you’ve crossed a line for me here. I have friends and relatives work for NIH. My brother-in-law was the head of NCI for years. We know Fauci, and I think you do him a serious disservice here. Like it or not, NIH is a government institute, and the people who run it have to walk a fine line every day of their lives. They serve at the pleasure of the current administration. Tony Fauci isn’t perfect, but he’s survived for decades and he’s about as good as we’ve got right now. He’s made it plain that he won’t kow-tow to Trump, and does his best to convey accurate information to the public. If Trump fires him, we’re all in serious trouble. Frankly, I think you’re foolish to attack him, and I think somewhat the less of you for doing so. Flamers can have at it, but that’s my take.

  25. consciousness razor says

    I agree with you, grovergardner. Saying that they “serve at the pleasure of the current administration” is irritating and unnecessary for your point, but it’s not worth a lot of flames.

  26. grovergardner says

    Unfortunately, to say that the heads of NIH serve at the pleasure of the administration is all too correct and needs to be acknowledged. They are under HHS. When Fauci says he may be fired he isn’t kidding. Generally any given administration takes a hands-off approach because of their reputation, but they are subject to the whims of the Executive branch.

    And Fauci is not kow-towing to Trump. If you think he can do any more than he’s doing without getting dumped altogether, then you’re damn fool.

  27. says

    “I was just following orders/ I was just doing my job” has ceased working as an excuse a couple of decades ago.

  28. gijoel says

    At this point the only thing you can hope for is for Covid 19 cuts through the White house like a knife through butter. It’s unlikely to kill Il Douche, but maybe those in power might start not taking this for granted.

  29. billseymour says

    flange @24 quoting Fauci:

    “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.”

    “Read between the lines,” as they say:  that first sentence strikes me as deliberately weak; and it’s followed by a sentence that, in diplomacy-speak, is a real zinger. I don’t think I’d have done as well myself.

  30. Saad says

    It’s not Fauci’s fault Trump decided to take the Upgrade Towards Dictator option allowed by our government (and the citizens). He is unaccountable and people are afraid of defying him.

  31. KG says

    There seems to be an assumption among Fauci’s supporters that if he resigned or was fired, he would be unable to do anything useful. But he has already established himself as a public figure, and would have plenty of platforms open to him to tell the unvarnished truth about Trump’s stupidity and lies. Even Fox News has shown some signs of wobbling from their worship of the Great Leader.

  32. says

    “When men reduce their virtues to the approximate, then evil acquires the force of an absolute, when loyalty to an unyielding purpose is dropped by the virtuous, it’s picked up by scoundrels—and you get the indecent spectacle of a cringing, bargaining, traitorous good and a self-righteously uncompromising evil.”

    Ayn Rand, in a rare, stopped clock moment.

  33. xohjoh2n says

    @35 Giliell:

    “I was just following orders/ I was just doing my job” has ceased working as an excuse a couple of decades ago.

    No, it stopped working about 80 years ago. Then it started working again, perhaps about 40 years after, maybe earlier, when basically the whole world stopped giving a shit about what the world powers could get away with. Especially ones powerful enough to define themselves as not subject to that rule, or any kind of international jurisdiction whatsoever.

    Anyway, it’s kind of irrelevant to Fauci. I mean, if Trump was ordering the CDC to actually go out and spray CV-19 aerosols into people faces and he was either fine with that or indifferent, you might have a point. But he’s actually trying to minimise harm and improve the national response. The fact that his bosses won’t let him do so as effectively as he would like is not the same thing.