Monday, July 13, 2020


This is a bizarre story:
The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, as President Donald Trump works to marginalize him and his dire warnings about the shortcomings of the U.S. coronavirus response.

In a remarkable broadside by the Trump administration against one of its own, a White House official said Sunday that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things." The official gave NBC News a list of nearly a dozen past comments by Fauci that the official said had ultimately proven erroneous....

It was a move more characteristic of a political campaign furtively disseminating opposition research about an opponent than of a White House struggling to contain a pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 people, according to an NBC News tally.
The list was also given to The Washington Post and The New York Times. The Times reported on one of Fauci's "erroneous" comments:
For example, White House officials pointed to a statement by Dr. Fauci in a Feb. 29 interview that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” But they omitted a warning he delivered right after.

“Right now the risk is still low, but this could change,” he said in the interview, conducted by NBC News. “When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.”

In the same interview, Dr. Fauci also warned that the coronavirus could become “a major outbreak.”
What's peculiar about this effort is that it appears to be an utter failure. Instead of producing stories with headlines such as (hypothetically) "Fauci, Praised for Virus Response, Has History of Erroneous Statements," all of these news outlets and others are writing about the White House smear campaign itself. Here's the lede at Politico's Playbook:
IN FLORIDA, some 15,300 CORONAVIRUS cases were reported in the last day. Health experts are warning of a resurgence of the virus. Yet, the White House is spending its time slagging ANTHONY FAUCI, slinging opposition research about his misjudgments or misstatements as he was trying to prepare the nation for the coronavirus.

A LOT OF WHITE HOUSE AIDES shake their heads when they look at the president’s Twitter feed, or complain when he otherwise strays off message. But they’re focusing their energy on trying to railroad the nation’s popular infectious disease doctor in the middle of an active pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 Americans.
So why is this happening? Sure, there are policy disagreements, as The Washington Post notes.
Four months ahead of Election Day, Trump wants to “reopen and move on,” said [a] senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Those who disagree with that approach are out of favor, the official said.

Fauci has also expressed concern about the administration’s plan to reopen schools.... Fauci has also called on state and local officials to mandate that people wear masks in public
But in addition to that:
Trump is also galled by Fauci’s approval ratings. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that 67 percent of voters trusted Fauci for information on the coronavirus, compared with 26 percent who trusted Trump.
So it's all about Trump's fragile, precious ego.

If this effort were succeeding, you'd see coordinated stories in the right-wing media. Fox News and Breitbart and the like have certainly been critical of Fauci -- but you'd expect them to be reproducing the White House opposition research verbatim right now, and they aren't. Their front pages have nothing on Fauci.

The traditional right-wing noise machine knows how to gin up a controversy. It's ready to spring into action. It's out there calling Joe Biden a basement-dwelling coward with clear signs of dementia.

This, by contrast, is an effort clearly made in response to a self-pitying Trump barking out orders in the Oval Office: I want you to go after that fucking Fauci. Everyone thinks that little pissant is so smart, but I'm smarter than he is. Get his numbers down. That's an order!

They need to be doing things to get Trump reelected, and instead they're doing this to make him feel better. It's a colossal waste of energy. But it's what the boss wants.

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