Since the White House has finally recognized the threat the coronavirus has brought to the country, President Donald Trump has been in front of the press regularly. However, while addressing the nation, he has continued his tradition of often offering “alternative facts.”
Trump’s Initial Downplaying of COVID-19
It is in keeping with his character — yet deeply worrisome — that Trump first downplayed the seriousness of the situation for a long time, claiming that COVID-19 was no more threatening than an ordinary winter flu. He indicated that it would take care of itself quickly and that the virus was under control. When it became evident that this was not the case, Trump announced that he had recognized and pointed out the danger from the start – which remains a complete and brazen falsehood.
Fortunately, however, there is also a voice of reason among his advisors in the current situation. During the briefings, the nation’s premier expert remains discreetly in the background until a question comes up that only a sophisticated scientist can answer, and he is asked to come forward. Some of these moments have gone viral by now. In them, Dr. Fauci sometimes looks down on the ground or fidgets in embarrassment with his collar, visibly signaling that he disagrees with what Trump is saying. He could hardly interrupt the President, he commented on the quiet gestures in a television interview the other day. “I cannot jump in front of the microphone and knock him to the ground.” He would rather try to correct the President’s ongoing inaccuracies and misleading statements at the next opportunity.
Fauci: ‘The Virus Sets the Timeline’
Fauci delivered an example of his approach to CNN on Wednesday evening. “You have to be realistic and understand that you are not setting the timeline. The virus sets the timeline,” Fauci said. It was essential to adapt flexibly to reality instead of to a certain extent, stipulating when normalization should be considered. There was no need to explain who the advice was for. It was evident to everyone.
Trump had previously indicated that normal life could resume in large parts of the United States by Easter but has since reconsidered.
“You cannot make an arbitrary decision before you see what you are dealing with. You need the data,” replied Fauci. Today it was announced that Trump has now corrected the Easter idea and that the situation could only change on April 30 at the earliest — very likely thanks to Dr. Fauci.
Expertise vs. Bluster
Fauci is the most distinguished member of the White House Corona Task Force. If he outlines the situation, he does so in short, calm sentences, which is in striking contrast to Trump’s often excessive and self-focused monologues. Fauci has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He previously convinced Ronald Reagan to perceive the risk of AIDS when it spread dangerously fast in the eighties. Weeks ago, when the White House downplayed the risk of the coronavirus, he advised energetic steps to combat it instead.
The United States urgently needed to conduct more tests, Fauci demanded, while Trump still covered up the acute lack of test kits with flowery words. At a congressional hearing, Fauci stated straightforwardly that the national health system was not well prepared for this crisis. The other day, he warned soberly of false hopes after Trump raved about the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, which he claimed could undoubtedly be used in the fight against corona. “The answer is no,” Fauci said when asked if chloroquine was a cure for the virus. Trump had based his hope on groundless anecdotes, not clinical data.
Because of his expertise in a time of national emergency, Fauci is thus allowed to do the unthinkable: contradict the president in public. The nation’s health crisis desperately needs voices of reason especially for an administration that — outside of Dr. Fauci — has appeared flustered and incompetent at times. For Trump, however, he would do well to continue to take Dr. Fauci seriously and listen to his guidance so the nation can see that the best measures are being taken: Trump’s political future could depend on it. Indeed, this crisis will most likely determine whether or not Trump gets reelected in November.