America’s security blanket is a doctor named Fauci, not a president named Trump

On Sunday, the president retweeted a call for Anthony Fauci to be fired. What a terrible move that would be.

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President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

President Donald Trump is unhappy that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has not fully supported his decisions with respect to combating the spread of the coronavirus.

AP Photo

The day will come when President Donald Trump will announce that the physical separation rules put in place to slow the coronavirus should begin to be lifted, reopening swaths of the economy.

When that day comes, we hope to see Dr. Anthony Fauci standing behind the president, signaling with his presence that the decision is sufficiently based on science, not politics.

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For tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t trust Trump to referee a children’s soccer game, Fauci is the one member of the White House pandemic team who instills confidence. He has fought the good fight behind closed doors, championing science against those who worry more about Wall Street or the president’s reelection prospects. He has been honest in his public statements about what should be done, even at the risk of infuriating Trump.

Which he has.

On Sunday, in a typically terrible move, Trump retweeted a call for Fauci to be fired. The next day, at his Monday press briefing, he then shrugged it off. The retweet — his retweet — “doesn’t matter,” he said, because “that’s somebody’s opinion.”

Maybe Trump figured it out. Canning Fauci would be a political disaster.

Fauci’s offense, as Trump apparently saw it, was to acknowledge in a CNN interview on Sunday that more could have been done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. More lives, the veteran epidemiologist conceded, would have been saved.

Fauci wasn’t exactly going out on a limb. Several reports in the last week, including an exhaustive review in the New York Times, have documented that — with the sole exception of restricting travel from China on Feb. 2 — Trump blew off early urgent warnings from scientists to move boldly against the virus.

Fauci was careful in his wording on CNN. He tried to answer a question honestly without knocking the president.

”I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” he said. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

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And on Monday, Fauci stressed that he wasn’t talking about Trump when he had used the word “pushback.”

But there is no doubt that Trump was quarterback of the pushback team back then. He not only failed to heed the advice of experts all through January, February and early March; he repeatedly suggested this whole virus thing was nonsense.

On Sunday, a senior administration official said Trump hoped to begin to reopen the economy as soon as May 1, which could be an enormous mistake. The virus continues to surge in parts of the country. The number of new cases in Illinois only now is beginning to flatten.

But on Monday, Trump fudged on that, no doubt to Fauci’s relief. He talked now only about relaxing restrictions “sooner than people are thinking” and added that he wanted to be “smart about it.”

What we heard in that was Fauci’s quiet counsel. Hallelujah.

Whenever Trump finally does make that big announcement — America will begin its reentry — we hope to see Fauci standing behind him.

Or nobody should trust the president.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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