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Bill Straub: Dr. Fauci is fall-back target for Republican ire, since they can’t sink Biden’s approval rating

Unable thus far to chip into President Biden’s popularity – the RealClear Politics composite places his approval at just short of 54 percent – and reeling as a consequence of refusing to support an investigation — for purely self-serving political reasons — into the Jan. 6 insurrection against the United States government, congressional Republicans have launched a diversionary tactic — targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden’s chief medical advisor, is considered a convenient fall guy by the GOP and attacks on his character and abilities can be manipulated to draw attention away from the party’s own missteps. It is Fauci who has served as the federal government’s voice in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken more than 600,000 American lives, constantly urging members of the public to wear masks, keep a safe distance from other individuals and warning against large gatherings to limit the plague’s spread.

Fauci’s badgering in the face of tragedy hasn’t always set well with right-wingers, especially since he seemed at times to contradict the bombast of Biden’s clueless predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, whose approach to the pandemic was to dismiss its peril, baselessly propose the use of a malaria drug as a vaccine and even, in a mind-boggling moment of inanity, suggesting that injections of bleach could pose a potential approach.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com


At any rate, Republican lawmakers have been itching for an opportunity to take both Fauci and Biden down a peg and they are confidant they have found the Rosetta Stone.

Scientific analysts initially believed, based on available evidence, that the COVID-19 virus first developed in a region near Wuhan, China, somehow transferring from infected bats to humans, where it subsequently spread like wildfire around the globe, killing almost 4 million souls.

That was the supposition. It’s proved difficult to establish an origin because the government of China has been, to put it gently, reluctant to cooperate. Over time another theory has been advanced – the virus somehow leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – intentionally or accidently, who knows – where various infectious disease studies have been undertaken.

The Wuhan lab has received some research funding from the federal government. But the lab is specifically prohibited from using the money for “gain of function” – a term referring to scientific procedures enhancing the severity or transmissibility of a virus so it can be closely evaluated.

Fauci initially backed what we will call the bat theory based on the initial information provided to him. Because of that, a number of congressional Republicans are seeking, no, demanding his resignation insisting he lied about the pandemic’s origin.

Congressional critics site a series of Fauci’s emails, obtained by The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News, that they maintain establish that Fauci was well aware of the Wuhan lab theory but sought to ignore it for some unstated reason, perhaps to protect China.

One email frequently cited, dated Feb. 1, 2020, came from Kristian Andersen, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, who cast doubt on the bat theory by noting that research that he conducted with colleagues determined that “the genome (is) inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”

But a month later Andersen changed his mind, writing with colleagues in the journal Nature Medicine that it was “improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus.”

In a subsequent tweet, Andersen explained, “we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility.

However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper. What the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process.”

Regardless, Fauci’s critics who accuse him of lying about the origins are acting as if the Wuhan lab theory is established fact. It is not. Frankly, it has some merit – is it just sheer coincidence that, of all the places in the world, the virus developed in a town where research into such maladies is being conducted? To paraphrase Lamar Parmentel in the 1986 film The Big Easy, China is “a marvelous environment for coincidence.”

But the lab theory is far from proven. And it’s terribly difficult to cast a support for a theory as a lie, especially since both Fauci and Biden support an investigation into the origin.

“I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human, but I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason, it could have been a lab leak,” Fauci said on CNN.

Critics also mauled Fauci over more than $800,000 in federal funds from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci heads, going to the Wuhan lab for research. There are claims that some of the money could have gone for gain of function procedures, which some speculate created the virus.

Fauci has publicly defended the funding, asserting that that work conducted in the lab is necessary to understand coronaviruses. While he has spoken in support of gain of function in the past, the money was provided for other purposes.

Still, he couldn’t dismiss the possibility that the Chinese lied about the use of funds.

“But in our experience with grantees, including Chinese grantees, which we have had interactions with for a very long period of time – they are very competent, trustworthy scientists,” he told a Senate committee.

But the dispute doesn’t end there. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, the lower chamber moron of the year, has filed H.R. 2316 – The Fire Fauci Act – which contends that Fauci “has continually failed to provide Americans with accurate information about the COVID–19 pandemic and has shown distrust in the American private sector and American ingenuity.”

The resolution lists a number of imagined transgressions, noting, for instance that Fauci in March 2020 debunked the notion of wearing a mask to ward off the virus, saying the usage “might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it is not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.”

But on MSNBC on Wednesday, Fauci claimed there initially wasn’t much information available on the utility of masks. Details regarding the asymptomatic spread of the disease weren’t known and there was a fear of a mask shortage, thus threatening the supply for hospital personnel.

As more information became available, the more it was apparent that masks were useful in fending off the spread of the virus.

“When those data change, when you get more information, it’s essential that you change your position because you have to be guided by the nscience and the current data.”

It should come as no surprise that the Two (rather than four) Horsemen of the Apocalypse who have brought so much pride to the Commonwealth of Kentucky – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, are staunch fire-Fauci advocates. Massie, in fact, is original co-sponsor of the Fire Fauci Act (Massie and Marjorie Taylor Greene, now there’s a match made in heaven…or some other place) and, in fact, is calling for the ouster of the entire leadership team at the Centers for Disease Control for its “constant stream of lies” over the past year.

“They are hiding information,” Massie said on the Brian Thomas Show on WKRC-AM in Cincinnati this week. “They’re skewing results. They’re skewing their own data.” Massie referred to Fauci as a “huckster.”

Paul, who has tormented Fauci for months, has been busy lately taking the world’s longest home run trot on a foul ball. Paul has been attacking Fauci on numerous fronts, including the virus origins, the lab funding and mask necessity. Lately, he has maintained that those who have already contracted COVID-19 – he was the first member of Congress to contract the virus – don’t have to get a vaccination since they are already immune.

Fauci, on the other hand, urges everyone to get vaccinated, noting that different strains of the virus have developed in India and Great Britain and there’s no telling of those who previously suffered are protected.

That hasn’t stopped Paul from smugly noting “Told you” in a tweet, cementing his status as a twerp.

Consider this:

Fauci isn’t fool proof. It would be silly to claim all of his decisions were spot on. Where he was perhaps off base centered on being too cautious, promoting procedures past their due date, like wearing masks outside after it was clear that the practice wasn’t necessary.

But in a country of more than 330 million, facing a daunting task of addressing a virus that, at the beginning, no one knew the first thing about, caution was certainly called for, especially in facing the prospects of hundreds of thousands of deaths.

And he followed the science for the most part. Remember months ago when folks were warned about turning door knobs and the necessity to wash your hands to fend off COVID-19? Once it was determined that the disease spread in a different manner, those recommendations were withdrawn. It’s all about reading the data and acting in the public’s best interest.

But Republicans like Massie and Paul see political hay to be made. And the public interest carries little to no weight with them.

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One Comment

  1. Willie says:

    Bill, Bill, Bill

    What a reach for you this time.

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