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Bill Straub: Rand Paul’s viciousness could be put to real harm if he becomes chair of Senate committee

Sen. Rand Paul is a buffoon. But he may soon become a buffoon with a microphone and a gavel, which will almost certainly work to the nation’s detriment.

Paul, R-Bowling Green, the near wholly owned subsidiary of billionaire Jeff Yass, is in line to become chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee if: a) he wins re-election on Tuesday, which he probably will; and b) Republicans retake the Senate, which at this stage is probably better than a 50-50 proposition.

From that vantage point he has essentially promised to make the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Biden, something close to a living hell, even though Fauci is retiring in December.

With all those duties, Fauci is also serving as the nation’s top man battling COVID-19 and, as a result, has found himself consistently crossways with Paul, who has accused him of every crime known to man up to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. But our boy Rand has promised hearings into the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic if Republicans take the wheel, providing him with an opportunity to address that oversight.

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

Some of the nicer things Paul has said about Fauci include accusations that he is responsible for “thousands” of deaths for supporting vaccinations over claims of natural immunity, lying to Congress about the National Institute of Health funding research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the origin point, Paul claims, of the pandemic, and that his advocacy of wearing masks as a preventative measure “actually cost lives.”

“I think there is a great danger when a government bureaucrat sets themselves up as representing science,” Paul told Megyn Kelly in an interview on Sirius XM last December. “To me, it doesn’t conjure up images of freedom, it conjures up a Medieval church oppressing science. You know, science should never be beholden to government imprimatur or government dogma. And the thing is most of the time when he is talking about mandates or edicts that come from him, they are usually not based in science. For example, he’s been saying we’re undervaccinated as a country. The truth is actually the opposite. Well over 90 percent of those over 65 at high-risk have chosen voluntarily to get vaccinated.”

Paul, in the style adopted by many a right-winger in this callous political age, has ascribed evil intent on Fauci, 81, who has served the federal government in some capacity since 1984. During that time, he has served under seven presidents – four of them Republicans – earning widespread respect.

Fauci’s reputation was enhanced considerably during the dreaded HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, criticized at first for his slow reaction but praised later for taking bold steps to address the plague. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award offered in the U.S., by President George W. Bush, a Republican. Michael Gerson, a White House speech writer during the Bush administration, described him as “the greatest public servant I have known.”

In short, this is the guy Paul is attempting to paint as a sanitized and Americanized Mengele.

Let’s agree on a proposition: Congress needs to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and assess the nation’s response to the tragedy, the former to properly prepare for future pandemics, which are sure to occur, and the latter to make sure the nation doesn’t repeat its mistakes.

Paul is obviously not the man for this job. He has made it clear he is out for some sort of revenge, telling Fox News Fauci “will have to testify under oath because a million Americans died. And we want to know about was there a cover-up in trying to suppress any link to the lab in China.”

In a fundraising letter dispatched last month, Paul added, “If you help me win, I promise to subpoena every last document of Dr. Fauci’s unprecedented coverup.”

By means of comparison, Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, the current ranking member of the Senate Health panel, who also is retiring, told Fauci recently, “I can’t thank you enough for your years of service. It’s been incredibly beneficial to the American people and to the health care of this country. I hate to see you go.”

Fauci acknowledges his performance over the period now going on three years, resulting in more than 97 million cases COVID cases and 1.07 million deaths, has been far from perfect. Many of the miscalculations can be attributed to shooting in the dark – facing a terrible and mounting catastrophe with little to go on.

“It’s almost like the fog of war,” Fauci told Science magazine in an interview published in March 2020. “After the war is over, you then look back and say, ‘Wow, this plan, as great as it was, didn’t quite work once they started throwing hand grenades at us.’ It really is similar to that.”

In a second Science interview, this one dated Sept, 1, Fauci said he and others had to cope with changing circumstances. For instance, he initially pooh-poohed mask wearing. He also initially didn’t view COVID as a “major threat.” But then additional information became available.

“When you’re doing an experiment, you collect data, you validate it, you scrub it, you analyze it, and then you write something that’s based on science that’s not dynamic, but is immutable,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a pandemic response, it’s very dynamic, and a somewhat mysterious evolution of a process that has a lot of consequences, because people’s lives are involved. The public expects you to analyze the situation and come out with daily proclamations about what should be done. When you’re humble and scientific enough to say, you know, we were saying this a week, a month, 2 months ago, but now things have really changed, that’s taken as flip-flopping, being wrong, and having made a mistake.”

Of course, Fauci isn’t the only one who suffered COVID missteps. Paul himself championed ivermectin, a drug infrequently used to treat intestinal parasites and head lice in humans – it’s mostly used on horses and cattle – that has proved ineffective, according to various studies.

One of the biggest differences between Paul and Fauci involves the source of the pandemic. Paul, sometimes wrong but never in doubt, insists the virus somehow escaped from the Wuhan lab and circulated in the local population. He now cites the findings in a report composed and circulated by the Republican staff on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that a “research-related incident” in Wuhan is “the most likely’’ source of the pandemic.

“So, 2 yrs after Fauci ordered his henchman to condemn lab leak propositions as conspiracy theories, a bipartisan committee concludes evidence makes it “more likely than not” that COVID came from a lab leak!,” Paul crowed on Twitter.

(Point of order: A report from the Republican staff is hardly bipartisan. And who the “henchmen” are is anyone’s guess. You may proceed).

Fauci has consistently maintained the pandemic evolved naturally, telling CBS This Morning at one point, “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that (this virus) evolved in nature and then jumped species.” But he also said the issue requires further study and didn’t dismiss the lab leak theory.
The report cited by Paul is not scientific in nature. Most, though not all, scientific studies support the spread through nature concept. Two reports published in Science this year support that claim. One maintained it evolved from the Huanan Seafood Market while the other held that early strains of the virus came from animals sold at the market.

It’s a debatable notion. But accusing Fauci for some dastardly deed for supporting a theory that doesn’t comport with Rand Paul’s view of the world is his typically snide way of doing business. So is his specious argument that Fauci’s belief in vaccines, while downplaying natural immunity. has contributed to thousands of deaths, suggesting that folks might rely on them too heavily for their own good.

Paul has asserted that those who have already contracted COVID or been vaccinated needn’t wear a mask for protection, and that doing so would simply constitute “theater,” since they would already be immune. Fauci disagreed, saying there’s no guarantee that variants of the virus would react similarly.

Responding with a tweet, Paul, citing a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said, “Sorry, Dr. Fauci and other fearmongers, new study shows vaccines and naturally acquired immunity DO effectively neutralize Covid variants. Good news for everyone but bureaucrats and petty tyrants!” 

But that shouldn’t be the final word. Kaiser Health News noted that, as the virus mutates, the variants may produce lower levels of neutralizing antibodies, as suggested in lab tests on blood samples out of South Africa. While Paul can afford to shoot from the hip on these issues, Fauci’s responsibility requires more constraint.

Paul has thrown such much mud on the wall to see what sticks that it’s impossible to clean up the entire mishigas. A semantics battle continues to rage over what constitutes a process called gain-of-function, used in labs to enhance the infectiousness or severity of a virus in an effort to find ways to deal with it. Paul insists the National Institute of Health funded such studies at Wuhan and Fauci lied about it. Fauci maintains there was never any funding for gain-of-function.
Fauci told Science he mishandled the disagreement with Paul.

“Instead of responding to his accusatory tone, I should have just said, that’s irrelevant to the safety of the country,” he said. “It stunned me when he publicly called me a murderer of 5 million people. I just should have dropped back off and said, this guy’s a jerk.”


Paul’s viciousness in this situation is understandable. His raison de etre is centered on dismissing expertise – except his own, of course – and abasing bureaucrats. Having an expert, like Fauci, who is reliable and respected by the community upsets his entire political philosophy and must therefore be dealt with, regardless of whether the kudos are well-earned.

In other words, it’s all about Rand Paul. As usual.

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