My Impromptus column today begins with South Africa’s chief justice — who issued a ringing call for prayer in this pestilent time — and ends with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. A lot in between, of course.
Including Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is a leader in our fight against this plague. Over the weekend, some video surfaced. In one of the 1988 presidential debates, Vice President Bush and Governor Dukakis were asked about heroes — present-day heroes, who might inspire Americans, especially the young. Bush was prepared with a string of names (or, anyway, he thought of them). One was that of Fauci, at the National Institutes of Health, working on a cure for AIDS.
(The others were Jaime Escalante, the once-famous teacher, born in Bolivia, who worked in East L.A.; Armando Valladares, the Cuban dissident and former political prisoner; Rick Hauck, the Space Shuttle pilot; and “I also think we ought to give a little credit to the president of the United States,” said Bush — Ronald Reagan.)
After I wrote my column, I noticed a Q&A with Fauci in Science magazine. It makes for very interesting reading. For instance, Fauci was pressed on the president’s misstatements at the podium, during press conferences. His answer reads, in part, “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down.”
There was also this:
Q: You have not said “China virus.”
Q. And you never will, will you?
I address this issue in Impromptus. My bottom line, I guess, is, You can call it whatever you want, as long as you don’t call it late for dinner — as long as you stamp the thing the hell out. This is a bad time for “dunking,” which has become our national pastime (especially now that baseball, along with everything else, is on hold).
A few days ago, I heard from a friend of mine who is a doctor and hospital supervisor. He and his colleagues have been working amazingly hard lately. He shared with me a memo of sorts that he had sent to his children and others. It is a warm, wise memo.
Have a quick excerpt: “Overall, proper hygiene (hand-washing, coughing/sneezing into your elbow) and the social-distancing aspect are very important. Social distancing is physical, not emotional. Stay in touch. Call, text, FaceTime . . .”
I was reminded, once more, of George W. Bush. The president — ex-president, at that point — was responding to the critique of the Left that conservatives stand for survival of the fittest, a dog-eat-dog individualism. Selfishness. In recent years, we have heard the same critique from the Right. They speak of “toxic individualism,” “atomization,” “free-market fundamentalism,” etc.
Bush said — with President Obama standing behind him, by the way — “Independence from the state does not mean isolation from each other. A free society thrives when neighbors help neighbors, and the strong protect the weak, and public policies promote private compassion.”
Last, I’d like to publish a reader letter, sent to me on March 12. Interesting issue, and important.
I’m sure you’re plenty busy, but I have a virus-related economic suggestion for Congress or the White House and no way to be heard in all this racket.
Like everyone else, my wife and I are taking a beating in our 401(k)s. When the market takes a downturn, we always suspend monthly withdrawals so that we don’t have to sell more shares to get the same amount of money. She is now, however, at an age (71) where withdrawals are mandatory, and our provider has to sell a significant number of depressed shares to conform with that law. The long-term impact of that for us is daunting.
Since, as seniors, we’re right in the sights of the virus, it would seem proper to suspend those mandatory age-related withdrawals as part of our country’s economic response.
Can you get this into the congressional pipeline somehow?