You would like to think that everybody, Left, Right, and center, would recognize that public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have a really difficult job right now.
We’re dealing with a novel coronavirus, and medical researchers are still not sure why people react so differently, how long post-recovery immunity lasts, or where it came from. There’s not yet consensus, but growing suspicion, that the virus is airborne or virtually airborne because of how light it is. The difficulty of getting people to use precautions is illuminated every time we see people wearing masks below their noses so that they can breathe more easily.
It’s easy to forget Fauci and Birx don’t set the rules. America’s quarantine policies are set by states and localities, and they vary enormously depending upon local circumstances and the assessment and mentality of state officials. South Dakota never implemented a stay-at-home order and is well along its reopening plan. In Arlington, Va., cops are now authorized to write you a $100 ticket if you go out in a group of more than three people. (Good thing that at this moment, the general public has such overwhelming faith in the good judgment of police officers!)
Fauci and Birx can only make recommendations and hope that the people they advise follow their advice. As noted last month, Fauci has made some mistakes that have undermined his wise-man image.
Birx isn’t perfect, either. In April, she contended America’s experience “was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights.” But mistaken assessments are not deliberate lies, and insisting that every wrong appraisal is a revelation of hidden malevolence eats away at needed public trust like acid.
Last week, Politico reported that Pelosi said to Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in.” Politico reported that Pelosi accused Birx of “spreading disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.”
Yesterday on ABC News’ This Week, Pelosi doubled down:
RADDATZ: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you — we just have a couple of more minutes here — Politico reported that in a closed meeting on Friday, you accused Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force of spreading disinformation about the pandemic.
Is that true? And do you have confidence in her?
PELOSI: I — I think the president is spending — spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his — she is his appointee. So, I don’t have confidence there, no.
Instead of asking Pelosi to give examples of Birx spreading disinformation, anchor Martha Raddatz immediately shifts to the topic of election security.
I suspect Pelosi didn’t give any examples of Birx spreading disinformation because she can’t find any. Pelosi is openly proclaiming that Birx’s assessments are unreliable simply because she works for the president.
(This is the same Nancy Pelosi who toured Chinatown in San Francisco on February 24 to demonstrate the threat of catching the coronavirus was overstated, and declared, “It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not just Asian-owned now. You see in Italy where the shows — the fashion shows and all of that were done without an audience because people — they just didn’t — because people were not coming. So, again, this fear is — I think — unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.” By that date, Milan was the epicenter of cases in Europe.)
Birx and every other public-health officials have difficult enough jobs as is with this pandemic. But Nancy Pelosi will make sure the job is even tougher with vague accusations of “disinformation.”