Majority of Americans do not want Fauci to resign

A surprising result from the GOP’s favorite pollster, Trafalgar.

But it gets less surprising as you dig into the crosstabs. In fact, if I were Biden, these results would convince me to pull the plug on Fauci as the administration’s lead COVID mouthpiece, a decision that should have come long ago.

Fauci was asked about the prospect of resigning on MSNBC today and vowed not to quit so long as the pandemic continues to rage, which is the best argument I’ve heard for a strict national lockdown in ages.

My headline is accurate. The Trafalgar poll does show a majority opposed to losing Fauci. But the partisan split between Democrats and Republicans is enormous even by the standards of polarization in 21st century. Dems are +65 net in keeping Fauci on the job; Republicans are -53 against. The parties are almost 60 points apart measured by the share that wants to stick with him.

Independents give him a decisive thumbs down too:

Democrats will heed the advice of any public health official who works for Biden. Fauci holds no special magic for them, except insofar as they feel obliged to rally around him now that he’s become a villain to Republicans. Meanwhile, Fauci’s an obvious liability to the administration in communicating with independents and righties, as various commentators have warned the White House for months. And it’s indies and conservatives whom Biden needs to work extra hard to connect with when delivering COVID information to the public.

So what is he doing keeping Fauci around as his point man? Confine him to his office and find some other official in the public health brain trust to deliver COVID news who hasn’t lost credibility with half the country.

Science writer Nicholas Wade, who wrote the piece that helped break the COVID lab-leak theory into the mainstream last year, is back again today with a new essay. In it he speculates based on circumstantial evidence that Fauci and his boss, Francis Collins, pressured virologists who initially suspected a lab accident in Wuhan into changing their views:

So what induced these virologists to such a radical change of view? “The February 1, 2020, telecon sent a clear message to participants that Fauci and Collins regarded discussion of the lab leak possibility, even though plausible on scientific data, to be politically unacceptable and something that had to be blocked,” says Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, a molecular biologist and a leading critic of gain-of-function research.

Fauci oversees a large portion of funds available for virology research in the U.S. It is not unreasonable to suppose that virologists keen on continuing their careers would be very attentive to his wishes. Both Garry’s and Andersen’s labs receive large sums of money from the NIAID. “Telecon participants with current and pending grants controlled by Fauci and Collins could not have missed or misunderstood the clear message,” Ebright says.

The repudiation by Andersen, Garry, and Holmes of their original conclusion, expressed in the January 31, 2020, email was of enormous benefit to Collins and Fauci. Though primary responsibility for any lab leak would rest with Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and with Chinese regulatory authorities, Collins and Fauci could share a portion of the blame for having funded gain-of-function research despite its obvious risks and then failing to ensure that grant recipients were taking all necessary precautions.

There’s no one else in the federal scientific bureaucracy who can serve as lead messenger for the White House besides a guy who’s suspected of covering up the true cause of the pandemic on China’s behalf? Don’t we have a surgeon general whose job is communicating with the public about health?

Fauci’s catching hell for this soundbite today too but I’m not sure what answer people wanted him to give:

Everyone who gets a flu shot once a year is being boosted. There’s nothing unusual about regular shots for a disease. Fauci’s arguing, reasonably, that if the protection from three doses against severe COVID eventually starts to fade then of course scientists will recommend a fourth dose. What else should he say? “Four shots is too many so take your chances in the ER instead”?

If anything, he’s being less aggressive about boosters than some of his international counterparts are. Israel’s health ministry announced today that a fourth dose does provide extra defense against infection by Omicron. People with four shots were twice as likely as those with three shots to avoid contracting the virus and at least three times as likely to avoid severe illness. Fauci could take that same “maximum protection” approach to boosters and encourage everyone to go get shot number four in the interest of further limiting their risk from Omicron, but he’s not doing that. He’ll back another shot if and only if he sees evidence that people who got their third dose awhile ago are starting to land in ERs.

Of course, he’s been known to change his mind before. A lot. So maybe we’ll hear the “maximum protection” argument from him next week.

I’ll leave you with Scott Gottlieb fielding a question on a debate that’s raged hot over the last year, whether natural immunity or vaccine immunity is superior. Gottlieb is a member of the board of Pfizer, it’s worth noting, but one doesn’t have to strain hard to make the case for vaccination given the logic behind natural immunity: “Get COVID so that you don’t get COVID.”