Fauci's worst soundbite of the pandemic

Ed flagged this earlier but I want to give it more exposure. It’s an amazing insight into how authoritarian the public health bureaucracy has become during the pandemic.

One could dismiss Fauci’s reasoning here by saying, “Look, he’s a doctor, not a lawyer. He’s not supposed to know the ins-and-outs of how policy is made.” Okay, well, he’s been the head of a federal agency for nearly 40 years. One would hope that he’s picked up a passing acquaintance with the niceties of the process during that time.

Besides, you don’t need legal training to grasp the problem with the idea that courts shouldn’t have power to review the lawfulness of federal policy provided that it’s endorsed by scientists. All you need is a third-grade-level civics education. If you made it to the day in class where the teacher explained the three branches of government, congratulations, you’re equipped to spot the problem here.

Did Fauci “misspeak”? He did not. He made the same point in another interview, this time with florid language about how “disturbing” it was that a court might overrule scientific bureaucrats.

What “precedent” is he worried about? That the CDC might not have unrestricted power to tell Americans what they can and can’t do?

I’m not being sarcastic. I think that really is what worries him.

All authoritarian abuses are framed as measures to “protect” the public, the same justification Fauci uses. It’s actually surprising in context that he concedes the CDC has no choice but to comply with the court’s order lifting the mandate. Given his logic, you would expect him to argue that the executive branch has a moral and scientific duty to ignore the order and keep the transportation mask mandate in place, triggering a constitutional crisis.

It’s an extension of his view throughout the pandemic that safety should always trump countervailing considerations. That’s been the heart of the debate between COVID hawks and doves from day one, whether the imperative to try to contain the virus should bow to intangibles like the individual desire for freedom or tangibles like businesses needing to stay afloat. For most people, that debate is a moving target. Early in the pandemic, without vaccines or therapeutics, non-pharmaceutical interventions to try to limit transmission made more sense. Later in the pandemic, when everyone can get vaxxed and boosted and Paxlovid is available at the corner pharmacy, the balance of equities shifts towards freedom and individual risk management.

But not for Fauci. He’s actually moved beyond arguing that safety should trump countervailing considerations like freedom and commerce and is now arguing that it should trump the federal judiciary.

Get him off TV, for God’s sake. That should have been done a year ago but better late than never.

In fairness, it should be noted that not every public health expert is in the “restrictions forever” camp, merely most of them. The most notable exception lately is Leana Wen, whom I’ve written about a few times for her pivot over the past six months from prioritizing safety over freedom to a more … balanced view, let’s say. Politico interviewed her today about her apparent transformation.

She and her husband wanted their two young children, one born during the pandemic, to experience life with peers and playdates. “That is where most Americans are and, frankly, where they have been throughout the pandemic, which is that they want to find the best way to navigate their lives.”

In other words, “public health depends on public trust,” and the public is tired, Wen said…

Despite once supporting federal mandates, Wen now realizes they were never going to change some people’s decision to mask or not. “We live in this very individualistic society where the incentive to do good for society may not be as strong as the incentive to have something personally,” she told Pulse. “We should have said to people from the beginning: ‘If you’re vaccinated, you can take off your mask, you can go back to doing whatever you would like, understanding that there is still risk.’

She remains an outlier in her profession from what I can tell but every sea change has to start somewhere. I’ll leave you with this.