The second best laugh I’ve had today was imagining Trump turning on the TV to find Fauci and Birx at the podium in the White House briefing room, informing the world that the MAGA wonder drug is a bust. Imagine how their next meeting with the president would go.

The best laugh I’ve had today was imagining Trump acquiescing to a request from Fauci and Birx to give that briefing. It would amount to a flashing neon sign that “TRUMP WAS WRONG.” Sure, it’d be good for the country by maybe convincing a few people at the margins to stop obsessing about HCQ and focus on preventative measures until we have a drug that really does work reliably. But who cares whether the country would benefit if the price would be the president having to admit he was wrong?

Expert opinion on hydroxychloroquine remains mixed. As I said yesterday, enthusiasts include an epidemiologist at Yale’s School of Public Health. Observational studies are also mixed. Some say the drug is promising, others say it doesn’t help and might actually cause harm. But the important studies, the randomized clinical trials, aren’t mixed. They all point to “bust.” That’s why Gottlieb felt so sure telling MSNBC this morning that the evidence was “definitive.”

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who served under President Trump, told MSNBC on Wednesday that hydroxychloroquine “definitively” does not work as a coronavirus treatment…

“We all hoped it was going to work. … All of the studies that were rigorously done have pointed in the same direction, which is that the drug doesn’t work,” Gottlieb said.

“I think at this point, we can definitively say hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. I’m not sure what more we need to do.”

“I think it’s incumbent of the public health officials around the president to make sure he’s fully informed of that information. … There is a lot of data right now available that I think could inform a very convincing briefing.”

I have no doubt that Trump is “fully informed” of what the clinical trials say and doesn’t give the slightest little fart about it. Like I said earlier this afternoon, the GOP has essentially no ideological content anymore beyond doing what Trump wants and opposing what the left wants (which almost always align). Trump invested lots of political capital in the idea that hydroxychloroquine is effective against COVID-19; the left invested heavily in the idea that it isn’t. The randomized trials suggest they were right and he was wrong. There’s nothing in the world that will get him and the GOP to concede on that. He’ll save face at whatever cost, even if it means calling someone who believes that gynecological problems are caused by demon sex an “important voice” in the great hydroxychloroquine debate.

For what it’s worth, Fauci *is* willing to echo Gottlieb’s point in interviews that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. But he doesn’t force the issue; if he’s not asked about it, he doesn’t volunteer it. And he certainly isn’t going to go rogue and hold a briefing to run through the clinical data with the public. So we’re left with an absurd spectacle in which the head of the country’s national institute of infectious diseases politely reminds Americans on occasion that HCQ is ineffective and then his boss, the most powerful man in the world, says stuff like, “Hey, I think it works,” and people have to figure out from that hash of messaging what to do.

Peter Navarro, the drug’s biggest booster in the White House, made a comment this morning that reminds us just how much face there is to be saved here:

“Not my lane, George,” Navarro responded, saying he was there to discuss how America is going to get a vaccine and that it’s his job to help the president save lives and create jobs.

But before the interview was over, Navarro said, “I’m sitting on 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine at the FEMA stockpile and that would save — that’s enough for 4 million Americans.”

Back when there was still real hope for HCQ, the White House acquired tens of millions of doses of it — which was prudent, in case the drug did bear out under clinical scrutiny. But the FDA revoked emergency-use authorization for it after the early data looked weak, and now that the clinical trials have been disappointing the pills are just sitting there in the national stockpile. Navarro the true believer may be approaching this from the “what have you got to lose?” standpoint of dosing out the pills and seeing what happens. In a way, politically, he and Trump have nothing to lose: No matter what happens with cases and deaths in that scenario, they can always claim that things would have been worse if not for ol’ hydroxychloroquine.

Although the idea of a White House briefing debunking hydroxychloroquine is a nonstarter, certainly some epidemiologists could get together and hold a briefing for the public in which they run through the data. (That’s basically what Stella Immanuel and her group did the other day in Washington, right?) I’m sure CNN or MSNBC would be willing to make a TV event out of it. If it was successful, that same group could hold briefings on other COVID matters. It would be pitiful if we ended up with the presented regularly pitted against the “TV doctors” on the latest evidence about coronavirus and therapies, but we already have a pitiful version of that in Trump pitting himself against Fauci and Gottlieb. If Gottlieb wants to counterprogram bad scientific information, let him pull together a team and do it.

I’ll leave you with this encouraging thought.