What’s the deal, Joe? Joe Biden asked Dr. Fauci to stay on with his administration but so far, Dr. Birx is getting the brush-off. While Fauci is receiving fawning press coverage and on the lists of finalists for awards recognizing his work during the coronavirus pandemic at the White House, Deborah Birx is updating her resume and making her case to the incoming administration. We’ve been assured that Joe Biden is an advocate for women and will hire a whole lot of them for big important roles, you know.
The problem for Dr. Birx, though, is that she isn’t as willing to go against President Trump, publicly at least, as Fauci is. Fauci is very careful to protect his image for the cool crowd who mostly dwell in The Swamp. Fauci has secured a spot with the Biden administration’s coronavirus task force. Biden has already appointed transition co-chair and Obama administration alumnus Jeffrey Zients to serve as White House coronavirus coordinator. Fauci will be working under him. Like Fauci, Birx has worked for all past presidents for decades – Birx has a 40-year history of service.
Speaking at a Wall Street Journal CEO conference on Tuesday, Birx, a public servant for 40 years, said she planned to remain in government but has yet to hear from the Biden transition team about how or if she’ll be used on the pandemic.
Birx was pulled away from her ambassadorial post as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator to assist the task force. She worked alongside her mentor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, who was less hesitant to directly contradict questionable statements by Trump. She was appointed to the AIDS post in 2014 by President Barack Obama, and it is up to Biden whether to return her to that position.
“I think the one thing I bring to this is really understanding epidemics around the globe,” she said.
Fauci and Birx both acknowledge that Birx is a protege of Fauci’s, he has served as her mentor for most of her career in public health. When she first came onboard with the Trump White House coronavirus task force, she was hailed as the ultimate professional. Obama administration alum was quick to speak favorably of her.
Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, called Birx “great.” Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will serve as a special envoy on climate for Biden, described Birx at her 2014 swearing-in ceremony to serve as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator as someone who “embodies the best of what it means to be a pioneer, to be a practitioner, and a public servant all rolled into one.”
Some of her likeability from the Democrats, though, soon vanished when it became clear that Birx is a team player and wasn’t willing to trash talk Trump’s statements or opinions that became public. She has been more diplomatic in her opinions than Fauci, who appears to be more ego-driven at this point. Fauci is really enjoying his 15-minutes of fame. He has said he didn’t hesitate to accept Biden’s offer to join his team. Birx says she sees herself in a scaled-back role in the Biden administration.
In her coronavirus task force role, Birx faced criticism for defending Trump after he suggested during an April briefing that ultraviolet light and ingesting disinfectants could serve as treatment for the virus. Birx explained that Trump “likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue.”
Birx urged Trump to follow the data as he pushed to relax social distancing restrictions. She wasn’t above flattering the president. She faced criticism after she said in a television interview early in the crisis that Trump’s “ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues.”
Jeremy Konyndyk, now a member of the Biden transition’s Health and Human Services team originally applauded Birx’s appointment to the current White House coronavirus task force but then grew to oppose her as she didn’t criticize Trump for withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO). He accused her of “repeatedly undermined her scientific credibility, publicly, in order to shield the President” in a tweet.
The irony in this is that Trump, too, criticizes Birx, just as he does Fauci. Speaker Pelosi turned on Birx for not pushing back harder when, in her eyes, Trump did not speak of the coronavirus in as dire words as she wanted him to do. And, we know that there are stories that Birx did not approve of Dr. Atlas when he was brought on to the team.
Last Sunday, Birx was a guest on Meet the Press and she was a little quicker to speak up about false information about the virus. She specifically addressed those who “parrot myths” about coronavirus guidance to mitigate the spread of the virus. “And I think our job is to constantly say those are myths, they are wrong and you can see the evidence base.”
Trump critics blame him for diminishing the reputations of career public health servants like Birx. She is criticized for enabling Trump.
“The president’s departure from reality become so extreme that it put her and others on the task force in an untenable position,” said Michael Weinstein, who heads the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and got to know Birx professionally after she was named the global AIDS coordinator in 2014.
“History will have to judge whether they enabled the president by giving him credibility based on their expertise or whether she and the others did more in helping prevent more people from being hurt by the craziness,” he said.
It seems to me that if Joe Biden is really serious about being a unifier (he isn’t) and a supporter of women in the workforce (only to check the boxes for identity politics) then he should offer Dr. Birx a position in his administration. What’s the holdup, Joe?