Donald Trump is no longer president. COVID-19 is no longer the threat it was. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert, is back to more routine briefings on vaccination rates and such. So why does Fauci remain so much in the news?
Because the Trump camp can't stop bashing him. And why is that? Why does the right continue to portray this mild-mannered public official as the enemy?
It may be that Fauci publicly refuted some of Trump's ignorant musings during that presidency, but that's not really it. Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hit at Trump in the past. During the 2016 campaign, Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward."
The difference is that Cruz later came crawling on his belly to praise Trump, a man who insinuated that his father helped kill JFK and that his wife was ugly. Fauci never made that kind of round trip. Nor would he.
And what surely riles the right even more than Fauci's refusal to cave is that he didn't care. Fauci saw Trump as a politician to manage rather than to fear. The lack of abject submission punched a few holes in the Trumpian myth centered on an all-powerful authority.
Fauci met the attacks on him with sighs. He responded to nutty declarations on science with patient correction. The right wants angry conflict, and Fauci never delivered on his end.
We now have the sad sight of another Texan sacrificing his good family name to appease Trump. George P. Bush is campaigning to be the Republican nominee for Texas attorney general on the wings of Trump's remark that he was "the only Bush who got it right." It's printed right on George P.'s campaign beverage sleeves.
George P. is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom Trump demeaned as "Low-Energy Jeb." Trump tweeted that Jeb "has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife," who immigrated from Mexico. That Mexican immigrant would be George P.'s mother.
George P. is the nephew of former President George W. Bush, whom Trump maligned after George W. put out a video applauding health care workers but not praising him. He is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, who found Trump so appalling he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. And Trump wasn't invited to speak at the grandfather's funeral as presidents traditionally do.
If George P. Bush's name had been George P. Jones, his political rise undoubtedly would have been less smooth. But now he's shocking a lot of Bush family admirers in his quest to receive a pat on the head from Trump -- or at least not a swat. Sure, a lot of Texas Republican primary voters worship Trump, but is winning a nomination for state office worth losing one's honor?
It's a guarantee that Fauci would not kiss the rear end of anyone who insulted his family. What we have here is a short guy from Brooklyn basically brushing off Trump's menacing antics while swaggering Texas Republicans collapse at the sign of a New Yorker's displeasure.
And there's one other reason for Trump's continued obsession with Fauci: envy. Trump is fading from national prominence. Even Fox News no longer carries all his speeches live.
But Fauci goes on. He's still respected by the sort of people whose respect serious leaders want. His polls numbers remain high.
As the virus threat recedes, not every pronouncement Fauci makes will grab headlines, but he's not there for that. He's there to do the science. The right-wing attacks on him can't be pleasant, but Fauci will end his long career with a legacy of public service and, importantly, his dignity intact.
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