After 54 years on the government payroll, Dr. Anthony Fauci made the case in his final appearance at the White House on Nov. 22 that he has achieved more good than harm. Citing work beyond the scope of the coronavirus pandemic that rocketed him to household-name status, the soon-to-be ex-Chief Medical Adviser said he would “let other people judge the value” of his accomplishments.
“What I would like people to remember about what I’ve done is that every day for all of those years, I’ve given it everything that I have, and I’ve never left anything on the field,” Fauci told the attending reporters. “So if they want to remember me — whether they judge rightly or wrongly what I’ve done — I gave it all I got for many decades.”
And it seems judgment he shall have.
A Political Position?
As the public face of the COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccination programs, Fauci drew as much criticism as acclaim in his efforts to manage the US response under two different administrations. Yet it was not the apparent arrogance of declaring himself “science” that irked so many. Nor was it likely the remedies the doctor prescribed that brought him such widespread vilification.
If your car breaks down, you go to the garage. Should your garbage disposal stubbornly refuse to dispose, you call a plumber. Likewise, most sensible folks consult a doctor when faced with a medical crisis. But what happens when that doctor starts pontificating on how individuals should behave in society or which businesses are permitted to trade? Rather than embrace the role of the nation’s top doctors, Fauci and his associates in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sought to act as central planners, defining every aspect of daily life.
When questioned on what was preventing the medical coalition from stopping the spread of the sickness, Fauci said it was not the shifting virus to blame but instead the “independent spirit in the United States of people not wanting to comply with public health measures.”
The Infamous Fauci Flip-Flops
Who could fault Americans for refusing to comply with constantly shifting instructions? Just a small selection of the volte-faces is enough to make even the most “science-conscious” observer’s head spin:
- From stating there was “no reason” to wear a mask in March to pushing mask mandates in April.
- Calling lockdowns “Draconian” only to later advise continued lockdowns.
- Dismissing asymptomatic transmission as unthinkable then saying such transmission was the “driving” factor for infection.
Despite this inconsistency, those who either continued to follow the initial advice or refused to change tack when the instructions reversed were deemed “science deniers” and ridiculed by both the medical establishment and the Fourth Estate. It is often difficult for people to respect a legacy in public service when they have been vilified and demonized by an establishment that overturned not only traditional norms but also personal rights.
In April 2021, Fauci doubled down on inserting politics into medicine and railed at Republicans for what he described as their paradoxical behavior. “On the one hand, they want to be relieved of the restrictions. On the other hand, they don’t want to get vaccinated; it just almost doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “This is a public health issue; it’s not a civil liberties issue.”
A Not-So-Fond Farewell?
Regardless of Fauci’s flaws, faults, or motivations, he has been – and will remain – the focal point of backlash for the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated stripping of freedoms. In some circles, his reputation will be that of a savior who fought a deadly disease. But for others, he will be the villain who ushered in a medical tyranny never before experienced in the United States.
Perhaps William Shakespeare had the best advice on whether legacies can forever be protected when he wrote in Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”
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