As Election Day nears, Trump escalates offensive against Fauci

Last week, Trump started taking cheap shots at Dr. Anthony Fauci. Today, the president took his offensive in an even uglier direction.
Dr. Anthony Fauci reacts as U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after his press briefing on the coronavirus at the White House on March 26, 2020.
Dr. Anthony Fauci reacts as U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after his press briefing on the coronavirus at the White House on March 26, 2020.Abaca Press / Sipa USA via AP

Dr. Anthony Fauci wasn't pleased last week when the Trump campaign launched a television ad featuring the immunologist, taking his words out of context to make it appear that he was praising the president. When the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases set the record straight, Donald Trump publicly mocked Fauci via Twitter.

At a campaign rally a few days later, the president escalated matters further, mocking the non-partisan scientist as "a Democrat," and attributing a made-up quote to Fauci about mask-wearing.

But this morning, as NBC News reported, Trump needlessly took matters to new heights.

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci during a phone call with campaign staff, calling the infectious disease expert a "disaster." When Fauci appears on television, Trump said, "there's always a bomb," but the president added it would be "a bigger bomb if you fire him," according to a senior campaign official.

In a segment that aired last night on CBS, Fauci told "60 Minutes" that he wasn't surprised when Trump contracted the coronavirus and conceded that the White House limits his media appearances. The comments appear to have annoyed Trump.

But it's the nature of the president's offensive against the NIH expert that's so striking. In addition to calling Fauci a "disaster," Trump also reportedly said this morning, "People are tired of COVID. People are saying, 'Whatever, just leave us alone.' People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots."

First, the fact that the president thinks some of the world's most respected public-health experts are "idiots" explains a great deal about the failed White House response to the pandemic. Indeed, if Trump thinks Fauci's so dumb and wrong, why was his re-election campaign so eager to lean on Fauci's credibility in the now-infamous ad?

Second, whether "people are tired of COVID" is irrelevant. The deadly threat exists independent of public fatigue.

And third, with two weeks remaining before Election Day, as millions of Americans cast ballots through early voting, could Trump's closing message be much worse? He's picking fights with Republican senators, Democratic governors, his rival from four years ago, members of his own cabinet, and the nation's most respected and celebrated immunologist.

There is no method to the madness. There's just a hapless amateur, impulsively lashing out wildly in every direction, because he knows no other way.

Update: After his comments this morning generated attention, Trump followed up on Twitter with additional snide criticisms, including oddly enough, a Bob Hope reference. The president proceeded to mock Fauci's throwing arm.