Turning Fauci into NJ’s electoral boogeyman

The Republicans in our state Legislature had a chance to honor an authentic American hero last week, but instead they chose to follow Donald Trump’s path of willful ignorance and petty grievance.

They were voting on a resolution that didn’t require much debate, a simple statement that paid tribute to Dr. Anthony Fauci – the venerable director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health since 1984 — for being a “leading and trusted voice for science and evidence-based decision-making” and noting that his “clear communication and even temperament have been key” in the COVID-19 response.

Yet Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) found fault with that assessment, stating that “Dr. Fauci has a history of flip-flops. He is careful to cover his scientific gluteus with verbs such as could and might.”

Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex) called the resolution “just a political stunt on an unproven guy. Dr. Fauci, his record has not been proven yet by any means. He’s all over the place. He’s trying to sell a book now.”

Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) was offended that Fauci wore No. 19 (as in COVID-19) when he threw out the first pitch at a Nationals game. “Really sick,” he called it, according to

And Assembly Minority leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) said the resolution was posted “for political reasons, and not substantive reasons.”

Actually, it’s substantive if you value human life, and to deny Dr. Fauci’s prominence is to engage in a juvenile political game of deflections, distortions, and demagoguery, one that shows little understanding of the science that he has devoted his career to pursuing.

Lest anyone need the reminder: His research developed treatments that enabled millions of carriers of the HIV virus to live a full life. He launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief under President Bush in 2003 and saved countless lives across the planet.

And in the absence of leadership in the White House, Fauci became the most trusted expert on preventive measures against COVID, which were often in opposition to Trump’s lies.

Still, New Jersey’s Republican lawmakers spat out a smoldering soufflé of blather that was torn from the playbook of a disgraced president, who from the moment the pandemic struck had no strategy, lied about the dangers, muted scientists and decried medical expertise, damaged the CDC’s credibility, promoted disinfectants and other quackery, turned masks into a culture war, and never missed a tee time as 600,000 Americans perished.

It was an exemplary study of lethal incompetence, yet Republicans have somehow decided it’s the fault of a scientist whom the president muzzled after March 11, 2020, the day Fauci went before Congress and said, “It’s going to get worse.”

From that moment, he was out of step with Trump’s contempt for health protocols and safety measures. And now, as Trump attempts to turn a respected scientist into an electoral boogeyman, members of the Trump party in our state apparently got the memo.

“The former president’s management style is to blame others for his failures, so he needs a fall guy,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), who authored the resolution. “But the public record shows very clearly that the problem was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Their attempted rewrite of history will prove futile.”

Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, was more blunt: “Those who worship at the altar of Trump may prefer his Clorox deep-clean therapy,” he said. “But Dr. Fauci is a brilliant scientist who helped restore calm and leadership.”

There will be more Fauci-bashing as we get closer to the next election, because Washington’s wingnut caucus senses an opportunity. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the Q-Anon adherent who believes that Jewish space lasers cause wildfires, even demanded that the Biden Administration investigate Fauci and release the results by June 31, a date which does not exist.

It is mostly designed to mask Trump’s epic failure, but it makes them sound like crackpots. They need a new strategy. This one is embarrassing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *