Pelosi on Dr. Birx: She "is the worst"

The House Speaker rightly lambasted the dubious health official to White House aides

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For a while, many of us have been suspicious and outright critical of Dr. Deborah Birx, the State Department’s U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Long regarded as a someone who effectively and valiantly fought the battle against HIV, she surprised some when she became a reliable apologist for Donald Trump’s horrendous response to the coronavirus pandemic, serving as response coordinator on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

That’s why it was great to hear that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, per Politico, has told White House officials what many of us think: “Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in.” The Speaker reportedly said that on Thursday night during a meeting in her office suite with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

This morning Pelosi continued her criticism on ABC’s “This Week”: “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no.”

According to the Politico report by Jake Sherman, Pelosi, in the meeting with White House officials, went on to praise Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying that he “came to his senses, and is now a hero.”

Pelosi is definitely on to something. I’ve had my doubts about Fauci over these months and have expressed them on social media, sometimes imploring him be more forthright, something he’s always been loathe to do.

Fauci’s history, having served under five presidents, had been too neatly packaged by much of the media in recent months: Counter to the characterizations of some in the press, for example, while serving under Ronald Reagan Fauci didn’t publicly challenge the horrendous response to AIDS in the early years — nor get Reagan to do so, publicly or privately. He had to be pressured by AIDS activists to meet with them and work with them — which, to his credit, he did.

Fauci has always tried to delicately balance public health and politics. In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic he tried it with Trump and too often allowed Trump to use him as a shield at the briefings. Fauci attempted to deftly speak the truth while at the same time assuaging Trump, both at the briefings and later during interviews. But the chasm between satisfying Trump’s fantasies and telling the truth became too wide.

Eventually, after snubs and snide comments, Fauci came under full-blown assault by Trump and by officials in the White House. He’s now fighting back much more directly, saying what needs to be said — and incurring more of Trump’s wrath, such as this tweet on Saturday, which of course is completely inaccurate:

Birx, on the other hand, has not only defended Trump’s dangerous behavior, commended his bad actions and complimented his supposedly being “attentive to the scientific literature”; she appears to have actually crafted policy around the pandemic to placate Trump. That has certainly contributed to the mushrooming of the epidemic.

And it’s also led to needless mass death. That is what Pelosi was talking about when she told the White House officials they were in “horrible hands” with Birx. The New York Times in an important piece two weeks ago, outlined some of Birx’s influence and actions:

For scientific affirmation, they turned to Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the sole public health professional in the Meadows group. A highly regarded infectious diseases expert, she was a constant source of upbeat news for the president and his aides, walking the halls with charts emphasizing that outbreaks were gradually easing. The country, she insisted, was likely to resemble Italy, where virus cases declined steadily from frightening heights…

…Dr. Birx was more central than publicly known to the judgment inside the West Wing that the virus was on a downward path…

…Inside the White House, Dr. Birx was the chief evangelist for the idea that the threat from the virus was fading…

…As the pandemic worsened, Dr. Fauci’s darker view of the circumstances was countered by the reassurances ostensibly offered by Dr. Birx’s data.

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Birx kept enabling Trump in his claim that the pandemic would fade, using the flattening of the curve in European countries as a model. But that could only happen in this country if shutdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing were fully enforced, which Trump wasn’t advocating or encouraging; in fact, he’s been doing the opposite. Birx saw this and had to know the ramifications, but she continued to empower Trump’s madness.

That’s why it was good to hear about Pelosi throwing it in the faces of White House officials as Trump tries to destroy Fauci’s credibility.

It’s bad enough that we can’t trust the Centers For Disease Control, where the director, Robert Redfield — a hand-picked Trump lackeytailored the school re-opening guidance to fit Trump’s wishes to send children back to school without proper protections.

If we don’t have scientists following the science — and politicians pointing out when they’re not doing so— this nightmare is only going to get far worse.

RNC Slams Doors to Media; Trump Campaign Goes Underground

It’s not a good sign for a campaign when, in the middle of an election, the party and campaign itself go into hiding.

Even after all the sucking up that the media does with Trump and the GOP — on Air Force One a few days ago they still allowed Trump to speak “off the record” after he said he was going to ban the social media app TikTok — The Republican National Committee has decided to ban the press from the Republican National Convention.

This is the same convention that was forced to move some main events from North Carolina to Jacksonville because of coronavirus. Then Trump was forced to cancel the events in Jacksonville, as Florida became a coronavirus epicenter, and vaguely announced there would be some form of a virtual convention and “telerallies.”

Now the vote to renominate Trump will be private, closed to the press entirely.

And the Trump campaign, in absolute turmoil over Trump’s sinking poll numbers, took all of its TV ads off the air for six days, something unprecedented in modern elections, as they try to figure out what to do. Nothing is working, they realized, and they need to figure out how to use their money better to make attacks land on Joe Biden.

But does anyone believe they’ll actually come up with something that works? It’s not about Biden. It’s all about Trump — and he can’t stop doing things that just make people more worried the world is going off a cliff. The Washington Post reports the campaign is in a “crisis,” as Trump’s suggestion to delay the election has caused fierce backlash even from Republicans and Trump continues in his habit of “touting unproven miracle cures, attacking public health officials and undercutting his own government’s push to encourage good health practices.”

The Post reports that when the campaign comes out from hiding this week and resumes TV ads, they will target Biden as captive to “liberal extremists.” But as long as Trump keeps promoting crazy doctors and dangerous drugs while the economy craters and millions have lost unemployment benefits, it’s doubtful that will do much.

Something good

I made gazpacho this weekend (damn, and I forgot to take a photo!) and asked on Twitter if I could be put lemon instead of lime in it, or add lemon in addition to lime.

The responses made it clear that: a) something is wrong with me for even thinking about such a substitute; b) neither should be in a gazpacho; and c) yes, do both, and you can do anything you want!

I didn’t add the lemon in the end. But wow, I even learned about the debate over what kind of vinegar to use and also learned about “white gazpacho” — ajo blanco — which looks incredible. Who could be against almonds and bread?

Anyway, I’m sure you all have your own suggestions and protestations, so I’m happy to hear them. It’s great weather for gazpacho!