In her New York Times column today, Maureen Dowd interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci.
If you have been paying attention, you know that 79-year-old Dr. Fauci has been the trusted national voice of fact and reason in response to the pandemic. He is currently director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and has served six presidents.
In the interview, we learn that Dr. Fauci has been working 18-hour days, and at one point worked four or five days on three hours sleep each day. Because as a doctor, scientist and public servant he wants us to understand, wants us to behave appropriately, and wants as few Americans as possible to suffer and maybe die.
Part of that interview:
Thank God the Doctor Is In
By Maureen Dowd
March 21, 2020
WASHINGTON — It’s not easy being a national treasure.
“I’m exhausted,” confessed Tony Fauci when I reached him Thursday evening in the middle of another 18-hour workday.
“I have changed my tune a bit, probably thanks to my wife,” said the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “About a week ago, I was going about four or five days in a row on about three hours of sleep, which is completely crazy, ’cause then I’ll be going on fumes. The last couple of nights, I’ve gotten five hours’ sleep, so I feel much better.”
He said he misses the endorphins of power walking, and he is wracked when he gets home at midnight and it’s too late to answer calls and emails.
“I gotta get rid of this guilt feeling,” he murmured about that moment’s 727 emails.
He said he has not been tested for the coronavirus but takes his temperature every day and usually has it taken another couple times before White House press conferences and meetings in the Oval.
When I spoke with him, he had been missing from the White House briefing for two days and Twitter blew a gasket, with everyone from Susan Rice to Laurence Tribe seeking an answer to the urgent query, “Where is Dr. Fauci?”
Donald Trump, the ultimate “me” guy, is in a “we” crisis and it isn’t pretty. The president is so consumed by his desire to get back his binky, a soaring stock market, that he continues to taffy-twist the facts, leaving us to look elsewhere — to Dr. Fauci and governors like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom — for leadership during this grim odyssey.
Dr. Fauci chuckled at speculation that he was banished due to his habit of pushing back on Trump’s hyperbolic and self-serving ad-libbing.
“That’s kind of funny but understandable that people said, ‘What the hell’s the matter with Fauci?’ because I had been walking a fine line; I’ve been telling the president things he doesn’t want to hear,” he said. “I have publicly had to say something different with what he states.
“It’s a risky business. But that’s my style, Maureen. You know me for many years. I say it the way it is, and if he’s gonna get pissed off, he’s gonna get pissed off. Thankfully, he is not. Interestingly.”
The first time I talked to Dr. Fauci was during a panic in the mid-80s about stopping another virus, the cause of the heartbreaking AIDs crisis. Then, as now, he was honest, brave and innovative. He told me that he tries to be diplomatic when he has to contradict the president about what “game-changer” cures might be on the horizon and whether everyone who wants to be tested can get tested.
“I don’t want to embarrass him,” the immunologist says, in his gravelly Brooklyn accent. “I don’t want to act like a tough guy, like I stood up to the president. I just want to get the facts out. And instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ all you need to do is continually talk about what the data are and what the evidence is.
“And he gets that. He’s a smart guy. He’s not a dummy. So he doesn’t take it — certainly up to now — he doesn’t take it in a way that I’m confronting him in any way. He takes it in a good way.”
On Friday, a trigger-happy Trump was so quick to talk up the fabulous possibilities of an antimalarial drug in combating the virus that Dr. Fauci had to pump the brakes, taking the microphone to explain that we do not know yet because controlled testing is needed.
The president returned to the lectern to press his unscientific case and compliment himself: “I’m a smart guy,” he said. “I feel good about it. And we’re going to see. You’re going to see soon enough.”
Probably thinking about all his government staffers working round-the-clock, Dr. Fauci could not help rubbing his forehead and cheek — going against his own advice to the public — when Trump cracked a joke about the “Deep State Department.”
Though the scientist listens respectfully when the president and the vice president are talking, he somehow manages to emit an “Oh my God, please don’t say that” vibe when the two men scamper over the line. When Mike Pence went into false-hope overdrive, saying, “I just can’t emphasize enough about the incredible progress that we have made on testing,” Dr. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s virus response coordinator, exchanged a whispered aside that sent the internet into a frenzy.
Dr. Fauci assured me that, despite their crosscurrents and an early overconfidence about how easy it would be to control the path of the virus, the president “absolutely” now gets the threat of “the invisible enemy,” as Trump calls the virus.