The Doctor Versus the Denier

Anthony Fauci’s at the pool, but Donald Trump’s in deep.

Never mind Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

You want to see a real can’t-look-away train wreck of a relationship? Look to the nation’s capital, where a messy falling out is chronicled everywhere from the tabloids to a glossy fashion magazine, replete with a photo shoot by a swimming pool.

The saga has enough betrayal, backstabbing, recrimination, indignation and ostracization to impress Edith Wharton.

The press breathlessly covers how much time has passed since the pair last spoke, whether they’re headed for splitsville, and if they can ever agree on what’s best for the children.

It was always bound to be tempestuous because they are the ultimate odd couple, the doctor and the president.

  • One is a champion of truth and facts. The other is a master of deceit and denial.
  • One is highly disciplined, working 18-hour days. The other can’t be bothered to do his homework and golfs instead.
  • One is driven by science and the public good. The other is a public menace, driven by greed and ego.
  • One is a Washington institution. The other was sent here to destroy Washington institutions.
  • One is incorruptible. The other corrupts.
  • One is apolitical. The other politicizes everything he touches — toilets, windows, beans and, most fatally, masks.

After a fractious week, when the former reality-show star in the White House retweeted a former game-show host saying that we shouldn’t trust doctors about Covid-19, Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci are gritting their teeth.

What’s so scary is that the bumpy course of their relationship has life-or-death consequences for Americans.

Who could even dream up a scenario where a president and a White House drop oppo research on the esteemed scientist charged with keeping us safe in a worsening pandemic?

The administration acted like Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacko-bird trade adviser, had gone rogue when he assailed Dr. Fauci for being Dr. Wrong, in a USA Today op-ed. But does anyone believe that? And if he did, would he still have his job?

No doubt it was a case of Trump murmuring: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome infectious disease specialist?

Republicans on Capitol Hill privately confessed they were baffled by the whole thing, saying they couldn’t understand why Trump would undermine Fauci, especially now with the virus resurgent. They think it’s not only hurting Trump’s re-election chances, but theirs, too.

As though it couldn’t get more absurd, Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Friday that she thinks it would help Trump’s poll numbers for him to start giving public briefings on the virus again — even though that exercise went off the rails when the president began suggesting people inject themselves with bleach.

How did we get to a situation in our country where the public health official most known for honesty and hard work is most vilified for it?” marvels Michael Specter, a science writer for The New Yorker who began covering Fauci during the AIDs crisis. “And as Team Trump trashes him, the numbers keep horrifyingly proving him right.”

When Dr. Fauci began treating AIDs patients, nearly every one of them died. “It was the darkest time of my life,” he told Specter. In an open letter, Larry Kramer called Fauci a “murderer.”

Then, as Specter writes, he started listening to activists and made a rare admission: His approach wasn’t working. He threw his caution to the winds and became a public-health activist. Through rigorous research and commitment to clinical studies, the death rate from AIDs has plummeted over the years.

Now Fauci struggles to drive the data bus as the White House throws nails under his tires. It seems emblematic of a deeper, existential problem: America has lost its can-do spirit. We were always Bugs Bunny, faster, smarter, more wily than everybody else. Now we’re Slugs Bunny.

Can our country be any more pathetic than this: The Georgia governor suing the Atlanta mayor and City Council to block their mandate for city residents to wear masks?

Trump promised the A team, but he has surrounded himself with losers and kiss-ups and second-raters. Just your basic Ayn Rand nightmare.

Certainly, Dr. Fauci has had to adjust some of his early positions as he learned about this confounding virus. (“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” John Maynard Keynes wisely observed.)

Medicine is not an exact art,” Jerome Groopman, the best-selling author and professor at Harvard Medical School, put it. “There’s lots of uncertainty, always evolving information, much room for doubt. The most dangerous people are the ones who speak with total authority and no room for error.”

Sound like someone you know?

Medical schools,” Dr. Groopman continued, “have curricula now to teach students the imperative of admitting when something went wrong, taking responsibility, and committing to righting it.”

Some are saying the 79-year-old Dr. Fauci should say to hell with it and quit. But we need his voice of reason in this nuthouse of a White House.

Despite Dr. Fauci’s best efforts to stay apolitical, he has been sucked into the demented political kaleidoscope through which we view everything now. Consider the shoot by his pool, photographed by Frankie Alduino, for a digital cover story by Norah O’Donnell for InStyle magazine.

From the left, the picture represented an unflappable hero, exhausted and desperately in need of some R & R, chilling poolside, not letting the White House’s slime campaign get him down or silence him. And on the right, some saw a liberal media darling, high on his own supply in the midst of a deadly pandemic. “While America burns, Fauci does fashion mag photo shoots,” tweeted Sean Davis, co-founder of the right-wing website The Federalist.

It’s no coincidence that the QAnon-adjacent cultists on the right began circulating a new conspiracy theory in the fever swamps of Facebook that Dr. Fauci’s wife of three and a half decades, a bioethicist, is Ghislane Maxwell’s sister. (Do I need to tell you she isn’t?)

Worryingly, new polls show that the smear from Trumpworld may be starting to stick; fewer Republicans trust the doctor now than in the spring.

Forget Mueller, Sessions, Comey, Canada, his niece, Mika Brzezinski. Of the many quarrels, scrapes and scraps Trump has instigated in his time in office, surely this will be remembered not only as the most needless and perverse, but as the most dangerous.

As Dr. Fauci told The Atlantic, it’s “a bit bizarre.”

More than a bit, actually.

Jimmy Fallon tried to stay out of politics. But Trump sucked him in.

Jimmy Fallon has never been a fan of talking about politics.

“It’s just not what I do,” Fallon said in an interview last October, when asked about the pressure to be in the “anti-Trump lane” like so many of his fellow late-night TV hosts. “I don’t really even care that much about politics. I love pop culture more than I love politics.”

.. “Even though ‘The Tonight Show’ isn’t a political show, it’s my responsibility to stand up against intolerance and extremism as a human being,” said Fallon, who added that he watched the news coverage of Charlottesville and was “sick to my stomach.”

.. But he has largely declined to address Trump, aside from monologue jokes — and now, it doesn’t even matter. Because Trump has ensnared him anyway.

.. This can’t be the ideal scenario for Fallon: Even before he took over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno in February 2014, he emphasized that he would stay away from politics. “Mr. Fallon acknowledged that his ‘Tonight’ will not be a place to go — at least initially — for hard-hitting interviews with politicians or celebrities dealing with some unpleasantness,” the New York Times wrote in a profile. “If that means taking criticism for soft interviews, Mr. Fallon said, so be it.”

“The political stuff? Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, they have it. And Stephen Colbert, who is an animal. He’s amazing,” Fallon said at the time. “Those guys are good at it. I don’t want to mess with that.”

.. “I tossed and turned for a couple of weeks, but I have to make people laugh. People that voted for Trump watch my show as well.”

Trump says SNL should bring back Darrell Hammond. Hammond says only if Lorne asks.

Hammond was one of SNL’s greatest impressionists during his 14-year run with the show, pulling off more than 100 characters, from the lip-biting Bill Clinton to the foul-mouthed Sean Connery. But his Trump was so good, SNL kept him in that role even after he left the cast in 2009. He made his final Trump appearance in 2016. (Taran Killam also briefly held the role.) Then Trump’s candidacy took off, and SNL boss Lorne Michaels decided he wanted a more visceral approach. He tapped Baldwin, a Trump hater whose cartoonish portrayal of the reality-TV star president would go on to earn him an Emmy.

.. For Hammond, the shift was crushing, which he detailed when he spoke to The Post last year. Hammond, who remains SNL’s announcer, says he’s now at peace with keeping his Trump in the past. He had moved to Los Angeles to get away from the constant questions, taping his intros remotely. Now he’s back in New York and has been a regular presence around Studio 8H.

.. Hammond’s relationship with Trump is different from Baldwin’s. He tries to remain decidedly apolitical. There were times, long before the White House, when he visited with Trump in his office, studying his movements and speech patterns. He even had Ivanka Trump’s phone number on his cellphone, only deleting it after he lost the part. Last year, Jim Downey, the legendary former SNL writer, called Hammond’s Trump impression “the gold standard.”

But Michaels, speaking to The Post last year, said that he wasn’t looking for accuracy as Trump’s candidacy began to build.

The Megyn Kelly Problem

Except, of course, that Kelly, unlike a fictional dinosaur, has been through some truly horrific sexual violations, including vile and gendered comments from a man who is now the president of the United States, as well as an online silencing campaign that will most likely continue for as long as she refuses to capitulate.

.. Except, of course, that Kelly, unlike a fictional dinosaur, has been through some truly horrific sexual violations, including vile and gendered comments from a man who is now the president of the United States, as well as an online silencing campaign that will most likely continue for as long as she refuses to capitulate.

.. If you’ve heard the term “white feminism” tossed around your social media feeds, this is a prime example: fighting for freedom and justice as far as the boundaries of your own identity and not beyond.

.. America’s traditionalist wing has set a tidy trap: The more you actually know about the way abuse functions, the less seriously you’re taken. So, what do we do with the fact that, as destructive as some of Kelly’s work has been, there are people who listened to her indictment of Ailes who would never have listened to, say, Anita Hill.

.. When Kelly finds a righteous purpose, she is potent.

.. In a profoundly hostile and disturbing interview about the settlement, O’Reilly told The New York Times that he had been the subject of no formal complaints to human resources in 43 years. Kelly dunked on that one, too: “O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior was false. I know because I complained.”

.. Conservative women, anti-feminist women, apolitical women, it is simply a fact: You are participating in feminism just by being alive. In the most passive sense, you are beneficiaries. You can vote, you can work, you can have your own bank account, you can bring a sexual harassment claim against someone at your place of employment, you can prosecute your husband for rape

.. by participating in #MeToo, by fighting back against harassment, by telling your story, you are standing up for the idea that women are autonomous human beings who are preyed upon and subordinated by men. Sorry, but that’s feminism. We’ll be here when you’re ready.

Why Trump Attacked His Own Deputy Attorney General

Rod’s reputation, which he’s earned, is that he does things by the book.”

.. According to senators, Rosenstein later testified in a closed-door briefing that he knew before he wrote the memo that Trump would fire Comey.

.. Democrats and many lawyers in Washington who had a high opinion of Rosenstein were shocked that he allowed himself to be used by Trump and Sessions in such a blatant scheme to oust the person investigating the President’s own campaign. Senator Chuck Schumer wrote to Rosenstein warning that the Deputy Attorney General had “imperiled” his reputation as an “apolitical actor.”

.. “The content of that memo is totally in keeping with Rod,” the former Obama official said. “He’s a by-the-book guy, and he was deeply offended by how Comey broke the rules. The thing I don’t understand is how Rod let himself get played like that.”

.. a clash between the two men’s distinguishing characteristics: Comey’s zealous self-regard for his own independence and Rosenstein’s adherence to the letter of the law and Justice Department guidelines.

.. Before Comey was fired, he apparently never went to Rosenstein and explained the steps that Trump had taken to try to shut down the investigation of Michael Flynn. If Comey had, Rosenstein would have known that Trump was taking actions that looked a lot like obstruction of justice. “If Comey had gone to Rod, he would never have written that memo,”

.. “Those alarm bells should have gone off for Rod anyway, but Comey, by keeping it so close and feeling he’s not accountable to anyone, made it easier for Rod.”

.. his actions to safeguard the independence of the investigation and publicly warn Trump that he would not obey an order to fire Mueller may have triggered Trump’s wrath

.. Ironically, Trump is now alluding to the fact that Rosenstein was—wittingly or not—a part of the plot to get rid of Comey. Trump may be seizing on that fact as a way to push Rosenstein into recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

.. It is classic Trump: he ensnared Rosenstein in a scheme to get rid of Comey. Now that Rosenstein has tried to correct his error and insulate the investigation from further meddling, Trump is using Rosenstein’s role in the scheme to try to push him aside. (If this sounds like a plot from “The Sopranos,” it’s because there were, in fact, several episodes like this.)

.. The next person in line, Rachel Lee Brand, the Associate Attorney General, has a background in Republican politics and little experience in criminal or national-security cases.) If Rosenstein is forced to recuse himself, whoever comes after him as Mueller’s overseer will know that Trump is hoping that he or she will be more pliable.