As Fauci began his response, stressing masks and vaccines for the umpteenth time, Paul interrupted, “and you have advocated to make it coercive and done by force, and you’ve advocated it be done by mandate.”
Rising to high moral dudgeon, Paul resorted to sarcasm: “You have advocated that your infallible opinion be dictated by law.”
Fauci had had enough. He put Paul’s attacks into context — and the context is dark.
“I have threats upon my life,” he said. “Harassment of my family, and my children, with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me.” Fauci then got into specifics, and they are chilling: “Just about three or four weeks ago, on December 21, a person was arrested who was on their way from Sacramento to Washington, DC at a speed stop in Iowa. And the police asked him where he was going. And he was going to Washington, DC to kill Dr. Fauci. And they found in his car an AR-15 and multiple magazines of ammunition, because he thinks that maybe I’m killing people.”
But Fauci took it one step further on Wednesday, offering a theory behind Paul’s attacks. He displayed screen shots he said were from one of Paul’s political websites, seeking to raise campaign donations from his attacks on Fauci.
Having been through more political song and dance than I care to recall, I think I can spot insincerity. Fauci’s response, I believe, was real. It was raw. And it was righteous.
The fact the Rand Paul for Senate committee is raising money on a website called firefauci.org suggests that politics, rather than public health, might be part of the motivation of the junior senator from Kentucky.
But where was the GOP condemnation of Paul? Nearly nonexistent.
He went on to stress his appreciation for Fauci and the other scientists who were testifying. “I do want to point out how much I personally, and I believe the great majority of the people of our country respect you individually and professionally for the work that you do. You are scientists, not politicians. Nevertheless, you are being made subject to the political whims of various political individuals, and that comes at a high cost.”
Two cheers for Romney for defending Fauci and for labeling the attacks on him as political. But I do wish he had followed through and condemned his GOP colleague the way Republicans condemned McCarthy decades ago. Perhaps that’s too much to ask in these hyper-partisan times.
Perhaps Romney has assessed that condemning Paul might have opposite effect of the censure of McCarthy; that if he were to condemn Paul the result would be a diminution of Romney’s political strength within the Trumpified GOP, while strengthening Paul even more.
That is a depressing thought, but likely accurate. So long as there is money to be raised, clicks to be earned, votes to be gained, we can expect power-hungry politicians to, well, put on a performance — even during a deadly pandemic. It seems that political decency is not as contagious as Omicron.