Controversy over Fauci a microcosm of dysfunction of US system
Published: Aug 23, 2022 08:32 PM
Anthony Fauci Photo: AFP

Anthony Fauci Photo: AFP

The symbolic figure of the US' fight against the COVID-19 is about to exit. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and White House chief medical adviser, said on Monday local time that he would step down from his positions in December.

Looking back at the controversies in the US in the past two years over this leading immunologist, it's clear that Fauci, who is nonpartisan, had been caught in the political whirlpool of the partisan struggle in the US. In the context of the polarization of US politics, Fauci's decision is more or less painted with hues of having no other choice.

In a statement regarding the announcement of Fauci's Departure from NIAID, US President Joe Biden said that the 81-year-old infectious-disease specialist "has touched all Americans' lives with his work." Fauci has served under seven US presidents and has headed the NIAID since 1984. Over the decades, he has become a preeminent expert on the US' fight against many viruses, including HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and Zika. 

In an interview on Monday, Fauci told Politico that leaving his government post was "bittersweet." However, it seems that his leadership in Washington's prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic has brought much bitterness to his country.

During the coronavirus epidemic, Fauci emerged as the public face of US' COVID-19 epidemic response. In the early weeks of the epidemic, Fauci made some "missteps" due to "misjudgments," according to various US media. He had initially said that people did not need to wear masks and failed to recognize that asymptomatic people could also spread the virus. Among various reasons, his vast underestimation of the possible disaster that could be caused by the virus has led to more COVID-19 deaths in the US than in any other country - more than 1.04 million people have now been killed by the pandemic in the US.

Although the severe epidemic outbreak soon forced Fauci to change his mind and pushed for stricter measures, the Republicans seemed to pounce on his mistakes to attack him and the Democratic Party. Later in his presidency, former president Donald Trump questioned Fauci's professionalism and his advice on wearing masks. He even accused him of being a Democrat, suggesting that he was deliberately undermining the COVID-19 prevention and control at home.

And once Fauci announced his departure, the Republican Party demonstrated it was so impatient to carry out a political score-settling against him. On social media, a large number of GOP politicians have continued to call for an investigation into Fauci to hold him accountable for the COVID-19 epidemic. Republican Representative Lauren Boebert even threatened the immunologist on Twitter, "Understand this loud and clear, Anthony: We are coming for you whether you retire or not. You will not get away with what you did to America."

Fauci is a microcosm of how Washington combats the epidemic - he, the virus, and the fight have all been politicized. According to Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, the only reason why the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic have failed in the US is that the country politicized the issue from the very beginning.

"The combat has been turned into a bargaining chip and a game of blame-shifting between political parties. As a result, Washington's fight against the epidemic has become the worst one in the world, even though many factors were in its favor," said Shen

Fauci is a part of the American system, so his tragedy is also a tragedy of the system. Another expert from the China Foreign Affairs University believes that even if Fauci wanted to save the desperate crisis by himself, it would be hardly feasible in the current system in the US.

This scholar on international relations, who requested anonymity, further explained that the American system could no longer create heroes due to the country's unhealthy political, social, and cultural environment. It is almost impossible for the fight against the novel coronavirus to remain a matter of science in the US.

Experts predict that more impacts caused by COVID-19 could be witnessed in the US after Fauci steps down. Without an authoritative, powerful driver like Fauci, the fight against the epidemic will remain driverless vehicle for a long time in the US, and on the verge of easily losing total control and completely collapsing. And in the face of new outbreak like monkeypox, once this vehicle gets out of control, it will not only bring more tragedies at home, but also threaten the health and safety of people in other countries. God should really bless America now.