Fauci, Trump, and the possibility of progress in knowledge and in morals

See the Washington Post article linked and excerpted below. It demonstrates, again, that the whimperer has no brains, no morals, and bad ratings. Thank heaven he has clothes. (I apologize for whatever mental image I just caused you to glimpse.)

I like Fauci more and more. See the last two of the paragraphs I have pulled out from the linked WaPo article. Not many people as honest and competent as Fauci have been able to avoid saying something brutally frank about him. Cf. the “he’s a _______ moron!” quotations leaked out from several of them. We have not seen a quote like that from Fauci, and I doubt we will. And Trump still says Fauci “is a nice man.”

Fauci’s niceness is, in my book, admirable. Fauci doesn’t bash Trump or anyone else. We need people to stand up and tell the brutal truth. We also need kind, gentle people to hang in there and keep trying to persuade. To use a metaphor that has become dicey/cringey: bad cop / good cop. Fauci is a good cop.

Trump’s inability to see Fauci as anything better than “nice” is not admirable. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s remarks about how the infantile mind has no differentiated moral categories, seeing only “nasty” and “nice.” I’m pretty sure this is in Mere Christianity, which I am way overdue to reread. Maybe someone can help me out.

Trump says Fauci has made a lot of mistakes. These are cases where Fauci has revised his earlier advice on the basis of better data as time has passed by. Trump doesn’t understand or accept how progress in knowledge works, which is why he cannot progress in knowledge. For Trump, on the analogy of “nice” and “nasty” in place of morals, there are only two (infantile) categories with regard to knowledge: know-it-all (being, and always having been, right about everything—like Trump himself) and other (disagreeing with Trump on any point that he cares about). And this is my experience of hardcore Trumpists as well.

The Trumpist mind is not always wrong about absolutely everything, but it is stuck at an infantile stage. It is incapable of progress in knowledge or in morals because it is committed to denying the need for, and the possibility of, progress in these domains. It is incapable of seeing a spectrum, or a continuum, or a mixed bag—or a course of progress. There are no gradus ad Parnassum. There is only 0 or 1, and no computer for elaborating a universe from that binary.

More specifically, Trumpism—as espoused by Trump himself and his core followers—denies that Trump is ever wrong about anything that really matters. Trump is that long-awaited prodigy: the man who needs no metanoia. Doesn’t need to change his mind. Doesn’t need to repent. Doesn’t need to be converted morally or intellectually.

The truth is that Trump comes as close as humanly possible to being wrong about everything that really matters, both morally and intellectually. This freakish combination—being so wrong while also being seen by himself and his followers as infallible—is what makes him so dangerous.

The typical response of the Trumpist to patient, evidence-based demonstration that Trump is wrong is: You think you (or he, or she: the person you’re citing) are (is) so smart, but what about—some instance where that person may have been in the wrong, either morally or in some matter of fact or interpretation.

Do I think I Fauci is so smart? Well, I know that he knows he can be wrong, then learn something new, change his mind, and be right. That alone makes him infinitely smarter than Trump.

————————

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/11/fauci-trump-coronavirus

EXCERPTS

During a Fox News interview Thursday with Sean Hannity, Trump said Fauci “is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” And when Greta Van Susteren asked him last week about Fauci’s assessment that the country was not in a good place, Trump said flatly: “I disagree with him.”

Fauci no longer briefs Trump and is “never in the Oval [Office] anymore,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Fauci last spoke to the president during the first week of June, according to a person with knowledge of Trump’s calendar.

For some administration officials, such developments have been an early sign their job was on the line. But Trump cannot directly fire Fauci, a career civil servant with more than 50 years in government service who enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress. In any case, the president has no plans to get rid of him, said the official.

As for Fauci himself, although he is frustrated by the turmoil and the state of the outbreak, friends say he has no plans to abandon his post, which includes a critical role in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and treatments. . . .

A White House official released a statement saying that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things,” and attaching a lengthy list of the scientist’s comments from early in the outbreak. Those included his early doubt that people with no symptoms could play a significant role in spreading the virus — a notion based on earlier outbreaks that the novel coronavirus would turn on its head. They also point to public reassurances Fauci made in late February, around the time of the first U.S. case of community transmission, that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.”

Fauci’s supporters acknowledge those early mistakes, attributing them to the challenges posed by a new, largely unknown pathogen. They agree he downplayed the possibility of the virus spreading from person to person in January and early February even as it quietly seeded itself in communities on the East and West coasts. And, like several other public health officials, he initially said the public shouldn’t wear masks, but now strongly recommends it, especially when individuals can’t maintain distances of at least six feet from other people.

Fauci has said he was worried early in the outbreak about a shortage of masks and wanted to reserve them for health care workers. And he has said from the start that scientists’ knowledge of a brand new virus would evolve and recommendations could change based on new information. . . .

White House communications officials, who must approve television appearances related to the coronavirus, responded by allowing Fauci spots this week on PBS NewsHour, a CNN town hall with Sanjay Gupta and NBC’s “Meet the Press” during the prime Sunday morning slot, according to one person familiar with the situation.

Then Fauci joined a Facebook Live event on Tuesday with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), disputing Trump’s assertions that a lower death rate showed the country’s progress against the pandemic. Fauci called it “a false narrative” and warned, “Don’t get yourself into false complacency.”

Fauci did not end up making any of the scheduled appearances. The White House canceled them after his Tuesday remarks, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate behind-the-scenes conversations.

The episode underscores the deteriorating relationship between a scientist and a president who once bonded over their shared New York City roots and love of sports, but whose rapport has long since disintegrated over their differences on face mask policy, state reopening strategies and the use of antimalarial drugs to treat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. . . .

Four months ahead of Election Day, Trump wants to “reopen and move on,” said another senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Those who disagree with that approach are out of favor, the official said. . . .

Trump is also galled by Fauci’s approval ratings. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that 67 percent of voters trusted Fauci for information on the coronavirus, compared with 26 percent who trusted Trump. . . .

Although his message is regularly at odds with the president, Fauci is naturally conflict-averse and has sought to establish a personal relationship with the six presidents he has served over his career.

“He’ll try to be accommodating except for principles that are truly not something he can compromise on,” said one former senior administration official who has worked closely with Fauci for years. “He will try to really accommodate and fulfill your reality, but he’s bound by the laws of science.”

One thought on “Fauci, Trump, and the possibility of progress in knowledge and in morals

  1. Thank-you! So worth reading as always and an encouragement to me. I am a middle- school teacher and starting to freak out just a bit.

    Like

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