It is rare for scientists at the highest levels to take an overt stand on the politics of the day, knowing their professional credibility depends on remaining above the fray.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, most famously, is a case in point. Fauci, the federal government’s top immunologist, has given his best expert advice on the COVID-19 pandemic while resisting the temptation — and he must feel tempted — to call out the failures of the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis.
When an authority of such stature does take a political stand, then, it carries all the more weight. We all should listen closely.
On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine, the world’s most prestigious medical journal, did just that. In an unprecedented editorial calling out a political candidate, the journal condemned President Donald Trump’s hapless, dishonest and lethal mishandling of the pandemic crisis.
Without mentioning Trump even once by name, the journal urged its readers — as we have urged you — to vote him and his enablers out of office.
“When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,” states the editorial, signed by 34 editors. “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”
The magnitude of the Trump administration’s failure is “astonishing,” the editorial contends. The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. Our nation’s death rate is double that of Canada.
“Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly?” the editorial asks. “We have failed at almost every step. We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public. And we continue to be way behind the curve in testing.”
Quarantine and isolation measures have been “late and inconsistent.” Rules on social distancing have in many places “been lackadaisical at best.” Restrictions have been loosened “long before adequate disease control” has been achieved.
“And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures,” the journal writes.
Two days before the journal published its editorial, Trump made a show of standing on a White House balcony, chin up like General George Patton, and pulling off his mask. Hours after the editorial was published, Vice President Mike Pence had the gall to say Trump has put the health of the American people first “from the very first day.”
Meanwhile, the journal writes, the Trump administration has “eviscerated” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has “excluded” the National Institutes of Health from a key role in developing a vaccine. It has “shamefully politicized” the Food and Drug Administration.
Instead, the editorial states, “the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”
There is a feel of rage in the journal’s words, a rage we all should feel.
Donald Trump must go.
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