Anthony Fauci is said to be 80 years old. Hard to believe when you looked at his performance in the White House briefing room. There stood the small, slender man and with his boyish grin looked just as if he had emerged from a fountain of youth. One can well imagine that January will feel exactly the same for the epidemic adviser to all US presidents since Ronald Reagan.
For almost a year, the immunologist, tempered and highly respected in countless crises, endured a president who made fun of the laboriously searching process of scientific knowledge, believed himself to be omniscient and blabbered out undisciplined what occurred to him. In addition, there was hostility from so-called corona deniers and other supporters of Donald Trump, who had forgotten that it is not the bearer of bad news who should be punished.
Again and again there was public speculation whether Trump would fire Fauci, have already disempowered and silenced him, or whether he would soon throw him down. As of April 2020, he was even assigned bodyguards, him, a scientist.
But Anthony Fauci didn’t allow himself to be maddened, he stayed. Now and then he gave interviews in which, with fine irony, he let it be known that he did not agree with everything that Trump said. But he never took it to the extreme that working together was impossible. The task was too important for that.
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Now the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases is also at the side of Joe Biden’s government as an expert in the fight against the virus. At his first appearance on Thursday at the White House, he leaves no doubt how relieved he is, how liberated he feels that no egomaniac is eyeing him suspiciously from the Oval Office, in fear that the show will be stolen from him.
“You can just say: I don’t know the answer”
Yes, he feels liberated, says Fauci as he speaks to the journalists from the podium. “The idea that you can come up here and talk about what you know, what evidence there is and what the state of science is – we let science speak.” That is a liberating feeling.
When asked about Amazon’s involvement in the vaccination strategy, he said with a grin with a raised index finger: “You know, what is new about this government is that you don’t have to say anything if you don’t know the answer. You can simply say: I don’t know the answer. “
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Fauci’s appearance is part of the weekly press conferences of the new White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, which have been back since Wednesday. This is also a clear sign of a new beginning.
A Trump spokeswoman never gave a briefing
Under the previous administration, it was normal for a spokeswoman to hold the title for nine months, but not once to answer questions from correspondents in the White House briefing room. Even in the last few weeks of Trump’s term in office, when he refused to recognize Biden’s election victory, there were hardly any press briefings where the government spokeswoman could have answered open questions.
After Psaki’s first appearance, the relief in the social networks was enormous that there had been a 30-minute briefing without “the media” being insulted. After four years of Trump, during which journalists constantly had to be labeled “enemies of the people” and Americans were urged from the start to believe “alternative facts” and not their own eyes and ears, is something of a success. Psaki’s promise that the Biden White House was committed to transparency and “truth” was also applauded, even when it was difficult to hear.
Since Psaki’s tasks as spokesperson include portraying the president as well as possible, she sometimes evaded questions to which the government either has not yet answered or does not want to answer, for example with a view to the future of the Iran agreement . Nevertheless: Never before have the hurdles for a new speaker been so low to make a better impression than her predecessor.
Symbol for breaking with the Trump era
The resumed press conferences as well as Biden’s promise that all actions of his administration would be based on “scientific knowledge, facts and the truth” symbolize the break with the Trump era. At the same time, the new president continues to accelerate his plan to quickly reverse the most controversial decisions of his predecessor.
This also applies to dealing with the pandemic, the dangers of which the Trump administration tried to downplay for most of the time. On Thursday, Biden announced stricter rules for cross-border travel. “Anyone who flies to the US from another country will have to get tested before boarding the plane (…) and be quarantined when they arrive in the US,” he said.
How long this quarantine should last and when it will apply, he left open. It is already known that from January 26th, all travelers will have to present a negative corona test before boarding a plane destined for the USA.
Biden speaks of a “war” being waged against the pandemic. Overcoming the crisis and its economic consequences is his top priority. Unlike Trump, he has therefore also developed a national strategy, which he presented on Thursday. True to the announcement that he would also speak hard truths, he said: “Things will get worse before it gets better.” Just the day before Biden was sworn in, the number of corona deaths had exceeded the threshold of 400,000.