Two medical doctors with military backgrounds are uncomfortably serving the Trump administration on its Coronavirus Task Force. Both have good reputations as physicians, but they continue to flounder through the political flak that Trump creates.
I keep wondering why they don’t quit. But it’s obvious they’ve got important jobs and so feel the need to eat a little Trumpshit to maintain them. Dr. Birx is now getting it from both Trump and Pelosi, so her situation gets hotter. Dr. Redfield just wants to be a good researcher yet doesn’t seem capable of heading the once-world-renowned-now-faltering CDC.
Both these folks are out of their depth, as are so many of Trump’s appointees. It’s not stretching things to say that the country’s response to COVID-19 has suffered because of their limitations. Learning to play politics with health care is not something either appears to have signed up for.
Dr. Birx, the scarf lady, is famous for sitting on her hands when Trump floated disinfectant and UV light as a cure. She can’t decide which side of the fence she’s on, so she’s taking it from both sides. Most recently Trump called her “pathetic,” then went on to praise her. Speaker Pelosi also let her have it last week:
“Deborah Birx is the worst. Wow, what horrible hands you’re in,” she is quoted as saying [in a meeting with Mnuchin and Meadows]. She also described Dr Fauci as a “hero.”
There’s your reward for having an office in the West Wing.
Redfield’s problems began with the still unresolved testing debacle at the CDC at the beginning of the viral crisis. He has still not accounted for what happened, but something bad did and as a result the country is way behind on any significant testing.
Last week he was blocked from giving testimony to a Congressional committee on school openings. The week before that, the administration pulled the rug out from under him by ordering all patient data on COVID to bypass the CDC and go directly to HHS. Hospitals now claim chaos in reporting, and the data of course are ripe for political massaging. Redfield’s comments were a study in milquetoast response.
Birx and Redfield are both trying to do their jobs under most difficult circumstances. We give them that. But both are operating under impossibly conflicting demands—speaking the truth as leaders or keeping their jobs as toadies. Each finally has to determine, one way or another, to stand up to Trump, whose political position now I think is too weak to fire them. Well, does either have the guts to do this? I’m not betting on them.