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Anthony Fauci’s limitless publicity thirst is undermining the war on COVID

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Anthony Fauci’s limitless publicity thirst is undermining the war on COVID

It was said of the late actress Sylvia Miles, who spent her nights going from event to event in New York, that she would “attend the opening of an envelope.” US government virus guru Anthony Fauci has very little in common with Sylvia Miles: He wasn’t nominated twice for an Oscar, for example, and he has never, to my knowledge, appeared in the nude. But he has become as ubiquitous a public presence over the past year in all media as Miles was at every party.

Every day, and it seems for hours a day, Fauci pops up on cable shows or in interviews with major journalists, and the blue-check Twitterati amplify his messages through social media.

He is inescapable. And the problem with his inescapability is that, unlike Sylvia Miles, it matters deeply what he says and does — and it’s now clear that our epidemiologist general can’t restrain himself from speaking and speaking and speaking, even when he doesn’t have anything much to add and when his contributions muddy and confuse and dishearten, rather than reassure and rally, the public.

It’s as if Sylvia Miles not only attended the opening of every envelope but insisted on opening each envelope herself while stripping nude.

Just this week, Fauci went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and suggested that a fourth wave of the pandemic was not about to start — but it could, it really could, if people didn’t do what he was telling them to do. By which he meant “hanging in there” and continuing to follow all the prescriptions of the past year — social distancing, mask wearing, not gathering collectively.

Then Willie Geist of “Morning Joe” pointed out that Texas had relaxed its mandates and saw no surge of cases.

Fauci replied: “It can be confusing, because you may see a lag and a delay, because often you have to wait a few weeks before you see the effect of what you’re doing right now.”

But using Fauci’s own standards, it had already been a couple of weeks since the change — and, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted, the positivity rate in the Lone Star State had fallen, not risen. How to explain this? “I’m not really quite sure,” Fauci said. “It could be they’re doing things outdoors.”

The only thing that makes logical sense here is Fauci saying he is “not really quite sure.” Ordinarily, people who don’t have an answer to a question don’t continue to answer it with the answer they gave earlier when it may no longer be applicable. But Fauci can’t keep himself from the mic, even when he has nothing to add.

Or he adds things that are only designed to dispirit everyone save those who want to remain on lockdown forever. Even as he trumpets the extraordinary numbers of vaccinations going on every day, he undercuts the effort to get the hesitant to vaccinate by saying that life won’t be getting back anywhere near close to normal anytime soon.

In an interview on Monday with the Politico Dispatch podcast — see what I mean about how he can’t keep himself from appearing in front of any and every microphone? — Fauci said it wouldn’t be until “late fall or early winter” that people will be able to congregate maskless.

Let me put this charitably: This is a self-defeating and insane thing to say at a time when our clearest path forward from the vaccine is to get those hesitant to take the jabs to do so, because it is in their best interest.

Is Fauci suggesting that even if you get vaccinated, you’re going to be in a mask in a movie theater or a Broadway theater or just about any place indoors until 2022? If so, then why on earth would a frightened person bite the bullet, take the risk and accept the needle?

This is a deep strain in public-health thinking — that it’s a virtue to keep people scared. But with the day fast approaching when there will be more vaccine available than takers of the vaccine, what Fauci needs to be doing is sweetening the pot, even if it means that the invitations to the envelope openings are going to slow way down.

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Opinion

Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

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Biden finally saw the folly of our Afghan adventure, but Trump got it first

Nearly two decades, $2 trillion and more than 2,300 US casualties later, President Joe Biden has announced that it is time to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan.

Biden is absolutely right. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing, we need to accept the fact that we accomplished our only real objective in the region long ago: eliminating the terrorist mastermind responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans.

There was never any other reason to be there. Killing Osama bin Laden was an appropriate response to heinous attacks on American soil, and it is unfortunate that it took us a decade to find him hiding out in neighboring Pakistan. But a decades-long attempt to bring democracy to a country that has never known anything but brief intervals of peace amid thousands of years without a centralized government? This was mad folly, and no one should be surprised that the authorities in Kabul have accepted the reality of sharing power with the Taliban.

We should, too.

The saddest thing about our “forever war,” to use a phrase Biden has appropriated from his predecessor, is that its futility was totally predictable. I hate to be one of those young fogies who laments the decline of reading, but sometimes I wish people in charge would just open an encyclopedia for once. Here is what it says in my dusty old set of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911:

“The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death and audacious in attack but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases.”

Does this sound like the start of a modern fairy tale about the triumph of liberal democracy and brotherly love in a despotic wasteland? Did anyone really think that democracy hadn’t arrived in Afghanistan before 2001 because no one had ever thought of trying it before and that its people would abandon centuries of habits to play along with our pet project? Let’s keep reading:

“Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence; the traveller conceals and misrepresents the time and direction of his journey. The Afghan is by breed and nature a bird of prey.”

These are hard words, ones that would never appear in a modern reference book. But they are full of genuine wisdom, the fruit of decades of British experience in Afghanistan, which even the Empire upon which the sun never set could not subdue. The Russians couldn’t do it, either, which was why the United States was happy to watch the crumbling Soviet Union waste what was left of its military might there in the 1980s. Why did we think we would fare any better?

I am old enough to remember when what Biden is attempting now was unserious at best and at worst criminal, a return to the wickedness of Charles Lindbergh and the anti-World War II “America First” movement. But lots of things (elite belief in the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, for example) have changed since the last administration. Maybe if former President Donald Trump had campaigned on staying in Afghanistan for all eternity, he would have been impeached for not getting every last American home by Thanksgiving 2017.

The truth is, though, that even Biden isn’t going to have an easy time getting us out of Afghanistan. Like both of his predecessors, he is about to discover that the Pentagon is used to getting whatever it wants and that the US foreign-policy establishment has decades worth of spurious justifications for keeping American troops in the region indefinitely. While it would be nice to think that the president has enough of a mandate to push through a withdrawal, there are good reasons to remain dubious.

In his speech announcing the move on Wednesday, Biden said that all 2,500 US troops will be home by Sept. 11. This is a fitting date.

But I will believe it when I see it.

Matthew Walther is editor of The Lamp magazine.

Twitter: @MatthewWalther

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Opinion

NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

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NYC needs a crime-fighting mayor again — not one out to appease the defunders

“As you look down the road, as far as crime-reduction in New York City, it’s a very bleak picture,” ex-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently told radio host John Catsimatidis. “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, as far as I can see.”

That was one bleak assessment by the city’s former top cop. Kelly lamented that none of the leading mayoral candidates has shown an interest in cracking down on crime.

Case in point: Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang was heckled and called “pro-cop” by demonstrators during a bike ride protesting the police-involved shooting death of Daunte Wright on Tuesday night.

Apparently, the anti-cop protesters took offense at Yang’s mild call for more funding for the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force amid a spate of violent attacks. But Yang’s remarks are in-sync with most New Yorkers, who want police follow-up to both solve crimes and prevent future ones — with the perps arrested, tried and imprisoned.

But speaking common sense out loud will get candidates heckled, shamed and run out of events, as the radicals did to Yang.

The bullies have most of the Democratic mayoral wannabes embracing the “Defund the police” nonsense. Progressive favorite Maya Wiley would cut the headcount at 1 Police Plaza and city jails and use the savings to fund one-stop community centers and so on.

Establishment Democrat Scott Stringer strives to appease the radicals by taking various responsibilities (and funding) from the NYPD and giving the Civilian Complaint Review Board final say over cop discipline — kneecapping the department’s commissioner.

Eric Adams, a retired police captain, vows to . . . name the first woman police commissioner. He’s anti-“defund” but promises to find $1 billion in “savings” in the NYPD budget. Another dodge: Rather than disbanding the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, he says he’d have turned it into an anti-gun unit — which is what it actually was anyway. But Adams would much rather talk about his big plans for . . . wind power.

Yang and Ray McGuire talk about naming a deputy mayor just to bird-dog the department. Yang also wants a civilian, not a career cop, to head the department, while McGuire also vows to find “savings” in the NYPD budget.

Absent is any loud vow to get New York off the path to being an open city for criminals and violent street crazies, any clear recognition that subways, buses and other public spaces won’t become safer on their own.

City Hall needs straight-talking leadership with a laser focus on reducing crime and disorder — someone who’ll face down the radicals who demand police scalps and stand with a public that desperately wants the “good old days” of ever-increasing public safety to return.

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Opinion

The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

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The feds’ foolish new J&J delay further feeds false anti-vax fears

Just two days after the feds announced the pause on the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, vowing it’d only be “a matter of days” as they looked into six cases of blood clots in the 7 million Americans who’ve gotten the jab, they’ve found just two more — and now say it’ll be at least a week to 10 days before they un-pause. This “abundance of caution” has nothing to do with science, only bureaucratic indecision. And it’s downright dangerous as it puts vax programs on hold and feeds anti-vax hysteria.

The issue is a rare blood clot, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, which occurs in about 5 to 15.7 people per million each year. The J&J shot has an even-lower case rate — if it’s actually linked to them. (The first six cases involved women of childbearing age, and birth control heightens the risk of blood clots; one of the two new cases is a man. All eight also suffered low levels of blood platelets, making the clots tough to treat.)

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a three-hour emergency meeting Wednesday to assess whether this handful of cases should keep a halt on the vax.

Three bureaucrats — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC chief Rochelle Walensky and President Joe Biden’s vaccine czar, David Kessler — testified to Congress Thursday that all three federally authorized vaccines, including J&J’s, are safe and effective. And they urged Americans to get one of them as COVID cases continue to rise.

But the decision to halt the only vaccine that’s given in one dose rather than two and doesn’t need freezer storage is making mass vaccination more difficult. It’s put a hold on New York City’s home-vaccination program for the elderly and disabled, and likely many others across the nation.

And it’s tanking public confidence in the safety of J&J’s vaccine, from 57 percent before the halt to 32 percent after, per a YouGov/Economist survey. And anti-vaxxers are pointing to the pause to fuel their conspiracy theories about all brands of the lifesaving shot.

You’re far likelier to die in a plane accident than get a blood clot from J&J’s jab, yet we still allow air travel. And getting as many people immunized ASAP is vital to beating COVID and saving far more lives. People can make up their own minds about the minuscule J&J risk, and there’s nothing scientific about bureaucrats taking the decision out of their hands — or about politicians letting them do it.

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