President Trump reminded us Monday just how big a threat he poses to millions of Americans — not to mention to the concept of objective truth.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, rebuked Trump for a misleading campaign ad that suggested Fauci had praised the president on his covid-19 response. “Fauci said in a statement to CNN on Sunday that ‘the comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context,’ ” The Post reported. “During Monday’s interview, host Jake Tapper asked Fauci whether he thinks the Trump campaign should take down the ad. ‘You know, I think so, Jake,’ Fauci replied. ‘I think it’s really unfortunate, really disappointing that they did that. It’s so clear that I’m not a political person. And I have never — either directly or indirectly — endorsed a political candidate. And to take a completely out-of-context statement and put it in [what] is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought, was really very disappointing.’”

As if that was not condemnation enough, Fauci provided a candid response on Trump’s return to mass rallies. (At an appearance in Florida, Trump claimed he was “immune” and offered to kiss anyone in the crowd.) Fauci condemned the mass events Trump plans to hold. “Put aside all of the issues of what political implications a rally has, and just put that aside and look at it purely in the context of public health,” Fauci said. “We know that that is asking for trouble, when you do that. We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings when there are a lot of people without masks; the data speak for themselves. It happens.” (If only Trump and Judge Amy Coney Barrett had heeded his advice, they might have prevented what seems to have been a superspreader event in the Rose Garden.)

Fauci said it was the worst time to have such events given that a “number of states right now are having increase in test positivity.” That directly contradicts Trump’s assertion that we have the virus under control.

On Tuesday morning, Trump was continuing a feud with Fauci on Twitter:

Trump has succeeded in putting his own credibility (which is rotten to nonexistent) up against one of the most respected and revered experts on pandemics that we have. Former vice president Joe Biden wasted no time in taking Fauci’s side. Biden called Trump’s post-infection conduct “reckless” and “unconscionable,” and invoked Fauci’s name in criticizing the Rose Garden event.

Trump’s approval rating on handling the pandemic is already lousy. Instead of focusing on the progress in developing a vaccine, he goes out of his way to make clear that he is, just as Biden and Fauci say, reckless in the extreme.

A supermajority of Americans take Fauci’s side on masks and social distancing. (“If there’s anything we should be doing, we should be doubling down in implementing the public health measures that we’ve been talking about for so long,” he said.) They know the pandemic is not under control. Trump would like to be talking about literally anything else. Instead, he has guaranteed that covid-19 will be front and center not only on the campaign trail but also in the remaining three days of hearings on Barrett’s confirmation. (She went to the Rose Garden and indoor reception maskless, but showed up with a mask in the Senate. If only she had set the example on Sept. 26, perhaps many who were infected would not now be ill or in quarantine.

Trump can never manage to stay in the same Zip code as the truth, for the truth is that he botched the covid-19 response and impeded the only effective strategy right now to combat the pandemic (masks, social distancing, testing, tracing and isolation). Tens of thousands of Americans could have been spared, and tens of thousands could still be spared if Fauci, not Trump, had the loudest bullhorn.

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