insanity, incredulity, and media bias.

insanity, incredulity, and media bias.

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  • September 18, 2020

If you’re any­thing like me, when you watch this, you’ll be forced to mar­vel at the absolute insan­ity of the whole thing.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, MD was a colonel in the US Army, has a dis­tin­guished career as a physi­cian, med­ical researcher, and pub­lic health expert. One of his pri­mary areas of expe­ri­ence and exper­tise is virol­ogy and immunol­ogy, and he has years of expe­ri­ence study­ing the treat­ment of infec­tious dis­ease in clin­i­cal set­tings. He held a tenured pro­fes­sor­ship in the med­ical school of a highly-respected American uni­ver­sity, and has served in numer­ous advi­sory roles to a wide range of fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies. All that was before Donald Trump appointed him to be the direc­tor of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the admin­is­tra­tor of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

In that role, Dr. Redfield recently advised a Senate panel that even with an opti­mistic vac­cine time­line, the gen­eral pub­lic would not be inoc­u­lated until the sum­mer or fall of 2021. He also told them that masks could be a more effec­tive pro­tec­tion against COVID-19 than the vac­cine. If it was­n’t clear from that para­graph above about his back­ground, this guy isn’t just a doc­tor. He’s a respected virol­o­gist, a promi­nent expert on the clin­i­cal treat­ment of infec­tious dis­ease, and the head of a gov­ern­ment agency — chock-full of infec­tious dis­ease experts — whose whole pur­pose is to pro­tect pub­lic health and safety through the con­trol and pre­ven­tion of dis­ease. That’s the guy who pro­vided clear, con­cise, and well-informed answers to a Senate panel on the antic­i­pated avail­abil­ity of a vac­cine and on the med­ical effi­cacy of face masks.

After Redfield’s state­ments got con­sid­er­able media atten­tion, Donald Trump told reporters, “I believe he was con­fused” and insisted a vac­cine could be avail­able in weeks and go “imme­di­ately” to the gen­eral pub­lic. And he claimed (with usual Trump con­fi­dence) that a “vac­cine is much more effec­tive than the masks.”

I get that Trump’s sup­port­ers believe he’s a great leader. I get that they’re pre­pared to over­look his moral fail­ings, that they don’t see him as a liar because it appears to them that the folks relent­lessly accus­ing him of lying have an obvi­ous axe to grind. Sure… that sort of think­ing is evi­dence of a hyper-par­ti­san com­mit­ment to the MAGA move­ment and as such defies some ratio­nal­ity and logic… I’m just say­ing I get it.

But what I don’t get — what’s absolutely breath­tak­ing to me — is the idea that any­one believes Donald Trump when he stands in front of reporters and says with a straight face that Dr. Robert R. Redfield, MD “was con­fused.” Even if you like him, this is a guy who has had trou­ble pro­nounc­ing the word ‘Yosemite’ and who has said (on tape!) that his pref­er­ence is to present a pos­i­tive, opti­mistic out­look in his pub­lic state­ments about the pan­demic (and that’s a gen­er­ous read of his com­ments to Woodward). That guy, who hap­pens to be run­ning for re-elec­tion and there­for has a clear inter­est in pre­sent­ing him­self suc­cess­fully lead­ing national efforts to defeat the pan­demic, is telling you to believe his own assess­ment instead of believ­ing the “con­fused” offi­cial state­ments of the respected physi­cian, virol­o­gist, and pub­lic health expert (that he appointed!).

I really do mean the word “breath­tak­ing” — it lit­er­ally takes my breath away when I try to wrap my head around the fact that any­one is inclined to believe Trump when they hear him say these things. Understanding how this guy is still a viable can­di­date for any pub­lic office either requires seri­ous men­tal gym­nas­tics or is cause for deep depres­sion. (Or it’s both.)

Here’s my take­away: There can’t be a bet­ter illus­tra­tion of our coun­try’s bro­ken­ness than watch­ing John Berman and CNN be accused of unfair­ness, bias, and par­ti­san­ship for point­ing out that the direc­tor of the CDC, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, MD, is a reli­able expert on vac­cines and pub­lic health pol­icy and that Donald J. Trump is not.