An Administration of Bad Actors

A week ago, the White House sent select news organizations a list of misstatements made over the last six months by Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an attempt to discredit him publicly, and undo the store of credibility he has built up with the American people over the course of nearly forty years as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (While the initial query on the relationship between the president and Fauci came from the Washington Post, the Post reports the same information was shared with other news organizations).

Dr. Fauci, since the start of the Coronavirus epidemic, has been a voice of calm, reason and solid medical information in an administration that has never put a premium on the truth. His honesty has put him at odds with President Trump — the liar in chief — in an administration of liars.

To see the White House, and the people who work there, make an under-handed attempt to smear a distinguished American citizen as a matter of political expediency is breath-taking, but it is not the first time it has happened since Trump took office.

The president, and those who work for him, have never hesitated to use the awesome communications powers of the Oval Office to publicly embarrass, ridicule and attempt to discredit anyone who gets in the way of the president.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the self promoted good Baptist, often used the White House podium to label certain people as “bad actors.” Former FBI Director James Comey was one. Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was another. Anyone suspected of leaking information damaging to the president was also given the label.

The president himself often ridicules reporters on the White House beat, remarkably once telling Jonathan Karl of ABC News that he “will never make it,” [as a reporter], because he is so bad. At the time Karl was the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, so I believe he had already made it.

General James Mattis, the president’s first choice to be secretary of defense is, “over-rated,” according to the president. Rex Tillerson, the president’s first secretary of state, and the former head of Exxon-Mobil, has been called “dumb as a rock,” by Trump.

What is truly jaw dropping about these labels is they are most often being placed on people with years of credentials supporting their ticket to the power centers of Washington, D.C. You don’t become a White House reporter for ABC News, for instance, without first proving yourself as one of the best reporters around.

You do not rise to become CEO of Exxon-Mobil, and run the company for ten years, without demonstrating considerable brain power. You do not rise to a position of respect within the U.S. military, by being over-rated. And you do not rise to a level of leadership within the FBI by being a bad actor.

Now, according to this White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been leading the fight against infectious disease in this country since the early 1980’s, is a bad actor and not very good at his job. What about all those excellent job performance reports?

What makes this kind of character assassination most galling is its source: The White House. The Trump White House.

The Trump White House is surrounded by and infested with people who are demonstrably in over their head, who in some cases have been indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison, who during their pre-Trump careers as Republican “operatives” were anti-Trump and considered junior varsity at best.

After nearly four years, at the heart of the administration, are the president’s most senior advisers: daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. When it comes to assessing their qualifications for the jobs they hold ask yourself this basic question:

Of the sixteen other Republicans considered candidates for president in 2016, how many had expressed a desire to hire either Ivanka or Jared as a senior adviser? When it came to pursuing Middle East peace, how many publicly signaled their intention to put Jared Kushner in charge of that issue? When it came to promoting women’s issues, how many turned without hesitation to Ivanka Trump? If your answer is, “none did,” you are correct and that is because neither is remotely qualified to be so close to the most powerful office in the world.

The mis-use of the credibility of the White House, that had been built up over 200 years, by nearly every president before President Trump, to smear good Americans, like Dr. Fauci, ought to be an impeachable offense. It is certainly offensive. For the White House to be used this way by a gang of pretenders makes it worse.

I have noticed in recent weeks that the Never-Trumpers who are investing their own time and resources to defeat the president in November are using the term “decency” in their arguments against him. This is not by accident. There is likely polling pointing out that the president’s lack of common decency is one of the biggest reasons former Trump supporters are breaking toward Joe Biden.

If Trump is removed from office in November, a top priority of the Biden administration will necessarily be a restoration of decency and credibility to the institution of the White House after four years of corrosion.

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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.