Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since before I was born, is a comfort to many Americans in the chaos of a pandemic for which our president’s faculties are no match. Some have developed quarantine crushes on the unimposing, bespectacled, 79-year-old immunologist leading the coronavirus response from the White House — even hunting down and thirsting after photos of him in decades past.
But, contrary to my reputation as a writer (and the general vibe of the website you’re currently reading), this isn’t a horny post. Fauci deserves better than our base, mindless lust. He is an intellectual. His therapies have saved people from diseases that were once death sentences. His research helped us to understand how HIV gives rise to AIDS. Curiously unlike most of the advisors who contradict Trump by telling the truth, he has yet to become a public target for the shitposter-in-chief. Amazingly, despite reported frustrations, Trump hasn’t tweeted about him at all. This in itself is impressive. How has he managed it?
Simple: He’s a king among short kings.
You’d think that Trump, a noted size queen, would have nothing but open contempt for a little guy that the #MAGA crew might use in their “soy beta cuck” memes. Instead, I believe his stature works in his favor: Not only would Trump refuse to be upstaged by a taller, younger man at this moment, he’s also image-fixated enough to see Fauci as having the right “look” for the role of medical expert. Remember, his narcissism means this is all a movie, starring him, and the other roles are all typecast. Of course when he is forced to actually reckon with a scientific problem, he finds Fauci to be the ideal nerdy sidekick, someone he can loom behind and give a good ribbing whenever he feels like it. With Fauci’s meek presentation — his shoulders barely clearing the press room podium — Trump can rest assured of being the alpha bully in the room.
In practice, however, Fauci’s smallness and inferred weakness make him nimble and effective, allowing him to perform the impossible feat: Stand next to Trump, with cameras rolling, and say exactly what this vindictive liar doesn’t want him to — without getting shitcanned five minutes later. Sure, the president still aims to override his sobering, cautious comments, and the right-wing cultists try to smear and debunk him. But for the rest of us, anxiety-ridden from the muddled messaging around COVID-19, Fauci is a little lighthouse of solid, sensible reality.
Thank god he is, after all, what he appears to be: a leading intellectual in the field, someone with the full experience, the methodical demeanor and (for now) the access and visibility to keep us a step ahead of apocalypse, despite this administration’s best efforts to blow up the nation.
Wear the crown with pride, short doctor king. Only someone under six feet can save us now.