Dr. Anthony Fauci is a bum.
A quack, a snake oil salesman.
He got his degrees online, not from Holy Cross and Cornell.
He watches Wheel of Fortune but not Jeopardy.
He’s a Yankees fan.
Such unfounded and unwarranted character assassination is unsavory but necessary because Fauci’s calm, reassuring competence in response to the coronavirus pandemic is placing him at serious risk of hearing the words that made his boss famous: You’re fired.
President Trump is watching and listening to the same thing we are, i.e., Fauci going to the podium to rebut with facts the latest outbreak of paranoid anxiety or the president’s regularly reckless statements.
Fauci is an oasis of rigor and reason in a barren desert of confusion and fear.
Which, given who he works for, makes him an endangered species.
During the Vietnam War, some US Army officer supposedly suggested that in order to save a village from the Vietcong they had to destroy it.
And so, to save Dr. Fauci, we must destroy him — at least in Trump’s eyes.
Now that might sound crazy, but we’re dealing with a crazy president in crazy circumstances.
It’s not as if there’s no relevant precedent here.
Two words: Bill Bratton.
Two other words: Rudy Giuliani. Who happens to be Trump’s BFF.
Before Giuliani grew old, deranged, and more qualified to be a spokesman for Miracle Ear than the president’s lawyer, he was the reform-minded mayor of New York City.
Rudy rode into Dodge, which is what Times Square resembled at the time, and vowed to clean it up. His hand-picked sheriff was Dorchester’s own Bill Bratton.
As police commissioner, Bratton did much to stem violent crime in the nation’s biggest city, but even more remarkably got his cops to reduce the incidence of more minor, so-called quality of life crimes that had made New York less livable, from the tony sections of Manhattan to the Tony Fauci sections of Brooklyn.
Bratton did his job too well. He ended up on the cover of Time magazine, hailed as the guy who pulled the worm out of the Big Apple. He became more popular than the mayor.
This drove Giuliani nuts. Rudy had to be the smartest guy in the room, had to get all the credit. Sound familiar?
That wasn’t Bratton’s first rodeo. Long before he landed in New York, he became the face of progressive, modern policing in his hometown, the youngest-ever Boston Police superintendent. Police Commissioner Joe Jordan resented his overly-ambitious No. 2 so he busted Bratton.
The point is, insecure bosses don’t like being shown up by smarter, more competent subordinates. Small men make big mistakes.
There used to be a thing called the Sports Illustrated curse, that after an athlete appeared on its cover his or her career tanked.
Similarly, being in the Trump administration and getting praised by The New York Times is the kiss of death.
Now, normally, you could print something in the Times and chances were the president wouldn’t read it. He routinely dismisses the Gray Old Lady as fake news, except when his and his family’s lousy books are mass-bought onto the newspaper’s bestsellers list. He is not fond of polysyllabic words and prefers to get his news from “Fox & Friends” or whatever white nationalist website his aide Stephen Miller might recommend.
But Trump reads Mo Dowd because they have known each other forever and she writes about him at a nuanced, personal level that drives him especially cuckoo.
We’re way past the theoretical here.
Tony Fauci is in real danger, and by extension so are the rest of us who expect — nay, pray for — one person in the White House to be trustworthy and competent in a time of unprecedented crisis.
So, again, repeat after me, Dr. Anthony Fauci is a bum.
Long live the bum.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.