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The Crusader doctor and the non-crusading judge

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Holy Cross, Class of 1962Al Drago/Bloomberg

My colleague Alex Beam likes to refer to Harvard as the World’s Greatest University, or WGU for short.

It’s a subtle dig at the arrogance of some in the Cambridge chablis and brie set who can’t understand why everyone doesn’t think like them because everybody they know thinks like them.

To be fair, Harvard has educated or employed some of the world’s greatest minds, none more important right now than Olga Jonas, who has forgotten more about pandemics than most others will ever know, and Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

But how about some props for the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Holy Cross may be best known for producing, in Bob Cousy, the best playmaking guard of his era. But the Cross also produced the nation’s most trusted doctor.

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Together, Harvard and Holy Cross have given us the two people who, at this moment, might hold the future of this republic in their hands: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

While Fauci looks after the nation’s physical health, Roberts has done much to keep the nation’s body politic free from the disease of extremism.

Fauci, HC class of ‘62, has been a bulwark against some of the antiscience nonsense that the Trump administration has been peddling since the pandemic paralyzed the country. While President Trump has continually minimized the pandemic and its associated risks, Fauci has been straight with the American people, keeping his eye on the medical data, not the poll numbers that preoccupy Trump and his coatholders.

Fauci, a national treasure who proved his mettle during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, has apparently survived a palace coup in which the White House openly undermined him, shopping opposition-research style talking points about him as if he were some insurgent progressive congressional candidate who sits around drinking lattes and plotting revolution with lefties like AOC and Ayanna Pressley.

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While Trump and his handlers have politicized the pandemic and the science surrounding it, Fauci has kept the focus where it always should have been: limiting the spread of the virus.

A Crusader in college, Fauci has been a crusader for better public health since 1984, when he became director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In contrast, Roberts, whose wife, Jane, is a Holy Cross grad, has come through by not being the crusading right-winger his critics feared when he became chief justice 15 years ago.

Chief Justice John RobertsAndrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Roberts, who got both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard, has emerged as the court’s swing vote, keeping the Supreme Court from tilting so far to the right that it would be out of the mainstream. He has taken on a role formerly occupied by retired associate justices Anthony Kennedy (another Harvard guy) and Sandra Day O’Connor.

In the Supreme Court term that ended last week, Roberts cast his lot with the four liberal justices in three significant cases, delighting liberals and confounding conservatives.

Roberts smacked down the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA for young immigrants, expanded the federal ban on employment discrimination to include gay and transgender people, and struck down a restrictive abortion law.

Liberals who hope Roberts will be the next David Souter, a liberal justice in conservative clothing, are probably getting ahead of themselves. He’s still very conservative.

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But, as he did in using some creative logic to provide the decisive vote to uphold Obamacare eight years ago, Roberts will sometimes confound his conservative supporters by pushing back against the court’s slide to the right.

If Fauci is being true to his Crusader roots, Roberts is emerging as the anti-crusader, a chief justice who cares more about preserving the court’s legitimacy than pleasing ideological soulmates.

It’s worth noting that Harvard educated at least four of the other justices on the current Supreme Court. And that Holy Cross produced the court’s arch conservative, Justice Clarence Thomas. But as Joe E. Brown observed in the final scene of “Some Like It Hot,” “Well, nobody’s perfect.”


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.