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Why does President Trump go after Dr. Fauci?

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, right, and President Donald Trump during a briefing on coronavirus at the White House on April 10, 2020 in Washington.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, right, and President Donald Trump during a briefing on coronavirus at the White House on April 10, 2020 in Washington.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

So what if his infectious disease acumen has been praised through the decades, or that he’s served six presidents starting with Reagan, or that his counsel on coronavirus is trusted by two-thirds of Americans. Did you see his pitiful first pitch on Opening Day, that wayward wobble that landed near the on-deck circle?! Unforgivable! Thus did President Trump — again — Twitter thwack Dr. Anthony Fauci, starting yet another feud with the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Of course.

A week after mocking “Tony’s pitching arm” in a tweet, Trump, apparently upset about Fauci’s appearance Sunday on “60 Minutes,” renewed his attacks on the good doctor Monday.

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“Dr. Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said ‘no masks & let China in’. Also, Bad arm!” Trump tweeted Monday.

That was followed by this: “...P.S. Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals' Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!”

It would seem unwise, picking this fight with Fauci — so close to Election Day — instead of using the waning days of his teetering reelection campaign to, say, reassure worried voters, especially seniors terrified of being infected. Or shore up his slipping support in once-red states like Georgia. Or, better yet, do his actual job and wrestle a pandemic relief bill into law.

But there’s always a Trumpian logic to these Twitter explosions.

He was angry. Last week, it was because Fauci said he didn’t appreciate being used in one of the president’s campaign ads. This week, Trump’s ticked off because Fauci told “60 Minutes” the White House has blocked him from doing some TV interviews and also saying he’s not surprised the president contracted COVID-19.

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“Absolutely not. I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said. “When I saw that on TV, I said: ‘Oh, my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s going to be a problem.’"

The comment proved to be a bitter pill for the president, who reportedly blasted Fauci in a call with his campaign staff Monday, calling him a “disaster.”

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong,” Trump said. “Fauci’s a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong."

The president could have said nothing in response. But if we’ve learned anything about the current occupant of the White House, it’s that he can’t help himself. He’s incapable of saying nothing.

So with more than eight million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the book, and more being reported every day, the predictably unpredictable president decided to assail Fauci.

Go figure.

Maybe because he’s had the virus he thinks he’s immune to criticism for his bizarre outbursts. Or maybe he just doesn’t care at this point. This is the guy who appeared waxen and gasping after his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and then days later threatened to kiss everyone in the crowd at a rally.

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As an anxious nation turns its eyes to Trump, he’s busy looking elsewhere, for someone — anyone — he can blame for the raging pandemic tanking his prospects for a second term. Good luck with that. Fauci, it would seem, is not your man.

Which got me thinking, what was Fauci’s prognostication back in the early days of this scourge? How wrong was he?

Well, appearing on CNN in March, Fauci had this to say: “Looking at what we’re seeing now, I would say between 100 and 200,000 (deaths),” adding that the US is going to have “millions of cases.”

So, not wrong at all. OK.


Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan.